Christ in Congo Forests: Mission History
As C.T. Studd and his fellow missionaries were establishing and carrying on the work of the Heart of Africa Mission in the Belgian Congo, questions arose at home in England about the financial principles of the mission and complaints about the severity of conditions on the field. In this excerpt C.T. Studd restates the “daring faith and sacrificial living by which alone the world could be evangelized.”
Other matters also became issues of controversy and concern. It seemed as if the era had come when every principle of the work must be tested and purified in the fire. Some questioned the financial principle according to which no appeals for money and no mention of needs were made. They thought that there should be a change to the policy of “Ask the Lord and tell His people.” Others again wished to raise the standard of living, regularize the frequency of furloughs, introduce more European foodstuffs. Some of the Home Committee became disturbed at the concentration of workers in the Ibambi area. It was thought and stated that other regions were neglected and that Mr. Studd was losing his worldwide vision.
All these points, as they arose, were answered by Mr. Studd on behalf of his co-workers and at their desire with a definiteness and uncompromising recall to first foundations, which had the beneficial result of burning these principles into the very hearts and characters of the younger workers. It was Moses reiterating by pungent precept and example in those wilderness years the laws of faith and obedience by which that momentous journey from Egypt to Canaan had been started. Gradually the young Israelites learned their lessons, until Moses left with Joshua an army at his back which could march and believe and fight till that one nation had put their feet on the necks of seven. So, during this period of pain and set-back the work appeared to wither, and seventy missionaries were actually reduced to thirty-five; but as a fact the exact opposite was happening. Those who remained did so because of the depth of their conviction that, although Mr. Studd was as human and fallible as any other, not always right maybe, certainly not always easy to follow in all he said and did, yet he stood for and was himself possessed and motivated by the passionate love for Christ and souls, the daring faith and sacrificial living by which alone the world could be evangelized. As a result, this Gideon’s band themselves imbibed something of that same spirit, and by God’s grace were found strong, when their leader was taken, to enter their promised land, carry the Congo work to somewhere nearer its completion, and to spread all over the world.
“I would solemnly lay before you the absolute necessity of nobody, man or woman, coming out here who is not well grounded in the original booklets of the Mission, which recognize the absolute necessity of super-sacrifice of self, and demand it.” So wrote Mr. Studd to the Home Committee. “If people want pretty houses and elegant furnishings, for God’s sake and ours, let them stay at home in the nursery. If they are afraid to cycle or walk and need to be carried about in sedan chairs, let them remain in a lady’s boudoir at the seaside. The body should be strong and the constitution good, but the real thing is the HEART. This is no place for a man, whether large or small, who has a heart like an apple dumpling. No soldier is worth a rap unless he does not care whether he lives or dies, so long as he dies fighting for the glory of God.
“If a man joins our Mission, he comes out on God. God is his Father, to God he looks for supplies whether in money or in kind. If God sends much, he is rather cast down thinking God is afraid to trust him to suffer in patience. If God sends little, he thanks God and takes courage that after all he may be in the apostolic succession. If he has nothing, then he shouts hallelujah, for he knows he has come to the very entrance of the heavenly Kingdom where there is neither eating nor drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy, and loving service for ever and ever.
“What is done God does. What is given God gives. What is withholden God withholds. If a Crusader were to have no money and to be half-starved, he would never write home to say so; he would scorn to back down on his God and Father. Fancy writing home to say, ‘My Father, my Heavenly Father, my Almighty and all-loving God is half-starving me!’ To which the world would say, ‘Then why be a hypocrite by preaching His gospel?’ If you were to find a half-starved Crusader and were to tell him so, he would pretend he was deaf and dumb lest he should blurt out the lie that he was as fat as butter and in the pink.
“One great point that we could never remove from, is that the committee are absolutely IRRESPONSIBLE for even the smallest sum of money to any of us missionaries. We absolutely refuse to have anyone between us and God. It is our pride that we are dependent upon our Father. The committee merely send out the money that our Father provides for us, whether much or little. We are assured He makes no mistakes. That is our glory and we don’t intend that anyone shall take away that glory from us. We absolutely refuse to have any confidence in man, whether Christian or otherwise. We will love them and seek to do them good, but our trust is in our Father, God Almighty.
“As regards travelling second-class. Why should we not do so? Other Protestant missions may do as they like and travel first-class. That is their own choice. It is no affair of mine. If I prefer to travel second-class, why not? Who can object? Does travelling first-class make a man into a gentleman? Or a good missionary? We used to be taught that manners, not travelling first-class, maketh the Man! As one of our folks said, ‘I travelled out second-class because there was no third!’
“Some people inquire as to the houses we live in, and the food we eat. Our houses are mostly the counterpart of those the Government use for their officials in many places in this district. They are all thatched with grass or leaves. My personal residence has walls of elephant grass. Others are usually made of stucco, pise, or bamboo. Our European furniture comprises beds, chairs, tables, bookshelves, bath, etc. We live as much as possible on native food, i.e. we eat fowls, eggs, rice, maize, bananas, pineapple, guava, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, sugar, flour, oatmeal, tea, coffee, cocoa, cornflower, macaroni. European tinned food we reserve as much as possible for times of sickness.
