Reports Section - Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
D. C. Hinton, Hayes, Middx.
The commencement of another year is a fitting point to record our appreciation of the efforts of all who have co-operated in any way in the compilation of reports. The time and labour devoted by a number of brethren are not to be judged by the volume of printed matter, since frequently their efforts to obtain suitable material meet with no response. If one of them should ask you for a report, he would be much encouraged by your willing and prompt assistance.
Readers are also reminded that the Lord’s servants referred to in this section are in no way responsible to the Committee: also the inclusion of any particular item is not to be taken as necessarily indicating that the Committee recommends the adoption of the methods, designations, etc., employed.
‘I am debtor’
Eight years ago we printed the following words, and they bear repetition;
‘How sadly possible it is to delight in conferences and feasts of good things; to enjoy, in a way, all the ministry that is brought before us, and yet to be unprepared to go out from and with these good things in self-denying efforts to rescue the perishing’. (HUDSON TAYLOR)
As the dire needs of the masses of unsaved people in this country, both old and young, are brought before us we should seek to know our individual responsibility as to the meeting of this need.
A worker among the young in Southern England states that last summer he often met children who did not know of Adam and Eve, while at one place he was unable to find a single child who knew one Bible story. Such ignorance of the Word of God is typical of some parts of this land. What are we doing to rectify it?
‘Come, ye children, hearken unto me’
This is the message from our God to all boys and girls, and we are the mouthpieces. A few years ago a believer living on the edge of the rapidly growing Penlan Estate, Swansea, commenced a Sunday School in her bungalow. Numbers grew until the accommodation became too small. Some brethren in the Fforest Fach assembly had been exercised about the need and applied to the Corporation for the use of the estate canteen. This was readily granted and large numbers of children attended regularly. The canteen, being movable, was moved as the estate developed and the Sunday School moved with it.
When the estate was finished the canteen was removed, and there followed a period when the children were transported to the nearest assembly school. This proved a big responsibility, so rooms were hired in a school on the estate. The rents proved to be so high that it was decided to erect a hall, the brethren doing as much of the work themselves as was possible. A spacious building has now been erected in the centre of the estate. A Sunday School and Gospel meeting are held on the Lord’s Days and a Young Peoples’ Meeting during the week.
‘They brought young children to Him’
In Aberdeen a similar exercise on the part of two brethren led to the purchase of a tent which was pitched at Mastrick, one of the city’s post-war estates, during some six weeks of last summer. The response from the young folk was encouraging, but here also it was found that they knew next to nothing of the Scriptures. The use of a school has now been arranged so that the work can continue during the winter months.
In more circumscribed areas the gospel hall will still be an effective gathering point. At Burraton, near Saltash, Cornwall, nightly meetings were held by R. Saunders for two weeks in October aimed primarily at teenagers and children. As far as the latter were concerned the meetings prospered as numbers increased until over 100 were present in the little hall, and of these several professed to have trusted the Saviour. Many teenagers came to their special sessions and it is believed that there was a real spiritual work done among some who made a profession. Such young folk need our constant prayers, since their home life is often anything but an encouragement to spiritual progress.
‘Then were brought unto Him little children’
Special meetings for lads and girls were convened in the Threshold Hall, East Kilbride, for a fortnight in October. More than usual interest was shown and by the second night numbers approached 300. Many of these had never been contacted by the believers before. Like other new towns, this area is very spread out; to overcome this the children were conveyed from one side of the town by bus while private cars brought them from the other side. This caused many parents to become interested.
‘That I might by all means save some’
Sometimes there is no suitable building available in which to gather folk under the sound of the Gospel. Faced with such a situation, S. Lewis and H. Winfield Graham obtained the use of a semi-ruined house in Donegal which they renovated sufficiently to enable meetings to be held. It is in an isolated area comprising a Protestant community of some 25 families which has not been visited by workers from the assemblies for over sixty years, and where no Gospel meetings of any kind have been held for the last fifteen years. Numbers ranged from three to twenty-three, mostly young folk who had never attended such meetings before. Such an audience brought real joy to the preachers.
A Gospel caravan was used by L. Mullen of Japan when he had meetings for six weeks in the little seaside village of Glenarm while home on furlough. This was his native district and the caravan was usually well-filled, a number professing salvation. Similar results followed the proclamation of the Word in Strabane.
‘of the Lord ye shall receive the reward’
A time of blessing and encouragement was seen at Drumlone, Co. Fermanagh, when G. Stewart from Eire and a number of other brethren held special Gospel meetings in a hall which unfortunately had been closed for a long time. A feature of these meetings was the assistance given by some young brethren who devoted their holidays to house-to-house visitation and preaching. There was a really good interest shown and several professed to be saved.
