Intercession In Action
In the Fall ’99 issue of The Intercessor, we published the earlier accounts of Norman’s personal intercessions, taken from his booklet Intercession In Action. We now continue on with his second and third intercessions which took place during his university years, followed by his call to Africa. We share these so that many others will understand the principles of inter-cession that were the heartbeat of Norman’s life.
Standing True at Cambridge
Before the war I had had five years at Marlborough College, an English "public school" of 600 boys, in which we were all boarders. When war broke out in August 1914, I had just obtained a classical exhibition (grant) to Sidney Sussex College of Cambridge University, entitling me to residence there at reduced fees. Now after five years of war, the university made it easy for us who had been previously accepted as undergraduates to take a short course of two years and obtain a "pass" degree of B.A., or stay longer for an "honors" degree.
With my calling fixed to join C.T. Studd in the heart of Africa, and now being engaged to his daughter Pauline, I was accepted as an undergraduate at Trinity College, instead of Sidney Sussex. Thus I attended the same college in which the Studd brothers had their notable years as captains of cricket and where D.L. Moody was brought by daring invitation for a first evangelistic mission.
Because of my wounded leg, I could not play "Rugger," the Rugby football I was accustomed to and liked. So I spent my afternoons in what was my real love: knocking at the door of men’s dormitory rooms (there were no women in Trinity), speaking a word to them about Jesus Christ, and inviting them to our Cambridge evangelical union (known as the CICCU, or Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union).
The CICCU had dwindled down to a dozen men in the war years. But various ones of us were zealously reviving it, and I was secretary. We used to meet daily at midday for our DPM (daily prayer meeting) in the Henry Martyn Hall, given to the CICCU in memory of the great Henry Martyn, missionary to Persia. We would also hold "open airs" in the Cambridge parks and an evening evangelistic service. All men, we were a small and insignificant company.
Also at the university there was a much larger, popular Christian society called the SCM (Student Christian Movement). They were not so particular in bringing the gospel to the under-graduates. Instead, they would invite famous political speakers or notable war generals, who would speak on social and moral principles rather than on the need of a personal Savior.
But leaders among the SCM sensed our evangelical zeal and suggested that we join them as a spear point of Christian witness. So two of us–our CICCU president and I-agreed to meet their committee members in a room at Trinity. As we talked together, I became increasingly uneasy about their main emphasis. I asked their secretary, Rollo Pelly, "Do you put the atoning blood of Jesus Christ central in your message?" Rollo hesitated and then said, "Well, we admit it, but not as necessarily central."
So then both Dan Dick and I arose and said that fusion with them was an impossibility, even though they reached the mass of students and we apparently a mere few. That was a vital meeting in reestablishing the pure stream of gospel and Bible witness in the university, at the price of being the contemptible, narrow few. But we little knew then that that decision was to have worldwide repercussions in the universities and colleges of the whole world.
Then a surprising and disturbing conviction of a personal call came to me. I was nearing the end of my first year, with only another few months to complete this really easily acquired B.A. degree. But out in the heart of Africa, C.T. Studd and his then five co-workers had been practically isolated in those war years. The strong conviction came to me that, in their need of reinforcements and fresh workers, I should drop getting this Cambridge degree and go straight out to join them in the Congo.
Yet, if I dropped out, I could not return later; and it only meant those few months delay to get that degree. I asked advice from others, and all advised to wait those extra months. I wanted to agree with them, but it was really just worthless ambition. In the end, the personal pressure of the Spirit on me won the day. I decided to "go down" and leave the university. It was a real death for me-a "dying of the Lord Jesus"-which has lasted till today, in the absence of those easily obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees.
The Birth of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
I had two weeks left of what would be my final term at Trinity College. It was as if the Spirit "came on me," as in the Acts of the Apostles. I had a strong inner compulsion to spend those last weeks in calling on all the men with whom I was acquainted there or in other colleges. Likely it would be the last time we should meet on earth, and I wanted to have a final word with them. So I did just that.
One by one, I called on them in their rooms. These were not the normal students of college age, but returnees from the war–sophisticated and mainly ex-officers of various ranks. But I spoke boldly. If I knew the one I was visiting had no saving faith or a very weak one, I spoke to him as either lost and going to hell or obviously with some inhibiting sin blocking Christian growth.
The results were phenomenal for those days, though very different from the present thrilling responses in the student world. About 16 took various steps in accepting and committing their lives to Christ. This was "news" among our CICCU friends, and they asked me to meet with them and tell more about it. I did, and as I did, once again that inner voice spoke clearly to me. "Should not every university and college in Britain, and then in the world, have some kind of union of Christian students like the CICCU?"