“But if the reputation of Protestant missions depends on such things as the houses they live in, the furniture they use, the filthy lucre—as the Apostle calls it—that they receive, and the food they eat, the sooner they die the better. Are houses, furniture, food, the foundation of excellent missionary reputation? I observe that Christ said to His disciples, ‘Take no thought what ye shall eat, etc.!’ ‘Having food and raiment let us therewith be content.’
‘Suffer hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.’
“Some would say that the chief things for a disciple of Christ, i.e. a good missionary, is to travel first-class at other people’s expense, to make sure of a jolly good house, the necessity of having tip-top furniture therein, and as God is likely to die at any moment, to demand a plentiful store of fancy European rations, because Christ made a supreme mistake in picturing Dives in hell and Lazarus in Heaven; it was really the other way about, for Dives was really a missionary with a most excellent reputation for living in a good house, doing himself well generally, and faring sumptuously every day on European rations.
“Of course, all see by our constitution and literature that we do not think that Christ made such a mistake, and we believe that God is still alive and will never die, and we have good reason for our belief, for has He not kept us alive here these many years? Ever ready to dig, but ashamed to beg of any man.
“In other words, we are not a bit ashamed if our houses, food, furniture, cause Dives to scoff; we are only ashamed that the little sacrifices we have made are so terribly small as to be invisible. When we think of the life of our Lord and Saviour and God, Who came to earth to redeem us, and Who was born in a manger, had nowhere to lay His head, and Who died a felon’s death on the cross, and said ‘Follow Me,’ a great shame oppresses us, for that we are such terrible caricatures of Christ and His Apostle.
“Our views are similar to those of Sir Percy Scott, that, ‘Gunnery is more important than paint work’; hence we refuse to waste our time, energies, and funds in building and occupying the finest houses in the Colony. Our object is the regeneration and edification of these degraded people, and for such a cause we are glad to sacrifice our personal comfort and to lay down our lives.
“It fills me with the greatest joy to ask you to read again the booklets which were sent forth in the first few years of the mission, and to declare to you that where I stood at the foundation of this mission, there I stand today; only more so. I believe yet more than before that Jesus Christ is God and died for me and for all men, and I believe that in the light of such marvelous grace and love and sacrifice, no sacrifice that I or any other person can make is of any value whatever; all sinks into insignificance. To mention Christ’s sacrifice for us and then, to even suggest that anything on our part could rightly bear the name of sacrifice, is veritably a passing from the sublime to the ridiculous, and so say we all out here.
“I wish it to be thoroughly understood that we are in no way whatever anxious to receive more money than God at any time sees fit to send in through His servants or otherwise. Also we would abominate the idea of seeking to have more money sent to Africa at the expense or hardship of any of our brethren on other fields. We earnestly desire that instead of there being any jealousy whatever between God’s works in different lands, there may be rather a desire to be drawn closer to one another in the bonds and works of Jesus Christ. If our pains are the gains of our brethren on behalf of the world, we would under no circumstances be willing to be deprived of the privilege of our pains. If our joyful work for Christ should stir the hearts of our brethren elsewhere, we are paid a thousandfold.
“Furthermore, we would wish it to be understood absolutely, and once for all, that this Mission from its inception has been a worldwide Mission and by no means one limited to Africa only. The mandate we received was not Africa, but the world. I believe that several times God has called a society or mission to evangelize the world, and each of these societies could have done so, but each turned aside from the real path of God to please men.
“Now comes our turn. I believe God called us out for a very definite purpose. He has tried us, and I think pretty severely, and now He has brought us to the supreme test as to whether we will absolutely trust in God alone or whether we will cringe or fear or pander to the Christian world. I believe if we stick steadfastly to God that ‘when He hath tried us, we shall come forth as gold,’ and therefore I am not the least afraid however few we become, so long as those few have their hearts set upon God and God only. We need a great humility, a great courage, and, hallelujah, a great cheek too, but all these we can get from God, and from God alone; but we need undiluted Holy Spirit to do this one job. Oh, do let us be Gentlemen of Jesus Christ or Ladies of Jesus Christ and follow Him to the death. It’s devil-may-careism we need —Forward!”
The standards and principles both of doctrine and practice thus re-emphasized by the founder for the last time before he was taken from the work, have remained unchanged in all branches of the Crusade up to today.
—Christ in Congo Forests
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 33 No 1
- Cross Word
- Faith Illustrations
- Faith Notes
- Question & Answer
- Excerpt from The Spontaneous You
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- I love one whom I don’t like…
- God’s Hidden Ways
- Christ in Congo Forests: Mission History
- Bible Bedrock
- A Letter from Norman
- Life: The What, The Who, The Why
- Interpreting the Crisis
- Editor’s Note