Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
D. C. Hinton, Hayes, Middx.
“What saith my lord unto his servant?”
As we read these reports we would do well to remember the above words. The commencement of yet another year of service brings further opportunities to each one of us, and also brings us nearer the moment when we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
A mid-Wales testimony
Readers will rejoice to know of the commencement of an assembly testimony in Aberystwyth, the centre of a large area which has been neglected as far as the Gospel is concerned for many years. Being a university town there is a large student population, and it was three of these, together with a few local believers, who early last year gathered together to remember their Lord in the simple way He commanded. Rented accommodation was obtained, and meetings for prayer and Bible study also held. Their desire is to spread the Gospel by personal testimony, open-air witness and tract distribution so that all in the district are made aware of their need as sinners and the divine provision to meet that need.
Where numbers are small
The little assembly in Ballina, a small town in Co. Mayo, is the Only one in the west of Ireland. One brother has sought to maintain a Gospel witness in the locality, both by arranging occasional meetings in the hall at Ballina and by conducting regular meetings at Newtown-white, a few miles away, and at Stonehall in Co. Sligo. He has now retired from business and with his wife has left the district. They are missed by the assembly, which numbers four sisters and one brother, all living some distance apart. The brother is young and only a few years saved but it seems that the Lord has raised him up for such a time as this. A; Gray has been paying a visit to help in the gathering at Newtown white, while various brethren from distant parts hope to visit Ballina from time to time to encourage the saints and to maintain the Gospel testimony. At Stonehall a special effort Was held last winter and since then there has been a good attendance at the fortnightly meeting. A further special effort took place in December in the care of S. Lewis and B. Haigh.
Another small assembly is to be found at Stonewall, Co. Cavan, where there are three brethren and five sisters. S. Lewis proclaimed the Gospel there for five weeks in the early winter and saw a few unsaved in the audience.
A further example is the village of Bessbrook, in Co. Armagh, which was once known as the Model Village of Ireland, since there were no pawnshops, public houses or policemen, but the latter have now come to the area. It was originally a Quaker settlement and much of that influence remains. The chief source of employment for years has been the local mill, but changing times, demand and other factors have caused a serious decline in work so that many have been forced to leave the village. The assembly records go back to 1891 when the believers met in a farmhouse, but in 1895 the present hall was built. The number in fellowship has gone up and down until at present there are only eight left to carry on the testimony. There has always been a good interest in the Sunday School, but no weekly Gospel meeting has been held in the hall for over two years.
The second week-end in September saw six young men arriving for a concentrated Gospel effort. One was serving the Lord in Eire, and the other five took a full week’s holiday to give themselves to this work, as they had done in previous years in other places. House to house visitation, open-air meetings and gatherings for children and adults each evening marked the week’s activities. Believers from neighbouring assemblies supported the work well and a number of local folk came in. At the end of the week so much interest had been shown that it was decided to continue, although this meant that the brethren would drive the forty miles from Belfast each night after their day’s work. The series lasted for eight weeks, and God graciously blessed in the salvation of a number of souls.
Reaching out in Ayrshire
There are numerous villages in all parts of Great Britain which do not even have the small testimonies mentioned in the last report. What are we doing to take the news of the Saviour to them?
We live previously reported on the children’s work in Fenwick, the responsibility of a brother from Kilmarnock who was brought up in the village but has been saved since leaving it. This autumn he arranged a week of meetings for children and adults conducted by brethren from Kilmarnock. While there was the usual response from the young ones the adults showed little interest.
Another young brother, this time from Ayr, commenced meetings for children in the suburb of Whitletts. Numbers have steadily grown during the year until they are now nearly ninety strong. A meeting for adults has been started which is attracting a little interest.
What is lamentable is the little support that similar efforts often receive from other believers.
Hebron Hall, Biddulph
The following report shows the results that can follow individual exercise concerning a certain area.
Biddulph lies to the north-east of the Stoke-on-Trent area, Staffordshire. As a town, it has a fair evangelical tradition - but it is only during the last two decades that there has been an assembly testimony.
