Earnest Presswood was born on the Canadian prairie in 1908 and came to Christ in a Sunday school class at age 11. Later, under the preaching of “Gipsy” Smith, he surrendered to Christian service. He enrolled in the Christian and Missionary Alliance Institute at Nyack, New York, and by 1930 he was in Borneo.
Rumors soon flew across the island of the young, white man whose message could turn evil men into good ones, drunken men into sober ones, violent men into men of God. Islanders called him Tuan Change, because his message changed lives. “When I heard,” said one man, “I could not sleep for desire. We all went to meet him. He preached the Resurrection. Right from the beginning it hit me. I was drinking it in. When I first heard I believed.”
Ernie, 25, crisscrossed mountain trails to remote villages. His feet became ulcerated by leech bites, but his passion was relentless. “What a time I have had,” he wrote after one tour. “Physically it has been hard, but the results have been glorious. Around 600 were reached with the message.” Another time he wrote, “From early morning till late at night I have kept busy with scarcely a break. Pray for me for the strain is very great. I have baptized 130, and I expect at least twice as many more.”
Returning to America on furlough, Ernie fell in love with Laura Harmon, married her, and took her back to Borneo. She died suffering a miscarriage, and Ernie buried her in a coffin made with timbers from the house they were building. Then he pressed on, alone again.
His service was disrupted between 1940 and 1945 by war in the South Pacific. For five years Ernie wondered and worried about his suffering flock. On November 27, 1945, when he returned, he found the graves of many Christians, but the church in Borneo was triumphant. By now, Ernie was old beyond his 38 years, and he died three months later of pneumonia after a rafting accident—having planted a church and reaped a harvest that thrives to this day.
The Lord forgives our sins, heals us when we are sick, and protects us from death. His kindness and love are a crown on our heads. Each day that we live, he provides for our needs and gives us the strength of a young eagle. (Psalm 103:3-5)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Nov. 27.