Love Letters to HomeFeatured, Richard & Evelyn Forrest
Editor’s Note: In 1936 during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Richard Forrest was away from home on a “round the world” trip. Evelyn had been scheduled to travel with him but an accident—a slip on a bedroom rug—earlier that year prevented her from going. She had gone with him in 1930, but she would never have the opportunity to do this again. That one fall changed their lives forever.
We have collected several of the letters he wrote to her while he was away. They are very personal, but we felt as though sharing them with you at this time of the year would only underscore the true meaning of love. And we also believe if they were here today, they would tell you of their love one for another and encourage you to do the same—love others with the love of Christ.
Actually, there is no way to read their notes, journals, and letters without discovering how deeply in love they were. Their wedding took place on December 24, 1901, and as far as we can research, this was the only Christmas they were separated. Richard makes reference to their wedding in one of the letters we will post over the next few days. We hope you will enjoy reading these love letters to home and that the love he and Evelyn shared for one another, and especially their Savior, will spill over into your life this Christmas season.
The Editors of tfchistory.com
November 17, 1936
My darling wife,
Have time for just a word or two, but wanted to tell you I love you and am so happy that the time is drawing so near when you will be free from your bondage. I believe it is Saturday the 21st when you expected the cast to be removed, and when I get home I am going to squeeze you so hard you’ll wish you had it again for protection.
I left Pyongyang last night about eight, slept pretty well except when I was rudely wakened at midnight to show my passport, fill out a long questionnaire for visa and have my luggage examined when crossing the border from Korea to Manchukuo.
There is not so much to see here except the people look and dress different from any I have yet seen. We got here in time for breakfast and by the time I finish this it will be time to go to the train for Peking, which we reach in the morning about nine.
I must stop now and run along. I love you with all my heart, and I’m missing you more every day.
November 18, 1936
My darling Wife,
This thing of being a “tourist” is a hard life. I left Pyongyeng Monday night at eight o’clock after a hard day of visiting and speaking, and arrived at Mukden the next morning after a restless night. Had only a short time in Mukden and took the train for Peiping or Peking. Had to stay up until after ten last night for the Chinese Customs Inspector to come aboard the train. Finally, after filing out another long questionnaire giving all our family history I was allowed to go to sleep. Then I had another shock when they put a woman into the same compartment with me. She was very nice about it, and they had curtains around each of us so it was even more private than the average Pullman car at home. She was still asleep when I got out this morning.
Arrived here about nine, and have had a wonderful trip around this city, which was a well-organized town with a wall around it and a good government two thousand years before Christ.
I visited the justly famous Temple of Heaven, the Winter Palace, the Forbidden City, and many other world renowned shrines and historic places. Tomorrow, I go out to the Great Wall, about sixty miles from here, and am eager to see it. [I] expect to get back by three p.m. and leave for Nanking at six p.m. arriving there midnight Friday night or Saturday morning. Will visit our son, Pres. Hospital there and Howard VanDyke will probably meet me Saturday and take me to their station for Sunday and Monday. I then visit Chinkiang, China, where Mr. Crenshaw the Cornelia pastor was a missionary, and hope to reach Shanghai by Thanksgiving.
I have been thinking of you constantly this week visualizing you going back to Charlotte to have the cast removed. O how good it will feel to you to be free of it, and how good it will feel to me to have you in my arms again without that hard old thing. I am praying and believing that you will find the bone healed and getting strong again.
I have also been thinking a great deal about Kelly these days, and I surely am grateful to him for taking on my work as well as his own. Our lives and work would not have been complete without him and Alice, to say nothing about the baby, a combination of them both. I’m looking forward with greatest joy to fellowship with VanDykes, Ethel March, the Woodberrys, Robert Jaffray, Jack Turner, etc. That begins Sunday.
I love you with all my heart and am about wild to get to Shanghai to get mail from home.
November 25, 1936
My Darling Wife,
I am sitting in the house that was built some twenty years ago by Brother Crenshaw, who is now in Cornelia. It is a comfortable house on a high hill overlooking the city of Chinkiang and the Yangtze River. I got here yesterday afternoon and was met at the station by Brother Farrior, who makes this his headquarters. They had a reception here for me last night, which all the missionaries and Bible women and native workers of the city were present. Among them was a sister of Mrs. Dimmock of Newport News, whom I was glad to meet. These missionaries certainly are a spiritual people and all of them are looking for the coming of the Lord. It is a treat to be with them and to know them.
More and more disquieting word is coming from the strike situation in America. They now say that our tickets around the world are not worth anything and we will have to get back to America the best way we can. If this is true I am on a bad spot and I am anxious to get to Shanghai to get the truth. I hope to get there tomorrow and will go and see about it at once. At any rate, I think I shall go on down to Borneo since that is a different line from Manila and my ticket is already bought one way and I can get back to America just as well from there as from here.