It was in 1936 that two men from the town were led to Christ under completely different circumstances. One was brought by a workmate under the sound of the Gospel at Talke, and both he and his family trusted Christ. The other was saved through reading the Scriptures while in a sanatorium; he was restored to health and on returning to the district sought fellowship at Talke. Thus two men whose previous acquaintance in unconverted days had been in a boxing booth met again at the breaking of bread, and an exercise for Biddulph was conceived.
Subsequently relatives were brought along and some were saved. Then through a mining accident one of these brethren was called home - but the work continued, believers meeting in their homes for the breaking of bread and for Gospel testimony. Occasionally a public hall was hired for a Gospel campaign and for ministry meetings.
Then the use of a British Legion hut was obtained, but this was from the first far from ideal and in 1953 a building fund was commenced and later a large plot of land on a new estate purchased. Numbers were strengthened by two families moving into the district, and tent campaigns were held on the site during 1962.
Construction of the new hall commenced early in 1965 and was completed during August. It is an attractive brick-built structure, and over two hundred gathered for the opening when J. Scott and F. Whitmore were responsible for the ministry of the Word. On the following day about one hundred children (gathered during the tent campaign) were introduced to the Sunday School and later several unsaved were present at the first Gospel meeting.
A Cardiff suburb
The results of a similar exercise can be seen at Llanishen, Cardiff, which until 1950 was a small rural village where a brother and his wife strove to maintain a Gospel witness. Then the city extended its boundaries and a large housing estate was built. The assemblies in Cardiff felt led to provide for the many people moving out to this estate, and as an introduction to the testimony a tent campaign was held. Since then the assembly has moved into a hut and later to a permanent hall. The work has continued to grow and there are now over seventy in fellowship. In October last, special meetings for children and the ’teens and twenties were undertaken by D. Meadows, and all were encouraged to see not less than one hundred and thirty at each meeting. Under the guidance of the evangelist the young believers were able to have long conversations with groups of young people who had not been attending any place of worship.
Children’s work in Motherwell
Many today are mourning the lowered attendances at their Sunday School. This has been the experience of the Sunday School teachers of the assembly at Shields Road, Motherwell, who have been concerned for a number of years about the constant dwindling of numbers as houses have been demolished and the families rehoused elsewhere. It seemed at first that little could be done about it, but then plans were passed for a new housing scheme only half a mile from the hall. The layout included a primary school so, as soon as the work of construction commenced, an application was made to use this accommodation for children’s work. This being granted, it was thought wise to commence with two weeks of special meetings, and these Were taken by J. Donaldson of Burnbank.
After much visitation the series opened at the end of August with one hundred and eighty children present, and closed a fortnight later with a Parents’ Night when over three hundred persons, young and old, were packed into the school hall. A Sunday School has been established with an average attendance of nearly one hundred and fifty* This has given a real boost to the morale of the teachers who see something of the results of the Saturday afternoons spent in gathering for prayer and then calling from door to door.
Every town has similar estates - are we making a similar attempt to reach the young ones living on them?
Systematic visitation in Swansea
Whilst lamenting the apathy and indifference of our day it behoves us to realise our responsibility to go out to the people who will not Come in to hear the Gospel. Regular visitation certainly brings results; and is being undertaken by many assemblies. A team of twenty workers from Ebenezer Hall, Swansea, make regular monthly calls on about five hundred homes in their area. Personal contact is sought for, and enquiries made in cases of sickness and old age where practical help can be given, thus seeking to manifest the good works which should characterise every born again soul. This method is proving effective, one result being that children have been enrolled in the Sunday School. A copy of The Messenger with a localised front page is left at every house, containing an invitation to the meetings.
