Facing the Future Challenge
My First Fifty Years are history. They have passed like the dew of the morning. They are irredeemable and irreparable. If I could recall them there are changes which I would make. I am by no means satisfied with my life and labors of the past. My accomplishments have been limited. Others have done so much in comparison to my little. It seems that I have believed so little, and my trust has been so imperfect. In the face of all my failure to measure up to the highest privileges we have in Christ He has been so patient, and has borne with my lack of alertness in His school. I have been a slow student, and yet through His tender mercies a few lessons have been learned and new heights have been gained.
The past few years have been the best of my life. During this period He has given new revelations of Himself and has trusted me with enlarged visions of a perishing world. He has vouchsafed to this unworthy servant opportunities and privileges which I had never dreamed of. Thirty-two years ago He called me from between the plow-handles to follow Him. I never so much as dreamed of the day when I would girdle the globe with the Gospel message. I had no ambition to travel around the world and never once planned such a trip. My soul had often been stirred while reading thrilling accounts of such men as Livingstone, Payton, and Chalmers — mighty men of God who became pioneers in the wildest regions of the earth. I knew that I was altogether too small for such a task, and know it yet, but the Lord saw fit to let me have a small part in pioneering among the same type of people and witnessing at least a little of what they witnessed among primitive men of the bush. Why God has been so good to me I cannot tell except for one little trait in my life. From the beginning I have purposely chosen the hard way — the cross way — while others have played politics to pull themselves into the most pleasant positions the Lord has given me grace to purposely put myself in a position where I have had to trust Him. He has kept me from consciously compromising with sin and the world. He has allowed me to pass some of the most talented men who sought to lift themselves. Praise His blessed name! In all of this I am constrained to tremble before Him, for extraordinary opportunity means tremendous responsibility and a fearful accountability. I am fully aware of my natural inability for so great a task as He has committed to my trust, and yet I dare not betray this trust. I must not be disobedient unto the “heavenly vision.” Woe is me if I fail. Our God continually holds before me this word: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”
Sixteen years ago the Lord led me out — whither I knew not. I knew who was holding my hand. By His marvelous grace I have walked on and on with Him in ways that I knew not. When I stepped forth sixteen years ago to follow the Lord into regions beyond I didn’t have a dozen people on earth to look to or depend upon to render support for our family of six. This is why I was such a fool in the eyes of some good meaning people. They could see nothing but failure ahead for me and the family. And they were dead right except for God. God makes the big difference. But for Him I would never have gotten anywhere. Through these years nearly a quarter of a million dollars have passed through our hands and our Office. So far as our family is concerned we have received less than $40 per week during this period. For the past ten years there have been eight of us, and yet we have lived on less than $40 a week. We have worn other people’s clothes and thanked the Lord for them that we might have more to put into the work of the Lord. Please don’t think that I am talking about some great sacrifice which we have made. We know nothing about sacrifice. God has given us this great privilege of laying up a few treasures above. The money placed at our disposal was not our money. Our many friends have trusted us, and before God we could not afford to betray such trusts.
At this point in our story I wish to speak of our faithful helpers in the Lord. Had it not been for these your writer would never have been heard of outside his very limited realms. In the face of vigorous opposition across the years the Lord has raised up precious friends who have stood by us with their prayers and substance. Most of these have been poor people who have cheerfully given from their meager means. Their moral support has also been soul-strengthening. Their letters have often brought greater blessing than their liberal gifts. What courage it affords God’s little servants when they are assured the perpetual prayers of God’s dear children. Glory to God! what an honor, what a privilege to make friends with God’s precious people and to have their confidence! I have often asked the Lord to let me die rather than betray the confidence of His people. How precious it has been to note the faithfulness of many of God’s children to listen for and give heed to the voice of the Master. There have been times out on the mission field when all of us could have suffered for the lack of necessary food, but for the faithfulness of His people to hear His voice. God has talked to some in the middle of the night who readily responded and supplied the urgent needs when naturally they knew nothing about our needs out yonder thousands of miles away. Others of our precious friends were led to give to the work and have for years contributed regularly each month. How heartening it has been to have good people come to us and say, “You and your work are remembered before the throne of God in our prayers every day.” Some of you who are now reading these lines are among these of whom I speak. You will never know just how much you have meant to us. We can never tell you, but this I know, our God will reward you. I weep for joy upon the remembrance of some of you. Your love for our Lord has inspired me to love Him more ardently. Your encouraging words or letters have fired my heart to run faster and to work harder. You have helped to make me a better man. Your example has stirred my soul to serve Him more diligently. Great will be your rewards.
