Haystack Harvest from The Unfinished Task
John Kyle, Director of IV Missions and of the Urbana '84 program, is a man of many talents. He was the branch manager of Wyclrffe's work in the Philippines for many years, then returned to the States to help the newly organiredPres bvterian Church in America establish its mission board.
In 1978 he accepted his present assignment with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship.
Just off the press is Kyle's book, The Unfinished Task (see back cover), with chapters by a number of well' known missiologists. Since this book will he crucial in the mobilization of students, we are including here, by permission of Regal Books, the publisher. Chapter] by J. Christy Wilson, and an excerpt frooi the Introduction by John Kyle.
In August 1806, five young fellows from Williams College In Wiiliamstown. Massachusetts were enjoying Christian kllowahip outdoors when they were forced to find shelter from a rainstorm under a haystack. While gathered together there, they began to pray concerning the need for missionaries around the world. They put their prayers into action by asking their denomination to create the first missionary sending agency in North America. The Haystack Prayer Meeting gave the Initial impulse to the foreign missionary movement of the churches of the United States.
In Afghanistan. where they have all kinds of dry river beds, there isa saying that where water has flowed once it can flow again. When there is a cloudburst in that country, or when the snows melt from the mountaintops. those stream beds fill with torrents of life giving water,
Our Lord Jesus Christ said, 'Whatever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:38). He really knew His Bible. From where was He quoting? He was referring to Isaiah 58:10 11. where we read: if you satisfy the needs of the oppressed .... the Lord will guide you always; ... you will be like ... a spring whose waters never fail."
The greatest need our world has today. Is for this living water to flow in rivers, to reach all the unreached for Jesus Christ. At the Haystack Monument at Williams College. Williamstown, Massachusetts, we see the fountainhead of the missionary movement in North America. As the words carved in stone on it state, this is THE BIRTHPLACE OF AMERICAN FOREIGN MISSIONS. So there we have the beginning of this stream that has flowed and blessed the world from that time, and is still flowing today. Heaven alone will reveal all that has been accomplished from this beginning.
Why is this place called the birthplace of American foreign missions? On August 2. 1805, five young men. students at Williams College who regularly met on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons for prayer, were forced to take shelter under a haystack when a thunderstorm interrupted their time together. They continued their prayer meeting under that haystack through the noise of the thunder and lightning.
In the 1850s. Byron Greene, the only remaining living member of the Haystack Prayer Meet lug," revisited his alma mater. He gave an account of what had happened that day. He said that because of the thunder, rain, and lightning they huddled tinder the haystack and talked and prayed about the spiritual needs of Asia. They had been studying this continent in their geography class at Williams College. Through studying this subject, the five students saw the great need in Asia for the gospel of Jesus Christ, Then Samuel Mills said, "We can do it if we will! We ourselves can gor Harvey Loomis objected. He said that they would all be killed. But Samuel Mills and the other students replied that God certainly wanted the advancement of His Kingdom. If they did their part, lie could be counted on to help them. Samuel Mills, as he so often did, said let's pray about it.
As they interceded and dedicated their lives, the thunder and lightning moved away and the sky cleared and sunshine broke over this spot. With the sound of the storm receding in the background. Samuel Mills prayed, "Lord, may the artillery of heaven be aimed against those who dare to lift one finger to oppose your heralds of the gospel around the world!" It was a haystack" prayer meeting; but the emphasis was not on the haystack. It was on prayer.
As a result of these earnest prayers, streams of living waters poured around the world. I love the biblical phrase spoken by our Lord which is carved on the monument, "The field is the world" (Matt. 13:361. When Jesus saw people scattered abroad, and fainting as sheep without shepherds, He said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Matt. 9:37.38). In our translations. I don't think "send out" is strong enough. The Greek word is ekbatlo which means "to throw out." When we pray. God will "throw out" workers! It takes that much to get a lot of us moving] The harvest will then be gathered for eternity for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins, but not for ours only. 'but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).
