Index Page   The Lord Took Me

 

Christians Divided

Once again someone came up to me as I stood at the bow of the ship. This time it was a youthful missionary from a different society. He was a lively and intelligent man. I had often seen him gaily smoking his pipe and conducting sports on board. As he joined me he started discussing the schisms of the churches in South Africa. I nodded. Well I knew how these things in Europe had torn asunder the Church of the one God. Nor was our own fair land exempt. There the heathen from his hut silently watched all this and remembered the message of God, the one God, and remained baffled.

We to have to bring a change,’ said my companion. Although he was as inexperienced as I, the way he said it made it seem a most worthwhile and feasible proposition. Had not my own mother been separated from her family by a split in the church? Had we not, as children, heard with wondering ears, how they prayed for the ‘lost sheep?’ Was not this goal that was now set before me rewarding, a valid one? I did not reply immediately and the young man continued expounding his ideas at great length. My thoughts drifted back – as they often did – to the conversation I had had in such identical circumstances. But that young lady, with a childlike heart, had not presented me with the organisation of the church but with Him. Not with a plan but with a Person. But alas, I could not yet discern the difference.

One Sunday morning I was asked to take the Protestant Service on board. With flowing robes I sallied forth from my cabin. A little party of nuns on their way to the Roman Catholic ceremony withdrew in fear and pulled their black clothes tighter round them. A priest passed by and made the sign of the cross. We were all on our way to Africa – to the heathen.

After the service a man came up to me, ‘Tell me,’ he said, ‘why are you a Christian?’ No one had ever asked me this question before and I was confounded and momentarily wordless. But I pulled myself together, avoided looking at him, and said, ‘To die peacefully.’ He looked me full in the face and said, ‘I thought Protestants had a better answer. Tell me then, does a Japanese not die peacefully?’ Without waiting for a further reply he turned away. A moment later I saw him sitting down beside the Roman Catholic priest with the dark horn rimmed spectacles.

Not long after that a lady from South West Africa stopped me and praised my sermon. The drooping soul temporarily revived again and I beamed. Thus did inferiority feeling and the desire to be in favour fight back and forth in a dangerous balance.

Eventually Durban, the home port, came into view. As shore drew near I could make out the stocky figure of my father standing on the quay side – unchanged after seven years. There he stood, where I had last seen him, short and sturdy and dressed in riding breeches and leather leggings, the military coat over his arm. You could understand why this man had never been thrown from a horse. How strong he looked. A glance towards my neighbour, the young missionary beside me at the rail convinced me that I was not dreaming. Had time stood still in Africa while I had been away?