N. Burden, a brother on holiday from America, felt exercised about the spiritual needs of the little fishing village of Annalong, Co. Down, from which he originally emigrated. As a result, meetings were held which aroused a real interest, quite a number professing conversion. One young man who started out with the intent of disturbing the meetings ended up by being saved.
‘Write thou these words’
Souls may be reached with the Gospel by means of a written ministry as well as an oral one. Mention has been made in previous issues of the Postal Sunday School work in Eire, whereby over two hundred children receive weekly lessons and return the answers for marking by post. Several believers in England have realized the possibilities of such printed lessons as a means of reaching areas as yet untouched. In one case it is planned to cover large housing estates where it has not been possible to obtain accommodation where meetings for the young could be held. Others are seeking to reach country areas by this means. Is there scope for such a medium in your area? The lessons can be obtained at a nominal charge, and enquiries should be made to B. G. Russell, ‘Highfield’, Fletchers Green, Weald, Kent. The marking of the papers and all correspondence will, of course, be the responsibility of the local believers. This is a work in which many sisters could engage if the need was brought before them, since it can be carried out from the home.
In connection with the Postal School, a bi-monthly children’s magazine is published called ‘Young Gleaners of Ireland’. Five hundred copies of the first issue were printed in 1958, and the circulation has risen to over four thousand. An English edition will be available in January, 1964, and enquiries should be made to the address given above. It is suited to all ages, having twelve pages with a variety of articles and competitions.
‘Arise and be doing’
Older ones have an equal claim to our attention. In Aberdeen a new effort in Victoria Hall takes the form of a special weeknight meeting once a month for old age pensioners. Those who have any difficulty in reaching the hall have transport provided for them. Attendances so far have been very encouraging.
In one area of Essex, believers have a special concern for those in homes for the elderly, and for many years services had been held regularly in four of these. Gospels were placed in these by the Gideons, resulting in a request for similar Gospels from a home a considerable distance away. These were supplied and arrangements made to hold a regular fortnightly service. This came to the notice of the Area Welfare Officer who wrote in appreciation and asked if Gospels could be supplied to and services held in all the other homes under his jurisdiction. The Gospels were supplied and, where no other believers were active, arrangements made for regular services. The workers find these most rewarding. Some residents are believers and are much encouraged, and it is felt that others have come to know the Saviour although they make no open profession. May this be a stimulus to others to take up this work in their own district.
‘Witnessing both to small and great’
One evangelist, seeking to witness thus, began last summer’s preaching in the encouraging surroundings of a tent which a convert of two years ago had decorated with flowers. Others experienced widely different conditions according to reports given at Westminster Central Hall by some twenty brethren who spent last summer taking the Gospel into Southern England. One spoke of it as the hardest season ever. A number told of more definite opposition by Satan and greater manifestations of demon-possession than had been met with in previous years. Even among such however, the power of the Gospel was seen. For one woman, a widow, who was delivered from the power of demon-possession, has been attending the meetings of the local assembly and has asked to be baptized.
Among other unusual cases we may mention a couple who came to the tent wanting to be saved - and are now baptized and in fellowship; a publican and his wife who were saved and are now seeking baptism; and a lady of 87 who was converted while being driven home from the tent one evening.
While it was often difficult to get adults into the tents there were happy exceptions. One evening saw over twenty extra chairs squeezed into a tent and even then a large number stood outside to listen. Some eighty bicycles stacked outside another tent gave a fair idea of the company gathered inside. One evangelist, holding a campaign in his own village, often saw the tent comfortably full, seventeen making an intelligent profession of salvation.
Among converts present at the report meeting was a lad saved from Roman Catholicism and now seeking baptism; a woman who had opposed her husband for nine years and torn up his Bible; and a politician, saved last year, who has now given up this occupation.
One evangelist knew of only one convert this season - an old man of 83 who could not see to read. It transpired that this was because his spectacles were so dirty. These were cleaned by the preacher’s wife, and this led to his salvation.
Looking back on a summer which for most had been unusually difficult, one evangelist, no doubt speaking for all, said ‘Souls are not easily won’. Teenagers, though all too often a disturbing element, were in several cases brought to listen attentively. One evangelist, by the time he left one site, was having five meetings a day to cope with all who were interested.
‘Teaching every man’
Assemblies in the Torquay area, convinced of the need to re-state and re-examine those truths ‘most surely believed among us’, have arranged united meetings during the winter months in Paignton. These are on a monthly basis and entitled the ‘Young Peoples’ Bible Hour’. The subjects are under the heading ‘Why we believe in . . .’ and include The Bible, The Holy Spirit, The Incarnation, Baptism, etc. It is hoped that the younger generation will take a definite interest in these gatherings. They are encouraged to take notes and time is allowed at the end for questions.
