Y. M. C. A. WORKS IN THICK OF FIGHTING IN FRANCE
Service of Men in First Line Trenches on Many Battlefields Told by F. B. Sayre.
As a result of his recent experiences in Y. M. C. A. work on the Western Front in France, F. B. Sayre, son-in-law of President Wilson, and at present Ezra Ripley Thayer Teaching Fellow in the University, has written the following concerning the Y. M. C. A. War Work:
"The closer one gets to the front, the more religion must take on the form of service,--the giving of a cup of cold water, which in this case means hot coffee. I think of a typical dugout on the crest of a hard-fought hill, which we came to one evening about sunset. It was a battlefield but freshly taken from the enemy; the stench of the dead was still in the air, and the ground was torn and churned,--one horrid mass of blood-soaked earth, of twisted barbed wire and steel shell fragments, timbers and bits of concrete gun emplacements, pieces of personal clothing, shrapnel, broken rifles, unexploded bombs, rifle shells, human bones,--all shattered and ghastly and horrible. We were in front of the English batteries and could hear the English shells go singing and hurtling through the air over our heads, and the regular answer of the German sheels, seeking out the English batteries, whining past us and then exploding with a loud report, throwing high into the air great columns of earth and smoke. Further and further we made our way up towards the front line trenches; finally at a point under almost constant shellfire we found a little Y. M. C. A. dugout. It was very filthy and small, with almost no accommodations; and yet here we found a secretary unflinchingly sticking by his post, in spite of the fact that in this dugout twice during the preceding week an orderly was killed by his side,--living under shellfire so that he could serve hot coffee to soldiers returning out of the front line trench and minister to their most immediate needs.
"When the Canadians stormed over the top of certain famous ridge, and the battlefield was full of needy, suffering men, a Y. M. C. A. secretary appeared serving out hot coffee on the ridge within half an hour after it was stormed, before the line was yet consolidated. 'Everybody else was lying flat in that rain of bullets," one of the officers said, 'Everybody except just that secretary; and the sight of him standing alone, forgetting everything except the men he was risking his life to help is what gave religion to me.'
"A great gathering place of the nations of the world; the manhood of America gathered there; many homesick, some distressed in mind, all facing issues of life and death and wondering about things they had never wondered about before,--there is an opportunity for army chaplains, for the Y. M. C. A. and for other up building forces, like of which has scarcely ever been seen."