The natives of South Africa who live in a location near one of our towns have come a long way toward what we call civilization. These natives have gone to school, and can read and write in English as well as in their own native language. They have the same prejudices that modern Christianity has placed in the minds of people the world around, and the usual arguments are used against many Bible truths, including the Bible Sabbath.
In the question box much the same questions are asked as would be asked by Europeans, including the one, "Where did Cain get his wife?" But there are also some great differences. They ask, "How can a black person be saved if sin is black?" They have been taught that God and righteousness are white, and that Satan is black. Some have been cruel enough to teach that there is no hope for a black man.
Still greater differences are seen when one attempts to find suitable illustrations to make the Word plain. After an illustration was used about a ship on the sea, the people were asked how many ever saw the ocean. Only a dozen out of the audience had ever seen the ocean. Their experience is very limited, and their life is- very simple. Their language has many limitations, but the gospel, if presented in its simplicity, will take hold of their hearts and trans form their lives.
Kroonstad is one of the medium-size towns of South Africa, and the location has a little more than a thousand native homes. On the first Sunday night the people came in large numbers, and long before seven-thirty all the seats were filled. They pressed together until ten chairs held fifteen or more. Soon all the aisles werefull, and the space on each side of the platform was occupied. Even then many had to stand outside the tent. We tried to count them, and finally estimated that there were more than seven hundred. We had only three hundred chairs.
There was no time to provide a larger meeting place, nor even to lay careful plans for a double session. So we simply announced that the next night (Monday) we would have two meetings, one at six-forty-five and the second at eight. The people were asked by a show of hands which session they would attend. The preference was for the early hour, so those who did not vote were asked to come at the later hour.
On Monday night again the seats were packed very early, and people began to stand around the sides. Some thought that perhaps all had come to the early meeting, but at the second meeting there were still more than we had accommodations for. The double session was continued for two weeks, five nights a week, and the tent was packed each night.
At six-forty-five we had our song service, led by a native man. At seven o'clock we went onto the platform and had the announcements, the offering, and the question-answer period. Then at seven-fifteen the native minister would give the review of the preceding night's subject, stopping promptly at seven-twenty-five, so that we could have thirty-five minutes for the sermon, and start the second service at eight o'clock. The second service was just like the first, except that we omitted the song service.
The review seemed to prove very helpful. It summarized the subject, and even more important, it helped those who missed a night to catch up with the trend of the subjects.
Wednesday night of the third week we announced a prayer "service after the meeting. More than two hundred remained, and many joined in a season of earnest prayer. During one of these earnest prayer services a native woman began to sing. At first I tried to think of a way to stop the disturbance, but as this woman sang, as only an African can sing, in perfect English, "Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee, even though it be a cross that raiseth me," I knew that it came from a broken heart, and that it was a sincere prayer. A deeper reverence seemed to fall over all as she continued in a beautiful solo voice without accompaniment, "Still all my song shall be, nearer my God to Thee."
Twice a week until the close of the meetings we had these prayer services. One woman especially seemed like Mary, whom Jesus forgave much. She loved Him much. We had an especially touching prayer service on the night that the announcement was made that the tent must soon come down. This woman, who always sat on the front seat, said in her testimony, "Before the meetings started I had a strange dream. In my dream I saw a large umbrella with a great number of children standing around the edges." She continued by saying, "Now I have seen that big umbrella, and when every seat was taken by the adults the children all stood around the edges."
Others said, "How can you take this tent away? It is where God has met with us." Some answered by saying, "He can't take the ground; we will come here to pray even though the tent is gone."
The Lord blessed us in this eight-week effort -with a large baptismal class. (We ask the candidates to remain in a Bible class from six months to a year before baptism.) At the first baptism we had twenty-five go forward in baptism, and we still are looking forward to an^ other baptism from this class.
The double session is strenuous but heartwarming. The problems are far outweighed by the joy of seeing the enthusiasm that always goes with a full tent. Even the newspapers are willing to do more at this time. With this method of taking care of the large attendance, one has the joy of a full house all the way to the end of the meetings.