Article 3 - Divine Purpose and the Pathways of the Spirit Print
Thursday, 16 April 2009

I am continually encouraged to find threads of Divine Purpose intricately woven among our lives, regardless of how diverse our beliefs and cultures. The route of man's intuitive knowledge of God can be a pathway of the spirit, regardless of who he may be be.

An African 'mafia' figure, whose presence dripped gold armlets and rings, offered me safe passage for diamonds in the presidential diplomatic bag. We sat in the shade and talked while his bodyguards grew restless in the strong sun. I asked him if he prayed. He gazed sightless at the floor, his inner thoughts taking over. “After my wife and children are in bed, I sit alone and think,” he said. To be human is to have intuitive knowledge of God, true even among the most dangerous men I have met.

Similarly, successful missionary work may not altogether lie in the wisdom of the missionary, but in the historic purpose into which he has connected. In reality, missionaries are not sent, but are invited by the Holy Spirit to cooperate with him among another people. Basic missionary skill is the ability to recognise Divine Purpose and to harmonise with it.

I am convinced that I have been sustained to follow my dream of preparing many hundreds of missionaries by the path of Purpose that runs through Welsh history.

From the beginnings of our town of twelve houses, sprinkled around a creek with three fisherman and a boat called . . . Jesus; through the legendary colony of praying monks; through a saint called Elli who devoted the ground to the development of spiritual life; through several revivals and a forest of worshipping churches, prayer inspired by Divine Purpose has not turned grey with age, but lives on to affect the spiritual values of the present.

Sometimes Providence arranges journeys we had never planned to make, but in which Divine Purpose is clearly present.

Joseph had no control over his journey to Egypt, yet through his interpretation of Pharaoh's dream, his own dream was fulfilled beyond his expectations. What he could not have known was that from the womb of Egypt, Israel was born and in the womb of Israel, the Saviour of the world would grow.

My Road to . . . Taiping

At the surrender of Japan, the heat of World War 2 began to cool, but its momentum had not lost its energy so communism filled the vacuum in several Asian countries. At the age of nineteen, I volunteered to join the British, Australian and Nepalese forces repelling the communist threat to Malaya.

A unit based near the north-east town of Ipoh, a designated terrorist black zone, received me. It was not communist fire that claimed me as a casualty, but an equally deadly malaria parasite. So, like Joseph, my involuntary journey to a hospital bed among bamboo poles and an attap roof, near the small town of Taiping, had begun. Day by day, I lay sweltering in the heat while gunfire rattled in the surrounding hills. Here I experienced the unbelievable consequences of so many historical pathways which converged on this little known town.

Ox cart or elephant were the usual forms of transport in Malaya, when the first of the 'Christian Brethren' responded to the beckoning Holy Spirit in 1860. Others followed, though as many succumbed to climate, malaria, leprosy and death, progress was slow. Within twenty years, some had reached Ipoh and Taiping.

There was nothing remarkable about the numbers of disciples in Taiping. They remained few and soon the missionary became another casualty to the climate. During his period of recuperation in Britain, he met Marks, a young married man who, from that moment, became convinced that his future lay in Taiping.

The missionary returned, only to lose his health again. He prayed that Marks would replace him. At the same time, the couple were already responding to the God who was inviting them to 'come'. To learn the dialect, they sailed to Amoy in China, and almost lost their lives. For the following fifty years, Marks based himself in Taiping and, with apostolic ferver, prayed and travelled tens of thousands of miles through Malaya and the surrounding countries. Unknown to him, a younger, independent missionary, had also been drawn to Malaya, supporting himself as a tin-mining engineer. When Japan invaded, Marks escaped through a hail of bullets, bombs and torpedoes. Not so the younger man, John who, for three and a half years, survived the notorious Changi prison camp on Singapore. After the surrender of Japan, Marks returned to his looted home. John, after recuperating and marrying Marion, his fiancée, also planned his return, but not knowing where.

It was also at this time that aero-engineer and author, Nevil Shute, who had served in the military for two world wars, published his book, 'Round the Bend', which had strong reference to Malaya. John bought this, with Shute's other novels, as a small library to take with them. Once back on the soil of Malaya, their hire car seemed to steer itself straight to . . . Taiping. At that exact moment, Marks stepped out of the house, met them and they knew that they had arrived home.

John entered the prayer heritage of the older missionary and quickly shared this with the few children who had regrouped. A praying person grows an area of 'prayer influence' around him. When a small number of people pray, this area of 'prayer influence' extends. He may not have realised that the 'prayer influence' of the children had reached the hospital and the bed of the Welsh malaria patient. Slowly my beliefs began to transfigure into faith. Marion, who regularly visited the soldiers with old magazines and encouraging words, sat on my bed and, by mistake, gave me John's prized book, 'Round the Bend'. Shute, the skilful author, had perfected the art of showing truth without preaching it, and its last four words, 'I walked with God' became my Bible for the next two years. I knew that God had found me but I had no thought to call myself Christian. Intuitively I also discovered prayer as a way of life. With army discipline, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Taoist neighbours, my missionary training had begun. The timing and placing of these events were prefect and could only have been designed by a God of Purpose. Yet there was more to come.

Twelve years passed before I met John for the first time. By then he, and an ex-soldier friend, had been deeply involved in the Indonesian Revival. Thirty years passed before I met the praying children. By this time, they had founded the largest church in Kuala Lumpur. Other soldier casualties at Taiping Military Hospital, also became missionaries, or church leaders with missionary children. Our doctor became a medical missionary to tribal peoples.

After some years, I returned to the newly-named Malaysia to develop my own missionary work and discovered that a disproportional number of Christian leaders had all come from . . . Taiping. The Kuala Lumpur church had begun its own national mission and quickly placed its first missionaries into the Muslim world. In Ipoh, I entered a Hindu temple, to share my faith with the priest. The man who greeted me was a temple secretary from . . . Taiping, who spent an hour telling me how he had visited the missionary's home and learned to pray.

So, in Taiping, I discovered that the Purpose of God lay lightly under the soil, and a seed passed imperceptibly into my heart. Although my open profession of faith came much later, I had already found the pathway of the Spirit which I still follow. This has given direction to my colleagues and to the many hundreds of missionaries of various nationalities that have been sent from Wales, and the several hundred Koreans who have trained here.

The Kingdom grows, not from the Tree of Human Ingenuity, which the tempting snake said would be like God, but from the Tree of Life which is God. This is why so many significant events which shape our future are altogether beyond our control. For, behind time, lies God's Eternal Purpose and there are many pathways of the Spirit that lead to it.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 April 2009 )
< Prev   Next >