To Congo with C.T. Studd
In this excerpt from his autobiography, Norman recounts the valuable spiritual and personal insights gained while on the mission field with his father-in-law C.T. Studd and, most importantly, how he personally appropriated Galatians 2:20which changed the entire direction of his life’s work.
I am not going to write in a detailed way about the Mission with which we have spent our lives, first called the Heart of Africa Mission, and then enlarged to the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, because I have already written much about it. The book which has had the outstanding circulation is C. T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer. Without exact statistics (some were destroyed at the publisher’s by a fire-bomb) I should think it has reached a combined circulation of a quarter of a million in some fifteen languages. It has had a tremendous impact on thousands of lives, and still after thirty years I continually meet with those who were almost exploded into a full dedication through it. There have been other books and biographies also–After C. T. Studd, the story of the developing Crusade, the life stories of Alfred Buxton, Jack Harrison, Edith Moules and others. But I will only talk of the work as it relates to my own experiences.
I shall for ever be thankful that God called me into a missionary crusade based on these principles. I am as sold on them now after forty-nine years as when I first joined. To be part of a crusade to the whole world has always had a satisfying appeal to me. To have as its sole aim what we officially call "evangelization," in other words, the one objective of bringing Christ to people and people to Him, still remains for me the highest calling in life. The name "Crusade" preserves that fighting, daring, self-dedicating attitude to the calling which was so essentially C.T.’s, and comes out in those little booklets which he wrote soon after arriving in the heart of Africa and which were considered the greatest challenge to missionary dedication in the early years of this century– "The Chocolate Soldier," "Christ’s Etceteras," "For the Shame of Christ," "The Laugh of Faith." So the title "Worldwide Evangelization Crusade," though clumsy and difficult to repeat, does give the full flavour of what we exist for.
The two main principles of the Crusade equally appealed to me–sacrifice and faith. Sacrifice was obvious. If it is your privilege to offer your life that others might have eternal life, you expect God to take you at your word and that it will cost your life–whether that takes forty days or forty years. Faith had always appealed to me ever since in earlier days I had read the life of George Muller and how he built and provided for his Bristol orphanages by looking to God alone without making his needs known to man. And this had been followed by Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, with whom C.T., as a member of the famed Cambridge Seven, had started his missionary life in China. So when I saw that C.T. had founded this Crusade on the same faith principle, it rang the bells with me.
Pauline and I had between us about nine hundred pounds, which had been what we soldiers called "blood money"–a government remittance according to rank and length of service on leaving the army. We decided we would spend this on our missionary needs, travel, etc., until it was exhausted, and then there would be the promises of God. As our friend, Mr. Fremlin, financed our first outgoing, it was a year or two before we came to the end of this "nest egg." But we had our early shocks of other kinds in plenty, on our arrival on the field, though not on the principles of the Crusade. How good for us, although we did not think so then.
Our journey out was the normal one for those days, taking three months, by ship to Alexandria, then by train and river boat to Khartoum; then the real adventure of penetrating the heart of Africa starting by two weeks on the little flat-bottomed river steamer with a stern-wheel right up the winding Nile to near its sources. Fascinating, passing villages of the long-legged Nilotic tribes, Shilluks and Dinkas, standing like herons with one leg bent up against the knee of the other (and to think that now there are many churches among them, and I believe the first Dinka Bishop); continually watching the lazy crocodiles on the sandbanks with their toothy mouths wide open while the little white birds picked their teeth; the hippos showing their fat noses above water and diving down again; once a herd of about two hundred elephants which, when the steersman blew the ship’s whistle, raised their trunks in the air like one man and thundered off into the grass; sometimes the long thin neck and head of a giraffe peering up above the tall grass.
At Rejaf we disembarked, and were carried by truck 100 miles to the Congo border. Across there, met by one of that little band of missionaries, we started the 300-mile journey by foot and bike, with porters carrying the baggage, first through days of grassland, and then sighting the long thin line of the beginnings of the tropical forest which would be our home, stretching for maybe 1,000 miles to the south.
