We receive a glimpse of Mission activities in India by means of the following letters. The first is a letter from Rev. A. Petter, Orange City, Iowa, regarding the work of his sister, Mrs. Anna Grundy, in the Missionary Orphan Home in India.
Readers of Beacon Lights:
The Board of Beacon Lights has announced the prospects of a Mission Issue, and has asked me to give some remarks on the work of my sister, Mrs. Grundy, who is missionary in India and has visited America on a furlough in the past two years.
In responding to this invitation, I shall assume that our readers, though mostly of the youth, are not interested in the first place in entertaining remarks and items, but rather in some enlightening remarks to help them along in their interest in the work of missions.
We accept, as Reformed people, that the purpose of missions is the gathering together of God’s people and to bring them to manifestation as the glorious body of the Son of God, the Church. Whatever I shall write will, I hope, be helpful in our realization of that calling.
About nineteen years ago Mrs. Grundy received a call to come to India to help in a missionary orphan home there. She was at that time still Miss Anna Petter, and was teaching in a Christian School in Roseland, Chicago. After much prayer and deliberation she set sail for this unknown field.
At that time there was as head at this home an aged woman who had spent many years already in the hills of India who was now aging to the point that made additional younger help very urgent. The method there used to carry on mission work was to take in unwanted, abandoned or orphaned native children and to bring them up in the midst of the Christian environment of this home. By this time there has through this manner of working, grown up a considerable family of these foster children who have come to maturity and responsibility and have become missionaries or missionary teachers or helpful members in the native churches.
About nine years after her departure Miss Petter returned on a furlough to the U.S., very badly in need of physical recuperation and feeling the need of presenting the work to those who supported it. Returning after about a year, she resumed her work.
During this second period several weighty changes took place in her situation. The toil, the heat, the privation, the poverty became too much for her at last. She broke down completely in health and it was necessary to move her by train, by bus and by stretcher to the Missionary Hospital in North India of which Dr. Stuart Bergsma was at that time the head. Here she lay for a long time between life and death. But by constant and loving care she was at last restored sufficiently to resume her part in the work. During this time also Miss Sweinenberg, the aged head of the Orphanage passed away, and one of the fostered children, now grown up, complicated the disposal of her right and claims so that it became necessary to reorganize the operation of the Home.
And at this time also Miss Petter was drawn into close contact with another mission in the hills, and as a consequence she was married to Mr. Mark Grundy, one of a generation of Grundy’s who have labored in India many years and have established several little churches and day schools in the hills of Northern India.
As a consequence the Orphanage and these little hill churches have become much closer drawn together in their operation. The fruit of these labors is that there are about 300 native Christians in these parts of whom it may be testified that in general they are strong of faith, morally and spiritually delivered from all the corruption and superstition and evil of heathenism.
So much for this simple rather sketchy narrative.
Now the question arises, who supports this work and how is it organized. Also here I can best begin at the beginning of Mrs. Grundy’s work there.
We may safely say that Mrs. Grundy is a born Missionary. I can give an interesting anecdote to illustrate this. When we were little children at home there was an abandoned log house about a stone’s throw from our home and one evening a crippled tramp took shelter in this place for the night. My sister, then still a grammar school girl, persuaded Mother to fix a little lunch of sandwiches for the poor fellow and with this she went to him and while she gave it to him she told him of Jesus and His love for sinful men. And this was typical of her life which was from the very beginning marked by a child-like fear and reverence for God and His Word and by a desire to tell people about the only way of salvation from sin. And in harmony with this her life as a normal student, as a school teacher, as a city mission worker was always characterized by the desire to be first and foremost a missionary.
Consequently, while she was a school teacher in Roseland, she was also engaged in a small mission (I believe it was Lithuanian) as a Sunday school teacher, and while there, she was confronted with this call to come to India to fill this urgent need at the Orphanage. At this same time she attended the Moody Bible Institute for study and practical experience in Mission work.
Against this background we are to see the official status she held. For when this call came there could be no provisions made by the church to which she belonged for entering upon this work. Although she was very reticent in her conversation with me about these things, I could readily see that the cause was the slowness and the spiritually unimaginative and unadaptive attitude of the Church. This is not unusual with churches. In fact it is often complained of. And these who are ardent in the cause of missions in such situations often stand alone or with a little group of supporters, as a separate spiritual body within the church.
As a result of this a group of friends undertook her support and sent her as an independent faith mission. And so she has worked throughout these many years.
What must be our evaluation of this? We have a problem here that we must take seriously. On the one hand we may say, of course we may never foster a church within a church, or we may say only the church can call and send out missionaries. To this we may respond that such a group can and often does separate itself and organize itself as a church and is then free to call and send.
On the other hand we may say that the church must be alive and ready to implement the desire of those whom the Lord fills with a desire to declare the Gospel of Christ when the fields are white. To this again may be answered that this desire and this choice of field must be controlled by the church as the institution of Christ.
