Years ago I was standing on a plot of ground being excavated preparatory to the erection of a large shed to be used as a market place for the natives of a certain district. There was a group of laborers standing near me ready to begin using their tjangkols (hoes) on the job. After the necessary preliminaries, work began. Later there was one particular spot where only one man could work advantageously. Someone in the group chose a robust youth who in his opinion was equal to the task.
This young man began the work. But it was obvious after he had struck the ground but two or three times with his tjangkol, that the youth was inexperienced in this native art. Another laborer who was standing by observing elbowed his way to the young man and proceeded to take the hoe away from the lad, desiring to do the work himself because he was experienced, so that there would be no more delay. But the man who had chosen the youngster for the work came forward, replaced the hoe in the hands of the youth, and said, "Let the young man use his own technique [wisdom] on the job."
This sentence, "Let the young man use his own technique on the job," stuck in my mind, and I have since meditated much upon it. I immediately incorporated the principle into the work which I was doing as superintendent of a local mission. This thought was very helpful when it came to dealing with experienced or inexperienced, educated or uneducated natives, relative to the training of efficient help for the time which we believed would inevitably come in the Far East, when it would be impossible for the white man to remain in those parts.
I well remember stating on many occasions that "within twenty-five years from now things will be changed over here." It is all too true ! More than twenty-five years have passed, and we all know too well the results to date.
With this in mind, and with the thought of training efficient national workers who could be able to bear the burdens capably when workers from the home base had to leave the mission fields, I write these few lines. In all my associations with the members of our island churches, as well as with the workers, the necessary training for the future was the uppermost thought in my mind.
As soon as my mission committee had been chosen, I would call the committee together at the earliest possible date, first of all, to get better acquainted, then to place upon them their responsibility as committee members. I began by telling them that they were not responsible to me as their chairman, but to God Himself, because this was His work. We are not to gather into cliques to push our own ideas. We should not consider that we are primarily members of a certain church, and try to secure assistance chiefly for our own church or district. Our vision should encompass the whole field.
These were new thoughts for them, yet understandable. And I have never seen this appeal fail. To a man, they carry their responsibilities efficiently, and the work prospers mightily. It is only a matter of making them feel that they are part of the movement. I believe the same principle also holds true in the homeland. These people can carry responsibility if we will place it upon them and carefully direct them.
Sharing Responsibilities and Problems
Many times difficulties arose in the churches. I could have gone and handled the problems alone. No one would have been any wiser but me. But instead of going alone, I insisted on having several workers and influential members of the church go with me, just for the experience it would bring them in dealing with such problems.
The "Church Manual" is very helpful if we will use it. The natives feel more confident if we turn to its pages and translate those portions which bear upon the subject, instead of giving our own ideas. And many of them can read English, which helps them better to understand. Many a time one can give what the "Manual" says without turning to its pages. But I have found that turning to the page and translating it again and again works miracles and gives more confidence in the superintendent and in the organization as a whole.
Twice in my experience local elders took it upon themselves to write in to the mission headquarters saying that their church doors were closed to the ordained minister of the district and to me. This was serious, and I did not know what to do at first. I took it to the Lord in prayer and received the answer that I should call meetings in the offending churches to ascertain the will of the church concerning the letters we had received. Every member came, we read the letters, and asked if they were in harmony with the letters. It was, soon revealed that these elders had taken the responsibility upon themselves without the knowledge of the church. The point is that I took certain workers and members along for the experience of dealing with these irregularities. It was wonderful to see how well they learned the lesson, and how they carried on when I could not be with them in other parts of the field.
At elections at the close of the year, I always took workers along with me just for the experience they would receive, to fortify them for the future. How fortunate now that this was done ! After a practical training, I sent the workers to their districts to cope with the various problems. It was encouraging to observe how tactfully and efficiently they discharged their duties. It was not often that I was called to help adjust difficulties after this training. "Let the young man use his own technique on the job." Confidence begets confidence.
If we labor in close contact with the members of the churches and the workers, pointing them to Christ, difficulties that sometimes arise at biennial conferences can be eliminated. These people need to know how we do things.
They desire to know definitely how we do them. It is a good policy to be cautiously frank and open with them, and they will highly respect those who lead them.
At our last conference there was the greatest spirit of unity among our people that I have ever seen in the islands. There was also the greatest number ever brought together at one time; yet unity prevailed. The conference closed, with its many evidences of what God can do if we give ourselves fully to Him and to the people for whom we labor.
It is our responsibility to train those associated with us to the utmost for the time when we must leave the responsibility upon these workers, church officers, and members. God pity us if we have not done our duty in these respects. If these native people but know how our organization is carried on, they can and will bear the responsibility after we leave.
The question naturally arises, "What about your own field ? How is it manned ? Will the work progress without a white missionary ?" The North Celebes territory has been fairly well worked. We now have about 2,500 members, according to the latest estimate. These people love the message and are filled with the truth. This is proved by the results of the work done by the home missionary departments of the churches. Each year this department brings many new members to Christ. We have thirteen consecrated workers there and five or six interns. Among the workers are two ordained ministers.
Elder Londa has had the responsibility of the field placed upon him at times when I have had to go to union meetings, as well as when I was the superintendent of two other missions (Ambon and South Celebes), and weeks were required to visit these fields. Calm, not easily provoked, he is a born leader. There are other workers from Sumatra, the Malay States, Borneo, Ambon, South Celebes, and Java of whom I could say the same thing. These workers are stationed at strategic points throughout the field, and each one is carrying the burden of his district in an admirable way, by caring for five to eight churches.
Do I believe the work will progress without a white missionary ? Yes, I do ! I expect to see a multitude of new converts when the time comes for us to return to the field. If, however, we are never permitted to return before Jesus comes, then I shall expect to behold many more of those precious souls whom I have never seen, as new converts in His kingdom. Oh, what joy it will be to see them face to face and to recount the joys and wonders God has wrought in the sweet name of Christ our Saviour!