When the Church Serves the World
When the Church Serves the World
Scriptures: Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16
Coming home from the love feast, Jim and Jane were too excited to be sleepy. The service had been different and interesting and they had many questions to ask Grandfather and Grandmother. They were wondering too, whether Mother and Father had come while they were at the church, and they could hardly wait to see whether Father’s car would be standing in the driveway at the farm.
“I wish Grandfather would hurry,” Jim whispered to Jane as they drove along in the moonlight.
“He at least took the short cut,” Jane answered. “I love this woodsy road.”
The twins often begged Grandfather to take the short cut to church which led over a winding, narrow, brown road which was unpaved and was almost closed in by hedges of trees and honeysuckle.
“Hmmm,” breathed Jane. “I smell honeysuckle. I didn’t know that it bloomed this time of the year.”
“Yes,” Grandmother answered from the front seat, “it often blooms again late in the summer; I hope that when you are back in the city you will remember this road with the odor of honeysuckle in the air and the moonlight through the trees.”
“And the whippoorwill call,” added Jim.
“Yes,” said Jane, “moonlight in the country is lovely. I never noticed before this summer how beautiful the sky is at night. People in the city miss a great deal, don’t they? And just think, a lot of our friends never have an opportunity to spend the summer in the country.”
“Yes, I was thinking of something else too,” said Jim. “The man who led in the service tonight – what was his name, Grandfather?”
“He is Brother Bhagat, Premchand G. Bhagat. He is a Christian minister just like our own Brother Quinter except that he probably spends more time teaching and doing missionary work because many people in India are not Christian.”
“But how. . . .” Jane began and then stopped. They were rounding the last curve and the farm came into view in the moonlight. “Oh,” she finished, “they aren’t there! There isn’t a car and there aren’t any lights. Mother and Dad have not come yet and I was hoping so much that they would be here when we got home.”
“Don’t worry,” comforted Grandmother. “It still isn’t late and we will sit on the porch and talk awhile. Maybe they will come yet before it is time for us to go to bed.”
But Jim and Jane felt restless as they settled down on the porch with Grandfather and Grandmother, as they had done many times during the summer. Now that their parents were so near they wanted very much to see them. Grandfather knew how they felt and did not want to make them more restless. To keep them from thinking only about their parents, he picked up the conversation concerning Prenchand Bhagat which they had broken off as the farm came into view.
“I want to tell you more about Brother Bhagat, who led the service for us this evening. He has traveled all over the United States since he came and has visited in many churches. Many people have learned to love him and we know a great deal more about the church in India since he came.”
“But I didn’t know that there were Brethren churches in India,” said Jane. “How did they get started? Isn’t that a part of the world where the people have many kinds of religions and worship many things? That’s what my teacher said at school.“
“Yes,” said Grandmother, “India is a part of the world that we call the Orient. The customs and cultures there are very old and somewhat different from those in our part of the world. Even though Jesus was born in Palestine the message of Christianity did not spread into India and China quickly. It had to be started there by people who were willing to give their lives teaching and living the Christian way. The Church of the Brethren has sent out a number of missionaries to these countries and to other countries such as Nigeria, in Africa. We now even have a few missionaries in Ecuador, in South America.”
“But how does a church send them out?” asked Jim. “Do they just pick out someone and ask him to go? It must cost a lot to travel away over there and it must be very exciting! Gee, I think a lot of people would want to go.”
“The people who go commit their lives to serve in this way,” Grandfather answered. “You see, everyone gives his life for something which he does in the world, for himself or for others. For example, your father decided to be a doctor and to help people in this country in that way. Some day you will have to decide how to use your life. If people really commit their lives they feel that God calls them to fulfill the purpose and plan which He has for them.”
“Brother Bhagat has worked in his own country, hasn’t he?” said Jim. “I suppose that he was born in India. That isn’t so exciting as going to another country to work.”
“But, Jim,” objected Jane, “his people needed him. It seems to me that if people give their lives, as Grandfather said, they should be willing to serve where they are needed, whether it is exciting or not.”
“That is exactly right, Jane,” agreed Grandmother. “Brother Bhagat is serving his church in his own country and many people here are doing the same thing with as much devotion as the missionaries have who go far away. There are any things here which need to be done. Groups of young people are giving a year of service to the church. Some of them work in places where people need help in our own country. Some are sent to Europe to work in places where the war left people cold and hungry. But no one feels that the ones who go to Europe are serving in a better way than the ones who stay in America.”
Jane shifted her position on the steps and leaned back against Grandmother’s knee. She was keeping her eyes on the road, watching for the car which would bring Mother and Dad, but it still was not in sight. She looked at the moon shining through the lacy branches of the weeping willow tree and at the twinkling stars overhead. “I’ll always want to remember how nice this is,” she thought. Round about there were little chirping sounds of katydids, crickets, tree frogs, and whippoorwills, and an occasional soft burst of song from a mockingbird in the moonlight. “It won’t be nice and warm like this when I get home,” she thought. “I will go shopping with Mother for school clothes and start wearing skirts and sweaters.”
Jim was thinking of the recent conversation about the work of the church around the world. A sudden thought came to him. “Grandfather,” he asked, “when we tithe, as Jane and I did the last part of this summer, does some of the money go to help the workers in Europe, India, Africa, and the rest of the world?”
“It certainly does,” Grandfather agreed. “Sharing to support workers in other countries is one way of committing our lives to bringing Christianity to the world. All my life I have been a farmer. I haven’t traveled to far places and seen the many wonderful things that you have read and heard about. I haven’t had a chance to help people in Europe rebuild their homes or to tell people in India, China, or Africa about Jesus. But I think that I have actually helped to do it because I have been giving money all these years so that the work could be done. The church serves the world and the people throughout the world only when we are interested enough to share and make it possible.”
“I never thought about how big it is before,” said Jane. “I am glad that you told us all this. Of course, I knew that there were missionaries and that there were Christians in other countries before I saw Brother Bhagat; but somehow he made them more real.”
“Whe-ee!” shouted Jim. “There’s a car and I know that it is Daddy ‘cause he’s flashing the lights on and off to tell us he’s coming!” Like a flash the twins left the porch and dashed for the gate, where they continued to dance up and down in the moonlight as the big car bringing their mother and father pulled into the driveway.
Learning the Brethren Way with Jim and Jane
By Dessie R. Miller. Illustrated by Harry Durkee.
Elgin, Illinois: Brethren Publishing House, 1951.
Chapter 15, When the Church Serve the World, page75-80.