You have been in my thoughts all the time the last few days thinking of you getting out of your cast and wondering how the x-rays show up the bone. I surely do hope and pray that it comes out all right and I will have my wife back again when I get home. You will probably get this about the time I get to Borneo and I know you will be praying for me. . . . Don’t forget that I love you with all my heart.
November 29, 1936
My darling Wife,
I received two letters from you in Shanghai, one written Oct. 22nd and one Oct. 27th. They were water to one who is thirsty, but you then had not had time to write any details about the post office or your cast, etc. I do hope there will be some more details when I reach Manila. I shall cable you from there and hope I may get a reply.
This strike in America has thrown all schedules out of gear and I’m doing the best I can. They tell me now that the rest of my passage around the world is worthless since the Dollar Line is going into bankruptcy and it really does look bad. I had to buy another ticket from Shanghai to Manila costing over fifty dollars gold and may never get a cent back for the old ticket. On the other hand, if I don’t use my Dutch Line ticket from Manila to Makassar, I won’t get anything back for that. So, I’m going on and taking the chance that the strike may end by the time I’m through in Borneo and I shall be able to go on with my present ticket. There are hundreds of round the world passengers over here stranded and a great howl is going up everywhere.
I only had two days at Shanghai but they were full ones—speaking several times through an interpreter, visiting various institutions, a reception one afternoon, and a radio address over the strongest radio station in the Orient. The speaker first before me was Leland Wang, known as the Moody of China. I boarded the ship Friday night and it left early Saturday morning. We are now on the China Sea and it is beautiful. There are some China Inland missionaries on board and I am enjoying them.
We hope to reach Hong Kong early tomorrow (Monday) morning and I am going across to Macao to visit Mr. and Mrs. Galloway. She was Mrs. S. C. Todd (you will remember). I am on an Italian ship, companion to the Esperia. I’m in Second Class but miles and miles better than our experience. I then take an Empress boat in two days to Manila and leave there Dec. 10th for Makassar.
I have a cabin all to myself. There are two more berths in it. I surely do wish you were in one of them. Somehow or the other, I have been homesick this whole trip, and am hungry for more word from home. My love to all the family, especially yourself.
November 30, 1936
My darling wife,
Here I am held up in Hong Kong for days waiting for a ship to Manila. Not only do I have the expense of staying here, which cannot be less than five dollars per day, but I have had to buy another ticket to Manila, which cost nearly sixty dollars. All this is on account of the strike in America.
I suppose you don’t feel it there or even know much about it, but you should hear the commotion over here! Everywhere one turns there is an American who is stranded. If all the curses pronounced upon the steamship companies are fulfilled none of them will ever survive.
I had a good trip down from Shanghai arriving in this beautiful harbor this morning at seven. Am planning tomorrow to go over to Macao to see the Galloways (see Mrs. Todd) and I’ll have some time here to get some writing done. I suppose it really is a good thing I have to stay these days in more or less quietness because I have been surely living strenuously.
I am sending this on the Clipper. Save the stamps. Am also planning to cable you from Manila. I leave you again. Pray about the strike and don’t fail to have that money in the bank by Jan. 1st. I am counting upon $300.00 (??), and to reassure me I wish you would send a cable soon as you know the money has been put in the First National Bank of Atlanta. Just say “Jaffray Makassar, yes. Forrest.” Or you may use the Postal Code you prefer.
It’s a pretty serious feeling to be away over on the other side of the world not knowing what you will do, and no money.
If you can make it $350.00 with the PO money I wish you would. I hope Kelly has been putting some in along and not waiting for strain at the last moment. I have a feeling the Starke money won’t come this year and he cannot depend upon that.
I left a little there in the bank when I came away. But I have had to check on that since then. Our other experience caused so much suffering. I fear any repetition. I’m so sorry to add to the burdens now but I’ll make it up.
December 7, 1936
My darling Wife,
It would be impossible to describe my disappointment when I went this morning to the American Express Co. the Dollar Line and the PO and found nothing from home. I suppose it is because there are no ships leaving the US for the Orient and the mail is all balled up. However, the disappointment was keen and I am sending you a cable today since I am so anxious to know about your condition since the cast is removed and also something about affairs at home.
You see, I’ve had no word from home about you, school, church, Post Office, or any of the other many things I’m so anxious to hear about. Your letter written Oct. 27th is the last word I’ve had and that was only about Mrs. Lewis. I hope you will send me a cable in answer to mine.
