I was saved May, 1938. My concern was brought about by a workmate saying very bluntly, “You are a sinner and you are going to hell”. That took spirituality and courage to make such a statement to a young man of the world, not knowing what the reaction would be. The same man, John Jackson, introduced me to another man called Tommy Maxwell, father of the late Bill Maxwell of Rexdale. This brother began to tell me of God’s way of salvation. I will always remember the spiritual wisdom used by our late brother Maxwell in his chats with me. He mentioned having told a brother of my concern, who said that he would go home and pray for me. That simple statement was the voice of God to me, and shortly after realizing how serious the matter was, I got saved. Now when speaking personally to individuals, I try to remember the wisdom that was used in my case.
After getting saved, I knew no believers apart from the two men who had the courage to speak as they did. Now being a believer, it was most natural to seek the company of those I always referred to as “good living”. So, I commenced attending the short Bible reading some had at the lunch period. There I was brought into close contact with a brother called Tommy Foster of the Albertbridge Assembly. Later he was one of a number of brethren under the hand of God who saw the assembly formed at Bloomfield, Belfast.
Tommy was well versed in the Scriptures (2 Tim 2:15). He had chapter and verse for everything. Any statements he made in the small class were always according to the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16,17). I was really impressed with his knowledge of the Word of God. He was a fearless man always relying on the truth of God’s Word. I did not know anything about gathering unto the Lord’s name. But dear Tommy made sure that I got the truth, and he turned out to be a father in the faith. I owe a lot to his testimony, and to this day, I remember his courage as a believer and his steadfastness in holding to the truth of Scripture (2 Thess 2:15). On one occasion, he got permission from the Chairman and Managing Director of the firm, who was a hard man, to give every workman a portion of the Scriptures. It took great courage to approach such a man, but the big man admired him. When the war finished, Tommy was called to the office, and to his surprise, the works manager and the foreman carpenter were in the office. The boss immediately spoke, “Tommy, the war is over, and I want you to have a service in the works to give God thanks. The carpenter here will build a platform where you want it situated, and Mr. Doherty will see that the job is done properly.” On the appointed day, over a thousand men gathered while Tommy gave God thanks and preached the gospel. Our friendship remained until he was called home to be with his Lord.
I arrived at Dipalata in July 1946. Later, the Geddis family and others arrived. It was really then that I got to know Mr. and Mrs. Geddis. They were a godly couple taking great care of us and making sure we learned to speak the African language and to get to know the people we had come to work among. The late forties and early fifties were difficult years for young missionaries, but I have always been thankful for the stand Mr. Geddis took against the “Christian Council of Northern Rhodesia.” The object of the Council was the “promoting fellowship and cooperation between Christian people and organizations in Northern Rhodesia.” All without exception opposed him, even though one said that he could not see the others across the table for tobacco smoke. Some even wrote insulting letters about him to brethren in Ireland and England. But he stood as firm as a rock and I, with one or two others, in weakness stood with him. Our names were listed in the Council’s Directory in the same page as those of the Seventh-Day Adventists. After a long time of being ostracized, the offending brethren withdrew. This came about when the one who was President met with Mr. Geddis alone. The problem was sorted in a Scriptural way. He died suddenly in 1952. One of the brethren who wrote arrived one day at Balovale. We met and he expressed his wish to visit Dipalata and wondered if it would be all right. I reminded him of the letter he wrote, but told him where he would find Mr. Geddis and said that he would not find him a hard man. In no time, the problem was solved and fellowship restored. He made his visit. Years later, another said to me how sorry he was for what had taken place in the past. Mr. Geddis’ stand and the result have encouraged me to take a similar stand today in opposition to a similar unequal yoke. It is “without the camp” (Heb 13:13). I was at the bedsides of both Mr. & Mrs. Geddis when they went to be with the Lord, he in 1956 and she in 1964. I wrote his obituary for “Words In Season”. The late Mr. Wm. Ferguson put a title to it, “The end of that man is peace”, (Ps 37:37). He left a strong testimony behind for us to follow. They are buried in the forest a little way from where they lived. And there lie also the bodies of many they saw saved and encouraged in the ways of the Lord. They wait for His coming (1 Thes 4:13-18).
Back in the seventies, I came into contact with Mr.& Mrs. Jim Munro of Bonness, Scotland. He was working in Lusada as a Clerk of Works for the Zambian Government. He had long working hours, but his spare time was put into building up a Scriptural testimony in Lusaka. He had gathered around him a number of young Zambian believers, and that assembly he faithfully served. Mrs. Munro was a godly helpmate. I was with him on his visits to the prison to preach the gospel. Today he is aged and unable for the work he did in the Lord’s name, but the assembly presses on in Lusaka, and now the Gospel Hall is on the small size for the company now gathered. Through the example of that work, other English speaking assemblies have been formed. A good foundation has been laid through the exercise of that dear brother and the unstinting help of Mrs. Munro.
I think too of the untiring labors of brethren Moore and Vos in South Africa. As evangelists, with a heavy burden for souls, they went over that country preaching the gospel. There were no luxuries to spoil them, they were pampered in no way, but nothing deterred them in their exercise to reach the “whosoever” with the gospel. God blessed their labors and today they are with the Lord. The need is still there, but where are the laborers? Paul’s word to Timothy (2 Tim 4:5) comes to mind, “Do the work of an evangelist.” Few are willing to suffer the privations to reach the lost for whom the Lord did die. When our brother Moore was in Cape Town, he was always at the docks waiting to help incoming missionaries through customs and immigration, and it was the same on their going on furlough. Mrs. Moore did the meeting when Sam was away preaching. Their children, and indeed they themselves, gave up their beds and slept on the floor to accommodate missionaries and other visiting saints. It was in their lounge that our son told us he had just gotten saved in the Gospel Hall.
I could name African brethren who suffered greatly at the hands of political thugs and witch-doctors for their stand for the Lord. Mbilitu was pulled out of a bus by political thugs wielding axes because he did not have a party card and refused to buy one. His life was spared at that time, but a few months later he died under strange circumstances. We believe he was poisoned. In the sixties we saw the spiritual strength of some and the sad weakness of others.
These are a few whose lives have spoken to me, and I pray that I too will finish my course with honor and all for His glory (Gal 6:14).