In many of our mission fields we are working almost entirely in the rural districts and villages. We cannot take the message to the villages of Africa or other lands by using the methods employed by city evangelists, but rural Christian evangelism is a definite field of service, and one in which there are a thousand openings in every land. We have found village evangelism to be most fruitful in Africa; therefore we should give careful study to the guiding principles that will make this work permanent. I suggest a few such principles which may be of help in making our work in rural districts more fruitful in soul winning and in building up a strong constituency in our mission fields.
1. Our work should first of all be openly Christian and definitely associated with the mission we represent. We as a people have a distinctive faith and a special mission to the world, and our work should reveal our distinctive qualities. No matter what our approach, we should never hide our Christian aim or hesitate to express the great advent hope. In every contact we should seek opportunities for witnessing to our faith and experience, and seek to build up a true Christian fellowship in the community.
2. We should acquaint ourselves with the local life and needs of the village, and help to meet those needs as far as possible. As Christian workers we should be concerned with the various families and the village as a whole in our contacts. Through encouraging and teaching cleanliness, village hygiene, the making of better homes, the health and care of the children, and thorough work for the women, and in many other ways, the Christian missionary should make his presence felt and appreciated. The whole life of the villages in a district where there is a Seventh-day Adventist school or mission should be definitely improved, and the standards of community life raised. Our task is to arouse a desire for a better life and then to show the way to fullness of life in Christ.
3. Make contacts with the people in their homes. Successful work in rural districts can be accomplished only as we come in contact with the people in their homes and village groups. We will never reach the people if we wait for them to come to us or to the mission. The mission, the school, and the church are important as places to gather the people for training and worship. But only as we get out into the villages, spend days and nights there, share in the joys and sorrows of the people, and sacrifice and endure with them, will we be able to reach the hearts of the people for whom we labor. There is a constant temptation to do our mission work from the office or by an occasional trip into the territory. Followers of the Master should be willing to walk in His footsteps, and we know that He not only preached to the people, but He lived among them, going from door to door, healing and teaching. And marvelous were the results.
4. Organize small groups for Christian service. Christian love and friendship should be manifest in small group organizations, and unselfish service should be the aim. The plans of the Missionary Volunteer organization and the Sabbath school can be well adapted to this need, and can give opportunity for helping the group itself and for doing community uplift work and social service. These groups must of necessity be self-directed and not too dependent upon missionaries or other leaders whose contacts must necessarily be infrequent. The development of a true spirit of love and Christian service in such groups is most important. Our work must be much more than the teaching of doctrines. We are to save men from sin and lift them into a higher and better way of life.
5. This work need not make large demands on the financial resources of the mission. As the people in a district realize the real benefit that a Christian mission is to their community, they can be led to assume a large part of the support of such work. Never can we make our work permanent in any district until the native people themselves assume the burden of the work carried on in their midst for their own welfare. It is a law of life that only those things which require sacrifice are appreciated and cherished. So if the advent message is to uplift the native people and become firmly rooted in the life of the village, it must have the local support of the people.
6. There are enemies to meet in village work. On all sides the powerful forces of superstition and degrading practices will be met. Drunkenness, greed, and moral degradation will sometimes seem to be insurmountable obstacles to a permanent work. But as Christian workers we must be united and daring in our opposition to all evils in both individual and community life. We must hold up the Christian standards against wrong and injustice, even though such a stand may cost us persecution or loss of friendship for a time. But holding high the standard will win the better elements in the community, and will also strengthen public opinion against the evil forces that are hindering the development of reform. In every village there are those who have some appreciation of the better things of life, and if these can be reached by the message, a nucleus can be formed around which to build a group of faithful workers for Christ in their village.
7. Our aim should ever be to build up the church. Church membership is the permanent expression of a faith that has changed the life. Hence in all village or rural mission work, this should be our ultimate aim. This will call for the formation of baptismal classes and the establishment of organized churches. It should be constantly pointed out to workers and laymen that it is not enough to live the Christian life, but everyone must find and win comrades to the message, and thus help to build up the church on a permanent basis in each mission district.
Such a program, if wisely carried out, should contribute to the uplift of village life, to the strengthening of the ties between mission and lay workers, and to the ingathering of many souls into the kingdom of God.