These are the usual type experiences of the earlier travellers, and the way we lived through the twenties. Our shocks did not come from these. But we had acquired a sentimental idea of the "dear heathen," with some built-in really wrong notions of a crowd of black saints awaiting us.
At Nala we met with C.T., Pauline’s father, my father-in-law, whom I then saw for the first time. In himself he was all that we expected, in his loving welcome, the old aristocrat now accustomed to living the African way; always scrupulously clean, in simple khaki shirt and shorts and stockings, with his long beard and somewhat bent frame, aquiline nose and keen piercing eyes. His home was a stoutly built mud house, originally built by a Belgian official, with his bedroom on one side, and an open centre where we sat, had our meals and small meetings, all surrounded by beautiful palm trees in their hundreds.
But we were ill at ease. Without realizing it ourselves, we had been the petted and pampered "fine young Christians" in the homelands, and now we were going out (even the Executive Committee told us that!) to bring help, refreshment and encouragement to the tired little band in Congo. Tired little band! They were not looking for any to bolster them up. All they wanted were some more fellow-soldiers! We found C.T. had no time for special welcomes and favours for a daughter or special preference for a new son-in-law. He stood where Jesus stood, "Who is my mother or my brethren? Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, my sister and mother."
I think, without recognizing it our-selves, we were puzzled and hurt that we did not get any better reception than any other new recruits. There was no let-up with this man–no diversions, no days off, no recreations. The zeal of God’s house had eaten him up, and souls were his meat and drink.
Gospel of Holiness
But what shocked us most was his attitude to the professing African Christians, five hundred of whom would gather on a Sunday morning. Where we had been told to expect a concourse of shining saints, C.T. was saying that sin was rampant, and nobody who continued in sin entered heaven, no matter how much he was supposed to have been born again; and that he doubted, holding up the fingers of his two hands, whether ten of these five hundred would really get there. We thought this awful. Our theology was thin enough on any count; we had never had any Bible training, but we had picked up the usual evangelical teaching that once a person was born again, no matter how he sinned, if once in grace, always in grace. He could not be unborn. C.T. took no count of that. His stand was "without holiness no man shall see the Lord," and a person living in sin, unless he repented, no matter what his past claims to grace, he would be outside heaven. That shook us. There were Scriptures for "once saved, always saved," but there were Scriptures on the other side also.
There are the Bible assurances of being secure in Christ. There I personally live without a shadow of uncertainty. But I don’t ask that the Bible should be a systematic theology to suit my theological mind. Revelation through the apostolic writings was a string of unsystematic letters, written existentially to meet some church need of the moment; and in them I also find plain statements about the dangers and possibilities of falling away. Why should I be more systematic than the Bible and Paul and the other apostles? Why must I be bound by the frowning looks of the majority of evangelicals if I don’t wholly subscribe to their pet convictions? If I drive a car, I don’t live in fear of an accident; but there are occasions when crossing a road I look around to see if it is safe. So to me the Bible does give many plain warnings, and I can go along with C.T. in this, that though living in the eternal security of being sealed unto the day of redemption, it is "a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" in a condition of blatant disobedience.
It was a good thing for those simple believers just rising out of the morass of heathen superstitions and sin to be brought up straight against the facts of sin as sin; and C.T. never had any remedy for sin or the possibility of living a new kind of life except the Blood and Spirit of Jesus. The very intensity of this gospel of holiness that he preached and lived, even going to the extent of cutting off any water baptism or partaking of the Lord’s supper for ten years, when he found that many were hiding beneath these as supposed means of salvation, is undoubtedly the firm foundation to the holy Spirit-filled church in Congo today which, if he was alive, could now be said to be his "joy and crown."
