Would You Believe It!
– First – Their Own Selves … and their Home
– The Ultimate-All
– God’s Unsearchable Ways
– His Plan Unfolds
– And All These Things Added
– The Initiation of the Training Centre
– The First Principal and His Wife
– Extension – and Provision
– A Time to Build
– Staff Reinforcement
– Lengthened Cords – and Strengthened Faith
– Losing to Gain
– Removal and Replacement
– Added Burdens – and Abundant Grace
– Kilcreggan House – W.E.C. Conference Centre
– And Now, Into Print
– The Hundredfold
– God’s Impression and Confirmation
I have not felt it necessary to put much of an editor’s pen into this story. It is better told in the words of one of the two who went all through it. You can polish a thing up and maybe it is more smooth-running from a literary point of view; but that is not our objective. Let this tremendous testimony to God’s miracle-working power do its own work in our hearts. This God is our God also. Let us see how God turns the ordinary into the extraordinary in the life of a normal young business couple in the city of Birmingham (I knew them myself in those days and have been along with them in the work ever since): how God changed them from being merely recipients to becoming channels of His grace:; the simple down-to-earth obediences of faith which were the training ground; the first hesitating steps in the life of believing God; the lessons learned of ‘Give and it shall be given unto you’, and ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’; the call; learning the secret of the corn of wheat which must ‘fall into the ground and die’, if it is to bear much fruit; and so onward to the full fruitage in the miracle of the Glasgow Training College and the Kilcreggan Conference Centre, with the hundreds of young lives in whom the same self-giving, outgoing life of Christ is being reproduced in all parts of the world, as in these two.
Francis and Elsie Rowbotham are known to us in the family circle of Worldwide Evangelization Crusade either as Fran and Elsie, or as ‘Row’ and ‘Ma Row’ (an echo of the way the Africans often shorten the names of the missionaries, and add ‘Ma’ for the better halves), and you will find them named in this way in the following pages. Elsie tells the story. But that must not leave anyone with the idea that here is the dominating lady in the leadership! No indeed, here is the ideally balanced couple, each taking his and her completely full part in the combined leadership: Fran in the lead in the general oversight of Bible College and Conference Centre, to his finger tips the willing servant of all for Christ’s sake, and chairman of the conference sessions; Elsie, woman of prayer and faith side by side with her husband, and managing all that is involved in the domestic and catering side of these two crowded households; and both having learned – through the fires of their earlier experiences – the secrets of team work with their band of co-workers. We are sure any reader of this testimony who is up in the Glasgow direction will feel the warmth of their hospitality and welcome if you visit the Training College at 10, Prince Albert Road, or take a week of your summer holidays at Kilcreggan.
Norman P. Grubb
In this edition I have sought to bring Staff and work up to date, realizing a work of God must be living and up to date.
My prayer is that like the previous editions God will use it for His Glory, and that as you read it you too will catch something of the thrill of launching out on the promises of God.
FIRST – THEIR OWN SELVES
… AND THEIR HOME
Francis and Elsie Rowbotham were a young business couple, who owned and managed several shops combined into one, in Sparkbrook, Birmingham. They were in their late twenties, and their home was a nice apartment above the shops. Their marriage had been based on a united act of dedication – that God was to come first in their lives; and they had told Him that ‘all He had given us, a comfortable house, and all that goes with it, was given over to Him to use for His glory.’
When God is given right of way in lives, He has a delicate operation to perform. He has to reverse the flow of the life – the most important thing that can happen to a human being – from self-loving to self-giving. But what an outcome there is! These two little dreamed of what God had in store for them, as He began to take what they had offered Him – the five loaves to be broken to feed the five thousand. Nor is it done in a moment. Elsie gives some account of those earlier years:
Like most, we did not realise just all this was to mean in the very near future, for a new day was about to dawn in our spiritual experience; the cross had to be applied if we were going to be or do anything for Him, who had done so much for us.
Not many weeks had passed before young folk were meeting in our home for Bible study and prayer fellowship. This was great, and on the outside every one was happy; but for Elsie Rowbotham a battle was going on inside. What about the new home? What about the carpets, with young folk coming in with their dirty boots, and sitting on the arms of the chairs? How noisy they appeared to be, taking everything for granted and giving nothing, not even appearing grateful! Then what about missionaries and visitors staying for weeks on end, hanging bits of washing in the bedrooms? How the enemy gets in and seems to make such big mountains of these things; and he laughs as he sees us feeling sorry for ourselves.
But the Lord had to show the way of rest in the Spirit in a way which was not easy to the flesh. I was only 28 at the time and I had a break-down in health. There were times when I felt I would go out of my mind, I even got to the place where it was difficult to pray; I could only cling and plead the precious Blood of the Lord Jesus. How I learned in those days the preciousness of the Blood, and its power. The words of Job were a tremendous blessing to me. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.’
After two years God brought me through this darkness, but a tremendous change had taken place in my life. There was a restfulness now, and where the home and the duster had been my idol before, they had come into line with the Lord’s plan. I could do the Lord’s work with an ease and release now. It did not matter if young folk sat on the arms of chairs, or walked on carpets with dirty shoes. The house was the Lord’s. He was in control, not the Rowbothams.
So much for the home, but what about money? We were business people, having a block of shops which formed a small store, and we had quite a run of visitors. The time came when we were just looking forward to a break, a week when we would be on our own – and of course had the little extra money planned. A man walked into the shop. He was on deputation work, and I happened to ask him where he was staying for the night. He looked surprised and said, ‘I thought I was staying with you!’ To cover up my embarrassment I said, ‘That is all right!’ But was it really? Inside was resentment. All my plans had fallen to the ground. What about the little extra money? But as I complained to the Lord, He rebuked and challenged me: ‘It is all right to do My will when you are expecting folk, but what about when the unexpected happens?’ I saw then what God was after. He wanted a wholehearted surrender. And what a blessing that servant of God’s visit was to us.
We were led to start a prayer meeting in the home, as we thought, for revival in our own church. But God’s ways are not ours. Before long, folk from outside got to hear and asked if they could join us. Then one night as we were praying together, Fran had the world brought before him and, as we talked together, we were impressed by God that it was a world vision we needed. So from that time we decided it should be a missionary prayer meeting, and a W.E.C. prayer battery was formed.
Before long we were forty strong and young people were offering themselves for the fields. We were only a team of young people, so it meant that if these young folk were to get trained, sacrifices had to be made. We knew of young girls at that time who had not been called to the mission field but who sacrificed their summer holidays to support missionaries. Others who needed winter coats sacrificed and gave the money. Another young man who had a very good job lived like a crusader on the field, on just a few shillings a week for the bare necessities of life, and gave all his surplus wages to the Lord. At the time he was in lodgings in Birmingham and each night would call in to have fellowship with us; but he soon became so gripped by the things of the Spirit, and saw the need of flinging all away for Jesus. This young man, Bill Pethybridge, later became co-leader of Youth Crusade, his future wife having already founded the Youth movement of the W.E.C. They have since been succeeded in this ministry by a team of younger workers and are themselves now serving the Lord with the W.E.C. in India, ministering alongside our Indian brothers and sisters in the indigenous assemblies.
Some twenty went into the Lord’s service out of that prayer battery, and when we had to lay it down at the call of God to ourselves for the mission field, God had his servants to take over. Jack and Alice Yates, a young couple with a little family, took it on at no little cost to themselves, often having to push the children into a corner in order to accommodate God’s servants. Their time and possessions were entirely given over to God, and the fruit has been tremendous over the years, both in the number who have gone into the ranks of the Crusade, and in the blessing of their own children.
One cannot hold meetings without being challenged by God to answer one’s own prayers, and it was not long before we became alive to the fact that God had other plans for our lives. During the summer of 1934 we had booked to go to the W.E.C. conference which at that time was held at the Bible College of Wales. For three weeks before we went, we waited on the Lord to make known His will to us there. After the weekend we knew God wanted us in full-time service, but although desiring to know God’s will and do it, there was not the willingness to obey. So we spent most of the Monday alone in the little chapel, wrestling for grace to be obedient. By this time we had realised what it would cost, not only to ourselves but to our loved ones, but by evening we were through to the place where by His grace we said ‘yes’ to the Lord. The peace flowed in, and we knew His grace would be sufficient for the battles that would follow.
Like most young people with the glow of God’s call upon them, we had an eager desire to get moving, and we thought the Lord would just take us up and transport us right away. This was not so, for He had not yet finished with the tools He wanted to use, and He kept us in the same place for another three years! We had told Him He could have everything. Now we were to be tested on this. It so happened that people came to stay with us from all walks of life. We knew many were walking the life of faith, and many needs seemed to be brought to our notice, so that before long we found our bank books empty! Then the battle started. The enemy was not far away with his suggestions. To me he said, ‘That is all right while you have Fran and the shops. What would happen if you were left alone and the Lord took him?’ After a short while of battling through, the Lord seemed to say, ‘But am I not the same Lord?’ My answer was, ‘Why yes,’ and at that moment I covenanted never to doubt the Lord about money. My mind went back to my early twenties when the life story of Henrietta Soltau, that great woman of faith, was put into my hands, and I was so gripped by it that I said, ‘Lord, make me a woman of faith.’ Was this the beginning? I think so, and we can praise God that He never failed, even behind a shop counter when everyone thought we had plenty.
One weekend, for instance, when we had a full house and nothing in the purse (we had given away our earnings to someone) a gentleman walked into the shop and asked for Mr. Rowbotham. At the same time I was on my knees asking the Lord to meet the need of the weekend, saying that if we were by ourselves bread and water would be more than enough but would He give us £1 to carry us over (£1 in those days was quite a lot!) When the gentleman saw Fran, he handed him a £1 note and said, ‘I don’t know why, but the Lord impressed me to give you this.’ Monday arrived, the supply gone. ‘Lord, would you send us something else?’ On Tuesday a letter arrived. It read ‘On Saturday the Lord gave me a great burden for you two. Enclosed £2.’ Who but the Lord could have done this? Here we were, to the outside, prosperous business people. But as for God, His ways are perfect.
