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The Beginning of Their Love

Luke 5:28

“It was a hot Sunday afternoon. Richard’s father was sitting near an open window, reading a newspaper. Richard had decided to join to of his friends in running a tent meeting sixteen miles away in New Castle, Delaware. His mother had already packed his telescope (an old-fashioned traveling bag). Nothing remained to be done-except to inform his father as to what he intended to do.

“The youth stood, summing what courage he could. He fidgeted, trying to determine how best he could word his farewell. He looked at his father, but the newspaper covered his face. Richard Forrest

“Finally Richard spoke to the open newspaper. ‘Pop, I’m going to help some boys in a tent meeting at New Castle.’

“The newspaper didn’t move or even rustle slightly. But the words from behind that paper were quietly ominous.

“‘If you’re going to a tent meeting, keep going. Don’t come back.’

“Richard picked up the telescope and walked out. Over and over came those words on the way to New Castle.

“After the service that evening came the problem of bunking, while the other two fellows, Samuel McBride and Frank Hammel, slept in the tent. There were only two cots, and by right of priority those two occupied them. Richard slept on the platform.

“That first night he didn’t sleep very much. He kept hearing his father’s words: ‘If you’re going to a tent meeting-keep going-keep going-keep going.’ That platform became harder and harder. He thought of his comfortable bed at home, only a few miles away. For the first time, he really began to understand what Mr. Bancroft had been trying to tell him; he began to sense the price he’d have to pay if he followed the leading of his convictions. He courageously decided that it was worth the cost. He’d go on with the Lord.

The Song of Solomon

“During the summer, the three youths moved their tent to Wilmington and began services there. As Richard walked into the tent one day, he noticed a young lady at one side taking books out of a trunk and placing them on a table there. His natural curiosity, plus the attention the young lady was receiving from the other fellow, made him hasten over to become acquainted. Then she turned around! His heart turned over! This was the girl of his dreams-the girl whole loveliness he’d held enshrined in his heart for a solid year.

“It had been perhaps chance-no, it must have been the leading of the Lord-that had brought him, a year before, to a cottage prayer meeting on Jackson Street in Wilmington. As the group was assembling, three young ladies came in and were introduced. ‘Come,’ said the hostess, ‘I want you all the meet a young lady who has endeared herself to us. She’s a great worker for the Lord and is planning to attend The Missionary Training Institute at Nyack, New York, this fall.’ Thereupon, she introduced Miss Evelyn Drennen.

“Miss Drennen was standing between the two other young ladies, who were also introduced to the group. But for Richard Forrest the faces of the other two faded into the background. The room swirled; everything grew black except the face of Miss Drennen, which was all he could see, and he felt then that he wanted to look at that face the rest of his life.

“The meeting was called to order. Richard, coming somewhat out of his daze, made his way to a seat. However, he didn’t know whether the group was singing ‘Yankee Doodle’ or Nearer, My God, to Thee.’ He couldn’t have told whether the leader was reading Scriptures or Sanskrit. All he could see or think of was that beautiful face and the fact that he must somehow become acquainted with Miss Drennen. ‘Evelyn, isn’t that a beautiful name,’ he mused. ‘How musical! Eve-lyn, not Ev-lyn, as so many say. Eve-lyn! Eve-lyn!’ Evelyn Drennen Forrest

“During the following year, he wrote one letter to his lovely girl at Nyack. Laboriously, he penned that epistle, scarcely expecting her even to read it, hoping for-yet not anticipating-an answer. When she did send a reply, he actually and literally wore out the letter. He held her in such high reverence that he didn’t dare answer her letter-he just didn’t dare write her again. He felt that she was so far above him that surely she wouldn’t stoop so low as to continue a correspondence with him.

“Now here she was, in person, in their tent! Joy unmingled flowed through him.

“Richard Forrest was not the only one swept off his feet by this beautiful girl. Frank Hammel, another one of the trio, was having similar thoughts. So it was that there were two anxious fellows a short time later when a note was sent down to the tent stating that Miss Drennen was very ill with asthma, and would they ‘send a man to fan her all night?’

“Miss Drennen was living with an unmarried lady, Miss Mary Fisher, and her father. They could provide the necessary care for her, but the weather was extremely hot. Those were the days before electric fans; therefore, it became necessary to find someone who would be willing sit by her bedside and fan her.

“Frank, who was more or less the leader of the group, grabbed the note, pocketed it, and ordered: ‘You fellows stay here and take care of things. I’ll go offer my services for the care of Miss Drennen.’

“Richard rose. ‘Wait a minute, Frank. Did you notice the wording of that note? It said they wanted a man to fan Miss Drennen. I’m going!’

“As the other fellows looked on with mouths agape, Richard turned on his heel and strode out.

“You may be sure that the fanning did not stop once all through that night and that the labor seeming light, because it was a work of love.

“Like Richard, Evelyn Drennen was trusting God for all her money. Her father was not able to help her, as their family was very poor, just like Richard’s. However, unlike the Forrests, The Drennens had been prosperous. Evelyn’s father had had a very productive farm, but had lost it in business reverses. After completing her schooling in the public schools of Cecil County, Maryland, Evelyn decided to prepare for a teaching career at the State Normal College at Newark, Delaware, and earned her way by doing housework in a private home there.

“Now, feeling that God was directing her to full-time Christian service and realizing the need of training in a Bible institute, she was attending The Missionary Training Institute at Nyack, New York, during the winter months. In the summer, to help earn her way, Evelyn was selling books, literature, mottoes, and subscriptions to the Christian Alliance. Before each service she’d put her books and other items on the display, and after the meeting put what hadn’t sold back into the trunk. Richard soon began helping her-and dared any other young fellow to put her books away for her at night or take them out of the trunk before services started. In that way they became more closely acquainted.

“One night, Richard gathered up his courage enough to tell Evelyn how much he cared for her. Then, characteristically, they got down on their knees to pray about it. After they’d both prayed, to his intense amazement, she leaned over to kiss him, and he didn’t know what she wanted! He backed away from her because he was so embarrassed. He didn’t think it was possible that she would stoop that low. He couldn’t imagine-why, she was in a different world from him! So did he feel about the girl who was to become his wife and companion throughout more than half a century.

“That night marked the beginning-not of sorrow-but of joys for these two.

“The following fall Richard’s father reluctantly allowed him to return home. Meanwhile, Evelyn Drennen resumed her studies at The Missionary Training Institute, where she became the target of much teasing by her roommate, Lillian Stemm, concerning her relationship to Richard. During a visit to Wilmington, Evelyn told Richard what her friends were saying. He asked her: ‘What did you say?’

“She responded: ‘I told Lillian that you’re my brother in Christ.’

“A bit irked, he replied, ‘What do you want to tell her that for! You know better than that. You know I’m more than that.”

“‘Well,’ she retorted, spiritedly, ‘that’s all I can say. You’ve never asked me to marry you.’

“Later Dr. Forrest was accustomed, when speaking of this occasion, to say, with a twinkle in his eye: ‘There wasn’t anything else to do and still be a gentleman. So I asked her to marry me.’

“But don’t think he didn’t want to ask her! Or that he wasn’t the happiest person in the world when she answered in the affirmative.

(Text taken from Achieving the Impossible with God)

Richard and Evelyn Forrest
Evelyn and Richard

Forrest’s 50th anniversary
Richard and Evelyn Forrest celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary