From the Mission Field: Field Leader at Thirty One
When C.T. Studd, founder of the Heart of Africa mission (later renamed the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade) died in the Congo, Jack Harrison took the reins as the new field leader. “Harri,” as he was known, had followed C.T. to the mission field as a young man, and was C.T.’s choice to carry on the work. This excerpt from Sucessor to C.T. Studd by Norman Grubb, describes this pivotal moment in his life, as well as the life of the young mission.
On July 16, 1931, the leadership of the Mission passed into Jack Harrison’s hands, at the age of thirty-one. He had been prepared for this only a few months before, when after prayer and consultation at a conference of all the missionaries, he was unanimously chosen as Mr. Studd’s successor. The choice was also Mr. Studd’s own, for he had great confidence in this strong, thoughtful man who had never once failed him. But so often in recent years had Mr. Studd been to the gates of death and returned again for another vigorous period of service, that when God did take him, the missionaries and Africans found it hard to believe that their beloved Bwana had really gone from among them, and that a new era in the work had dawned. The gulf was so great. He had been the founder. He was seventy years of age with forty-five years of missionary experience. His successor was thirty-one, with nine! To the Africans there were many “Bwanas,” but only one “Bwana Mukubw” (Big Bwana). Most of the African leaders were Mr. Studd’s spiritual children. All the missionaries had started their careers under his training. Station methods, native church developments, the very architecture of the houses built on the stations, practically all the hymns in the native languages, the Kingwana New Testament used throughout the districts where there had been the largest ingathering of converts, all were his work. Business with the home Committee and Belgian Government had all been conducted by him. Not only this, but the Mission was in the midst of the gravest internal crisis of its history, which had meant the loss of a number of the missionaries, a severe reduction in finances, and difficulties with the Committee at the home end; with things in this condition God took Mr. Studd! It was not easy indeed to succeed such a man in such a position.
But how wisely and well God trains and fits His men. He is never taken by surprise. If the mighty Moses has run his course, there is a well-trained Joshua ready to take on; and the contrast between the natural advantages of a C.T. Studd in early life and the natural disadvantages of a Jack Harrison is that which so supremely exalts the enabling grace of God in Harri’s life.
“Spirits are not finely touch’d, but to fine issues.”
The story of C.T. Studd’s closing hours has already been told. Closest to him was Harri, supporting the dying form and catching the last faint “Hallelujah,” as he went to see his Saviour face to face. It was Harri who worked with others through the night preparing the coffin, and then next morning, finding that “hundreds and hundreds of natives” had come in through the night to see him, arranged a last “lying in state.” “We covered the coffin with the ‘Savita’ (Soldier-Saint) flag that Bwana himself designed long ago–it looked splendid and was very fitting too, for Bwana was ‘Savita’ indeed. He had been rightly named ‘Bwana Mukubwa’–the ‘Big’ Bwana–for he was big in every way, big in what he thought and did, big in suffering for others, big in faith, love, sacrifice and devotion to his Saviour, big in the knowledge of his God and the Scriptures. A veritable giant spiritually, before whom we appear as dwarfed as the pygmies of our Congo forests.” So wrote Harri.
After the public service, attended by about 2,000 Africans, there came the quiet evening prayers attended by the little band of missionaries–the first taken by Harri as field leader. But he did not occupy Bwana’s chair, he left it vacant and himself sat at the side of the room. He used as an illustration a ride he took with a friend on a steam wagon. There was a gauge with a danger point, but every time the pressure showed up to the red, the driver would hit it down with the hammer. “Of course,” said Harri, “the steam could have been let off, but loss of steam means loss of power.” “Have we a danger point?” he asked. “Will we bear so much but no more, or will we endure any pressure? Can God count on us?” For some there that night it meant a new attitude to life. To his fellow-missionaries who asked the next day, “What shall we do now, Harri?” there came the simple and quiet response, “We just go back to our posts.”
Harri never forgot what he owed to Mr. Studd. His affection and reverence for him never diminished, and many a time did he recall the early days when they worked together. But it was not just a matter of hero worship. When someone wrote to Harri, saying that he had inherited a legalistic spirit from Mr. Studd, Harri drily remarked that he never knew he had inherited anything from him except a box of old socks! When he began as field leader, he had a photo of Mr. Studd on his desk, and in a perplexing situation or when some decision had to be made, he would look at the picture and wonder how Mr. Studd would have acted. But one day the Lord said to him, “I do not want you to be Bwana Mukubwa but just Jack Harrison.” The photo was put away and never brought out again. “There was a time,” wrote Harold Williams, one of Harri’s closest friends, “while Bwana Studd was still alive that I felt that Harri had forfeited his personality in his complete obedience to Bwana’s every wish. But I had a big lesson to learn, that complete obedience to Bwana (recognizing him as our God-given leader) was in itself the greatest preparation for his–own leadership. He so thoroughly learned to obey that, when the time came, he was able to inspire and command obedience. As soon as Bwana died and Harri took over, I saw he had ideas and methods peculiarly his own, but with a spirit absolutely akin to Bwana’s.” One lesson, however, above all others which he did learn from his former leader, and never forgot, was the remark Mr. Studd made to him when he was appointed as future leader: “It just means this, Harri, that more than ever you will be servant of all.”
—Successor to C.T. Studd