Might it not be possible, even before I sailed for the Congo, to arrange some get-together where some of us in the CICCU could meet with some from other universities? I turned to two of my special friends–Clarence Foster, later Secretary of the Keswick Convention, and Leslie Sutton, who later joined us in the Congo–and asked if they would meet me in Leslie’s room in Queens. Even in these last weeks before Christmas, could they get the loan of a hall in London and ask others from Oxford and London and Durham Universities to join us in a first InterVarsity Conference? They agreed, and about 60 of us gathered.
What I only dimly realized then was that this was the birth of a world-wide movement in the colleges of the world. What actually happened was that it was agreed upon to have an annual InterVarsity Conference (IVC). This then became the beginnings of the InterVarsity Fellowship (IVF).
Dr. Douglas Johnson gave up his medical profession to become the first Secretary, and really developer, of what is now so strongly established all over Britain. Dr. Howard Guiness did the same in Canada and Australia, as did Stacey Woods in the USA under the title of IVCF (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship).
Now throughout the colleges of every nation, students gather under the title of InterVarsity Fellowship of Evangelical Unions (IVFEU). Many thousands of students have been brought to Christ and built up in the Word and Spirit these 65 years, since we had that first InterVarsity Conference in London in 1919!
Behind it, as ever, there was the intercessory death by which, as Jesus said in John 12:24, a corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies, if it is to bring forth fruit. I did have that death in leaving my degree behind in order to hasten to the Congo. There was also the "obedience of faith" in which we refused to be linked to any Christian movement which did not have Christ crucified at its center, no matter how popular or widespread it was.
Amazingly today, in Cambridge, Oxford and many other universities, the evangelical unions are actually the biggest unions. They are larger than the debating, drama or sports unions; and students by the hundreds attend the weekly Bible sessions and Sunday evening evangelistic services. The formerly flourishing Student Christian Movement, without its firm Bible foundation, is almost nonexistent.
Nothing was schemed or planned or even foreseen, but there was simple absorption in gospel witness among students by all means then available. All "signs and wonders" which have followed have been by the direct guidances and leadership of the Spirit. But always there has been the "obedience of faith" in the present calling, accompanied by the death and resurrection intercessory process.
Banana Plantation Crisis
For Pauline and me, naturally our first years in the Congo were largely learning years, benefiting much from C.T. Studd–her father and my father-in-law. After we acquired a working knowledge of the lingua franca language by which the various tribes could communicate, called Bangala, we began journeyings among the villages. Staying in native huts, we would gather together those who wanted the Word of God and form small village groups. Also, we sought to train some to become teachers of their own people.
But our first necessity was a full supply of our own spiritual and practical needs. If we were to supply the need of the Africans, we had to be able to transmit our very selves, not just mere words. We soon found we had such needs-of love, power, victory over the flesh, and a continued sense of completeness in Christ.
And now came to me personally, and to Pauline, the personal fulfillment of Paul’s word to the Colossians, that he had a ministry which would take them beyond their new birth experience. He called it the fulfilling of what the gospel had first imparted in a partial amount (Col. 1:23-29).
That first gift was Christ for them; this second unfolding was Christ in them, and themselves completed per-sons as the manifesters of Him (1:28). This Colossians truth, so vital and central to our lives and ministries, was the final establishment stage (like 1 Peter 5:10) for the full intercession to which God was to commission us.
Our personal crisis moment was a night spent in an African village, where the one convert of those days left us his cookhouse for setting up our camp beds. But in our personal hunger for the fullness of union, we remained through most of the night on our camp chairs in the banana plantation.
Galatians 2:20 as Fact
We were battling through in faith to the personal affirmation of Galatians 2:20. We had been "crucified with Christ" and thus, in His Calvary death, had died to sin–to the indwelling of that false sin-spirit of error–and then had been joined to Christ in His resurrection. So we took the place by faith and spoke the word of faith that "nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ lives in me." We settled that by our declared word of faith by about 4 a.m.
The Spirit Himself bore His witness to us, according to 1 John 5:10. For Pauline, it was within a couple of weeks, and for me after a couple of years. Inwardly we knew that it was now and forever He living our lives in our human forms. We began that glorious experience of living our daily normal lives and fulfilling our calling by what Paul called "the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
Not by our faith in Him, but by His inner knowing imparted to us–"the faith of the Son of God"–He was establishing us. This knowing con-firmed that it was He now in us as us. He was the light of the world (John 8:12). But no, we were the light of the world (Mt. 5:14)! It was we being He in our lamb forms, and we accepting ourselves and operating as ourselves.
This, too, had its necessary "dying" to the self-effort life. We had to discover by Romans 7 that it was really Satan, the god of self-effort, false independent self, making us think self-effort was ourselves. Then at last, like Paul in Romans 7:17 and 20, we saw it was really Satan expressing his lying, independent self-life through us.
