There is one sure, certain way to have success in working for souls,—the way of personal contact. Paul understood it well, and has made it very clear for any who will to follow. "I made myself servant unto all," he says, "that I might gain the more. . . . I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
We shall do well to apply Paul's method to our own day and work. God has many ways for us to make contact with individual persons besides preaching to them from the desk. These ways of service may not always lead to pleasant experiences, it is true, any more than with the worthies of old. For example, Joseph was robbed, sold as a slave, and cruelly hurried off to Egypt; Philip was called upon to leave his interesting Samaria effort; Daniel was torn from his princely home in Jerusalem and carried captive to Babylon. In each of these cases it is easy for us to see the enormous results that followed the contacts thus made with these heathen countries. All that God asks of us, as of His servants in days past, is to be always willing and obedient.
"Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go, Anywhere He leads Me in this world below."
The responsibility and privilege of the minister demand that he shall be ready and willing to quit his pleasant surroundings, his comfortable study, even his well-selected library, when the call comes to "arise and go," even though the way to which the call leads "is desert." That desert experience may prove far richer in blessing than the Samaria effort.
Years ago, just when I had gotten hold of a new work and a new language, a sudden call came to go elsewhere. The plans and outlook for the work in which we were engaged were excellent; a new church had been built, a church school had been started, converts were coming in, and there was a good missionary spirit among the believers. All this was due more to personal contact than to preaching. The call made it necessary that we leave on the boat that brought the message. So, while we were sad to leave this promising and pleasant field, there was no time for regrets. Hastily arranging for some of the members to carry on till other help came, we gathered up our few possessions, said farewell to the brethren and friends, and sailed for our new field of labor thousands of miles away.
The cosmopolitan city which was our destination presented a stupendous task for mission activities. To preach to all in it meant first to master scores of tongues. There must be some other way—some better way—than the public platform. Of course the message must be given, but how? Churches of every denomination were there in numbers, with Mohammedan mosques and Hindu temples; but all these, as well as all halls in which we might speak, were closed to us. Thus we were shut up to the more successful way whereby all classes and all tongues may be reached,—the way of personal contact. This was not always easy or pleasant, but it had one thing in its favor,—it worked well.
The first person to become interested in the message was a lady of rank whose influence in behalf of the truth enabled us later to obtain a favorable site in the city for a church building. Next, a native family gladly accepted the truth, and some of its members were trained in one of our colleges for service. A native had been given up by the doctors, but by prayer and simple treatments was greatly benefited. This was noised abroad, and advertised our presence in the city. A well-known leader of a large Protestant church also received physical and spiritual help. Perhaps our strongest supporter was a poor blind man, a loyal member of one of the churches, who never failed to stand up and speak in our favor every Sunday when his pastor would decry our mission. Other members of various nationalities were brought into our growing company, and, in turn, became stanch and loyal workers.
Thus by the simple means of personal contact, which I have not the space to relate in detail, this large city was stirred. The simplicity of the method, which is Christ's own, caused the various missions such concern that they united to hold public meetings against us, publishing their talks in the daily papers. All this only made us more friends; for the Lord was with us, and blessed our efforts in making contact with troubled hearts.
Could not this same method of work be used to advantage in our churches today, each member who knows the Lord making contact with some poor troubled soul? I feel sure that if more of the "making contact" methods were followed in every city, our often half-empty churches would be filled to overflowing. What encouragement, what joy, this would bring to all! Moreover, substantial means would flow in from charitably disposed friends who would by this means be raised up; for the promise is that if we arise and shine, "the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."
In our work for the uncivilized races of the South Seas, whole villages and tribes were often won by the first visit. Kind acts, simple treatments, a manifestation of a spirit of genuine Christian love, and sympathy with them from their viewpoint, have turned them from heathenism to loyal, working converts, who have gone about practicing the same graces. Suppose we had decided that before doing any work for them, we must learn their language; then build ourselves a comfortable home; and after getting nicely settled and fully ready, make an effort to reach them through a series of meetings? Would we have succeeded? or was the way of personal contact the better way?
*This gripping presentation of vital principles, growing out of his own unique experience, was prepared at our request by Elder Jones when he passed through Washington recently. Such a candid testimony based upon a remarkably successful foreign mission work, which began in 1901 in the South Pacific Ocean, in Society, Pitcairn, and Cook Islands, and continued in Java and Sumatra, gives the author's observations a force and value that will be recognized by every thoughtful reader.—Editors.