How War Affects Evangelism

The monthly challenge of a world task column.

By MARVIN E. LOEWEN, Camp Pastor, Columbia Union Conference

The words of Nahum, "The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm," assure us that God has planned the course of events relating to His cause on the earth, regardless of the winds of strife which the enemy of our souls may use to hinder His work. Men need not fear the final outcome of the great controversy raging "against the rulers of the darkness of this world."

The city of Chengchow, in the province of Honan, China, had been subjected to repeated bombings, and many of the inhabitants had been forced to evacuate and become refugees. In the autumn of 1938, it was my privilege to make a trip to that city to visit our Chinese believers in that section. The church member­ship list contained sixty members. I had the list from the mission office with me, and I sat down to go over the names with Pastor Su Dien-ching. Pastor Su was one of the first Chinese workers to be ordained in northern China. He told me he had been ordained twenty-seven years before. The large city of Chengchow was considered one of our im­portant centers, and Pastor Su had been there for several years.

As we read the names of the believers, one by one Pastor Su would tell of each member's whereabouts. This one had returned to his native village. This family had become refu­gees and were probably in the southwestern part of China. This sister had gone to Sian as a refugee. This brother had left, and no one knew his whereabouts. And so through the entire list. All had scattered, and only the faithful pastor and his wife were left. It was a vivid picture of the effects of war upon the population of the affected areas.

Pastor Su described how he had been trying to carry on the work in spite of the continual air raids. The city was practically deserted during the hours of daylight ; so he had rented a room at a small teahouse nearly a mile out­side the city gates. Each morning he would go to this place, and as the crowds from the city streamed past, trying to find shelter from the continual bombings, he would hand out literature to them. As the people had little to do during the day, they would usually take the literature and eagerly read it; then it would be discussed by those who had taken shelter in one place.

As the people made their way out of the city, some of them would stop to rest at this tea­house, and this gave Pastor Su the opportunity to talk to them and arouse their interest in the meaning of present-day events. Others would remain at the teahouse all day. These Pastor Su would invite into the room he had rented, and then he would spend the day giving Bible readings and answering questions.

One of our ordained ministers from the North China Union had been cut off from his family and from his work in the north by the advancing armies. In striving to get back to his home, he was seeking to cross the Yellow River at Chengchow. He found that it would take weeks to secure the necessary passes ; so he told Pastor Su, "The Lord must have a work for us to do in this place. While we are waiting, we will go out on the streets every night and hold evangelistic meetings."  As a rule the people returned to the city after four o'clock in the afternoon, and from that time until midnight the streets would be jammed with people. It was six weeks before he got his pass, and for six weeks the people of that city heard the truth preached on their streets every night.

As a result, when the Sabbath services were held during my visit, I was greatly surprised to see that 120 people had gathered. Services were held in the eve­ning because of the danger of air raids during the day. Sabbath school was held at four o'clock, and the preaching services at five o'clock. The original membership of sixty had been scattered, but by faithful work 120 additional seekers after truth had been gath­ered together to worship the true God. Twenty of these were ready for baptism; the rest were still studying in the baptismal classes.

Try to imagine how this growth would have been accomplished in the normal course of events. How long would it take a church of 6o members to grow in time of peace to a mem­bership of 18o? We would expect a normal growth to take many years, and would rejoice that God had blessed the growth of the church. But here in wartime the Lord had so blessed the efforts put forth under trying and discour­aging circumstances that the number had tripled !

And what of the members who had been forced to become refugees ? How had they fared ? For more than a year letters came to the mission office telling us of one after another who had remained faithful. One would send us an appeal for Bibles, for songbooks, for Lesson Quarterlies. He would tell us that he was faithfully holding Sabbath school where he was then, and that there were twenty or forty or even as many as one hundred neighbors meeting in his home for services. He would appeal for an evangelist to be sent into that section to care for the interest aroused. Letters like this came, not from one member, but from many of these members who had been scattered.

As we looked up these locations on the map, we found that in many cases they were in out-of-the-way places, far from the main lines of travel. In the ordinary course of peacetime events we would probably never have sent an evangelist into those districts, for there were too many large, thickly populated districts to be evangelized first.

It is true that some of the members who were forced to leave their homes, and were separated from those of like faith, did become cold and drift away from the truth, but the percentage was very small. The percentage was perhaps smaller than would be found in countries which have had the privileges of Christianity for a longer period than China has had them.

As the Chinese believers would say, "It is impossible to scatter the church ; you can only scatter the light." The work of God will be finished, and all the forces of the enemy cannot disrupt His plans. "The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm."

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By MARVIN E. LOEWEN, Camp Pastor, Columbia Union Conference

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