You will readily see that these are merely technical solutions and are perhaps more evasions than solutions. And you will also see that our solution must be spiritual. The answer is that in the power of love, the church, the whole church, burns with a desire to carry its message of salvation to gather more members into that blessed church of the Son of God, that the church thus seeks for mouth-pieces who are able and fitted to speak this message in her name, and that there be such missionary-spirited men and women, who are waiting and longing to be sent out and be supported with the God-speed, the prayers, the sympathies and the gifts of the living missionary church. The mouth cannot say to the body I have no need of thee; and the body cannot say to the mouth I have no need of thee.
By this time this work is supported by very many individuals and small groups, also several of our church societies have given her gifts. This is under the control of the Lethgarie Faith and Prayer League, Hdq. in Roseland. And yet she herself has plainly indicated that this is not her ideal. Her ideal is the support and sympathy and prayers of an organized church. A live church where in the unity of faith, this mission work is loved, remembered and supported.
At this point the question may arise, can an individual or a group or could a church support this work of which it does not know the exact doctrinal position and persuasion.
In answer to this we must try to place ourselves in the position of these missionaries. This position is first of all practical Christianity. As an example the activity of the Grundy Mission has been more and more withdrawn from the control of the sponsoring church in England because this church demanded the subordination to the English government. The missionaries rightly objected that this was altogether in conflict with the freedom and equality which all have in Christ the Redeemer of the Church.
In other similar instances it appears that these churches have to live their own simple lives and do not have very close contact with the forms and prejudices of more cultured churches. Mrs. Grundy would often remark, when the conversation would assume rather clear doctrinal distinctions and knowledge among the native Christians, “Oh, they could not possibly grasp that; or, Oh, we could not work with such distinctions there. We have tried some of our simple American catechism books and we had to abandon these and return to the simplest explanations of the Bible. It is not possible to expect creatures who can hardly keep body and soul together because of hunger, to delve into doctrinal questions.”
On the other hand the work of missionaries for many years has also drawn these missionaries closer to the simple word of God. They are cured of the idea that the heathen are waiting and hungry for the Word of God, cured of the idea that human persuasion can bring men to Christ, and also taught by experience that when God draws men out of the darkness they are safe in His keeping and all the powers of the devil through the subtle means of hatred, prejudice, and seduction cannot break the work that He has once begun.
We may expect that these men and women who give themselves to this life of sacrifice and faith whereby they have to live close to the Word of God, will also relatively speaking become schooled in the pure and true knowledge of God and the whole council of God.
There are among our young people as yet no missionaries. But are there those who aspire to be, are there those preparing for the work? As a true Church of God we must be a mission Church. There must be the power of the church to reach out with zeal to call the chosen of God into the fold. And there must be mouthpieces to proclaim this message of the Church. Are there among the readers of this article young people who will prepare for and fulfill this task and calling? There should be! Should you be one of them?
This second letter was written by a mission worker in South India some time ago. This letter and the foreword were sent in by Mr. G. Ten Elshof, Grand Rapids.
“We are not interested in Missions! Especially not foreign missions! The only “field” we know is where another has strawed and sown. We tear down established churches instead of tilling the virgin soil. We let others pioneer and endure hardships and privations and then we infiltrate after they are established.” These are but a few of the accusations which are hurled at us as a Protestant Reformed denomination.
It is not my purpose in this introduction to refute these accusations—not because it cannot be done either in whole or part, but because we would simply introduce the sender and partial author of the letter which is to follow. And it will be left up to each one to determine in what measure we have fulfilled the command of Christ.
It is also desirable in order to acquire a true perspective of our missionary activity that we occasionally lift our eyes beyond the horizon of our own denomination and look also upon the works of others and that not only to criticize but also to learn from them.
And now, to the introduction: It so happens that the author is my brother-in-law. That, of course, accounts for the fact that we from time to time receive information and pictures concerning their activities as a missionary to India from the Reformed Churches.
While attending Hope College, he was boarding at our home in Holland, Michigan and worked the night shift at General Motors to finance his education. After graduating from Hope College he attended a seminary out East followed by a year of agricultural work and study and a study of the difficult language of the land to which he was determined to go.
He married an only child of an eastern college professor and she, together with their two year old daughter have cheerfully endured the privations, diseases, discomforts and numerous inoculations resulting from their determination to bring the light of the Gospel as they understood it to that foreign field.
It would not be difficult to fill this entire issue of Beacon Lights with incidents and pathos of their work. And the fact that Christianity and civilization become interwoven becomes evident from various incidents which he has related to us. But, for the time being let this suffice, and let us remember that as we sit at our tables or view our well-stocked cupboards, there are others who for lack of a grain of rice are wasting away and starving. May that cry of that mother and that child go past the vision of this printed page and past our physical ears.