Samuel Mills took the matter of praying for and recruiting laborers seriously! He had been with Adoniram Judson at Andover Seminary in Massachusetts only one month by the time he convinced him that he should be a missionary. He persuaded him to sign up for the secret Society of the Brethren. This ended up with Adoniram Judson going to Burma. What a man of prayer Samuel Mills was! He was dangerous to be around! When people begin praying and taking Him seriously, God begins to work. After the Lord told the disciples to pray for laborers, at the end of Matthew 9. the beginning of chapter 10 tells us that the Lord sent the disciples themselves out. If you start praying for laborers, He may send you returned to the United States for their education. Grace Two of the flood of missionaries that resulted from the Haystack Prayer Meeting were the Wilders who went to India. Two of their children. Robert and Grace, returned to the United States for their education. Grace Wilder attended Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and her brother. Robert, went to Princeton University in New Jersey. They had a burden for India and the whole unreached world.
"...the ninety nine were kneeling when the one hundredth student rushed in and signed the card too!
Robert WIlder started a mission band at Princeton University and had a pledge which he challenged different ones to sign. It stated, 'God helping me, I purpose to be a foreign missionary." No halfway about it. you were signing your life away. Robert and Grace then heard that Dwight L. Moody had called a conference of 250 students from across the United Slates and Canada to gather at Mount Hermon. Massaehusetts during the summer of 1886, This conference came about because Luther Wishard, who was a traveling YMCA secretary to college campuses, had knelt beside (lie Haystack Prayer Meeting Monument in the snow and prayed. "Lord, do it again! Where water once flowed, let it flow again!" He then persuaded the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody to call the conference.
It was to last a month. In those days they had a tot more time for meetings. Only one meeting was planned each day. and it was held in the evening. The rest of the time was to be spent in prayer. walks in the woods, and in conversations. The expressed purpose of the conference was for students to seek the infliling of the Holy Spirit for service even as DL. Moody had received His power some time before on Wall Street. in New York City. He had been preaching in Chicago to the greatest congregation In that city. Two little old ladies, who always satin the front of the church, told him they were praying that lie would be riled with the Holy Spirit. It made him angry. Why were they not praying instead for pastors who weren't having the success he was having? Later, when he was on a visit to New York. he was walking along Wall Street and lie says that the Holy Spirit came on him in such power that he had to rush to a friend's home so lie could go up and lock the bedroom door and be alone. He prayed. "Lord, stop it!" He felt that the power was so great that he would be killed! From then on his ministry was singly blessed not only in North America but also in Europe as the Lord shook the rest of the world through him.
When Robert Wilder at Princeton and Grace Wilder at Mount Holyoke heard about the conference Moody had called at Mount Herman, they prayed. "Wid. call 100 of the 250 students to sign missionary pledge cards.' An impossible request! It wasn't even supposed to be a missionary conference.
When Robert Wilder arrived at Mount Hermon he found students there who had been in ten different countries. He went to Moody and asked if they could have an extra gathering included in the program a meeting ol the ten nations where those students had been; they would tell about the needs of these countries. Moody agreed. And it was this meeting that started a missionary awakening at the conference.
The slogan, The Evangelization of the World in This Generation caught fire. And before the end of the conference ninety nine students signed the card that Robert Wilder had brought along. On the last day they were having a prayer meeting on a grass covered mound where the ninety nine were kneeling, when the onehundredth student rushed in and signed the card too! Their prayer was answered to the exact number. One of the students who signed that card was John It Mott who later became a great missionary statesman.
A team of four students was selected to visit other campuses across the continent and share the vision. This meant that they had to give up one year of their education. Three of them were forced to back down because of parental pressures and other matters. Rob cat Wilder was the only one who was able to go. He got John Foreman, a seminary student, to go with him. and they started touring the campuses that academic year. 1886 1887. They had so many invitations that they had to separate so they could take twice the number of engagements! While they were apart, they prayed for each other at least once every hour that they were awake This movement was not only been in prayer but was continued In prayer!
"When these two little girls died, the Arab Muslims said they couldn't be buried in Bahrain..."
Grace and Robert Wilder had also prayed that over one thousand students would volunteer that year. More than seventeen hundred signed the pledge card.
When Robert Wilder got to Hope College in Michigan with his presentation, he displayed a big map of India, lie set a metronome in front of it and explained that every time the metronome ticked, one person in India died who had never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Samuel Zwemer was a senior at Hope College that year. When he saw the map arid heard the metronome he said that he could hardly stay in his seat. As soon as the meeting was over he rushed forward, asked for one of the cards, and signed it. He wanted to go to the hardest field in the world, which he concluded was to the Muslims in Arabia.
