A Memorable Friday Night for the Boys at Stanes Senior Boarding Home
From: The Wonder of God’s Providence, in the life of Harry D’Monte, by Lynda J. Samuel, 2008.
Fridays were always good days for the boys. In the Boarding Home, there was no study between 8 and 9pm. School books were put away; the boys relaxed and indulged in ‘horse-play’. Prior to that there was an informal meeting in the school hall, with a guest speaker who would engage the boys’ attention by holding forth on some popular discoveries and then ‘smuggle’ in a gospel appeal in the conclusion. The boys endured it or spent the time sketching the preachers, who were generally bearded or bald, with choking clerical collars. The boys noted the speaker’s oddities and mannerisms, e.g. buttoning and unbuttoning their coat or frequently polishing their spectacles, or making strange throaty sounds. This would all be mono-acted later that night in the dormitory.
One evening the boys were shocked by a strange sight. A rosy cheeked lad clad in undignified khaki shorts, without a tie or coat (jacket), stood on the platform with a stage smile. Under their breath the boys whispered, “Must be a new boy.” “Good stuff for blanket tossing,” suggested another, for blanket tossing was the highlight of Friday’s revelries. “You know nothing, he’s a new Master,” proffered another. “Exactly. He’ll teach needlework and show us how to darn socks!”
Then he delighted them with the sounds of his concertina and they obliged by roaring out a familiar gospel song. “I told you. He’s a magician.” “Watch out, the monkey is sure to appear.”
The speaker established immediate rapport with the boys and they were all ears. “Boys, there is just one question I want to ask you all.”
“Questions,” groaned a voice from the back. “Spare us, just three weeks to the exams.”
“Just one question, and all of you will give me a correct answer, yet a different answer. Do you know it?” The boys thought and thought. “No,” shouted someone. “Clean bowled; first wicket down.”
“Think again,” he encouraged. “To the same question, everyone can give the same answer, and it would be a right one.”
Again the boys racked their brains. “No-o-o… Second wicket down,” was the comment.
“Let me help you; it is in the Bible.”
“No-o-o-o-o. That’s a hat trick,” said a voice from somewhere.
“Let us find it then. Read in Mark’s gospel, chapter 5, verses 1-20.” They read very carefully searching for the question marks. There were two interrogation marks in the passage.
“What is thy name?”
“QED,” they shouted. (All our different names are correct answers)
Then the speaker spoke with spiritual authority. The frivolity vanished and they listened as the Spirit spoke through the preacher. “There is another answer. This time you must all give the same answer and you will be correct. What is the answer you must all give?” he queried. We were stumped.
“All answer to the name of SINNER. ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ Do you confess ‘I am a sinner?’ Then you need a Saviour…”
The Spirit of God brooded over many hearts that evening. Many sought permission to visit the preacher privately. Harry set out with two of his friends to talk with the preacher. He had many questions to ask and was spiritually much troubled. But Satan hindered them because they were really hungry. “I’m starving,” said one. “I have a rupee,” said another. So they scrambled over the fence, went to a hotel and never saw the preacher.
Harry D’Monte: “Little did we know, after our first meeting in 1937 in Stanes, when he came to preach at that memorable Friday open night, how often our paths would cross in the decades to follow. I can still picture him vividly, clad in baggy khaki shorts, playing Gospel songs on his concertina.”