And by that discovery, we moved over, as in Galatians 2:20, to Satan being out for keeps in his working us up into false self-effort living. Now, in place of him, our living Christ was His living Self in our forms; and we moved into an effortless life of activity, which was He expressing Himself as us.
The Fruit of Suffering
Our first son, Noel, was born healthy through the assistance of our loved Lillian Dennis, a nurse who had accompanied us to the heart of Africa. We had no doctor within 500 miles, though, and gradually the little fellow began to weaken. No cause could be found, although more recently a name has been given to this condition. He went to be with Jesus on his first birth-day and was the first white baby buried in our part of Africa.
Noel’s death gave opportunity to tell of a crucified and risen Jesus and the promise of eternal life to the people, who believed that at death their spirits went into a leopard or snake. One little fellow named Fatake, who saw the little body put into the ground, followed through with questions. He became a notable light in his village, and his story was put in booklet form.
Then Pauline, not so far as we know through any effect of the loss of little Noel, began to show signs of anaemia. It was then thought possible that she might have the pernicious form, which would be fatal. So by C.T. Studd’s advice, we took the 500-mile journey by foot and carrying hammock to the main station of the African Inland Mission (AIM). There, at Aba, near the Sudan frontier, Dr. Woodhams diagnosed and treated her through the kindness of the AIM.
It turned out only to be simple anaemia. Pauline greatly improved and was fit to return after some weeks. But I was kicking my heels with inactivity while with her at Aba. I had never thought of trying my hand at translating, but why not?
The New Testament in Bangala
I gingerly experimented with extracts from Pilgrim’s Progress. It seemed to be a success. So I added a short story of the first pygmy to shine as a light for Christ, called "Apollo of the Pygmy Forest." That came out okay, also. Now I plunged. Why not a full Bangala New Testament?
It was an intercession in all simplicity and unpreparedness. Bangala was the lingua franca, the common market language among the tribes. It had been reduced to a working language largely by my loved brother-in-law, Alfred Buxton, who first accompanied C.T. to the Congo and was now at home. C.T., in his inimitable fashion, had called the two of them "Balaam’s ass and Noah’s dove" when they had gone out to evangelize the heart of Africa. Alfred then had been pressed to some simple translation of parts of the New Testament, besides a primer of about 1200 words. Meanwhile, we had begun the teaching of reading among the tribes.
What I then began translating took me a good part of the next five years. Being in lingua franca, five missions used it: the AIM, ourselves, the Swedish Baptists, the Mid-Missions and the Assemblies of God. The work of these missions was scattered over the vast Ubangi forest area of northeast Congo. It meant that what I translated had to pass through the critical hands of language experts of the five missions. I used my knowledge of classical Greek and the King James Version of the Bible.
The project was of enormous help to me in getting to know the Scriptures. I had to be as sure as I could of the meaning of each New Testament phrase, besides finding the right Bangala words and sometimes inventing some! At last it was passed by the missions and submitted to the Bible Society of London, who also accepted it. A friend, Frank Fremlin of Maidstone, Kent, helped much in the financing of it.
The Secretary of the Bible Society inscribed for me a special author’s copy of the Bangala New Testament, in which he wrote: "To Norman P. Grubb, who is mainly responsible for the preparation and proofreading of this, the first New Testament in the language, the Bible Society sends this, the first copy, with its congratulations and gratitude and prayers. -R. Kilgour, Editorial Superintendent, The Bible House, London, 4 October, 1928."
But there is a final reason why I greatly rejoice in that guidance and "plunge of faith" with no training in translation to attempt this translation of the New Testament into Bangala. At that time, it was rather a despised market language and considered unworthy of spending time on, compared to the more difficult tribal languages. (In this respect it was like the common Greek of Paul’s day, which was considered less worthy than the pure classical Greek.) But further revisings of the Bangala New Testament took place, and the Old Testament was completed. By now, tens of thousands of Africans can read. And with the independence of the Congo under its new name of Zaire, the government chose our northern Bangala as the official language of the whole country! Called Lingala, it is now read and used by millions.
So it turned out to be a "gained intercession" such as we never dreamed possible. Once again, death worked in us, but life in these tens of thousands.
To be continued in the next issue.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 16 No 1
- Zerubbabel Focus: Teleconferencing Overseas
- How Acquire Faith?
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- A Look at a Book
- Our Second Despair
- Faith Lessons
- Area Fellowship News
- The Process of Faith
- The Blessings of Discipline
- Tape Talk
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- The Delusion of Self-sufficiency
- Many Problems, One Solution–The British Fall Conference
- Wisconsin Fellowship Weekend: Three Perspectives
- Here Am I!
- Bible Study: Faith
- Questions & Answers
- Intercession In Action
- It Remains Tough
- On Faith and Discipline…
- Words to Live By…