WHEN Brother Stanley Owen retired from CBM activities in 1994 we lost one of the last links with those involved in its early years. Brother Stanley had been a member of the CBM council for nearly 30 years, much of that time as secretary, and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of missionary work over 40 years or more.
It is this which makes his book “Into All the World—A Personal View of Preaching Abroad in the Last Days” so fascinating. The sheer scope of the work, the number of brethren and sisters involved, the way in which the hand of the Lord is seen in so many circumstances, make this interesting reading. The subtitle is important: the author does not set out to write an exhaustive record of Bible mission work; too much has been done by too many people to capture it all. Rather he sets out to share his own recollections (and those with whom he has worked) in an anecdotal style.
At first this book seems daunting: at 420 pages it is a large volume. Yet one quickly realises that it is an easy read, it can be ‘dipped into’ chapter by chapter to learn, for example, of “Hazards and Hurricanes in Jamaica” or “Nigeria the Firstfruits”. Brother Stanley starts by telling us of “The Forerunners”—those brethren who in the last century travelled the world taking the Gospel with them. He returns to this theme almost at the end of the book, with the story of how Christendom Astray was reprinted by Daniel Brown when Robert Roberts could not afford the reprint, and of how that book then found its way into so many corners of the world, turning up in the most unexpected places and bringing men and women to the Gospel.
Nyama Ecclesia in Malawi
Time and again we are reminded that this is God’s work and that He controls it. There are too many ‘coincidences’ for us to believe that encounters were made, leaflets picked up, journeys diverted simply by chance: the ways of Providence are there for us to see. The very way the CBM came into existence in 1955 as the overseas branch of the CALS illustrates this. The author tells the lovely story of the “Cry for Help” from Guyana and the campaign that followed. “Something must be done …” said the missionaries, “… and soon!” The time was right, God was opening doors and the consciences of many were being stirred; so the CBM came into existence.
Durbar Square—Kathmandu (one of the sketches by Brother John Martindale)
To his credit the author mentions problems faced as well as successes gained. How many of us are aware of the difficulties which once beset the Truth in Malawi, now overcome by hard work and God’s grace so that we have there “one of the greatest concentrations of Christadelphian in the world”? As a community, we are sometimes too inward looking, concerned with our differences. This book helps us to realise the great spread of the Truth worldwide; the number of brethren and sisters in Africa and Asia, and Eastern Europe, is increasing rapidly.
It is right also that we remember such as Brother Albert Merz, who died for his faith in 1941 in Germany. All who read this chapter, which includes the letters we have concerning him, will feel the utmost respect for one who died for his belief in our times.
Acknowledgement is made of all who work within the framework of the three CBM organisations. The chapter headed “Behind the Scenes” reminds of the essential ecclesial support received, the correspondence work done, those who have raised money from selling used postage stamps for over 32 years. Indeed it is remarkable to realise how many brethren and sisters are involved in mission work in so many ways, wherever in the world such work is done.
“Every Christadelphian is a missionary”, said Sister Jane Roberts over 100 years ago. These are the opening words of this book and all who read it will be touched by the way this challenge has been picked up by our brethren and sisters in each generation. For them and all who are interested in how the Gospel is preached overseas, this book is worth reading.
Let us heed Brother Stanley’s words near the end of the book:
“Those who have gone before us have provided stimulating examples to follow. As we think of the stirring faith of sisters like Lucy Tinel and brethren like Albert Meier or Helge Myrvang; as we marvel at the pioneering qualities of John Blenman or James Hepburn so long ago, and at the remarkable conversations of Pedro Jimeno, or Ram Rattan, or Jonathan Chukwuani in more recent times, let us stand back in awe—not at the works of men, but at the majesty and grace of Almighty God in calling out a family in the name of His own beloved Son.”