The day finally came when the Lord began to speak to us about going to South America, which meant leaving all. It came at a time when humanly speaking it was impossible, for it was within a few days of Fran’s parents’ retirement from business, and the way was open for Fran to take over. What was it to be? A life in the will of God in South America, or out of the will of God in business? We could make money and pass it on, but to obey is better than sacrifice. The choice was made and the sailing date fixed for August 6th, 1937. But this brought a fresh challenge of faith. The business and property must be sold, and this came at a time when it was difficult to sell. They had been advertised in January, but not a single enquiry – and it was now getting towards the end of May. We were asked by the mission leader, ‘What would happen if it did not sell?’ The devil had suggested this to us many times. What fools we should look if we could not go after all! However, our reply was, ‘That is not faith, is it?’ We had already had our farewell meeting in Birmingham, with well over 1,000 people present, but we never doubted that all would be sold. We were asked how long we would need to get ready. Our reply was that if the Lord gave us a month we should be all right. Now watch the Lord. On June 28th, God spoke: ‘This is a day much to be observed.’ In the afternoon a gentleman walked into the shop and asked to look over it. He did not appear a bit interested, yet we had the witness that this was God’s man and that he could not help himself. Sure enough, on the Tuesday he returned with his son and, to cut a long story short, July 6th saw the business, property, and even our own car, sold to the glory of God. We sailed on August 6th, just a month afterwards. It is interesting to note that at the beginning of the war the shops were among the first to be bombed during an air raid. If we had not been obedient to the heavenly vision, our relatives, as well as ourselves, would have lost everything.
When we left the shores of Britain, the Lord asked us if we would be willing to trust Him for everything and not take a penny from the mission. Well, this would be very different from being in a land where one is known – tucked away in the heart of South America. However, we did not want to miss anything the Lord had for us, so we asked Him to create circumstances whereby we should know that this was really of Him, for faith is not a life of stunting.
Having arrived on the field in September, some time went by and we had no word about money. We asked the two girls who had travelled out with us if they had had any money since they arrived on the field. Their reply was, ‘Yes, since the first week we arrived. Haven’t you?’ Ha! Now what? Hard thoughts began to creep in. What sort of a mission was this? We began to be resentful, until the Lord reminded us, ‘Did you not ask me to create circumstances whereby you would know it was My will?’ At once we knew it was God’s will for us, and we embraced it joyfully: we can say that, after 28 years in the Crusade, we have proved that God’s work done in God’s way never lacks His supply.
Another test was to follow. Arriving in Colombia, we had enough money left to buy ourselves a car. At least, so we thought! But, on talking with the field leader, we soon learned that a car was needed for the general work in Colombia. Then the Lord challenged Fran: ‘Are you willing to give this for the work?’ You can understand the battle that went on in his heart, for he had always been used to having a car of his own, and this meant having to give up what seemed to be his right. We were slowly learning the principle that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
GOD’S UNSEARCHABLE WAYS
Many other tests followed, but the climax came after two years on the field when we were asked by the mission to go to the U.S.A. to help establish the work there. We ourselves felt no enthusiasm but as we were in a fellowship we felt we should obey and trust the Lord with the details. We wrote straight to London and asked them to book our passage, making the one request that we should go via Britain, to which the mission agreed. After posting the letter doubts began to arise. Where would the money come from? What would people think of our coming home after two years? Then again the Lord seemed to say, ‘You are more concerned about what people say than you are about doing My will.’ The day after posting our letter (before people had any time to know our plans) we had two airmail letters, and in them £25, just enough to get us to the coast. When we arrived at Plymouth our parents were waiting for us, but we needed to see the Lord deliver for our voyage as the tickets had been booked in London. We were before the Lord the next morning, telling Him that if we were in the centre of His will He must deliver, as it would not be glorifying to Him to tell the mission we did not have the money. During that morning we had our passage money given to us – right to the penny! Can we ever doubt such a faithful Father? The struggle came when we had to face people after only two years on the field, yet the will of God was more precious to us: we had the assurance that we were in His will and that made up for everything else.
Two years of uncertainty and darkness followed, because the war broke out and we could not move; but this was God’s way of showing the mission that it was not His will for us to go to America. Had we pressed in the first place, it might have broken fellowship, but when moving with God, even if others do not see it, we can afford to wait His time. Sometimes He puts the pressure on an individual, but usually He shows the fellowship – if we quietly wait and talk with Him.
What was to be our next step? Wait? How difficult! Month after month passed by. We were restless to get back to the field and we had our money given to us to get back. This must be God’s seal! We must get back! But was it? Even money seals can be a snare to get us out of God’s will. We tried every door to get back but all closed: the last straw was that we could not get visas. Wait! What was God trying to show us?
A letter arrived one morning as we were going to London for our staff conference. The opening sentence was, ‘Behold I have set before thee an open door.’ These words meant nothing to us at the time, but while in London the staff were talking over the possibility of closing the Scottish work, owing to the shortage of workers. While I was praying, the Lord seemed to say, ‘You could not know my will.’ I was taken aback and said, ‘Lord, we are keen to know Your will,’ but the answer came, ‘You are not willing for it.’ Then I had to stop and think: our call had become our idol. Were we not called to be missionaries? Many times we had said we would not take a home-end job. Then I saw what the Lord was trying to get at: we wanted to do His will on our own terms. Fran and I talked this over before the Lord and the result was that we offered to go up to Scotland: not that we felt that we had a call there but we were willing to step into the gap. Our leader said, ‘This is what I have been waiting for. The Lord will bless you as you are willing to stand in the gap.’ Even then we were afraid he might publish it abroad that we had a call to Scotland, so we made it quite clear to him that it was not so.
HIS PLAN UNFOLDS
These had been training days – in the school of faith. I am glad Elsie Rowbotham has given us these details. There is so much we can learn from them of the ways, the often strange ways, by which God liberates self from itself – the way of the cross which is the reverse side of the resurrection. Then the rivers flow, the rivers of living water, out from the liberated selves for the liberation of enslaved selves everywhere.
Even at this point, God’s full purpose was not yet apparent – trained to train others. Fran and Elsie never had the regulation missionary training in a Bible School, but we have been watching them graduating in God’s own training school: the school of surrender, the school of obedience, and, pre-eminently, the school of faith. God’s paradox. The untrained trainers! Untrained in what? Formal theology, maybe. Others could supply that. But real Bible and missionary training is not head knowledge; it is Christ living His life over again in our daily lives – the four principles of the W.E.C: sacrifice, faith, holiness and fellowship; and then becoming transmitters of this Christ-in-you life to those to whom He sends us.
I think the continuation of this story is best told without interruption in Elsie’s own words.
So the beginning of 1942 found us on our way to Scotland. We had been here a few months previously on deputation work, and had arrived on one of those dark, dismal days which matched the dark, high buildings of Glasgow! Nothing could be more depressing, and we had turned to each other and said we would not like the Lord to give us a call to Glasgow: yet it was to this very city that God had brought us! But how different everything looks when one is content with His will. He had brought us.
Our home consisted of one room, which was our bedroom, dining-room, office and meeting-room. It was in a large house, housing about 16 people. We felt from the first that the Lord had something better, and we were led to trust Him for what would bring glory to His name. Little did we realise just what was to follow later. The prayer battery was at a very low ebb: about 3 people came along. We felt that if we were in the will of God we should expect to see Him work, so we put aside Fridays for prayer and fasting, asking God to do something. Within a few weeks the battery grew from a little handful to about 20. How thrilled we were. But we were soon to pass through another and strange experience, for the owner of the room came and said, ‘I need your room by 10 o’clock tomorrow!’ As it was a service flat, he could demand this. We did not believe that the Lord would allow it, when we were seeing such blessing in the work; nevertheless, we had to make provision, as we had some furniture that belonged to the mission and it would need to be stored. So we started out. It was a very foggy day. We could hardly see each other as we went through the Glasgow streets, trying to find a firm to store the furniture. How we wished we had no possessions that day! However, we made arrangements and the next morning, although we still believed that God would work for us, 10 o’clock came and the furniture van arrived. It was only as we stood in the empty room that we realised that God had allowed this thing after all.
Our feelings could not be expressed as we stood there; and then the Lord brought the story of the three young Hebrews before us. ‘Our God is able to deliver … but if not.’ We immediately saw His ‘if not’, and we stood in that empty room and covenanted with the Lord that we would not leave Scotland until He had done through us what He had brought us here to do. Had our God failed? No. He was walking with us in the fiery trial.
The next problem that confronted us was, ‘Where were we going to stay?’ But we need not have been anxious because our Father had all this planned. We called on a young married couple who had been for some time very active in the mission: we told them our story and they immediately replied, ‘Come along here. You can stay as long as you like. This is your home.’ This it indeed proved to be over the next few weeks. Only eternity will reveal all that we owe to those dear servants of God.
During our stay in this home we tried every door to get a suitable place for Headquarters. Then one day we received a letter from someone we had never met. He had heard of us from some friends of ours in Oban. They had told him our story and, on reaching home, he immediately wrote to us asking if we would care to share his home: he was a bachelor at that time. Fran went to see him, saying it would be ideal ‘but, Elsie, the work would be far too much for you with the W.E.C. work.’ So we put it out of our minds. A week passed by and we had another invitation from a Christian worker to go and see him, as he had a flat he wanted to let – 90 steps up! Although we felt this would not be the best for the work, we decided to see the gentleman and take it, because we felt that the life of faith should not involve relying on other people. After praying about it however, we felt a check in our spirits through reading the word, ‘Thou shalt not go up, but return to his house.’ We understood, ‘Thou shalt not go up.’ Had not this flat 90 steps? But the other half of the verse still remained a mystery to us. Coming downstairs to breakfast, we were talking about this with our friends when the postman came: he had brought us a post-card, from the gentleman who had asked us to share his home some weeks previously, saying ‘Would you not reconsider my offer?’ We did not need to ask the Lord because we knew that this was God’s answer, and if it meant more work, then He was able to pour in His strength. Within a few days we were installed in his house. At that time it was impossible to see how the arrangement would work out, but we took the step in faith that God would work it out.
One of the main problems we had to face was how we were to fit in with someone else who was receiving a salary when we were not. What if the Lord chose to keep us short? How should we feel with this gentleman living in with us? However, we rolled it back on the Lord and asked Him that we might always have enough to be able to put a meal on the table, as long as we lived there. This was at a time when things were not easy. It was war time and we only had 3 ration books, his and our own: many times we had up to 12 folks to feed as, being a full-time Christian worker, he often had folk coming in for supper, and we ourselves had lots of nurses calling in. It was an ever-open door for young people, but we want to register to the glory of God that we never once knew shortage. He is faithful.
From then onwards the work went forward with the seal of God upon it. Our rooms were used for visitors and missionaries, and although we only had a limited space the work so grew that we would just roll our beds out on the floor and put them away in the morning, no-one being any the wiser. But what joy filled our souls – all for Jesus! Before long it was obvious that the house was getting too small. What with conferences and missionary rallies, the work had outgrown the accommodation. So what next?