I had a fine visit to Hong Kong and went over to Macao to see Mr. and Mrs. Galloway. They have a fine work under the Southern Baptist board. He works mostly among the river pirates and has thrilling experiences. I also visited the Alliance children’s hostel at Hong Kong, where Mr. and Mrs. Becktell are located. It is a beautiful place and the children of South China, Philippines and East Indies missionaries stay there in school. Hong Kong is a British port so the splendid schools are taught in English.
By the way, at Macao, I was invited to tea at the home of Mrs. Sun-sen, widow of the first president of China. She is a fine Christian woman. Also while there I visited the grave of Robert Morrison the first missionary to China and saw the iron cross, on the ruins of a great Catholic Church that inspired the old hymn, “In The Cross of Christ, I glory, towering over the wrecks of time.”
I had to buy a new ticket from Hong Kong to Manila and came over on the Empress of Japan—a perfectly wonderful ship. While I was in the usual confusion of finding my baggage and getting through Customs a nice looking young man stepped up and asked if this was “Dr. Forrest.” I said, “Yes,” and he said we have been looking for you and expect you to preach for us at eleven this morning. It was Sunday and again this afternoon and tonight. They have a Bible Institute here and a fine work which split off from the Baptist Convention because of Modernism in the old board. It was blistering hot, and even my light coat and my pants were wringing wet, but I had good services and several were saved last night among them a brilliant young university student, who has been a scoffer. I preached through an interpreter tonight to a large Chinese group here in Chinatown, and tomorrow morning to the Institute students and again tomorrow night in an English service and three times Wednesday. I hope to sail by Thursday for Makasser.
I suppose the next address will be c/o American Express Singapore and then c/o Jack Turner. The c/o American Express Bombay. If anything else develops, I’ll cable you. . . . I’m sending this by Clipper today since no ships are running. I’m sorry to add anything to Kelly’s burden, but will make up for it later. I surely do appreciate his “standing by the stuff.” Am dying to hear of your condition, for you are the greatest asset I have this side of Heaven, and I want you to be well and free from suffering.
Again, I hope you cable me here before I leave on Thursday and again you are to cable me c/o Jaffray, Makasser, assuring me about the money. If you use the Postal code, use the word: ODENI, which I found on page 60 of the Postal code book and means “Have cabled money as requested.”
I don’t want the money “Cabled,” but will know what you mean. In my last letter, I said to simply say “Yes,” so either one will do. I hope you can use from the same code the word “MUPOS” on page 50, which means, “All are well at home,” or “NUWUB” which means “ Improving rapidly.
I love you with all my heart, and “how I am gong to demonstrate this when I see you again!!! Merry Christmas to all. Wish I were there to celebrate our anniversary. We’ll celebrate it later. Give my love to Kelly, Alice, Walt, Alice Grace, Mary and Edith. I sent a small package of my “heavenlies” that I won’t need for Hong Kong. Don’t be disappointed in opening it. The shirts were given to me by a missionary. I can’t even get them over my head.
December 10, 1936
My Darling Wife,
I hear another Clipper leaves today so I want to get this off on it to say how happy your cable received yesterday made me feel. I surely am glad the cast is off and I hope you will be walking when I get back.
I have been more than busy while here and have greatly enjoyed the fellowship with the missionaries. I leave tonight for Makasser. Will board the ship at six and she leaves sometime during the night.
So far as I know now I will be leaving Bali on January 7, arriving in Calcutta about January 20. That means I will be with Jack Turner about January 21. So that will be the next point to address. Send me something there, and something c/o American Express to Bombay. Port said and Naples. Hope to be home before March. Surely am homesick for you. I love you. Am more sorry than I can tell you to miss our 35th anniversary but my heart will be there with you. Am sending a radiogram to you today through a “Ham” who will forward it to you without it costing me anything. The Army will send it and forward it to you.
My love and Christmas greetings to all on the place. I’m feeling pretty well, but the heat is beginning to tell on me already. I have my helmet and wear it all the time. Must stop and run with this to the Post Office for the Clipper. Hope you get it before Christmas.
(Editor’s note: The following letter is long but it demonstrates how things have changed when it comes to communicating with loved ones under extreme circumstances. Richard did not have a way to call home. If he had, he would have discovered that Evelyn was gravely ill due to the operation she had on her leg. There was no way for her to respond to his letters—no matter how hard he begged her to write. Later (in letters that will follow), he will receive the news and responds with shock and disbelief.)
December 17, 1936
My Darling Wife,
Well, here I am in Makassar! I left Manila on December 10 and had a beautiful voyage for five days, landing at Makassar on December 15. I was met at the wharf by Mr. Jaffray, Mr. and Mrs. Post, Margaret Jaffray, and Miss Lillian Marsh. They surely did seem to be glad to see me. I landed about six a.m. and went up to Jaffray’s home for breakfast.