Dr. Zwemer pioneered in the Muslim world for years. When he arrived on the island of Bahrain in the Gulf area, he was single. But God brought a beautiful missionary nurse from Australia. She was going to work in Baghdad so the agency she was with wrote to Dr. Zwemer arid asked him if lie would meet her and help her along the way. He fell head over heels in love with her. When they decided to marry he had to pay her transportation from Australia, because she had a contract with the mission that if she resigned before two years she had to repay her passage. Dr. Zwemer said this was true to Middle Eastern custom in that he had to pay a dowry for his bride.
They had two little girls who were horn in Bahrain. Both of them died of disease within a weeks time. When these two little girls died, the Arab Muslims said they couldn't be buried in Bahrain because they would contaminate the soil. Finally. Dr. Zwemer was able to persuade them, provided he would dig the grave and a bury them himself. On the tombstone he wrote these t words. Worthy Is the Lamb to receive riches Rev. 5:12? t The children's deaths broke the barrier with the Arabs because they saw Dr. and Mrs. Zwemer really loved them and were willing even to glve up their children in order to serve them.
Later on at Kcswick, England in 1923. Dr. Zwemer I was speaking on missionary work in the Muslim world. He quoted Peter's words. Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything (Luke 5:5). He I described the way his ministry among Muslims had I similarly been an experience of fishing all night and of a catching nothing. But he then heralded Peter's pledge.
But because you say so. I will let down the nets? Dr. Zwemer added that as by faith we obey the Lord, the time is coming when we will catch Muslims for Christ in such large numbers that the nets are going to break.
and the boats are almost going to sink. He died in 1952 Wore the great awakening, which started in 1965 in Indonesia, resulted in hundreds of thousands of Mus lims coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. In 1946 Dr. Zwemer was a keynote speaker at the first InterVarsity Student Foreign Missions Fellowship I Convention at the University of Toronto which laterbecame the Urbana Student Missions Convention. He was probably the greatest missionary to Muslims in history. He used to have his devotions in a different lan guage every day of the week to keep up in them as a Christian scholar. He published forty nine books in English and started the Muslim World quarterly which is still published today.
Became very iII and had to come back to the States In the 1930s. Since then she has encouraged many to pray monthly prayer letters with prayer needs for each day of board when It first started In the United States, she has held many student meetings in her home and has nary, he put a map on the wall above his bed and knelt ml prayed, "Lord, if you tarry, and if you spare me. it re serving you somewhere in this world. Show me there you want me to go? God called him to the border (Afghanistan. He then began to pray for others; he Iso had a little prayer meeting in his room each noon from 12:00 to 12:15. Any student could come in and way for laborers. Before he went to the mission field in 1919, he got more than a hundred others to sign the tudent volunteer card to go as missionaries.
One of them was David Howard's and Elisabeth lliot's father, Dr. Phillip Howard, who went with the Selgian Gospel Mission. Two others were my mother nd father who went to Iran. Jesus promised that if we rayed the Lord of the harvest, He would throw out" laborers In His harvest.
Miss Margaret I lames. Dr. William Millers sister inaw, another student volunteer, served on the border of tighanistan in what is now Pakistan. There she became very ill and had to come back to the States in the 1930s. Since then she has encouraged many to prayfor Afghanistan. For years she sent out confidential monthly prayer letters with prayer needs for each day of he month to people who would intercede for that country. She also helped recruit and orientate those going to serve in that land. Besides serving on the lnterVarsity board when it first started in the United States, she has held many student meetings in her home and has prayed many of them into mission fields all over the world.
Dr. Frank Laubach was another student volunteer who served In the Philippines and popularized a method of teaching illiterates how to read. By using pictures which depicted letters of the alphabet. he could teach adult illiterates how to read their own languages in a matter of hours. He put his system into over 350 different languages.
He was able to do all of this because of his prayer life. He practiced the presence of God arid would pray every minute of his waking time. When he was writing a letter. he would be praying for the person to whom he was sending it. When he was reading a book, he would be reading it to the Lord Jesus Christ. When he was talking to a person, he would be praying for that person. it is estimated that over 100 million people have learned to read through Dr. Laubach's method, He then would get them reading the Bible. One book he wrote is Each One Teach One and Lead One to Christ, He not only taught them how to read, but sought to lead them to Christ. Dr. Frank Laubach, Samuel Zwemer and the others mentioned stood upon the heritage of the Haystack Prayer Meeting of 1806 since the Student Volunteer Movement was a natural outgrowth of that event. Our Lord Jesus said, Whoever believes in me. as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:381.