… AND ALL THESE THINGS ADDED
God was now clearly leading us to trust Him for a larger Headquarters. How would he supply this? After praying about it, we called the Fellowship together, talked it over, and felt that we should give special seasons to prayer. The Prayer Battery consisted mostly of young people, and what a thrill it was to see these young folk gather for prayer and fasting. This went on over a period of 12 months. At times it would seem that the Lord had forgotten us, but gradually the conviction grew that the deliverance of the Lord was at hand. There is the endurance of faith, when we reach the point of crying, ‘I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.’
Sitting around the lunch table one day we were suddenly challenged by a friend: ‘If God gave you a house, you haven’t got the money: you could not take it!’ We had a quick reply: ‘When God gives the house, He will give the money.’ My! How we felt afterwards! We had committed ourselves! What had we said?
God knew that we were just learning to walk this way of faith, so the next day He encouraged us. It happened this way. We were sitting at the breakfast table when the post arrived with a letter from England – saying that there was a gift of £1,000 for us for Scottish Headquarters. How like the Lord! This was all new to us. For years we had trusted the Lord for our own personal needs, and also for the people who up to now came in and out; but this was new. Two days afterwards we were having lunch and had this time been joined by a few others; we were sharing our wonderful news when again the postman arrived. Fran’s face became such a study that a friend who was staying with us said, ‘What is it, Fran?’ ‘Another,’ was the reply. ‘Another what?’ To our utter amazement … another £1,000! It came from a Church of Scotland minister whom we had only met twice. He had invited Fran out to his country manse for a day of prayer, and although we did not know anything about him Fran went. In this letter he said, ‘I have received a legacy and the Lord has told me to make it out to you for the Scottish Headquarters.’ A few days later this friend came to visit us and sitting at the table, calmly wrote out a cheque for £1,384; the extra £384 was to be put towards the cost of central heating and chairs which would be needed. Well, this surely was the answer to the friend who challenged us that we would not be able to buy because we had not the money. Here we were, in possession of the money, but with no house in view! What an amazing answer to prayer!
But money is not the only thing in the life of faith, as we shall see. We certainly had £2,000, but properties were very scarce at this time, so we asked the Lord to guide. We looked over several houses and then No. 10 Prince Albert Road was brought to our notice. We went round to see it, and although the place looked dark and was not exactly inviting, owing to the amount of work which would need to be done, we both had the witness of the Spirit as we stood in the hall that this was the place. It was a fine 13 roomed house, standing in 2/3rds of an acre of land. Attending our Prayer Battery was a young nurse. She had been a companion to the late owner who, we learned from this nurse, belonged to the Blackie family, the famous publishers, and they were Christians. They had been in the habit of daily family prayers, and when Moody and Sankey, the great evangelists, were in Glasgow, they stayed in this home.
After making enquiries we found that the sellers were wanting offers. It had to be sold as it had been left in trust. What were we to offer? God had given us £2,000, which to us was an indication. We calculated that we would need £200 for stamp duty transfer and extras, so we decided to offer £1,800. How foolish this offer sounded, especially to us who were business people. The lawyer looked at us strangely, but he said, ‘We will put in the offer, and give them 7 days to accept or reject.’
The last morning arrived and still no news, but the promise of the Lord that morning was, ‘This is a day of glad tidings.’ So we said, ‘Praise the Lord, the house is ours.’ We had also testified to many during the week that we believed God was going to give us this house. By eleven thirty we could wait no longer, so we phoned our lawyer who said, ‘I am afraid you have missed it: the second post is in and there is no news.’ We put the receiver down, and the battle began. Fran went to the bedroom to seek God, and I to the kitchen. Then the Lord dealt with us as to whether we were willing to say we had been mistaken in our guidance. We said, ‘Yes, Lord. You cannot fail and it must be our mistake; but we still believe the house is ours.’ At 11.55 a.m. the phone bell rang. Could it be ‘Yes’? As we lifted the receiver, our hearts leapt to hear the solicitor say, ‘The house is yours. The sellers have just sent over a special messenger to say that they would accept your offer.’ Just five minutes before the given time. Hallelujah!
In the growth of the work the next need we had was to see the Lord give staff. As we looked to Him, we saw that He was preparing Myra Gibson, a teenage girl. She was the daughter of a keenly interested family that had been in touch with the W.E.C. since the days of C.T. Studd. She attended the Prayer Batteries and conferences, and showed a keen interest in the things of God – having been led to the Lord some years previously by her godly mother. Her interest continued to grow and in the quietness of her home she dedicated her life to the Lord. After seeing the need, she came in as Fran’s secretary, but feeling very uneasy as she continually heard the challenge of the unevangelized, she at last decided to have a tropical medical examination to see if she would be fit for the mission field. This resulted in a complete turn-down for overseas work, because of her having had asthma in her younger days. She now had peace in her heart that the work in Glasgow was God’s will for her. It was a wonderful provision of the Lord. She has been with us now for many years, and more about her will follow later.
By this time we had also renewed contact with Wesley Cunningham who had been with us in Colombia and who, after being home from the field for two years, could not get back. He came to stay with us, and as the weeks went by he too felt that the Lord would have him go into the deputation side of the work and, besides developing a literature ministry, he has been a tremendous help in opening up Scotland for the W.E.C., and in assisting with the missionary training programme.
THE INITIATION OF THE TRAINING CENTRE
We now move into the real end of these years of preparation, from the school of faith to the life of faith, yet so quietly that the Rowbothams themselves did not even yet see the full plan, and most probably would have run right away from it if they had. The Lord knows how to preserve the glory to Himself by the way He takes us step by step into His plan, so that it is always He taking us through on a tightrope walk of faith where, if He withdrew His working for us for one moment, we should collapse; and when we do discover His real purpose, we know we are totally unfitted for it, and we have to laugh the laugh of faith, for He has caught us out and put us where we would never have put ourselves and where we know we haven’t got what it takes. Then it is ‘not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who hath made us (and He does) able ministers’ of the job He calls us to.
Elsie completes the story:
In addition to the Scottish W.E.C. Headquarters work, for some years we had a growing concern for a W.E.C. Training Centre. There seemed to be a need for this after the closing down of the Missionary Training Colony in London, which had originally been started by the W.E.C. However, we had not thought of ourselves in this connection; we had merely prayed with others in a general way. But just at the close of World War II there was a great demand for training, and young people found it difficult to get into a college. We had two young nurses who found themselves in this position, and as they had been coming along to our Prayer Battery and fellowship meetings, they asked us if we would be willing to let them live in with us and take their Bible training at a Bible college in the city. After thinking and praying about it, we felt the Lord would have us do this, so January 1947 found these two girls in residence with us. By September the news had got around and we had others applying. It was not long before we had twenty, and it was then that we felt that the Lord had something in this for us, as we had not even mentioned it in the W.E.C. magazine or elsewhere. It was God who had brought these young people, and we knew it was to be a permanent work.
This brought a great challenge with it, for it meant the establishing of a full missionary training centre. The first thing we should have to look to the Lord for was trained staff, as we ourselves did not have the qualifications. We would also need to see the Lord bring into the work those who were called by God, and who would be willing to come in on the same basis as all home-end workers of the W.E.C., without salary or allowance, simply trusting God for all their needs. Could God do this? Secondly, we should need to extend our premises, as the numbers were growing rapidly.
THE FIRST PRINCIPAL AND HIS WIFE
While praying about the staff, the Lord showed us that we had the very man in our midst, but we felt we could not share this with him or anyone else, as we knew that he had his eyes set towards India. He had graduated Master of Arts at Glasgow University, and then followed army days during which he held a commission as Captain and visited India on army duties. On his release, he completed his training by taking the secondary school teachers’ training course. Then God met with him and challenged him about laying all on the altar for Him. After a struggle, God had His way. He was just coming to the end of his training with us when Mr. Grubb, our mission leader, paid us a visit and, while chatting with this young man, dropped a remark: ‘Have you ever been burdened for this place?’ This set Stewart Dinnen thinking, for the Lord had been dealing with him and his young wife Marie, who was a trained nurse. From her youth she had been coming to our headquarters. She was a daughter of the manse, her father being a Church of Scotland Minister. She knew she must have a personal experience of Christ as Saviour, and from her early teens had a deep desire to follow the Lord. Later, seeing the need for a life in the will of God, she surrendered to the Lord and came into training, as she then thought, for India. But our ways are not His. God had His hand on this young couple in a marked way and, after completing their training, they recognised this call from God and were accepted for Bible School ministry.
Marie Dinnen tells something of their story. ‘From the moment I was introduced to the W.E.C. group I knew I was at home. Here was the atmosphere God had been preparing me for. Every possible moment of my off-duty for six years was spent at the Headquarters – sharing in the daily tasks, the fellowship, the meetings, and gradually, as missionaries came and went, building up a knowledge of the work worldwide. The needs and claims of the various fields left me with not a shadow of a doubt that I should press on to overseas service unless God closed the door. During the early war years, Stewart frequently joined in the W.E.C. fellowship but it was not till he returned from abroad after the war that we fully realised the possibility of service together. There were all kinds of offers of security – parents offered a car – a home – if only we would settle down! But we saw the only thing that mattered was God’s perfect will for us, so we continued on with our Bible training with a view to going to India.
‘During these months we joined the Rowbothams in prayer for God’s guidance in a W.E.C. training programme. We could see the priceless advantage of a practical missionary training where the academic, though by no means disparaged, did not have more than its rightful place in a course that was spiritual and vitally practical. During one of the all-nights of prayer, God challenged us with the fact that He had given us experience and background which could prove useful in such a programme. But we kept quiet about it, as we just did not want to lose face after testifying to a missionary call. The weeks caught up with us, of course, and towards the end of our training Rubi (Norman Grubb) visited the H.Q., and was due to chat over our future with us. We had asked God to indicate through him if He wanted us for the training programme. Rubi did just that by putting us right on the spot and challenging us with the need right under our noses. When we shared God’s leadings in our own hearts the Rowbothams were not surprised. They said, “We knew, God showed us this months ago. We have been waiting for Him to show you!” It was then that we began to glimpse something of C.T. Studd’s vision – not for one area alone – but the Gospel world wide. God’s promise came with force: “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” So we got our directions to the spot of His choosing, the promise being made that as more adequate staff for the school was forthcoming, we might be released in a year or two to go forward to India. After eighteen years, we are still waiting!