Personal contacts during tent work in Norfolk villages
Then there are those believers who, with the commendation of their home assembly, seek to reach out to the isolated places where there are no testimonies. During his thirty-fourth season with the East Anglian Gospel Tent, G. Fenn visited villages on the south-west of Norwich. At Spooner Row, two to three miles from the tent, he met a distant relative of George Gutting, writer of the well-known and much used booklet “Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment”. He trusts that the discovery of the relationship may have awakened an interest so that the message in the copy given her will prove to be a blessing. Near Carleton Rode he met a French Indian, an agnostic, two spiritists and a Jewess, the last named having been born and brought up in Palestine. Upon learning of the attitude of her people when she married a Gentile, the evangelist lent her a copy of Dr. J. Goldstein’s autobiography All the Doors were opened. When given a New Testament she seemed delighted and confessed that it was the first Copy she had possessed. As a result our brother now has a standing invitation to go to her house to tea. When visiting in Bunwell he discovered that the old rectory is now an Old Folk’s Home. It was possible to hold a meeting there each Wednesday afternoon, this door being open throughout the winter months.
Gospel work with tent and caravan
Publicans and fishermen were among those sought by the Saviour when here on earth. Listeners at the Counties Report Meeting in October heard of a publican (in the modern sense of the word) saved earlier in the year and soon to give himself to Gospel work among deep sea fishermen. Very different was the case of the little girl of seven who came to Christ reminding the evangelist that he had said, “we come as we are and He makes us what He wants us to be”.
One happy aspect of the reports was that of the family groups brought to the Lord; in one home a girl, then her brother, followed by her sister and mother; a couple saved in their own home; a lady and her husband, then her brother and a friend; a family in which three were saved last year and a fourth this summer. At one place three or four families saved four years ago are now meeting as an assembly.
It was proved that the Gospel tent is not out of date. In one area between one hundred and fifty and two hundred youngsters were present; “teenagers moved my heart” by the way they listened said one speaker; up to four hundred children attended the meetings in a district where there are four large day schools but no Sunday School; and in another case it was stated that there were more children present than the eighty seats arranged, yet there was excellent attention. At most places adults were more difficult to get in, though there were a few happy exceptions. An offer to bring elderly folk by coach resulted once in as many as one hundred and fifty being present. Some who would not come at first came readily later to Parents* Nights having seen the interest taken in their children.
Canadian girl strawberry pickers were reached on a farm - one professing faith in the Saviour and one receiving the assurance of salvation, whilst workers in a quarry showed added interest when they realised that the visit was being filmed. One evangelist was given fifteen minutes to address the audience in the middle of a seaside concert. Five blind lads attended an open-air meeting and all were impressed as one of them read the Scriptures from braille over the amplifier. At one place fourteen young people from the local Church were brought to Christ. Work at camps, as so often, proved fruitful, as did beach services and door to door visiting. Appalling immorality was encountered among some young people yet it was still possible to get their attention for the Gospel message.
Missionary work in the home country
During the past few months eight young believers in Llanelly and district, South Wales, have been baptised. Among them was a young Indian brother who purposes in the will of the Lord to return to his countrymen to tell them of the Saviour. This emphasises the importance of reaching out to those from abroad who live among us, and the immense results that may accrue therefrom.
The large number of coloured residents living in the vicinity has been a matter of concern to the assembly at Southall, Middlesex, for some time. While many of these are contacted at open-air meetings, further progress has proved difficult. Their exercise resulted in a visit from W. Walker of India who gave advice on the way in which the Gospel should be presented to those from the east. They learnt, for instance, that tracts or booklets should never be offered with the left hand. Following this a Gospel meeting was held in hired premises in an effort to reach these folk when some thirty attended, and it is hoped that it will be possible to continue this work.
Special meetings in Northern Ireland
At Galgorm, a small village some two miles from the town of Ballymena, Co. Antrim, a very comfortable portable hall was erected on a new housing estate at the end of the summer. J. Milne and A. Caulfield proclaimed the Gospel and over one hundred young folk attended nightly, though here again older folk were slow to come. A number professed conversion, mostly young people with assembly connections.
The assembly in the town of Dromore, Co. Down, has been active with the Gospel over many years, and God has blessed their efforts. In the latter part of last year they had another spell of meetings taken this time by T. Wallace and R. Beattie. From the first attendances were good, and the meetings continued with interest for eight weeks. All were encouraged to know of a number who professed faith in the Saviour.