From Strength to Strength
Two years after the death of their “Bwana,” C.T. Studd, Africans gather for a “Makutano,” or large meeting.
“Have you ever heard 10,000 people shout ‘Hallelujah’? We have just had the greatest Christmas of our lives (wrote Mr. von Staden). We came here for the annual conference. Fifty missionaries and 10,000 natives gathered. I have never seen a more out and out number of missionaries. They have the fire of the Holy Ghost. During the meetings there is a prayer room all the time. No wonder that miracles are happening. The spirit of sacrifice of their glorified leader is here. When company after company of natives arrived, singing hymns and shouting ‘Hallelujah,’ our hearts were deeply touched and we shed tears of joy. Can one ever forget the feeling of standing before 10,000 souls waiting to be fed?”
South African friends, Mr. and Mrs. von Staden, had arrived at Ibambi, in the heart of Africa, in time for the great “makutano” in 1933. Never had they seen such a sight in their lives. Those forest glades that had echoed through the centuries with the shouts of the drunken revellers, the weird cries of the devil doctors, the ghastly wailing of pagan mourners, were vibrating with the trap of a new army and ringing with the melody of a new song, the glory songs of the redeemed, the praises of Him who had called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.
“I shall never forget that day (wrote Edith Moules, one of the missionaries). I am sure that you cannot adequately imagine the sight. The roads were all black with people. First one crowd would arrive, and then another, and as each appeared their hallelujahs rent the air. Forty-five of the lepers from Nala came, having walked, in spite of their crippled limbs, for about 50 miles. My! It was a sight to see them all.”
No building could contain them, but a great open-air church was roughly erected in a square of mango trees, 70 yards by 30. “Thousands of poles were cut and carried from the forest, also bamboo and leaves without number (wrote Ivor Davies). The poles were made to stand in the ground in long rows, then bamboos tied across the tops of them, and over these thousands of palm branches. The whole had the appearance of a large carpet and proved an excellent shade from the sun.”
“The ground was black with people (wrote Mr. Harrison, who had taken Mr. Studd’s place as field leader), yet, in spite of the tremendous numbers, they were not at all out of hand. Dead silence and perfect reverence during prayer, and attentiveness and responsiveness to the messages showed that God was with us in power. It is all so beyond description. The crowds, the beaming faces, the eagerness, the singing, the roars of hallelujahs. One could only stand before them amazed and awed. To see the multitudes dispersing after each meeting was something to be long remembered. Perfect stillness during the benediction, followed by another brief pause and then the thousands stood on their feet.
“Native-like they carried their small stools and chairs above their heads as they left, and so to us on the platform it just looked like a great waving forest of arms. At night time the sleeping places were worth seeing. Inside, every available inch was packed tight with human beings; outside, hundreds of little fires peeped out of the dark. Those in one shed would be singing some hymn quite different from the people in the next shed, and so it was impossible at a distance to tell what they were singing with so many tunes going at once. The whole station night and day was just vibrating with prayers and praises.”
Near that tremendous scene was a quiet spot, shaded by palm trees. Beneath them was a simple oblong block of concrete. Here had been laid two years before the earthly remains of the man who, seventeen years previously, had been the first messenger of Christ to penetrate these regions and had written home, “Day after day they run along in front and behind our cycles, shouting, laughing, and singing their chants; you never heard such a din nor saw so great enthusiasm. It was like an excited crowd surging round the pavilion at the conclusion of a great cricket match. They didn’t speak Bangala and we didn’t speak Swahili, so we had to talk dumb-crambo. Fancy, there were hundreds of them all round us, sometimes 500, all running; we often cycled fast too, but the women and girls ran and laughed and shouted as fast and loudly as the men and boys. Well, here is our ‘Eldorado.’ Here is a land and a people to whom the Blessed Name has never been known throughout all time. Shall we leave them thus? We will not. We will sell our pottage and buy therewith our birthright to declare the glory of God to this people. They shall hear and hear to purpose by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
C.T. Studd was not beneath that block of concrete. With “the great cloud of witnesses” we have no doubt that he was sharing full-throated in the worship and praise of that African concourse, and with what inconceivable triumph and adoration as he looked on the fruits of obedience, toil and daring faith, and worshipped the Saviour who gave the grace for it. In his own lifetime he had seen crowds of 4,000, but here were 7,000, and then 10,000. Life out of death indeed!
–After C.T. Studd, by Norman Grubb