by V. Raymond Edman
Some years ago two Wheaton College undergraduates came into the office for counsel. On Sundays they were teaching two classes of boys in a neighboring community church.
Some years ago two Wheaton College undergraduates came into the office for counsel. On Sundays they were teaching two classes of boys in a neighboring community church. They had also started a week night program for their pupils. They had come under persecution for winning the boys to the Savior and were threatened with expulsion from the Sunday school if they persisted in teaching the boys that they must be born again. I advised them to continue their Biblical teaching in love, to the lads and also to the church leaders, and not with a chip on the shoulder. That they did, and the doors of that church closed to them. The boys, however, decided to continue a week night class and program. I attended several of those sessions and saw with delight the excellent work being done for the Lord.
Other Wheaton students caught the vision and inspiration of Joe Coughlin and Boyd Hunt, with the result that similar groups were formed in Wheaton churches and out in the country. Thus came into being Christian Service Brigade, which now has an international office with twenty-five fulltime staff members, and with nearly 50,000 boys enrolled in brigades in more than 1,100 churches. There are more than 12,000 trained leaders active in forty-six states and five provinces in Canada. Brigade work is carried on by missionary societies, with adaptation to a given field, in sixteen foreign countries.
The spiritual principle underlying such growth of God’s work in a particular situation was eloquently expressed by the Almighty in His inquiry to the Prophet Zechariah: "For who hath despised the day of small things?" (Zech. 4:10.) The prophet in that far off day, and his people, faced great human impossibilities: fierce enemies, poverty, and small numbersfor they were but a remnant that had returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. There seemed to be no possibility of their rebuilding the temple and restoring their city; nevertheless, God’s word was: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit" (Zech. 4:6). God has a way of doing great things out of small beginnings.
Christian Service Brigade began with two undergraduates and a few boys. Shortly after it began, some of the women students at Wheaton, under the leadership of Betty Whitaker Boslough, Carol Erickson Smith, and others, started Pioneer Girls. Their program of camping and training for good citizenship, similar to that of Girl Scouts, but with an emphasis on Bible study and spiritual growth, developed as the work grew. Today there are more than 3,300 clubs enrolling more than 80,000 girls in the United States and Canada and abroad. Should we despise the day of small things?
In the spring of 1952 three Wheaton undergraduates came in for counsel and prayer. All were G.I.’s returned from overseas service. They were married, had families, and were working their way through college. They came in their overalls to tell me of their heart burden and vision for a Christian radio station in West Africa.
IN EACH CASE, "NO"
I inquired if they had formed any organization, had any funds, bad any contacts in Africa, bad any experience in building a radio station and in broadcasting. In each case the answer was No. After we talked things over we knelt to pray. Then they went back to their part-time employment. I recall making indications to the secretary to take all incoming telephone calls. I closed the office door and again knelt down to pray, something like this, "Dear Lord, I do not have the kind of faith these lads have. To be sure Wheaton is a large faith project, but we are almost a hundred years old and have many friends. These lads have nothing, no one but Thee." I remained in prayer until my heart was filled with faith for a Christian voice in West Africa.
Kenneth Gieser graduated from Wheaton in 1930. He enrolled in the medical school of Northwestern University. He found one other Christian student, and they started a weekly Bible study and prayer time together. They won another student to the Lord, and then therewerethree. The new group, more organism than organization, became known as the Christian Medical Society. Today CMS has more than 3,000 members, of which more than 700 are medical missionaries in the many fields of earth. In 1959 a medical assistance program got under way. Some physicians in Chicago went around and collected samples of medicines to be given to medical missionaries going to the field. That vision was shared with the pharmaceutical houses in the country. Last year medical supplies valued at more than a million and a quarter dollars were contributed for medical missions. Was it a day of small things when two first year medical students got together for Bible study and prayer?
BURDEN FOR NURSES
In the fall of 1939 1 recommended to some friends in California the appointment of the assistant director of the college infirmary for service in China. She left for the field in January, 1940. She had harrowing but magnificent ministry throughout the war among civilians and service men of many lands in China. Her experience created deep burden of heart for me that Wheaton should have a school of nursing. But we have no hospital as yet in Wheaton, and I did not know which Way to turn, only to pray.
In 1946 two physicians and the director of nursing at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, Illinois, came out to Wheaton to inquire if the college would be interested in a co-operative program in nursing education. I shared my heart burden with them; that fall the West Suburban-Wheaton program got under Way. Literally hundreds of Christian nurses have completed that program. Many of them are found scattered far and wide in the mission fields of earth as well as here in the homeland. A day of small things was it when all we had was the example A one Wheaton nurse in China and a great burden of heart?
GOD’S ANSWER THE SAME
In the day of decision when everything seems pitifully small and woefully inadequate, we are tempted to inquire, "How can anything whatever come of such a small beginning?" God’s answer is still the same as it was to Zechariah’s people: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."
Very helpful to me has been the truth expressed in this little poem by J. J. Lynch:
Say not my soul, "From whence
Can God relieve my care? Remember that Omnipotence
Hath servants everywhere.
His help is always sure,
His methods seldom guessed; Delay will make our pleasure pure;
Surprise will give it zest.
His wisdom is sublime,
His heart profoundly kind; God never is before his time,
And never is behind.
Hast thou assumed a load
Which none will bear with thee? And thou art bearing it for God,
And shall He fail to see?
Is a day of small things to be despised? "Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him," declared the Most High to Isaiah (51:2).
David was just a lad, a shepherd boy on the stony hills of Bethlehem, when he was called to be king. When the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives he left eleven Galilean disciples with the commission of preaching the Gospel in all the world. As in Zechariah’s day there was the promise, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you" (Acts 1:8.) Martin Luther was quite alone when before Charles V at the Diet of Worms he declared, "Here I stand, so help me God."
An earnest Christian once said to Hudson Taylor after the work in inland China was well under way, "God looked for someone great in order to found and lead this work." "On the contrary," replied Hudson Taylor quietly, I think God looked for someone so small and weak that he had to depend utterly upon Him." There was a day when Hudson Taylor was alone with God on the beach at Brighton, a solitary, practically penniless man, with only a burden for the multitudes of China. Such was the beginning of the great China Inland Mission.
The principle is still the same today as it was in eachofthese seemingly insignificant beginnings, and God still says: "For who hath despised the day of small things? … Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."
EMQ, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 19-23. Copyright © 1964 Evangelism and Missions Information Service. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.