But we did have troubled years. Before long we both tried our hands at "improving" him and got our fingers burned. I went to suggest that if the church was in such a low state, why not have some special prayer meetings for revival? "Surely," he said, "but I don’t believe in praying in work hours. Let’s have a meeting at 4 a.m." (work and activities starting at 6 a.m.). "But," I said, "that is the time when we get up to have our own quiet times. When shall we have those?" "Why not earlier?" was the answer. Next morning I was up at 4 a.m. for my own quiet time; but across the compound I heard the old man’s banjo going. He had gathered a 4 a.m. prayer meeting of some of the Africans. I did not attend!
Pauline tried her hand by suggesting that she might take over the running of his domestic household. "Thank you," he said, "but Mama Mototo" [one of the women co-workers] "does it very well."
Finally, I think he saw that in our conceit and self-assurance, and indeed criticism of him, we needed a good lesson. So he suggested that we go out about 25 miles and occupy a newly opened station, beautifully situated on a hill called Deti, from which in the early morning you can look out over miles of palm-filled forest and see spirals of smoke arising in the still air from the many villages; and equally see the fierce tropical storms approaching. We knew enough of the simple language used as a lingua franca among the tribes of that area–Bangala.
C.T. had shown wisdom in concentrating his attention on this market language, poor though it was, because by it we could at once reach many tribes, the men in the main knowing it. It meant interpretation in village meetings; but that too had its advantages, when we had tried Christian interpreters, because they could often put in more intelligible language things we were trying to say in more Western forms. C.T. has been justified in standing against criticisms from other missions in the use and development of this language, because it is now the officially adopted language for the whole north Congo.
In those earliest days we also had another significant little indication that God speaks more through warm hearts than critical minds. Lilian Dennis, who, as I said, accompanied us to the Congo, is a nurse but no linguist. But she had a heart filled with love for God and the people, and was far more mature in the Spirit than we youngsters were. She only had the language very roughly in those first few months, whereas I was able to get along fairly well. So I would speak at the Sunday services. One Sunday morning when I was away, it fell to her lot, doubtless with fear and trembling, to have to speak both morning and evening. In the morning she spoke very haltingly on "I will, be thou clean." The elders came to her afterwards and said, "Mama Deni, what you said so reached our hearts that we would like you to repeat it this evening." I never had that said to me!
So off we went to Deti. We were soon trying immature experiments. The Africans loved the bits of western clothing they could get hold of, and they were their Sunday best. Well, we also had nice European clothing. But we thought it much better if any African Christians who went out to take the gospel to the villages should dress in their native barkcloth, a rough garment made of the bark of a certain tree and worn round their waists. They rebelled. We insisted. We soon had things in chaos, and where a few hundreds had been coming to the meetings, we were reduced to around eighty. Then God spoke to us. "Go back and humble yourselves and just be learners. Your father has forgotten more about leading people to Christ than you ever knew." So we wrote, confessed our pride, apologized and got all the loving welcome back he could give us.
There is a "Second Blessing"
But God was using these tensions for our own lasting benefit. A friend of Pauline’s, Dr. Isa Lumsden, was sending her a little paper called "The Overcomer," published by Mrs. Penn Lewis, well known in England as a Bible teacher. But what she wrote about didn’t make sense to us. She was not speaking about Christ dying for us, but of our being crucified and dead with Him, and risen with Him. That was all new to us. At first it didn’t register much with us, except that we felt there was something there we hadn’t got hold of yet. But our need was great. We had heard others at Cambridge and other places speaking of knowing that you are filled with the Spirit, especially Barclay Buxton, the father of Alfred, whom we undergraduates were fond of getting down to talk to us. Pauline and I knew that we had no such inner witness, and we desired it. We had one canoe journey to do for some days on the Aruwimi River, a tributary of the Congo, stopping at villages every now and then on the banks. I spent the intervening hours studying a commentary on Romans by an American, I think Stifler by name. Light began gradually to dawn on the meaning of this identification with Christ in His death and resurrection.
