In Seventh-day Adventist circles we are accustomed to having men conduct public efforts in churches, halls, tents, and other places. By custom we seem to have given this right exclusively to them. In Bible instructor work and in personal evangelism in general, we accept the services of the weaker sex. But in public evangelism, well, that is a man's job, so we think.
Imagine my surprise when all the ladies who work here in the East Caribbean Conference office got together and through their spokesman asked to see me in my office. In they came, with seriousness and resolution written all over their faces. Many thoughts flashed through my mind as they sat down. Is there a serious crisis that has arisen of which I am not aware? Were they going on strike? What would an office be without secretarial help?
Mrs. Bessie Murray, wife of the then secretary-treasurer, and spokesman for the group, said: "Elder Thompson, for a long time we ladies have been contemplating conducting a public effort. We are not satisfied to pray every morning here at worship for the Lord to bless our pastor-evangelists as they preach the gospel. We want to have an effort by ourselves, and we would like to have a tent in which to conduct our campaign!"
"Well," I said, "how many nights a week, and how many weeks?" She replied, "Five nights a week for six weeks. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday nights."
"Who will be the speaker?" I asked.
"Sister Irisdeane Francis, veteran Bible instructor, will speak four nights a week, and we are asking you to speak on Sunday nights," was the reply.
My feelings ran the gamut of consternation, surprise, and admiration. Here were young ladies so dedicated to the cause of soul winning that they were willing to run the risk of ridicule, failure, and fatigue in order to proclaim the good news of salvation. Our interview ended with a word of prayer that God would bless their efforts and honor their faith.
And so it was that the tent was pitched and everything was in readiness for The Better Life Crusade at Ellerslie, Black Rock, St. Michael, Barbados, on Sunday night, March 28, 1965. The tent was filled with interested people and church members, many of whom had been attracted by the novelty of an effort conducted by ladies of the conference office.
The service that night, and each one that followed, was a model of efficiency. Everything moved with clockwork precision. The lively song service, the story hour, Your Radio Doctor, the offering, the sermon—all fell into a prearranged schedule. Bible Instructor Irisdeane Francis spoke faithfully four nights a week, and the conference president spoke on Sunday nights, as had been planned.
Every day in the conference office, just before the noon hour, the ladies gathered in one of the offices for prayer. They recognized that all soul winners need to be emptied of self and then filled with the Holy Spirit. It is an experience that, I am sure, not one of them will ever forget.
As the result of these meetings an excellent interest has been created and is being followed up by the Bible instructor and the church, and we are looking forward to a baptism in the near future.
Our conference office ladies have demonstrated that public evangelism does not belong only to the menfolk, but that when hearts get on fire all barriers and distinctions are broken down.
We believe that these are great days for the proclamation of the everlasting gospel. Public evangelism is still very much alive; and God will honor the faith and courage of men and women who will arise and through the foolishness of preaching, lay the urgent claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ upon the consciences of the bewildered masses of earth.