There are our precious missionaries who have stuck with us through the hard places and have patiently borne with my faults and failures. These too have helped to make me and to advance the work to which the Lord called me. Without these we could not have gone forward. Without them we could not exist as a Mission. I am deeply indebted to them. Their constructive criticisms given in love have helped me. We have suffered, served, and learned together. We are still in school. Some of our lessons are perplexingly difficult, but we have a great Teacher, and by the grace of God we are going to stay in school and make the grades. God will reward these faithful helpers in the Gospel. These constitute my larger family. We have often had the privilege of kneeling in prayer together and committing our large family needs to our blessed Heavenly Father. We have seen Him work wonders in our behalf. He has greater things ahead for us.
A little has been accomplished during these years. God is the judge of how much. We began fourteen years ago with the “Bahamas’ Bible Mission.” Four years later this was included in “The West Indies Bible Mission,” then following the opening of our work in New Guinea the Mission became known as “The East & West Indies Bible Mission.” Including missionaries on the field, those on furlough, and those under immediate appointment, we have about thirty adults. We have additional workers in training for the great challenge which faces us.
The Mission is now incorporated in the State of Florida. The work is incorporated as a nonprofit-sharing institution. The Mission will be controlled by a Board of Directors, but not one of these Directors is to derive anything materially as a result of his connection with the Mission. An Attorney at Law has taken a very personal interest in our work in the preparation of the Incorporation papers in order that the Mission might be well secured, and that those who put their substance into this work may have the assurance that their investments are well made.
Now, forgetting our forgiven failures of the past lest we become discouraged in tackling the mighty tasks which lie ahead; and forgetting our gratifying successes which are behind us lest we be tempted to sit down in calm complacency, we must unflinchingly and radiantly face the future with its tremendous challenge. May God deliver us from the feeling that all “the worlds have been conquered,” and that we have come into the picture too late. While it is true that we know not how little time we may have to work before the night shades fall, yet we cannot afford to fritter away our time wondering how soon we must quit. These are days when your writer is earnestly seeking God for more light and more wisdom in order to know how to get more accomplished in the course of the little time left. I am not satisfied with the little vision He has given me, but my prayer is that I may be obedient to what vision I have, and that He may enlarge my vision in order that greater things might be wrought for His eternal glory.
In spite of the fact of closed and closing doors we are faced with some of the greatest missionary challenges ever known to the people of God. Our vision must encompass this challenge or we will fail utterly. As children of faith we must “look at the things which are not seen” by ordinary eyes. We must be on the alert to see those heaven-sent opportunities which challenge us. God has ways for us to get even beyond those closed doors with His Gospel if we will let Him show us the way.
Our present experience in getting into closed territory in South America by means of the Broadcasting Station is proof to us that we can still bring blessing to many hungry-hearted lives dwelling behind the barred doors if we will. Those of you who have been burdened for poor downtrodden China with its closed doors, despair not. Don’t give up hopes. There is yet work to be done. There are thousands of thirsty souls in China who have radios in their homes. Let us prepare to give the Gospel in all its purity and power to these needy ones. It can be done. There is the great cruel land of Russia with its doors doubly barred against the Gospel, but we can still get in there. The powers that be may spoil parts of the message with their jam transmitters, but they will not destroy all. Portions will get through to souls crying for the Bread of Life. Some seed will fall on good ground. Poor Spain, long-cursed by cruel Catholicism prohibits the Gospel from being preached even by the natives of Spain. By the help of God we expect to get into that country with the pure Gospel. Let us pray, believe, and give in order that the giant transmitter for our Station in Haiti may soon be sending forth its beam of Light and Life.
We already have towers erected for beaming the Gospel to these far away lands. Special antennas are being arranged for this work. God will reward our labors and yours. Will you join us in facing the mighty challenge to give the Gospel to those behind closed doors as well as to these where the doors are yet open?