Finally, we were out for a visit to a dear and zealous African brother, Bangbani. He was the only light in his chiefdom, and what a welcome he gave us to his little plantation, throwing his well-oiled arms around us so that we came out of the embrace looking like zebras. That night he gave us his best, his cook-shed, with a few banana leaves strung around for privacy, and our two camp-beds in it. The equipment we brought to the Congo and which was our house furniture was a canvas camp-bed each, with mosquito net, a canvas camp table and chair, enamel plates and cups, and cooking pots. That, besides our clothing, which for us men was just khaki shirts and shorts, with stockings or puttees week in and week out–very sensible and comfortable –was the main part of our living necessities.
Claiming Galatians 2:20
But when Bangbani left us we could not go to bed. The full moon was out and it was all quiet in the banana plantation except for the usual chorus of insects, with the moon shining between the great banana leaves. So we took the two little camp chairs and sat outside in the moonlight. There is not much trouble with mosquitoes in that area. We had decided together that we would wrestle this thing out with God, and specifically claim then and there that we should be filled with the Spirit. It was only later that we got our theology more in line–to discover that He in His fullness had always been there–His Spirit joined to ours, since we had been born again: and that what we needed was not a filling from outside, but a witness borne to the existing living relationship. We took Galatians 2:20 to be the fact by faith: "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" and we went to our camp beds around 4 a.m., having accepted the matter as settled by faith. We awoke no different; but I took a postcard and drew a tombstone on it, and wrote "Here lieth Norman Grubb buried with Jesus." Probably we all have to get settled on the reality of this death experience before the resurrection can be uppermost in our consciousness. At least that was the period I was in.
Nothing further happened to me in relation to this for a couple of years. For Pauline, it was different, and she tells how a few days afterwards, when sleeping alone in a native hut, the hut was filled with a consciousness of His presence and a voice confirming to her that their union relationship was fixed for ever.
Two years later I was at home and visiting this same Mrs. Penn Lewis whose little magazine had first awakened our interest. I had gone to her to talk over our perennial problem of tensions on the field, but I think she must have observed that beneath this I had my own need, for instead of talking about the problem she told me what happened when she had been "baptized with the Holy Ghost," as she called it, and the power of God had come on a group of young people she talked with that night. As she talked, it was like a great light lit within me, bringing the inner awareness which has never left me since, of Christ living in me; and living in such a sense that it was not I really doing the living, but He in me, in His Norman form. The Scripture against which I had written my name and date that next morning in Bangbani’s village had become permanently alive to me–this great Galatians 2:20.
Christ In You
There was a great deal I had not yet got into focus; those clarifications had to follow later; but one tremendous fact had become fact to me, and the passing years and deepening understandings have only underlined it as the fact of facts –that the secret of the universe, and the key to my own life, is simply the Person Himself in me; as Paul had put it, "The mystery hid from ages and generations but now made manifest to His saints which is Christ in you."
I had been drawn to and sought an answer before in "holiness teaching," especially through Barclay Buxton at Cambridge, and from him and others I had caught it that there is an inner fixation, a settling in by which we can know that we are not only born of the Spirit but filled with the Spirit, and which I knew I did not have. But I had some mistaken ideas. I had thought that I myself as a human would be made holy, and thus not respond as before to irritability, lust, pride and so forth; that an actual change would take place in me. I had tried this way, taken it by faith that this "entire sanctification" had become fact in me; but it had not worked. These same things continued to make their appearance in me. But now I was seeing something different. My humanity did not change.
I had to learn later that it is not meant to change, because every potential of my human nature is there to be an agency by which Christ can reveal Himself. Sin is not my various faculties or appetites, but shows itself in the misuse of them, when they are stimulated by temptation into action in a wrong direction, and I wrongfully struggle, as in Romans 7, to overcome what independent self can never overcome. It is the independent self which is the sin principle, for independent self is and can only be self-loving, therefore I am helpless in myself to resist the stimulation. But, another Self, God Himself–Father, Son and Spirit–has now so become the centre of my being that I am merely the vessel containing Him. Now, knowing this, my attention is no longer centred on myself, the vessel, and fighting against my fears or depressions or what not and expecting change in myself, and disappointed and condemned when it doesn’t happen. No, I accept myself. The vessel doesn’t change, but it contains Him, Christ living in me, joined to me, Spirit with spirit.
