Who Is My Neighbor?
In this excerpt from the book Edith Moules: Mighty Through God, by Norman Grubb, we catch a glimpse of one woman’s personal crisis of faith as a missionary in the heart of Africa.
Edith had made a genuine consecration of her life during those two months with C.T. Studd, but she had to discover, as we all do, that “Saying I belong to Jesus and want to be obedient to Him is all very well; but this life is not lived out by a crisis only; it is an attitude of obedience rather than a decision to be obedient at one time. It is an attitude of brokenness, not just a crisis surrender. I found it very easy in a meeting to come to a decision of surrender to God. I found it much more difficult to maintain in daily work and relationships an attitude of humility, of brokenness, of obedience to God. I do not think we need to go running after the cross at all. The cross will find us down the straight road of obedience. But the power, the power of spiritual living, is in this process of walking with God.”
It happened to her in this way. “We had started our Nala work rejoicing, and I praise God for those rejoicing days, and for the baby walk by which we attempt, when we are young, to press hard after Him and in His service. But if we mean business with Him, He will bring circumstances to bear upon us that will make us more and more understand a commissioning from which we cannot escape.
“I had not very long to wait before I had one of the biggest crises in my missionary life. We were getting on very well one evening at the dispensary. I suppose I had 300 patients. They were all sitting round under the trees on the grass and among the poor little bits of flowers we had attempted to plant.
“Suddenly at the back of them allhe had been standing there unobserved for a whileI saw a leper. I had seen lepers before, but this man was terribly mutilated. He was led by a small boy, and was almost naked. His toes and fingers were gone, his feet swollen, no nose and he was dribbling from his lipless mouth down over his bare body. Both he and the child looked travel-stained and hungry. I suddenly became contagion-conscious. I did not want to touch that man and I said to myself, ‘Oh, we cannot have a leper here; but whatever shall I do?’ I looked at him every now and again and wondered what I should say to him. Finally, when everybody had gone, he hobbled around, and the small boy looked up wistfully into my face and said, ‘We have come to come.’ That is African idiom. ‘We have come to come.’ ‘Well, where have you come from?’ ‘The other side of Poko.’ Nearly a hundred miles; more than 80 miles through the forest he had walked with feet like that, swollen to bursting point. It must have taken them days and days.
“That was the moral issue I had to face. The man needed help. He needed outward help as do many others. It is no use thinking that we can go out and preach the Gospel, and shut our eyes to facts. We cannot have that hard heart which says, ‘I must not look at the suffering of people. I must not look at their aches and worries. I have come just to be an evangelist.’ I could have done that with leanness to my soul. I could have said, as I did say to God for the next four days when God was dealing with me, ‘I came here to evangelize.’ We can make evangelization a shibboleth. We can make evangelization our goal instead of Jesus, if we are not deeply willing that Jesus should be revealed through us in life-giving power, and that means the cross.
“So here was I up against my problem. The little boy said, ‘We have come to come,’ and I had no leper hospital and no intention of building one, nor of starting a leper work; I had not even thought about it. All my plans were made, and they did not include the lepers. What was I going to do? Do we like to be liked? I don’t think honestly there is anybody who does not. And I wanted to be liked. I did not want these persons who had come a long way to be so disappointed that they disliked me. I wanted to be liked. And very often the test before God, at least in my own heart, is that I want to be liked and I won’t face up to the light God is flooding into my soul. God speaks to my innermost heart, and I can handle that word deceitfully, and even bring a very good cause as my alibi, such as evangelization. I wanted to be liked and so I did not say, ‘Oh, I am afraid I have only come here to preach and to help the few people who come to me. I don’t want to have lepers here because other people might get leprosy, so I am afraid you will have to go home again.’ That sounded too blunt. So I smiled at him as though I were really sympathetic, and I thought, ‘What can I do? I suppose I could put him up somewhere for the night, and he will slowly find out the sad truth.’
“I went up the hill and found an old tumbledown shack, and I asked a workman to fix it up a little bit and tied a bit of pith together to make a door. Then I said to the leper and the little boy, ‘You can stay there, if you like, for the night.’ I went home and thought, ‘They have come a long way. I must give them food.’ So I went to the garden and got some. But it was very easy to do that because we had communal gardens. It had not cost me a cent. And it is very easy to pull up and dispense something that has cost you nothing, and still feel that you have dealt with the situation.
“Next morning there they were, with my 300 patients, waiting under the palm trees, and all my joy had gone. Instead of bubbling over and talking to the patients as I washed their wounds, there was a weight inside. The moral issue was there, and when we are not willing, deeply willing, to be obedient to the light, the joy goes and we dry up. It is a moral issue that is really at stake everywhere. I don’t believe the Christian struggle is so much facing up to the intellectual side of things, as facing up to the moral issue of a daily walk. The leper waited and my joy had gone. There was a kind of shadow over things. It was rather dim that day but we got through the treatments and thenwell, it was not much good giving an aspirin tablet for leprosy. We could wash his wounds and we did wash his wounds, and we found a bit more food from the garden, and still hoped that he would find out that he had come to the wrong place. I am afraid it is very often like that. Those who are in need come to the wrong place. We are dried up. God’s word says that if we are really going the cross-way, we will be like a spring of water whose waters fail not. Yes, at times we can be like a spring of water. But, oh dear, when the thirsty one comes and finds the water has dried up !