‘There followed a period in our London H.Q. We spent much time with the Lord, and were led to trust Him in a definite way that as a final seal on our call, He would supply us with a substantial gift to help procure the extension to the property in Glasgow. One day we picked up from our mail box a letter stating that £1,000 was now on its way to us to help with the extra property! How we praised God for His faithfulness! From London we were sent for a few weeks to the Bible College of Wales, Swansea, where we were privileged to fellowship with Rees Howells and to hear from his own lips some of the wonderful things God had shown him. Most of all, the emphasis of his message on God the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Trinity, struck us as never before. We saw, as we faced the task ahead of us, that we did not have merely a part of God’s provision for us; we saw that the Holy Spirit Who had come to us at conversion was not a Divine Influence, or a Something that would grow – but a complete Someone to possess us and to live out His life in us.
‘So back to Glasgow, and the chapters of this book unfold the story of the intervening years when we saw faith become substance. God gave His pattern for the school, and guided in the setting up of the assignment system of study. Later we were to be privileged to meet and fellowship with Mr. L. E. Maxwell of the Prairie Bible Institute in Canada, who had followed a like system of study in his school, and who freely shared from his experience of years. We praise God for the precious lessons learned in the out-working of the programme, and for the priceless privilege of co-workers whose walk with God challenged us to a life in the Spirit. Theirs was not a doctrine taught or a theory discussed, but a life, The Life, lived before our eyes. The transcendent lesson was that of 1 Cor. 13 – the greatest of these – Love. In these years of development, when we together battled through difficulties, both material and spiritual, God forged links which will last through eternity.
‘In the Spring of 1952, at the request of our mission staff, we went to the U.S.A. for a three months’ course of linguistics at the University of Norman, Oklahoma. As a result, we were able to join forces with the representatives of the Wycliffe Bible Translators, the following and subsequent summers, in launching the linguistic course now operating in England.’
Marie does not add that, with Stewart’s outstanding proficiency in linguistics, the request was made and granted that each year he should give his summer weeks as an instructor in the Wycliffe Linguistics Course.
EXTENSION – AND PROVISION
So God answered the first part of the prayer for staff. But what about accommodation? The present property was a semi-detached building. The adjoining house was a little larger, but could God give this? It was divided into four flats and housed about sixteen people. However, we felt more and more that we should pray about it, and then suddenly we were brought face to face with the fact that we were praying people out of their homes. So God led us to reverse our prayers: ‘Lord, give these people something better.’ This in the days of extreme housing shortage! Humanly speaking it seemed impossible that the property would even go up for sale, but we were learning more and more that God delights when we trust Him for the impossible. But where would the money come from? Values had gone up by this time. Could we believe?
One evening a young lady who lived with us and who was a full time worker with the Children’s Special Service Mission, Ruth Samuel (now Mrs. Sloane), was returning home rather late. She was singing quietly to herself, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’, when she was taken by surprise as a lady caught up with her and said, ‘What a lovely evening! No wonder you are singing.’ Her reply was, ‘I am singing because the words mean so much to me. He is my shepherd.’ They arrived at our gate and suddenly the question was asked, ‘Do you live here? – I live next door, but we want to sell our house.’ At the same time this lady revealed that a few weeks previously they had got almost as far as selling the house, and were about to sign things over, when they felt restrained. Ruth said, ‘I am sure Mr. Rowbotham would be interested: but we understand there are several families living in your house.’ ‘Oh yes,’ said the lady, ‘there were, but they have all gone except one, and they can go at short notice.’ Can you imagine how we felt as Ruth knocked at our bedroom door and gave us the news? We were like them that dream. We soon got in touch with the owner and found out that the price being asked was £4,500. We finally decided to buy – with only £200 in the bank: this had been given to us by a lady some two years previously towards an extension, in memory of her sister. But what was £200 when we needed £4,500? So we entered into the contract! In Scotland, the method of purchasing a property is that a date is agreed upon and on that date the premises officially change hands. No deposit is made. When the date arrives, the cash is handed over in exchange for the keys. We finally agreed on the date. We knew we must have the house in readiness for the beginning of the October term, and this was May. Now we were about to enter the real battle of faith. Fran had to be away from Glasgow for a time. During those days there was just a handful of us in the house, as the students were away on vacation. We prayed continually, until, after breakfast one morning as we were having prayers together, I started suddenly to pray, ‘Lord, You could send us £2,000 today, as a seal that we are in Your will.’ To my amazement the little company said ‘Amen’, and we started to rejoice in the promises of God. It seemed impossible, as the post had already arrived that day. How we depend on the post! During the afternoon just Margaret Barron and I were in: I was in the garden and she in the house, when the phone bell rang. Up went the office window and Margaret called out. ‘Come along, honey, our £2,000!’ I thought she was just having a joke at my expense; however, I ran upstairs and picked up the receiver. The voice said, ‘Have you not had the message? The girl who answered the phone just said “Hallelujah”.’ Then she repeated the message, ‘£2,000 for Headquarters activities.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘no wonder she said “Hallelujah,” as it is a gift for us from the Lord.’ We replaced the receiver. A few minutes afterwards David Barron and Wesley Cunningham came in, and as we stood in the sitting room and told them the story, we were all moved to tears. Oh the goodness of the Lord! Could we doubt Him? Little did we realise the battles which were to follow.
Marie and Stewart Dinnen have already told us how they asked the Lord to send them a big gift as a seal to their own call to the Bible School and how, on looking through their letters one morning, they found one in which was the promise of a £1,000 gift for the Bible School. There is a law to this kind of faith: ‘Give, and it shall be given unto you’. This young couple had already given not only themselves but all they had (a considerable sum) to the Lord. Then within a few days they received this gift for the School.
Other gifts came in from very ordinary folk, like one old lady of over 80 who attended the Prayer Battery. After the meeting one night she handed me £10 saying, ‘This is all I have. I want it to be used for the house so that young people can be trained for the field.’ (This same lady came along one Sunday to collect an umbrella she had left on the Friday and, when I asked her, ‘Have you had your dinner?’ her reply was, ‘I do not take meals on Sunday; you see, that way I can give more to the missionaries.’ Another, a young woman this time, handed us £100 saying that she believed the Lord had spoken to her weeks before, but she had been disobedient, What a privilege it has been over the years to have such people in our Prayer Battery, not only burdened to pray, but being in the place of willingness to answer their own prayers as God enabled them.
This second project was different from the purchase of our first house, because then we had the money and had to look for a house; now we had the house but not the money. The day arrived when the house was to be legally ours, and although by now God had sent us gifts, large and small, totalling £4,000, we still lacked £500. What could we do? The day passed and we wondered what would happen. How the devil takes advantage of such situations. He attacked us with his greatest of weapons – fear. We had special times of waiting on God, but nothing seemed to happen. The time was getting very near for the students to return to college: in just a few days 34 students would be arriving – far more than we could possibly accommodate! A week passed and Fran felt impressed from the Lord to act, yet he said, ‘Lord, what can we do? We have no money to put down. We need money before we can act.’ ‘No,’ the Lord said, ‘You are to take the next step.’ So the next morning he told Stewart Dinnen, ‘The Lord has impressed on me that we must do something, and the only thing we can do is to go and tell the lawyer the position and see how the Lord will work for us.’ He went and told the lawyer that we had only £4,000 but that we were strong in faith that the Lord would give us the remaining £500, and asked what would happen. ‘I don’t think anything serious will happen at the moment,’ the lawyer replied, ‘but it will have to be cleared up quite soon.’ Then he went on to say, ‘Why not take a mortgage out?’ How subtle the enemy is! Fran replied that this was against our principles. What a temptation it would have been; the easy way out, so the devil would have had us think. No, we would trust the Lord right through. But we needed the house, so Fran asked if we could have the keys on payment of the £4,000, as this was Thursday and on Monday the students would arrive. The lawyer said it was quite out of order – but we had the keys on the Saturday!
Monday arrived. We stood in the empty house: no beds, no floor-coverings. Then another miracle happened. A message came from the Irish Steamship Company saying that there was bedding at the docks for us, waiting to be collected; a friend bought us some iron bedsteads; another sent us enough lino to cover the floor (and this was at a time when one could hardly buy lino). As the new students arrived, it was a case of leaving their luggage in the hall, rolling their sleeves up, and getting on with the job. By the time we went to our beds that night, all the bedroom floors were covered and everyone had a bed to sleep on: we were tired but wonderfully happy.
Although God had done so much for us, we still needed the £500. Here we had a new lesson to learn, and the waiting was allowed of the Lord to teach it to us. We were going a step further up the ladder. So far it had been individual faith but, as we were getting a staff around us, it must now be fellowship faith. We were all in this thing. Early one Tuesday morning the Lord spoke to me, ‘Can you believe for £500 this week?’ ‘Yes, Lord.’ ‘Then tell the fellowship.’ This was too much to ask of me, and I shelved it all day. In the evening the door bell rang: I knew what was happening as soon as I saw who the caller was. It was the owner and, sure enough, he had come to see when he was likely to get his money. I said to him, ‘You will get your money within this week.’ You can imagine how fearful I felt, having committed myself. I went cold! However, we got all the students together and we said, ‘We are not going to work or have any meals until we are right through to God.’ We continued with a half-night of prayer, and then on again into the next day. By dinner-time, we were all praising the Lord, for we believed God would deliver. But as always, mingled with the praise, the battle of faith was to follow. Saturday came, and still no deliverance. Sunday and Monday went by with no change, but all the time we were praising the Lord. Of course there were times when we could not understand the delay, as we believed with all our hearts that He would deliver. Then on Tuesday arrived a letter from Northern Ireland, and when we opened it a cheque for £500 dropped out. Why was it late? Had the Lord been faithful? The date on the cheque was Saturday; it had missed the Irish boat on Saturday night, and as there is no Sunday boat it had to wait for the one on Monday night. The whole purpose of the delay was clear to us. All the students had shared this experience with us, and had learned a great lesson in the walk of faith. Soon the money was paid over, and we had learned once again that it is better in the life of faith to trust in the Lord than to take out mortgages.
A TIME TO BUILD
Within three years we saw again that we had insufficient accommodation, for the work was growing and we could not stand still. What were we to do? Our gaze strayed over the wall to the house next door, but we felt the Lord had something different. It was Easter time, and as we prayed we thought of the plot of land in which our own house stood and in which, for some reason or other, it was impossible to grow anything. We felt we should build. But how could we? In the first place we had to get a permit to build, and there were great restrictions to be overcome. We could not claim to be helping in the great priority National Export drive, or even in the housing problem: we needed a students’ study, library and lecture hall, and we wondered how we could convince the authorities. We knew that we were engaged in the most important task in the world, but to convince worldly men was a different matter. However, the Lord’s command at this time was found in 1 Chron. 17 vv. 2, 10. ‘Do all that is in thine heart, for God is with thee.’ ‘Moreover I will subdue all thine enemies. Furthermore I tell thee that the Lord will build you a house.’ What more did we need but to launch out? Not in our own strength; it was He who was going to see us through. We quietly waited on Him. One morning in the month of May a little group of us met together, and as we prayed God gave us further confirmation from 1 Chron. 22 vv. 14-16. The place was just filled with the glory of the Lord. At last He had given us the assurance that we were to build, and we accepted the challenge.