Haiti, with its tens of thousands who have never heard the Gospel, presents a mighty challenge with an open door. We must enter while we may. We must conquer for Christ while we can. The wrathful powers of Rome are secretly and subtly scheming to close these doors to the Gospel Thanks be to God for the authorities in Haiti who are highly favoring the Gospel. Now is our time — our day of opportunity. How great will be our accountability to God if we fail. Qualified workers are needed, and funds are needed for the accomplishment of this task. Multitudes of poor Haitiens are held in the cruel chains of superstition and shame. They are crying for something, but they know not what. We who have had our souls lighted know that these multitudes are crying for the light and power of the Gospel. We have the light, what shall we do with it? Haiti’s only hope is Christ. False cults are worming their way in, but the poor people are not helped.
New Guinea now affords one of the world’s greatest missionary challenges. It contains thousands of square miles of virgin territory for the Gospel. The doors are open and opening. False religions which damm rather than deliver are ready to enter these doors. It almost makes my blood chill when I think of these uncounted masses of savage people who will be deceived and dammed because of our lack of a vision for a lost world. I can see those eager faces turned toward us and calling for our help. No, my dear reader, this is not simply imagination. I have been there among them where missionaries had never been before. We listened as they invited us to stay, or to return to them and settle among them, but there has been no one to send. They are still in their darkness. They are still calling. Others of our missionaries have gone out there where no missionary had ever been heard of. They have never been back, and there has been none to send in their place. These poor souls are waiting yet, and it seems they are waiting in vain for the help they need. Something is sadly wrong. When the Government or some Corporation wants men to go to Alaska, some isolated island of the sea, or to some malarial section of the world with the promise of big pay — they get their men. The Lord of the harvest tells us that they who reap in His harvest “receive wages,” and yet there are so few who claim to love Him who are ready to go. May the Lord awaken us, or else constrain us to close our mouths about our love for Him who laid down His very life for us, then commanded us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. Hearts of burning love for Christ are deplorably lacking. The wild, naked, untaught multitudes are calling for help. What shall we do with this challenge? Shall we stop our ears, close our eyes, and cauterize our conscience; or shall we repent of our love for common comforts, shake ourselves out of our indifference, confess our cold-heartedness, and cry mightily to God for deliverance from our spiritual laziness, and for a mighty baptism of divine love which will send us forth with burning hearts to witness and work for our Lord and the lost? Which shall it be?
Speaking personally, I am fully resolved to redeem the time and if needs be literally lay down my life that others might have the Gospel. That subtle enemy of souls called “leisure” and your writer are not on good terms. We have parted friendship and have nothing in common. Time is too precious and too swift in its flight for me to waste it. Others may do so, but I cannot. The waste of time is the murderer of souls. Jesus said, “I must work while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work.” Again He said, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.” Paul the Apostle had nothing in common with leisure even while fastened behind prison bars. He witnessed, he wrote, won souls to Christ, and prayed day and night for the saints of God. He speaks to us saying, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”
My friends, I dare not waste time. It seems but yesterday that I was a child saying “Yes Mamm” when “mama” called me to “set the table,” “feed the chickens, or slop the pigs.” It seems that I can almost hear her say, “Tolbert, it is time to go for the cows,” then away I go “tearing” through the front gate past the “big pine tree,” underneath the “red oaks,” and down across the “pasture” yelling like a wild Indian. “Old Rover” is in the lead barking out his warnings to the cows that it is time for them to go home. With the chores all done, supper finished, and the night shades drawn, “mama,” “papa,” and “Tolbert” sit together around the wide fireplace” which contains a big “back log.” But that was yesterday. Today all is changed. “Mama” has gone to a far country, “Papa” is no longer the young man he was then. He now lives in another part of the country. The old homestead has changed and the old house with its wide hearth is no more. The “barefoot boy” has now turned the half century mark. His FIRST FIFTY YEARS are now history. He has begun his second fifty, but he shall not attain this side of eternity’s border. Even if the Lord tarries, I shall have gone the way of all the earth long before the termination of my second half-century. My days are numbered. What I do must be done quickly. “My chores” for the Master are not all done. I cannot boast of being “ready for His coming,” for “those other sheep” are not all in the fold. Millions are yet far over the wild seas and lost among the cold dark mountains. I hear my Master’s voice, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” I must answer, “Here am I; send me.”
I should like to be counted worthy to say with David Brainerd:
“Farewell! farewell friends and earthly comforts, the dearest of them all, the very dearest, if the Lord calls for it; adieu, adieu, I will spend my life to my latest moments in caves and dens of the earth if the kingdom of Christ may thereby be advanced.”
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