“Well, so we went on day after day, that man standing there until everybody else had gone and then saying, ‘Haven’t you anything for me?’ and still that awful shrinking in my heart and the feeling that I did not want to touch him and wishing he would not come. I went to God again and againand again and again. I could not tell you the hours I spent before God those four days, telling Him all about that man, telling Him I was really sorry for the poor leperbut it was not my job. It took me four days to find out that it was my job. Sometimes it is not prayer meetings that are required. We need not tell God about the people who are lost. We need not tell Him all about their sufferings. He knows them far better than we do. We need not tell God, as I did, how far the man had walked, or try to persuade Him that we are sympathetic, when He can see that we are not willing to face up to things. I was supposedly in prayer before God. But that was not the true agony of prayer, for true intercession dies for its objective. One can use a red-hot prayer meeting as an opiate. One can use a half-night of prayer as a narcotic to lull one out of something which one just has to face. And God was trying to talk to me, to show me that when He could get me, He could get the leper; and when I would really come back to the fact that I belonged to Him, then somehow He could work the oracle in the other fellow.”
Finally, on the fourth night, in the scene described at the beginning of this book, “the battle was finally fought out. In the simplest of ways God showed me again the Sunday School lesson of the Good Samaritan, about the man who came to Jesus and asked Him what he himself already knew. Jesus said, ‘What is written the lawhow readest thou?’ And He made the man put it into words about loving the Lord his God with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself. The man then quibbled as to who his neighbor was, just as I was doing, and Jesus showed him who his neigbour was and Jesus showed me that night who my neighbor was. I do not want to be a hypocrite and say that that night I learned that every man is my neighbor and that I now love every man, my neighbor, as myself. I dare not say such a thing; but I did learn that it is the highest at which we have to aimevery day and all day, whether that neighbor is likeable or unlikeable, whether that neighbor praises me or does not praise me. It is because we fail in this that there is trouble and dryness and lack of power in our lives. Over and over again came the command, ‘And thy neighbor as thyself’; and it was not until I realized that the leper was my neighbor that I could get peace.
“The next morning I told the leper that God had been talking to me. Of course he did not understand yery much. But I told him that I had fought shy of him and shunned him, and that there were several reasons for this. I cannot remember the words I used to him. But I did say that God had shown me that I did not belong to myself, but to Him and that He was Almighty, and helped me. So I was going to help him and he could stay. And you can imagine the joy on that man’s face. But I said, ‘You have got to look to God, because I have no medicine for leprosy and I haven’t a place to put you in and don’t know how it is going to be done. But God will do it. So will you kneel down with me?’
“We knelt down together, the man with the swollen feet, the little boy with the wistful face, and this queer woman with the ‘white’ hair and ‘the things on her nose that didn’t drop off’ (my hair was very fair and I wore pince-nez). And we talked to our heavenly Father, and they said ‘Amen.’
“The man with the bad feet and awful body has gone to be with Jesus long ago, and the little boy is healed from leprosy and is a Christian. But that was really the beginning. I had at that time to face a few things. In my battle before God (and it was a battle), I was trying to tell God that I had come out to evangelize. But that was just an excuse for not facing the situation squarely, because I have always been an evangelist and trust I ever shall be. I did not want to face up to handling leprosy, because deep down inside me I was scared lest I should contract it. That is unworthy, certainly unworthy of anybody who takes up the medical profession; but the fact remains, I was scared of leprosy, although it is not nearly so infectious as people think it is; nevertheless, missionaries have had it and I feared it. This was foolish, because, if we belong to Jesus, it is much happier to go to Him a leper, than to go to Him with a dried-up soul but without leprosy. And after all, what does a body matter?
“Then I was really afraid of a second pointof becoming involved. Now being involved is the root of the matter; until we are willing to be involved to the hilt for God, we do not belong to Him completely. Until we are prepared to be utterly taken up by whatever He chooses to thrust upon us, we are not free. Why some people find it very difficult to get a call, is they are trying to get it, plus the strings they are holding on to. And until we are really free, until we have let loose from the things which we call necessary to life, we cannot really, honestly, and entirely get God’s leading. And we can never really understand His commission.
“I shall never forget C.T. Studd’s conversation with one of our missionaries. The missionary wanted to do something which Mr. Studd thought unwise, but he did not forbid it. He just said, ‘Alright, go head.’ The missionary went up his blind alley, and reaching to the end of it, found he had to come back. But he wanted to save his face, and so came to Mr. Studd with some face-saving excuse for turning back. Mr. Studd sat there with a twinkle in his eye, as the man gave him his final reason for not going through: ‘You see, Bwana, one must live.’ ‘I don’t recognize the necessity,’ replied Mr. Studd! When we are in the place where we don’t recognize the necessity of living, we are so cut loose that God has a chance, and that is what I mean by getting involved.
“Then I realized that if I looked after this leper and the little boy, the story would go out on the drums, or some runner would carry it to the next village, and the next, and the next, and I should be inundated! Was I willing to be inundated, and take in more and more lepers? I had to learn that God enlarges our capacity, not only our soul’s capacity, but our mental capacity, and our organizational abilities. He enlarges the whole man, as we are willing, deeply willing, to go the way of the cross. Very often we say we cannot do a thing, simply because we lack the faith and are afraid of really launching out. Only God can teach us to step out on to the water and walk on it with Jesus.
“A third point was that I did not want financial responsibility. In the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade all workers trust God to meet their needs, but, as it is primarily an evangelistic Crusade, general funds are not used for medical work. Any extra activities of that kind must be a private responsibility, and I didn’t want that on my plate; I was facing an issue there! I did not mind being told what to do and then doing it. But I didn’t want to be responsible. I don’t believe we can jump into a thing like this. As we are willing, God will show us how to take it in His strength. We have to learn to trust Him for a postage stamp, before we can trust Him for a £10 note. The fact is, I belonged to a faith mission, yet lacked faith!”
—Edith Moules: Mighty Though God