The ground we had would take a building sixty feet long and twenty feet wide. We were wondering just what kind of building we should put up when one day, as we talked things over with a friend, we were advised by him to build in brick and concrete. Then he added, ‘And I will supply all the building materials you need.’ He also said, ‘You will need steel trusses. I have some lying by which are just the right size, and which I will gladly give you.’ Had we applied for steel ourselves in those days, we should probably have been refused.
We had with us at that time a student who had been in architectural work, and we arranged for him to draw up the plans. His part was invaluable. When we interviewed the lawyer, however, we got very little encouragement. He cited cases where it had taken as long as twelve months to gain legal permission to build, and our building needed to be completed by the Autumn term! Nevertheless, we lodged our application and plans with the Dean of Guild (this corresponds with the City Surveyor’s Department in other parts of Britain). Next, permission had to be obtained from the ground supervisor, from the owners of adjoining properties, and finally from the Land Board. The latter had power to refuse permission to build, and, even if consent was given, could enforce a development charge which could well be a large figure.
Two days before the Dean of Guild Court was due to sit, we were asked to go to the Surveyor’s office and were there told that certain alterations to the plans were necessary. We feared that this might mean a delay until the next sitting, but we quickly got the plans corrected and the next day they were returned to the Dean of Guild. Fran attended the court the following day and heard the Chairman say one word we had taken from the Lord the same morning: ‘Granted.’ Praise the Lord, the first mountain was overcome. The most difficult part was still to come, but a few days later the actual building licence came from the Ministry of Works; the next day the permit arrived from the Land Board – and this free of development charges! Every permit was through in less than six weeks in spite of the lawyer’s black picture: he had not reckoned with God.
The day came to commence the building. It was to be erected by staff and students, and on the day the final permits arrived, we felled the trees and cleared the land. Among the students we had a doctor, several teachers and nurses, and others from universities, but not a bricklayer among us! While thinking about this, we were reminded of an ex-student who had some experience in this line, although a carpenter by trade, and who was awaiting his visa for the mission field. In response to our urgent message he came up within a couple of days along with two other candidate missionaries who felt that this would be good experience for the field; the first job awaiting them in West Africa was the putting up of a building!
Now we were all set to begin laying the foundations. We soon ran out of cement, as although our friend had promised to supply us, he too was short of it. He said he would let us have some as soon as possible and in the meantime we tried to get some locally, but it was impossible to buy it. There was an extreme shortage, and cement was so scarce that lorries were queueing at the works daily and even then some went away empty. So we were cast on God. We had a special time of waiting on the Lord, for we felt He had not led us so far to fail us now. During one morning a lorry arrived with 2,000 bricks. These had to be unloaded – which was quite a job. They had to be delivered by a side lane and then thrown one by one over a four foot wall, which dropped nine feet on the other side owing to the difference in ground level! During the unloading of these bricks one of the students remarked, ‘I guess we haven’t faith for cement, for it is cement we need, not bricks.’ Just then a second lorry appeared around the corner and pulled up at our front entrance: suddenly a great shout went up, ‘Praise the Lord, it’s cement.’ And it was – not a few bags to help us out, but a ton; and not only that, but a cement-mixer with a power motor! God had moved in the heart of this friend, who by now had been able to get the cement, to loan us his mixer. – Good measure, pressed down and running over! This was only the beginning, for some 20,000 bricks and 16 tons of cement went into the building and we were never seriously held up.
Another friend who was a constructional engineer came along just at a time when we needed advice on the erection of the steel girders, a job which needed careful handling and accurate adjustment. He said he would give his fortnight’s vacation to help us with this task, and thus again God undertook.
Central heating was another problem. A student who had never done this kind of work planned it all, and after getting it all fixed up the great moment came for turning on the heat. How disappointed he was when he found that the first two radiators heated but beyond that the heating stopped! He left the boiler at 11 p.m. and returned to it at 6 a.m., but there was no change. On closer investigation it was found that one part of the piping was sloping slightly the wrong way; this was corrected and the building has been efficiently heated ever since.
Of course no building would be complete without electric lighting, and as this new area was to be a study we felt that fluorescent lighting would be a great help. On enquiring, we found that such lights would cost £8 each, involving us in a cost of up to £80, which was quite out of the question. Nearing the time when the lighting must be fitted, a friend told us on the phone that the Rolls Royce agency show-room and equipment were to be sold by auction, and he arranged to see Fran at the sale. By the time Fran arrived, this friend had bid for the fluorescent lights and had also paid for them. The ten fittings were exactly what we needed, eight standard and two other designs, and they cost £10 instead of £80 – and they were a gift! On the same day that they were dismantled from their position in the city, they were fitted and giving us light in our new hall. Businessmen came to look at the hall and could hardly believe that no skilled labour had been employed.
God had given the command and promise, according to 1 Chron. 22 vv. 15 & 16 … ‘There are workmen with thee … arise and build!’ As we obeyed Him, we proved His faithfulness in supplying materials, and money to the amount of £1,300.
The building was actually in use four months after the time the work commenced. At the official opening crowds gathered, and students gave testimony to what the building work had meant to them. The testimony of the architect was that he had seen how ordinary business men put through a contract but he had now seen a practical job put through on a spiritual basis – and he had seen God at work! A student who had more or less had oversight of the fellows throughout the work said how often the workers would come to him asking, ‘How shall we do this or that?’ or, ‘Will you come and look at this?’ – and as he was going along, he would pray, ‘Now, Lord, you show me what to do, because I don’t know either!’ And God did show. Skilled workmen, as He had promised.
By this time the student body was again growing, and we saw the need of someone to help Stewart Dinnen with the study programme. Our eyes were on God now for this provision. One of our students who held an Oxford University M.A. degree and had some experience in Christian work saw the need, and felt that this was God’s way for him. God took up this young life and fitted him into the life of the college: under Stewart he learned much which fitted him for the position he now holds as Principal. A little of his testimony will show how God had saved and prepared this new worker:
Bill Chapman took a science degree at Oxford and seemed destined for a scientific career. Contacts with a Crusader Class as a boy, and with the Children’s Special Service Mission, kept him ‘from a too materialistic attitude’ in school and army days. Coming into a full assurance of salvation he began a life of witness for Christ with a company of Christian fellows in the Christian Union (O.I.C.C.U.) at Oxford. He was first startled into a sense of missionary responsibility in a surprising way when travelling with his mother and sister in his old car – and stopping ‘on a country road in Shropshire to re-tie the luggage on the rack.’ Whilst he was doing this an elderly lady rode up on a bicycle. ‘Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?’ she asked. ‘She was as much taken aback as I had been,’ says Bill, ‘when I answered, “Yes”. She spotted the C.S.S.M. badge and asked what I had been doing. Just before riding on she said, “I am glad to see that you are giving part of your summer holiday to serve the Lord, but if He called you to be a missionary, would you be willing?” I drove home thinking.’ Indeed a lesson of how God blesses the bold approach.
The book C.T. Studd was given to Bill for his birthday by the members of his college O.I.C.C.U. group. He did not read it at first, but later did pick it up and for the first time ‘I saw that there was a dire spiritual need in the world. I saw also what God could do through a man whose life was wholly dedicated to Him, and above all I saw that the Word commanded the church to preach the gospel.’ This led on to the crisis moment when God spoke to him through Romans 10 – ‘How shall they hear without a preacher?’ ‘How could I answer the Lord’s questions? The battle raged. It would mean the loss of all that I held dear – home, parents, career and future.’ It was settled by a further question after a missionary breakfast addressed by Mrs. Mackenzie, Principal of Ridgelands, a Missionary Training College for women. The Lord asked Bill, ‘Are you willing to go to the primitive people, leaving the intellectual world in which you have been living?’ ‘There could be only one answer,’ said Bill. ‘My heart was now at perfect peace.’
After further contacts with W.E.C., application was made for training. ‘It was a deep disappointment to my parents. They were looking to me for some support, but in the Lord’s wisdom He had given me an annuity from my late grandfather, which was made over to my parents, together with a capital sum from the same source. Thus provision was made. Many letters had to be written and in due course I found myself in Glasgow M.T.C.’
Training days first brought him to the realisation of the need of a deeper work in his own life, resulting in seeing that the secret is the indwelling Christ, and coming to it by faith when he saw that Rev.3.20 was ‘addressed to the church and not to unbelievers.’ The second year of training began to open his eyes to the need of the M.T.C. and the overheavy burden Stewart Dinnen was carrying. The battle had to be fought out with the hopes and plans he had for going to the Tibetan border, but final confirmation came and he received a clear call to the M.T.C. staff. Candidature in London Headquarters followed, and acceptance into the Crusade. Coming back to Glasgow, many new lessons had to be learned. ‘It is one thing to be here as a student’, says Bill, ‘but to be on the Staff is a different proposition, especially if many of the students have been students with you.’ At one time, when Stewart Dinnen and Fran Rowbotham were away in London the boiler which heated the lecture hall burst. At another, he found himself left as foreman on the construction of the dining hall! But the reason for the Lord’s call and preparation of Bill became even more evident later on when God revealed His new plan for Stewart and Marie Dinnen.
Just as Bill joined the work at the end of 1954, Fran Rowbotham was very ill, and it was obvious that he could not carry on with so much responsibility in the practical side of the work. The Lord saw fit to lay him aside, and we wondered if he would ever be the same. It took him months to recover, but while he was in this weak condition God was busy preparing another student, Neil Rowe. He had been a bank clerk in the South of England and actually been accepted to train for ordination in the Church of England, when God showed him that this was not His will and ultimately gave him a clear call into W.E.C. He had recently helped Fran quite a lot with the building and practical work and felt that God challenged him through Fran’s illness. He had already been turned down medically for the field and, after a period in London Headquarters, he too joined our staff. It is amazing how God takes us up and uses us in ways we could never have believed. Who would have thought of a bank clerk being in charge of building and maintenance work? Neither he nor Fran had any training along these lines: all was gathered from books – and God!