‘Preaching the Lord Jesus’
The faithful simple presentation of a Saviour once crucified is still the power of God unto salvation. Believers in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, were encouraged during a three week visit by R. Walker, the attendances being good and many strangers present. Some professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, one deserving special mention. He was one of the wildest men in the town but was present on the last Lord’s Day evening when the hall was packed by over 400 to witness the baptism of seven young believers. Sitting on the front row this man was impressed by those being baptized and trusted the Lord at the end of the service. There has been a real change—he has been attending all the meetings of the assembly, and his conversion is the talk of the town. Such is the power of the old, old story.
S. Ford held meetings in New Stevenston in the same county and saw some conversions. He was given access to the schools in the district and spent much time in them daily.
The assembly meeting at Athelstan Road Chapel, Harold Wood, Essex, is not a large company. The saints had been concerned for a long time at the few unsaved they were seeing inside the hall. As a result they invited J. Fraser to hold special meetings last autumn. Good numbers of young folk came and results were seen among them. An interest has been aroused in the district and many more unsaved are now attending the normal Gospel meeting.
A young man who was saved during meetings taken by E. Grant in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, heard the Gospel for the first time during these meetings. A young married woman was also blessed, accepting the Saviour after much exercise.
The believers meeting in Hebron Hall, Port Glasgow, have rejoiced in the baptism of three teenage sisters. One of these is a Roman Catholic, saved during a campaign early in 1963.
A Young woman was saved during meetings taken at Low Waters, Lanark, in November, while others showed interest.
The results of such campaigns are not always known at the time. R. Walker was at Abingdon Hall, Glasgow, in the autumn when many unconverted attended, yet there was little definite evidence of conversion.
‘A word in season to them that are weary’
When the ‘Tell Yorkshire’ campaign commenced in 1960, it was intended that the telephone would be one of the means used for reaching people with the Gospel. Preoccupation with the launching of the correspondence courses and the Postal Sunday School prevented any development along these lines until this winter. This delay has brought benefits, for there have been certain technical developments in the meantime which now make it feasible to have a short recorded telephone message which can be played back to callers by day and night. Such facilities are only likely to be practical where there is a densely populated area, and Leeds and Bradford come in this category. 'These towns have a total population of 1 1/4 million, all within the range of a local telephone call.
From experience the workers have learnt that where the enquirer has taken the initiative, as the telephone caller will do in this scheme, a large proportion of the enquiries will prove to be genuine. An experimental scheme run in Birmingham by the Seventh Day |Adventists under the slogan of ‘Dial a Prayer’ has had a phenomenal response, there having been some hundreds of calls a day.
The needs of callers is bound to be varied, and so the messages should be changed at least once per day. They will have to be brief, about 150 words to occupy 90 seconds. Therefore each recording should portray a certain aspect of the ability of the Lord Jesus Christ to meet the need of all. As it is a public service which any may listen to the standard of presentation needs to be of the best.
An initial supply of tapes must therefore be obtained to provide for a varied and uninterrupted service. The assistance is therefore sought of any readers who have a gift for expressing the Gospel in written form so that it will be effective when read. It must be assumed that all who use this service will do so with a sense of need, and the limit of 150 words must be emphasized. Any such contributions will be welcomed by the Secretary, Tell Yorkshire, 112 Allerton Road, Bradford 8, Yorkshire.
‘God is faithful’
The assembly meeting at Merrion Hall, Dublin, celebrated the centenary of the opening of the hall last August. During special meetings the work of God in the past was reviewed with thanksgiving, and the believers were challenged with the thought that their testimony in this day should be owned of the Lord to the blessing of many in that needy city. Fittingly, an outing on the Saturday afternoon was made the occasion for making vital contacts with strangers.
‘They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death’
How seriously are we concerned about the spiritual needs of the lands nearest to us? In Eire there are nearly three million people,
95% of whom are Roman Catholics. Education, the press and the radio are all under their control.
In only nine of the twenty-six counties are there assemblies of believers, and these are generally very weak. In most of the towns the workers are not aware of a single Christian, let alone any evangelical witness.
Seven married couples are engaged full-time in the work of taking the Gospel to this country. Open air work is one of the few ways in which the Catholic population can be effectively reached, as they will not normally enter any building to hear the Gospel, although occasionally individuals will listen outside. Visits are made to the provincial towns as often as possible, and a good number usually gather in the open air when the hymns are played over the loudspeaker, and they listen well when the Word is proclaimed.
As there are some areas where a number of Protestants live, a portable hall is available for indoor meetings. This can be erected in two hours and is normally used during the winter when the farmers are least busy. Sometimes the hall may be in one place for the whole winter, or it may be erected in two or more different areas.
May these few details enable us to pray more intelligently for this dark country.