It would seem that little need be said to encourage or stimulate our thinking on the subject of indigenous leadership and the obvious necessity for increasing our training facilities. It has been a joy and satisfaction to me to find our workers in Southern Asia alive to these needs. In our division, there are two courses of action open to us. One is to follow a very conservative plan, so arranging matters that almost the entire leadership of the movement is kept in European hands. Or we can work toward the goal of quickly and efficiently training capable indigenous workers for leadership. Some may feel that we should follow a line of safety somewhere between these two positions, but it seems to me that we must choose either the one position or the other.
In a field where indigenous leadership is natural and comparatively easy to effect, we have not advanced as far as has been the case in several other divisions. In some parts of the world field, local leadership is not generally popular, and still the brethren have developed indigenous leaders of ability. We must also face one fact very definitely, and that is that a review of the various non-Adventist mission societies operating in India, Burma, and Ceylon reveals that we are very far down the list when it comes to the question of local leadership and burden bearing. The question immediately confronts us : "Why is this the case? Have we not had the material to work on, or just what is responsible for this condition?" Surely when it comes to knowing what we ought to do, we excel others; but when it comes to checking results, we are not nearly up to where we should be.
At a recent division council we recognized that our high schools should be placed under indigenous leadership at once. But at several places where we tried to make such changes, we found we were not able to carry out the plan, for men with anything like the necessary training and abilities were not available. Some of our workers felt a little concerned regarding the steps taken at the 1937 division council along the lines of indigenous leadership. It was feared that we would press ahead a little hastily in carrying out the actions passed by the council, and would insist on the plan voted at that time being worked out whether or not we were in a position to inaugurate it properly. We have been cautious in fully carrying out these actions—not because we do not believe in them, but because we have not been able to find men qualified to carry the burdens.
We should, without delay, most earnestly set ourselves to build on the good foundation already laid in our educational institutions, and arrange to give a training to our young men in all of our schools. This is especially true of Vincent Hill School and Spicer College. We want to prepare our indigenous youth to carry heavy burdens in the closing work of God in Southern Asia. If such a program is carried out, it will mean that our high schools will have capable indigenous principals; our local fields, strong Indian superintendents; our churches, true and intelligent spiritual leadership. It will mean that our cities can be warned by Indian evangelists, and our hospitals can have Indian doctors.
We have missionaries here today whose hands are almost tied because their helpers are so poorly equipped for service, or because they are working practically alone. They are asked, as it were, to make bricks without straw. We have workers who at the present time are so handicapped that they cannot accomplish a tithe of what would be possible if they had a few well-trained natives upon whom responsibility could be placed. With all the earnestness of our hearts, we feel to declare that the great, the paramount, need in Southern Asia today is a group of well-trained young men who can do that larger and more important work in our field which the European worker can never do alone.
Our field contains one fifth of the world's population. According to the latest statistics, our population is larger than that of China. Our nearly four hundred million people are not Europeans, or of European descent to any large degree. They are almost entirely Indian, Burmese, and Singhalese. To my mind, this fact immediately places upon Spicer College a stupendous burden.. I wonder whether any other institution in the world faces such a challenge. It also places upon the schools which prepare students for Spicer College a sacred and heavy responsibility. These facts mightily stir our hearts.
For the European and Anglo-Indian people of Southern Asia we still have a large unworked field—there are about half a million such people in our field. The activities of Vincent Hill School are not confined to training workers for this limited population, for this institution has always toudhed the problem of those whom we term the indigenous people of our field. It stands as our senior educational institution, and will always occupy a key position in the training of workers. But Spicer College, to my mind, occupies a most unique position in the world educational program of Seventh-day Adventists. Capable workers must be provided to train the young men and women who enter the school. This college must have a much larger share in our planning than it has had in the past.
Some have asked whether such a program will not consume much money—money which should be used in our plans for a much larger evangelistic program to which Southern Asia has been dedicated. Yes, it will take money to do some of these things in the village schools, high schools, and colleges, but little will be done in many fields along evangelistic lines until this foundational work is accomplished. How can we hold public efforts without preachers? It is to our training schools that we must look for these workers. The work of evangelizing Southern Asia, which is the one and only reason for our being here, will prosper only as we lay strong and true plans for training young native recruits.
If there were a reasonable short cut to success, I would advocate it most earnestly, but I am fully convinced that our success in the task of carrying God's message to the four hundred million souls in our field is most closely bound up with the success of our schools and colleges. May God help us to know how to plan so that our work may fulfill all that He desires to accomplish.