LENGTHENED CORDS –
AND STRENGTHENED FAITH
In 1955 an increase of the number of students to fifty brought us another problem: we needed a new dining room but where could we put it? There was only one thing to do and that was to lift the roof off the existing lecture hall and put another story on top. This would not be an easy job for amateurs and there was again the question of finance. We waited on God to make sure that it was His will. First, news came to us of an old friend of the mission who had left us £600; then another letter arrived from a life-time supporter, and in it we read these words, ‘I have been looking through my bank book and found I had more than I thought. Can you use the enclosed?’ – £250! Another, a very longstanding friend of the work in Scotland, came to the house one Saturday morning. His wife had just died, and he placed £600 in our hands saying, ‘This was my wife’s little nest egg, in case I went first, and I want to give it for the building in memory of her.’ At the summer camps there was a young girl, very keen on the field, and she came to us and gave us £80. At first we refused it saying that we did not want her to be influenced merely by the conference atmosphere, but after a few weeks at home this girl sent the cheque saying, ‘I must give it to the Lord’. One of the students donated £120 for floor covering and another student’s mother a gift of curtains.
With the finances supplied one thing we needed was fine weather. The floor of the study was polished oak and we knew that if this got wet it would be ruined. Someone encouraged us by saying that if it got really wet, it would most likely push the sides of the building out! But God gave us a most remarkable run of summer weather – eight weeks without rain, a record for many years – and this enabled us to get the new upper floor laid and the building well on the way to completion. One day there was a terrific rain storm and we realised what could have happened had we had a normal spell of weather, with periods of rain. The hardwood floor was soaked and bulged seriously. However, after that the rain ceased and we were able to finish the job without any ill effects to the building, the materials being supplied by the same friend who gave for the other building.
By 1956 the bi-monthly conferences in Headquarters, which we have held for some years, were packing every available spot – dining room, sitting-rooms and stairways – until we were faced again with the need for further extension. We were also stretched to capacity for sleeping accommodation for the students. As we met together as a staff, we felt that a large building on the side of the existing property would be the answer; this would provide a much larger meeting-hall and study, and we could release the first lecture hall to make men’s dormitories. We prayed about this for something like 18 months, and then had the assurance that it was God’s time to build so plans were made. As we met one Tuesday night for prayer, we were fearful and wondered whether we should really go ahead as we only had £50 in hand! However, we had a rise in faith and reminded ourselves that faith never looks at the little in hand, but looks away to the Lord and banks on Him. We said we must go forward and see God work. The next morning we received a letter from a Solicitor in the Shetland Isles telling us that a legacy had been left to us. It turned out to be £1,700 for the Missionary Training College and £1,700 for the general fund of the Crusade. We felt that we must be dreaming! It does not always come in large gifts: one day an elderly lady walked in and gave us £2, saying that it was to buy a brick for the new building. The widow’s mite. Precious money! Gifts came from others, not least from the students who could easily have said that they had big needs of their own but who, in simple obedience, gave out of their poverty to the Lord.
Now for the building. We already had several wooden garages alongside No. 12 house. These had to be cleared first from the site, but of course they were still needed so they were jacked up on rollers and pushed by 25 men into position in the drive! Then the foundations were laid. This was to be the biggest job we had ever tackled because, owing to the fact that the ground floor was to consist of garages, it had to be a fireproof building. The framework must be of steel girders and a very thick fireproof concrete floor was to separate the new hall from the garages below.
There were many exciting moments, such as when we had come to the end of a supply of bricks and, in order that no time be wasted, we stood together in prayer for early deliveries. Then a great shout went up: ‘Boys, the bricks are here!’ Again these were a gift from the Lord. He raised up many friends to help. One supplied the bricks; another supplied the steel girders at cost price; another gave us gallons of paint and sent along his workmen to help with the decorating; yet another, a carpenter, gave up hours of his free time, after doing a hard day’s work at the coal-mine, to make and fit floors etc., as his contribution to the work. The flooring of this building alone cost £500, and we can say to God’s glory that every penny came in answer to prayer. We were able once again to have our opening meeting with further testimony to His faithfulness.
The next year we had a rest from building – but we were faced with the need of a more efficient water heater to cope with the increased demands. A gift of £300 from an old friend in Birmingham, and a lot of very hard work, made it possible to install a new oil-burner and suitable boiler, and here again we saw God bless and enable our ‘skilled workmen’ in this new and heavy task.
LOSING TO GAIN
In 1957 came the urgent request that the Dinnens should be released to start a training centre in North America. ‘When it was suggested that we should go,’ Marie records, ‘we faced one of the biggest battles of our lives. To be removed from a work which was intrinsically part of us would be like cutting off our right hands. Yet we knew that we were not indispensable, and if God really wanted us to move on, He would enable. Together the Glasgow staff stood in faith to see adequate replacements, and God proved to them again the blessedness of giving. At this time, a phrase in the writing of F.B. Meyer struck us as a word from God: “Transplantation means strengthening,” and we moved out.’
While in the U.S.A., and before a start could be made on the necessary buildings, another still more urgent request came that the North American staff would release the Dinnens for the Australian W.E.C. Training Centre on the Island of Tasmania. Some difficulties had arisen here and the Dinnens were the ones with sufficient experience to solve the problems. The request was for a temporary loan of them and it was granted.
‘It was felt at first that we would be able to help out in the school in Tasmania for a few months and return to U.S.A.,’ writes Marie, ‘but the situation which confronted us confirmed the witness in our own hearts that this task would take longer than a few months. In July, 1960, we found ourselves in charge of a forty acre property, with a farm, sixteen students, and a study programme – but without staff. And we were alone! How we bless God that we were too busy to sit down and worry or fret. We just cast ourselves upon God and got going. God sent immediate help to us in the provision of one of our missionaries from India, Edna Parish, to help with the catering, and Ken Williams (Indonesia) who handled the farm side most ably. Meanwhile, we all prayed for permanent workers for these two departments, and by the time these temporary helpers had to go, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Timms joined us and most ably handled these two departments. We desperately prayed for office help and a little lass turned up who applied herself industriously to the task for a year. When she went, God brought to us a woman Stewart had met at a Keswick Convention. She has shouldered most efficiently the whole office programme, and although she does not feel that this is God’s final place for her, she will be with us till she has trained a younger person into the job.
‘Already, we see His supply on the tutorial side, and we are grateful for the assistance of local ministers and Christian workers. In these five years, student numbers have jumped to forty with applications still coming in, and new study rooms, offices and sleeping accommodation have been added.
‘“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. But if it die it bringeth forth much fruit”.’
REMOVAL AND REPLACEMENT
As the Dinnens moved out to America, naturally a big gap was left. We were challenged: ‘Were we willing to give as unto the Lord?’ For it came at a time when they could ill be spared. But yet again we were learning the truth of the words, ‘Give and it shall be given unto you’. By the time the Dinnens were ready to go, God had already added another member to our staff, Mary Rowe. She had been in training for nine years, first as a State Registered Nurse and Midwife, and then in the Faith Missionary Training College, all with one end in view – leprosy work. Turned down medically for Portuguese Guinea, she had been bewildered, and had wondered if all this training had been to no purpose. Just at that time she had met Neil Rowe, and now we saw God’s plan unfold as He confirmed to them that they were to work together. When Marie departed with her husband for America, Mary Rowe had just the gifts needed and she was able to take over right away from Marie. She was the Lord’s gift to the work and with her husband was in charge of practical duties besides lecturing in English and First Aid, and dealing with the women’s applications.
Bill was now able to take over Stewart’s work, and by this time his link with the staff had been further strengthened by his engagement and marriage to the trusted and experienced co-worker of the ‘Rows’, Myra Gibson. As he shouldered his new responsibilities, he found that ‘the really difficult part of the work was the personal dealings with the students, and how my heart would rise to the Lord in prayer as I heard a knock on the study door!’ Those years have passed, and with other members of the staff God has given the working team. In addition to the college work, Bill began and has continued to take Stewart’s place during the summer weeks as a tutor at the Summer Institute of Linguistics, thus sharing in this ministry to all missions.
Two years later, 1959, the Lord sent help for Bill in his heavy commitments on the academic side. A young Glasgow man, John Lawson, had been attending our Prayer Batteries for years and took a keen interest in all the work of the Crusade. After National Service abroad he returned to train with us and then went on to London H.Q., presumably heading for the field. While he was there God called him, through various circumstances, to join us on the staff.
After five years of faithful ministry John left us to take up a pastorate in Glasgow. John felt the need of taking further studies in order to equip him for his ministry, but during this period he has faithfully come in and lectured for us week by week.
1963 – brought a further advance in the work which necessitated Neil and Mary Rowe moving out of M.T.C. Neil gives his own story later; this, however, left a big gap in the staff of the M.T.C. but again we never give to lose, so we looked for His chosen ones to fill this gap.
1964 – Roy and Daphne Spraggett, after a term of service in Viet Nam, were invalided home and could not return to the field. They were invited to Glasgow to lend a hand until the Lord should reveal to them His will. After a year they felt M.T.C. was the place the Lord would have them. All we can say is God’s ways are perfect, and now instead of being two in Viet Nam, God has used them to train many for the different parts of the earth. God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. No doubt at the time of facing the laying down of their call to Viet Nam everything would seem dark, but again we see life coming through out of death. Death to ourselves and life to others is God’s order.
1968 – Yet another of our M.T.C. students faced the challenge of the work here. Flora Gibson, a trained teacher, saw the need of the work here, yet again a battle took place in her heart. How could God use her? It was not like training young teenagers, but when God speaks then it is not for us to question Him for He who calls equips, so after a long battle Flora came to us, and she often testifies as to how wonderfully the Lord enables her.
1971 – Anne Kelland, another M.T.C. student, who before coming to us was a well-qualified Sister in a hospital, knew of the need for more staff at the College. God challenged her with this and Anne felt that the Lord was clearly directing her to serve Him here. Anne has joined us this year, very ably taking over the catering and nursing duties in the College. We praise God for all the dedicated staff He has given.
ADDED BURDENS – AND ABUNDANT GRACE
For a number of years Fran organised summer holiday conferences for both young people and adults. Various well equipped camps in different beauty spots became very popular, and were booked up to the last bed by people young and old from all over Britain: they were such a blessing, both in people finding the secret of life in the Spirit and in missionary challenge, that Fran felt sure it was in the plan of God for W.E.C. to have its own conference centre. Wherever he was travelling, in Scotland or in the Lake District or elsewhere, it became quite a joke that Fran was watching out and enquiring about the purchase of a possible centre. This became a still more urgent quest when other uses for the camps made it impossible for us to get them.