This work is a modern missionary miracle and grows on one the more you look into it. It is only seven years old, but here and Borneo and other islands there are more than ten thousand converts at the Bible training school with over a hundred students, four native workers in the field, a graduating class this next spring of twenty more, and a continuous revival going on.
I still don’t know when I can get over to Borneo. Dixon is away up in the interior with the boat and although word has been sent up to him by special courier no definite reply has come yet and I may have to wait a week. This may delay me a couple of weeks getting home, but since I’ll probably never be here again, I’m sure it would be bad to miss going. As soon as we receive word at the mouth of the river, I’ll go on the next boat that Dixon is at the coast at mouth of the river. I’ll go over on the next boat to meet him there.
There is still a great deal of confusion over here about boats and it still looks like I shall have to buy a new ticket all the way home. They are cold blooded about it and simply say the strike is an act of God for which they are not responsible and we must get back the best way we can. I go from here to Singapore—thence to Calcutta via Rangoon. I will have to miss French Indo China because of the expense and you have no idea how I dislike that. I wanted so much to visit Johnnie McCollins-Ziemer near Bangkok. Siam, near where Neil Chrisman’s brother was located.
Word has just come since writing the above that two young men came in this morning from Borneo and Jaffray has gone to see them to get some word from Dixon. I may go back on that boat tonight. I hope so, for I’m anxious to be on my way. I am preaching every morning in English to the missionaries and others and every night to the Malays through an interpreter. The latter is agony for me.
I was wishing so much you could have been with me when we crossed the Equator. They always make a great ceremony of it. I was elected King Neptune and was all rigged up in long whiskers, boots, crown, and all the rest of the paraphernalia. All the passengers had to appear before me and the barber and the doctor were told what to do with them. Most of them were thrown overboard into the swimming pool. It was great fun, and at the last, they all caught us, the barber, the doctor, and Neptune and we were also thrown “overboard.”
It is now the 18th and I still don’t know what I’m going to do about Borneo. No word comes from Dixon, and there is no way to contact him. If I don’t hear from him by tomorrow noon, I think I shall leave here for Bali and Batavia and visit Borneo from the west side where there has recently been a great revival with two thousand baptisms. It will be a disappointment to the Dixons, but I can’t wait always.
It is very hot, but not so bad as I expected. We are about the same distance south of the Equator as we were north when at Abijan or Grand Bassam. The Borneo work is right on the Equator.
I have received only one letter from you since leaving Seattle and that was at Shanghai. Not a word from anybody at Manila except your cable, and only one letter from Kelly here enclosing a note from Miss Halderman. I surely did appreciate these and have read them over and over. I don’t suppose there is a chance for any more until I get to New York. Pretty bad to get only one letter from the one you love most in five months, and I have written you over and over again although constantly on the trot. I might get something at Bombay c/o American Express, if it comes by airmail via Europe. Must get this off. I leave for Borneo tomorrow. I love you dearly.
December 24, 1936
On the Java Sea
My Darling Wife,
Thirty-five years ago there was a boy, who got up before daylight and fumbled around in the dark in a little stable in an alley near St. Ann’s P.C. Church hitching a black horse to an old fashioned buggy. He had an eighteen-mile drive ahead of him and it was very cold, but he had something inside him that kept him warm and happy on the way. He was on his way to marry the finest girl he had or has every known.
Today that boy is a grey-headed old man and is approaching the shores of Borneo right on the Equator to a town called Balikpappan. The Dutch have great oil fields here and they also have the largest paraffin plant in the world.
The sea is smooth fortunately for we are on a very small boat. I have a second-class ticket, but the captain invited me to eat with him, so I am getting first class fare and attention. From Balikpappan we go on tonight to Samarinda arriving there tomorrow morning. Dixon meets me there and we proceed at once to go up the Mahakam River to Melak, where he is located.
The shores of Borneo are now insight and not very inviting. On the Celebes side there are green hills and beautiful scenery with waving palm trees, etc. but the coast is low and flat and not at all attractive. They say they have mountains in the interior and I may change my mind. So far as I know now, I will come back on the same ship on January 3rd, and will be in Makassar one night, then on to Bali, Java, Billiton, and the west coast of Borneo, where I go inland again—this time having Jaffray with me.
I surely was glad to get your cable and sent you an answer. It only coat $1.60 in our money. My heart and thoughts are there today, and I sincerely wish my body were there too. I love and miss you. Please give my love to all the family (including everyone at the school) and friends. I hope you are walking. I’m sending this to you airmail via Europe.