My Pilgrimage in Mission
W. Harold Fuller
E arly in childhood, I wanted to write, but I had no idea
my “mission” in life would be to do so. Father, a mis-
sion leader, lined our hallway with shelves of used books he
Battle of the North Atlantic, escorting food convoys across to
Europe. As I wrote in a poem, it “changed the boy into a man,”
but the turbulent world of a sailor’s life also revealed to me
would pick up for five cents apiece. Adventure, travelogues, and man’s sinful nature.
biographies tempted us six children to read ourselves into other After discharge, I enrolled in a correspondence course in
worlds. At night I even found ways to read past “lights out”—with journalism. That helped me understand the five W’s (who,
an extension cord smuggled under the blankets. Less tempting what, when, where, and why) and their changing priorities in
in our childhood were theological books and a two-volume set news. The Toronto Star offered me a “copyboy” apprenticeship
of Miller’s Church History. My four sisters set about earning the (obsolete these days), but I was headed out west—ostensibly
princely sum of fifty cents each if they read the latter work, but to study at Prairie Bible Institute (PBI), in Three Hills, Alberta.
The Boy’s Own Annual adventure stories were about the limit for I had announced that goal in my boyhood, when Prairie grads
my brother and me, the tail end of the family. who passed through our home impressed me.
Father, from Britain, had wanted to be a missionary to China, As I was leaving home, my father said, “Write to tell us when
but in those days a heart condition ruled that out. Instead he you’ve given everything over to the Lord!” He knew that I was
pioneered on the Canadian prairies on horseback before end- in a rebellious mood. I stomped off, furious at his remark. My
ing up on the coast of British Columbia. When marriage and a secret plan was to stay at PBI only until Christmas break and then
family came along (I was born in Vancouver, October 24, 1925), head to the West Coast, volunteering on a merchant ship headed
he kept God’s call to missions ever prominent, and four of us for Australia. “Then I can see the rest of the world!” I thought.
children did become missionaries. As well, Dad was an editor,
likely giving me the idea of writing. Anyway, my parents thought Only a Pile of Ashes?
something in the arts was in my future because our family doctor,
discovering a heart murmur, ruled out all robust pursuits; I was But the first few months at PBI radically changed my plans—and
not supposed even to run upstairs. my spiritual life. The Fall Conference speaker, Armin Gesswein,
So as daily rest periods dragged by, I dreamed of produc- brought powerful messages on the Christian life. Students lined
ing a book—“logically” starting by making the cover. However, up for hours to confess their sins, until Principal L. E. Maxwell
that was as far as the five-year-old got. Instead, I later scribbled had to send everyone off to bed. I knew I was not right with God,
on the back of used envelopes or anything to hand (during the but still rebelling, I despised the lined-up “repentants.” Instead,
Great Depression, notepads were beyond family resources). Ideas I sat out the sessions; but the Holy Spirit was sitting right beside
often ended up as paper scraps bearing precious thoughts—some
undecipherable because written in the night.
Meanwhile, “English” became a passion, making me a lin- My father said, “Write
guistic pest to my sisters and brother. For instance, I crusaded
against the word “got,” which I regarded as a lazy “weed word” to us when you’ve given
that displaced description verbs; I listed some 156. But I became everything over to the
extreme, using substitutes such as “purloined” in place of the
strong Anglo-Saxon “stole.” An elementary schoolteacher told
Lord.” I stomped off,
me I should become a journalist—likely because when I did not furious at his remark.
know the answer to a question, I would resort to verbiage!
My first publishing break came in my teens, when in Toron-
to, to which we had moved in 1928, a little boy wandered past me, gently convicting. After a sweaty struggle I gave up, next
our house, crying. He had lost his way home; could I help? I day writing home: “Harold Fuller is now only a pile of ashes!”
took him to the local police, who soon located his parents. The At least, so I thought. It was a rather grandstand statement, for
Toronto Globe and Mail published my news item in their “Local” the ashes of one’s ego have a way of standing up again. I had
column. It amounted to no more than an inch of copy, but I was much to learn about “the victorious life” as I stayed on for the
a published reporter—wow! full course.
Meanwhile, my heart condition cleared up (another story of Academically, Prairie’s excellent English course attracted me,
God’s provision). During World War II, in order to avoid army and in my junior year I ended up grading the essay papers of
conscription, I enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy. Fresh out seniors (they never knew!). PBI’s Sunday radio broadcasts gave
of the cocoon of a puritan home, I suddenly found myself in the me the outlet of writing (and narrating) the weekly children’s
story. Pumped up with ambition, I confided to Principal Leslie