Then this is what happened – ‘Ask … seek … knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ It was December 1959. Fran had travelled many miles to see different centres, but I could not raise any enthusiasm, mainly because I could not see how we could run a conference centre, with all the other commitments, unless it was near Glasgow. However he pressed on, and then one day the magazine ‘Country Life’ was put into his hands and it advertised a house and estate at Kilcreggan. As it was only 31 miles from Glasgow, and beautifully situated on the Firth of Clyde not far from Loch Lomond, he and Neil Rowe went to see it. I could not raise the enthusiasm to go.
Arriving back they shared with us the great possibilities of this property, but felt that a lot would need to be spent on it before it would be suitable for our use. The owner was asking £6,000 for it and we had not a penny, so we decided to forget it. By this time too we had learned who the owner was and, knowing him to be a keen Christian man, we felt we could not tell him that we did not have the money. Then in early January a letter was received from our British leader, Len Moules, asking if we had been looking at a property at Kilcreggan and, if so, what we thought about it. The answer we sent back was that we could not consider it, although in some respects it was just what we needed. During the following week Len spoke to Fran on the phone and asked him again what he thought of the Kilcreggan property. Fran’s reply was, ‘I told you how we felt, Len’. Then a wonderful thing happened. Len said, ‘Would you take it as a gift?’ Fran’s reply was, ‘What! Yes, take it with both hands!’ Back came the amazing news, ‘The owner has offered to give it to us, as he knows the work and would be pleased for it to be used for the purpose we have in mind.’ How the Lord steps in, for we heard later that a little while previously the owner had had an offer from someone and had almost accepted it, when he discovered that it was wanted for a licensed hotel. Another religious body wanted it too, but because of his convictions he would not sell. Besides the house quite a lot of essential furnishings were given to us. Fran was asked who would take the responsibility for this new project and he said, ‘I will.’
By this time I could see that the Lord was in this thing, but it came at a time when Fran was very low in health, and I too felt I could hardly face the work and responsibility after catering for between 60 and 70 people throughout the college year. We had not had a proper holiday for two years and were looking forward to a real rest that particular year. However, I got before the Lord, and while I was on my knees the Lord spoke to me through 1 John 5:12, ‘He that hath the Son hath life.’ For a moment I wondered just what that really meant at this time and then suddenly I saw afresh that He is our life, and I saw the possibilities of what He could do. I said, ‘Thank you, Lord! This may be our last big job for You, although we hope not, and we must do it.’
KILCREGGAN HOUSE –
W.E.C. CONFERENCE CENTRE
Now we had the house and what a wonderful gift it was. God will surely bless the Christian owner and organization for giving freely like that. But we needed to get things moving in order to have conferences in July, and it was already March before the property was actually signed over to us. It is a beautiful house standing in 5 acres of ground and overlooking the Firth of Clyde. The building itself could house about 60 people, but we saw immediately that this number would not be large enough for the conferences. The demand for accommodation became so great that we had to put up 12 wooden chalets. Could we face it all? However, the Lord put us in touch with a friend in Ireland who came over and promised to send us two workmen for six weeks: all we had to find was the material, as he was paying the men out of his own pocket. Within a few days before the conference was to start the chalets were ready and alterations had been made so that we could now take about 120 people.
This enlargement was made possible by the help of many willing workers: much labour was needed as you can well understand. There were those who volunteered to help: several ladies who attend the prayer battery took home sheeting to make up into sheets. One mile of sheeting was used to make 600 sheets! Drains had to be laid to a considerable depth, and a friend came along for a weekend in order to do this for the Lord. When we looked out early one morning, the trench had been dug: our plumber friend had been up with the dawn.
So we could give many illustrations of those who have dedicated their time and possessions for the service of the Lord.
To equip the premises adequately we had to buy 100 bedsteads and mattresses, 250 blankets, 600 sheets, 100 pillows, 200 pillowslips, 100 bed covers, new cooking stove, water heaters and various furnishings. These were all ordered. A friend of ours, looking round the place, put £100 in Fran’s hand and said, ‘This is a little towards expenses.’ Going into a store one day, Fran was ordering some equipment when a gentleman took him on one side and said, ‘I want to give you this £50.’ We had other gifts too, but all these were quickly used up. Bills were coming in amounting to £2,000. What could we do? Only trust the Lord.
The time came for the statements, and we knew then that the bills would have to be paid. But who would give us the money for a conference centre? It has not even the appeal of a Headquarters or a Bible School. During this time Fran was down at Kilcreggan and I in Glasgow. One morning during my quiet time, the Lord spoke to me through Acts 10:31. ‘Thy prayer is heard.’ My answer was, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ Then the Lord said, ‘You tell the students that by tomorrow you will have the £2,000.’ ‘Oh! No, Lord, I could not do that.’ ‘Then you do not believe!’ Well, I came downstairs and something unusual happened. Bill Chapman, the Principal of the school, said, ‘Ma Row, could you take the Bible Study this morning, as I have some urgent business to attend to?’ I said, ‘But I am not prepared.’ His answer was, ‘Give what the Lord would have you give.’ I knew it was the Lord’s challenge to me, so I went into the Bible Study, and before the devil gave me a chance to change my mind I testified that by the next day we should have the £2,000. I went cold, but there was a deep peace within.
The next morning we were standing in the office and a letter was handed to me. The letter read:-
I enclose a draft for £2,042 4. 7d in favour of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, to be used for Kilcreggan House. My client wishes to remain anonymous.
Please acknowledge receipt.
(Signed) Manager of the Bank of Scotland.
We just had a wonderful praise meeting. Down at Kilcreggan, Fran would ring up most days to see if we had received anything, and this morning it was good to hear his voice and hear him say ‘Praise the Lord.’ The burden lifted.
But this was not all. What about staff to run this place all the year round? While thinking along these lines, our minds went to Margaret Barron, who had been on our Senegal field. Her husband had just gone to be with the Lord while pioneering in Gambia, and Margaret was at home. We remembered that she and David always shared our burden for a conference centre, and at one time, when it was thought that owing to David’s health they would not be able to return to the field, they had talked of sharing with us, should such a place come into existence. I mentioned this to Len Moules, who said, ‘Keep your eyes off Margaret Barron, I have other plans for her!’ He said this half jokingly, but we did not feel we could mention it to her just then; however the impression did not leave us, and so we wrote saying we had got a conference centre and wondered if the Lord had anything for her in it. ‘We could do with a house mother, but hesitate to press because we believe Len Moules has other plans for you.’ After some weeks a letter arrived from Margaret saying, ‘I believe God’s will for me is Kilcreggan,’ and within a few days she was with us. All in the Mission were happy about this, and we have not a shadow of a doubt but that she is God’s gift to the work; her happy spirit and nature make every one feel at home.
Then what about the five acres of ground? Well, God had his man. We had a student who had 15 years of experience as a gardener, and towards the end of his training he felt God’s will for him was to use the gift God had given him in gardening. But where? He went up to our Children’s Home at Arbroath, thinking he could fit in there, but as he came away, he was convinced this was not God’s place for him. He went home for the Christmas vacation, and the Lord spoke and impressed on him that on the first day of term he would know God’s will. When he returned and heard about Kilcreggan he spent the Sunday in prayer and knew, before he saw it, that this was God’s place for him. Tony Livesley, like Margaret, was another gift from the Lord. The transformation in the grounds is beyond anything we could have dreamt of. We are indebted to another student who for several years gave herself to the work at Kilcreggan. Gaye Nicholson felt she should stay until the Lord directed her into His will, so after faithful service she was led to train as a nurse.
By the time the next year came, we saw we would have to build yet another row of chalets to accommodate all who would want to come, and again we wondered how the Lord was going to work, for He never seems to work the same way twice. We were asked to go to Birmingham, our home town, to have an interview with a gentleman who had the affairs of a friend of ours in his hands. This friend had just passed away: she was an old lady, but during her lifetime had always taken a great interest in us and had already put several hundreds of pounds into the work. We were told she had left us £11,000. What had God done? We were able to put the whole project of the building through, as well as send recruits to the fields. We stand amazed at His goodness to us, but what a trust and responsibility! We were able to entertain 700 guests at the conferences through the summer of 1961.
In 1964 Tony Livesley was married and his wife Noreen, a school teacher, helped in the house and grounds.
In the work of God either we go forward or we stand still. A great danger in standing still is that we dry up spiritually, but advancing with God keeps us ever on the alert to the voice of the Spirit.
1965. What had God for us? For several years we had seen the need to build a sun lounge, on the front of the house, and also a games room; thus providing for younger and older folk on days when the sun was absent! Although this had been a faith target for a few years, we felt that now was God’s time for us to build. Plans were drawn up and passed by the Council: but how were they to be put through? We had no manpower to draw upon, as it was a year when we were very short of men students and, with their other commitments, they would be unable to give much help. We had a quotation from a builder, and the sun lounge alone was to cost £3,000! This sum was quite out of the question: even if we had the money we should not have spent so much on it. However, Fran afterwards consulted the friend in Ireland who had been so helpful in the building of the chalets. He came over to see the job and asked Fran if he would be willing to wait a year, by which time help could be given. The reply was a very reluctant ‘Yes’! The weeks passed. One day Tony asked Fran, ‘Will you be building this year, Fran?’ His reply was, ‘Tony, there is absolutely no natural sign of being able to do so, but I still believe that God will work for us this year.’ Within an hour the builder in Ireland asked on the phone if we could be prepared for four workmen to start the job on the following Wednesday! What had happened? Because of the government credit squeeze, this friend was unable to continue with some private contracts, but was anxious to keep these particularly good workmen and so he sent them to us! They arrived only eight weeks before Conferences were due to commence, but the buildings were up just in time, the two together costing around £1,500! One of the greatest thrills was that two of the workmen found Christ as Saviour while working on the project. To Him be all the glory.
We rejoice to say that each year of Conferences we have seen the Lord work. Many have been saved, others are in training, and some have already sailed for the foreign field.
With a work like this there are always demands as the work grows. At this time we felt we needed other staff to cope with the many demands being made on the small personnel. Jeanne Cole had been invalided home from Chad and could not return to the field owing to the serious nature of her illness. This was a big disappointment to both her and Desmond, so they were invited to come and spend time at Kilcreggan; this they did with their little family. Eventually they stayed on as part of the Kilcreggan team and gave some three years to the varied ministry there until family circumstances caused them to seek God afresh for their future.
1968. A day came when we were told by Tony and Noreen Livesley that they felt God was leading them out to study for the Church of Scotland ministry. Although this came as a surprise in one way and of course the enemy tried to make us fearful, yet God had prepared us for this. Being prepared by the Lord we felt they were moving in the line of God’s will. So now it was for us to see what God would do.