Dear Relatives and Friends:
As Christmas comes around again we are entering our second year in India and a very eventful year it has been. We have witnessed the final stage of the struggle for freedom. August 15, 1947, is one of the great landmarks of Indian history. That day marks the consummation of a long-cherished dream. The political struggle is over. We are now in the midst of the second phase of Indian rebirth—the communal struggle, more tragic than any words can measure. We have to face the third phase—the social and economic struggle—which may yet prove to be the bitterest struggle of all. But the year that has seen India divided into two dominions with Bengal and Punjab flowing red with human blood has also seen three major groups of Christians united into the Church of South India. Thus one of the great obstacles in the spread of Christianity in Asia is now being removed. It was my privilege to witness the Inauguration of Church Union at close range as a press photographer representing the Church of South India in behalf of religious publications all over the world.
We have now completed our first year of language study at the United Theological College at Bangalore where we had opportunity not only to study the language in which our work is to be done and the customs and manners of the people among whom we are to work, but also to come into intimate contact with the finest of Indian Christian youth and the future leadership of the Indian Church. Having finished our course we have now returned to the Arcot Mission and have been assigned to take the place of Mr. Jack DeValois, principal of the Katpadi Agricultural Institute, while he is in America on furlough. In our duties at the Institute and in the villages throughout our whole mission area we will have many opportunities for helping to strengthen the Christian community in these difficult days. The Christian Church has almost unlimited opportunities in India today for service and a ministry of mercy and reconciliation. Several of our doctors and nurses have gone to serve in the refugee camps in the Punjab. In countless instances Christians have been able to stand between Hindus and Moslems in their frenzy of mass slaughter. No one will ever know how many babies have been saved from starvation, or how many living skeletons were brought back to some resemblance of health by the powdered milk that has come in vast quantities through the Church World Service Fund organized by churches in America. On Independence Day, Nehru said that the Christians were the only group that were not a problem to India; there are many others who believe that Christ is the only help for India.
The cup of India’s suffering which has never been empty is now filled to overflowing. Across the dusty face of the Punjab stream four million refugees, hungry and destitute, with their meager possessions on their backs, walking in weary foot caravans often 60 miles long. They have fled in terror from their flaming villages, leaving relatives slain, wives or daughters kidnapped, cut off from the past and without hope for the future. The human bodies rotting by the roadside constantly remind them that they may never reach safety. Although South India has been spared the worst horrors of the struggle in the North, here, too, we face uncertainty and unrest. While we were in Bangalore in one week six persons, mostly young schoolboys, were killed in riots within a mile of our home. And now the rains which were so abundant at this time last year have failed completely. What a failure of the rice crop will mean at a time when India has been barely living from hand to mouth only by means of a rigid rationing program is too grim to imagine. I have heard people say, “Oh, well, they are always having famines or something in India. That is how to keep their numbers down.” Most wretched of all is he who has lost his sense of compassion. For him both God and man have become only meaningless abstractions. They do not know what it means when mothers see their children slowly die of hunger. This is what it meant to one of the three million who died in the Bengal famine: “You are alive, but my wife is dead. She was young like you. When I first met her she was swimming in the sea, with her shimmering black hair and her smiling radiant face. I took her home to my village. Rice was then one seer a rupee. I remember the rice fields of my village, now desolate….But slowly the darkness closed around us. The rains failed. Rice went out of the market. Our little one was born, but there was no food, the last trace of food has disappeared from our village. Hungry, starving, we joined the caravan of refugees to Calcutta—refugees from hunger in a caravan of death. Sometimes we were given a few crumbs in charity—but charity does not solve any problems, it does not give life. It only deceives; both the one who gives and the one who takes.
“I am only a sitar player, but who cares for music? When people are starving who cares for music? And so we went to Calcutta, the long unending road to Calcutta—to hunger, despair and death. My wife trailed along with me, limping, walking mechanically, blindly. There were traders in human bodies. Suddenly she said, ‘Let us sell our daughter; at least she will have food.’ I cannot understand how she spoke those words. What horrible power had crushed her motherhood? I only remember her anguished, embittered eyes. I snatched the child from her arms. And then tired and grimy with dust she went to sleep forever on that roadside. If it is true that woman is a miracle, the essence and the truth of life; this truth, this miracle is born of a grain of rice and without that it withers and dies. My wife died at nineteen—hungry, thirsty, dirty and in rags. I have no grievance against death, but what was the harm if she had been allowed to live her normal span? To have a little home, and husband and children, the little joys of a normal life.
“And now there was only my little daughter—the consummation of our beautiful dream, the first kiss in the shadows of a palm grove, the climax of a song. She died, thirsting for a drop of milk.
“I went to live in your brave new world—but I have left my wife and my child unburied on the roadside…..”
Thus our richest joys are set in this background of suffering; our moments of leisure are haunted by the urgency of human need. I am sorry that my letters are filled with descriptions of misery and death. But if I write of India, I must write of suffering and sorrow. For the heart of our beloved India is filled with sorrow too deep for tears. You must take India into your heart, for as Jesus has said, we are all members of one another. By deeds of compassion and love in a witness to the Lord of Life and the Prince of Peace we must make India, the Jewel of the East, shine with a new radiance, the radiance of the Crucified One Whose Love brings Light and Truth and Life to the restless, groping hearts of men.
Ruth and Eugene L. Ten Brink