It is the same idea as when a room is dark. We don’t centre our attention on the darkness. The darkness is not wrong, unless it is misused; we accept it but don’t struggle against it; we just replace it! We look for the switch and turn on its opposite–the light. And when the light is on, where is the darkness? It is swallowed up. It is there in the sense that it appears immediately again when the light is off, yet it is not there to my consciousness with the light on. So now this awareness of Christ in me is the permanent switching on of the light, and the permanency is the importance. I now live in a new consciousness. At any time I am temporarily conscious of temptation which can lead to sin, but that does not mean that He who is the light has gone from my inner centre. He is the permanency; and the appearance of Him being not there, and of me being in the dark is an illusion. I have been tricked into moving back from eternal reality to temporary appearance. The change is in my consciousness, not in the fact.
So I learn to live by the repetition of recognition, which is the practice and habit of faith. He in me is the all, the joy, power, wisdom, victory–all. I transfer my attention, my recognition, my affirmation from the human vessel to Him whom it contains: and that is switching on the light; and the light swallows up the darkness; yet the darkness was needful to give manifestation to the light. And when I do fall into a sin, which I do, the forgiveness for all sins was pronounced from Calvary two thousand years ago, therefore the forgiveness was there before the sin, and I can boldly appropriate that.
So this had become the central fact of our lives–Pauline’s and mine–which has to become so in every life–call it by what name we like–the Second Blessing, Entire Sanctification, the Baptism of the Spirit, the Fullness of the Spirit, the Second Rest, the Exchanged Life. We can only live by what becomes part of us, not by some-thing imposed from without and clung to by us. In the new birth, Christ has become real and personal to us as a Saviour, the Spirit has borne inner witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. So again in this second realization, Christ has become known to us, not merely as the Saviour from our sins but also as the One who is living our lives. Then it was His righteousness in place of my sins; now it is His Self in place of myself. This actually took place at the new birth, but, for nearly all of us, we cannot yet see deeply enough into the roots of our problems, which is our self-reliant selves, to be conditioned to see Him as the Divine Self living His life through our human selves. We have to go through our "wilderness" experience, all of us, redeemed but still regarding Him as separate from us; and we seeking to live the new standards of Christian living as best we can, but with constant failures, self-disgust, strains and stresses we cannot handle. We had a first col-lapse when we recognized our guilt as lost sinners and came to Him for salvation. We have a second collapse when, now redeemed, we discover our helplessness. First we had learned we had not done what we should. Now we learn that we cannot do what we should. And so, as after the first collapse, we were conditioned to see and affirm His blood replacing our sins; now, after the second collapse, we are conditioned to see and affirm Himself replacing ourselves.
And the way into the full realization is always the same, the only way of faith, just as Pauline and I found, when in faith without feeling we took our stand that night that Christ does live in us; the same as years before as a young fellow I had taken it by faith that my sins were no longer there, because He had borne them for me. Faith, always faith alone. But the process of faith is that if I take a thing, it takes me, and I know it has taken me. If I eat food, it takes me over and I know it afterwards. So when I take Jesus by faith, I become conscious that He has taken me. Faith has never become a completed faith until there has been this reflex effect; for "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In this way in my case two years later, and in Pauline’s only two weeks later, our act of faith had its inner confirmation.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 26 No 1
- Intercession Being Gained in Worldwide, Churchwide Commission
- Our Spiritual Heritage–Part 1
- A New Start for W.E.C.
- Excerpt from Summit Living
- C.T. and Colonel Munro
- To Congo with C.T. Studd
- The Cost of Commitment–Colonel Munro
- Excerpt from Summit Living
- A Review of C.T. Studd in the Heart of Africa
- Excerpt from Summit Living
- I Count All Things To Be Loss…
- Words to Live By…
- Our Spiritual Heritage–Part 2