When on holiday we received a letter from a couple who had been to Kilcreggan on holiday some years before, and on hearing that Tony and his wife were moving felt God would have them move in and fill the gap. This is just what they did and as with Tony we know it was God’s gift for the work. John and Kathleen Brown come from Ireland and for many years had been faithful stewards to the work of W.E.C.
What can God do with an ordinary girl who felt she had no gifts God could use, and who was turned down for the field for health reasons? After waiting on the Lord she was clearly commissioned by God for the work in Kilcreggan. Again all had the witness this was of God, so this year, with Kath and John Brown, we welcomed Stella Berridge from Hawick on to the staff.
AND NOW, INTO PRINT
Kilcreggan was the place which all felt would be ideal for our Leaders’ Conference which took place in May 1961. Some 50 leaders gathered from all over the world. It was the first leaders’ conference of its kind in our W.E.C. history, nearly all the representatives coming with funds the Lord provided for them personally. We felt we were living in a changing world and it would be good to meet together and look to our Captain for His plan for the future. We spent four weeks together in the presence of God. One of the main outcomes of the conference was a realization of the need of the printed page, and that while other cults were flooding the market, we, the Christian Church, lagged far behind. For some time we in Glasgow had felt this burden, but none of us knew much about printing apart from Wesley Cunningham who had operated a small letter-press. Slowly but surely the Lord began to impress on all of us the need of a printing department within the Crusade. As the Lord put some money in our hand, we felt led to buy a second-hand machine. The Lord blessed this small beginning, and then all became interested in the possibilities of lithographic printing. A British W.E.C. Press became a clear objective at the leaders’ conference, and when talking things over with Len Moules, we shared our thoughts about the extension of our small press. He and others also felt that this would be the beginning of the W.E.C. press for which we were praying. From our inquiries we estimated that at least £3,500 would be needed to make the vision become reality. Imagine our surprise and delight when we received the promise of £3,500 earmarked for printing, with the request that it should be carried out at Glasgow for as long as convenient. How we praise Him for His ways! Now over to Neil Rowe who will tell in fuller detail all the Lord has done and is doing.
‘We little thought in those early days that the Press was so soon to become not only an actual reality but such a rapidly growing ministry.
‘There were already students in training who had a burden for this specific work and, except for one who had had previous experience, God was calling out from our own college and elsewhere an all-amateur team. I had somehow got involved and had taken a short course of instruction when the first second-hand machine was purchased. Now, with the Glasgow Staff, we sought the Lord on the vital matters of efficient equipment, committed personnel, adequate accommodation and, by no means least, the necessary skill and wisdom to take the first nervous steps in this completely new field of service.
‘It was obvious that staff and equipment could not be accommodated in the already full Glasgow H.Q. and in January 1963 Mary and I moved down to Kilcreggan, where the plant was to be fully established. Along with the newly acquired equipment, as yet largely untried, we took with us the sure promises of God which had stood us in such good stead during our many faith ventures while with the Glasgow family. We felt so helpless and hopeless, but we knew that it was impossible for Him to fail.
‘With the valuable help of a band of student volunteers, who sacrificed their vacation to help, we converted the Lodge of Kilcreggan House into a compact working unit and, in February, welcomed the first four of our staff who by this time had finished their candidature in London and were ready to join us.
‘How we proved in those painful beginning days of trial and error, settling in, and establishing a new fellowship, that any step forward was certainly not by might or by power but by His Spirit alone! All subsequent steps forward have been taken by the same rule, and we have come to recognise that only complete dependence Him brings security.
‘During the four and a half years at Kilcreggan, the Lord gave the wisdom, skill and material provision for which we had asked when the idea of the Press was first born. He added a team of workers, most of them unskilled, but in amazing ways they quickly became both skilled and adaptable. Two of the first to arrive were David and Nettie Matthews. David had been both an electrician and clerk, while Nettie had had experience in letter-press printing. Others who gave invaluable help in the early days had to leave later through ill health or personal circumstances. Tom Duguid, a house painter from the North East of Scotland, joined the work at Kilcreggan and later, at Bulstrode, married Jessie Stewart; Tom and the Matthews gave many years of devoted service to W.E.C. through the press, before resigning to take up other work in 1971. Another couple, Brian and Sheila Cripps, also became key members of the team in 1969, and succeeded the Matthews in leadership when the latter left the Press. Brian was originally a fully qualified letter-press printer, and also has experience of missionary work in Congo.
‘The work grew so rapidly that the Lodge was soon too small, and a large extension was built. Several thousands of pounds went into new machinery, and all the time our techniques and co-ordination were being improved.
‘In 1967, a big change came about. The main Headquarters of the Crusade in London were brought under a compulsory purchase order, so that the whole area could be redeveloped. With the compensation money made available to the Crusade, a large property at Gerrards Cross, just 20 miles from the centre of London, was purchased. Although it was mainly a large residential mansion set in 75 acres of parkland, there were buildings suitable for semi-industrial use. It seemed the wise thing to think of moving the Press to become part of the Headquarters, and this was confirmed when the local authorities agreed to allow the printing work to be carried on as part of the Headquarter activity. At the same time the Crusade asked us (Neil and Mary Rowe) if we would take on the responsibility of managing and developing the new Headquarters.
‘We sought the Lord, to know His will in this big decision, for it obviously meant dropping out of the Press team. The Lord confirmed this change, not only to us, but to the team. In June 1967 the move was made and the presses were soon in production in their new home, with David and Nettie Matthews taking on the leadership of the team. Although we are no longer involved in the day-to-day work, we follow the progress of the Press very closely.
‘New equipment has been added in answer to prayer and faith, in particular a larger £4,000 printing machine and a £2,000 typesetting machine. Year by year the work is growing, but not without being contested. There is still a great need for more workers if the needs for literature on the mission field are to be met.
‘It is hard to know, let alone convey to others, just what is achieved by the ministry of the W.E.C. Press. It is true to say that in the first few years, some millions of Gospel broadsheets, in various languages, have been printed for worldwide distribution. Then there are the magazines, books, leaflets and quite a variety of literature aids – such as posters, charts etc.
‘Who can estimate the value of perhaps 100 copies of the Gospel of John being sent to a tribal area where there has never been any literature before – where only a handful of converts are learning to read? Yet inevitably a letter will come in due course – “Can you now print the Gospel of Mark, or the Acts of the Apostles, as the people want more of God’s Word to read?” To hear of the success of these ‘Paper missionaries’ in reaching others with the gospel makes the daily behind-the-scenes job of production well worthwhile.’
God brought us home from the field, just two of us; today we are a staff of 8 in Glasgow, 6 in Kilcreggan, 8 in Tasmania, and a printing team.
Several hundred students have gone through the training college, the majority being on the field or in full-time service. We can only praise the Lord for His faithfulness to us.
Today God’s ‘Go ye’ is still a command to be obeyed. Many parts of the world have still to hear the message of salvation through His blood and cross, but how shall they hear unless we go and tell? At our Leaders’ Conference we were led to take 19 new areas as our immediate responsibility. Already several of these have been entered, for which we praise the Lord, but our great need is for men and women who are sold out to God and who are willing to take upon themselves something of the Lord’s own burden for the souls of men and women who are lost and without hope.
The supreme need of every man and woman is the eternal salvation of his or her own soul. After that, as Christians, we can be contented and take the attitude, ‘am I my brother’s keeper?’: or we can by His grace become committed Christians whose whole lives are handed over to God, with one purpose – to reach the lost at any price. With Isaiah we can say, ‘Here am I, send me.’
Go ye! Pray ye! The harvest truly is great but the labourers are few. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt.6:33).
What of the future? We are living in vital days; we are continually before the Lord as a staff to see just what He has for us, and the future development in the work.
GOD’S IMPRESSION AND CONFIRMATION
After thirty years of ministry in Scotland in so many ways, both at M.T.C. and around the country as Scottish leaders, we have laid down that commission to take up another.
For some time we had felt that we should hand over our responsibilities as Scottish Secretaries, and had asked God that when His time for this came, we should see our successors ready to take over. So it is with hearts full of praise that He has done just that, in preparing Roy & Daphne Spraggett and appointing them to the task which we now lay down. And how did this come about?
In the story of Jeremiah we read that he had an impression that he should purchase the field of Anathoth, but you will note that he did not act upon it until he had firm confirmation that it was the right thing to do. This came the following day when his uncle came and proposed that Jeremiah should buy the field. So it was that we had been impressed for some time that our ministry in Glasgow was coming to an end; then the Glasgow staff, who knew how we were feeling, suggested that this was the time to appoint our successors.
We knew that this was God’s confirmation for us to move … but where to? Not to retirement, as some might have expected, but to a job with great possibilities in the worldwide vision. For a long time we have seen such possibilities in the growth of the work at our Kilcreggan conference centre, and have also faced the challenge of seeing our successors there. In the meantime however, we shall be engaged full-time down there, and expect God to expand and bless the work.
It was not easy to lay down at the foot of the Cross the place which for thirty years had been home to us, but when once we knew this was God’s way for us it became easy; furthermore, as we embraced it, it became ‘joy unspeakable’. Last year, on June 24th, the last morning of term, God’s word had come to us through Numbers 10 v. 33, ‘They departed from the mount of the Lord and the ark of the covenant went before them’. Later in 1971, during the Kilcreggan Conferences, we had time to wait on the Lord for further confirmation of His future plan for us. Verses in 2 Sam. 7 v. 1-3 were very much with us at that time. ‘When the king sat at his table he had rest’ (or time to ponder over his next job for the Lord). This was just the position we were in, and as we pondered over what we believed to be His next job for us, the word came from the same chapter, ‘Do all that is in thine heart and the Lord is with thee’. What other word did we need?
Finally the day came when we were to leave Glasgow. We did so, obeying what again was God’s direct word to us, ‘They went forth … taking nothing with them’. Once again God has been utterly faithful in supplying all our need, and we know that He who has led and provided all these years will do so to the end of our journey.
This little book written by Elisie Rowbotham with a foreword by Norman P Grubb gives the account of the 'miracle of the Glasgow Training College and Kilcreggan Conference Centre'. Francis and Elsie Rowbotham worked together using their complimentary combined skills which were used in 'owning and managing several shops combined into one', to run the college and the conference centre. This book takes us on a journey of faith as they share with us how they were challenged in many ways - financially and practically - and were able to testify to how God met them with every need as they sought to wait upon Him and do what He was asking them to do. They had previously experienced the testing of individual faith but they share in this book how they learned to develop 'fellowship faith'.