Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Reaping what we Sow

Recently my brother Donald gave me some of my late father's personal papers and various original documents concerning Aberlour Gospel Hall which he had in safe keeping.

The piece below is an extract from his long-hand notes of a talk which he gave at a Harvest Thanksgiving Service not long before his passing in 1991. It is encouraging to know that the many seeds which he sowed throughout his life are continuing to bear fruit.

I have previously written about our march as prisoners of war in the sweltering summer of 1940 in my book, 'We've Been A Long Time Coming Boys'.

Our captors took us through France, Belgium and Holland. We had to face the ordeal of travelling on sealed coal barges for days and nights up the River Rhine, and the horror of 72 hours shut up in closed railway wagons across Germany to Poland, and a final long journey north to Danzig (Gdansk) and prison life there.

How often I asked the question: 'Why me Lord?'

Every evening when shut up in our little billet, I lay on my straw bed and read the only book I had: my dad's Bible from the First World War. He had planted the seed in my heart eleven years before: would it now grow in these difficult circumstances?

There's a verse in the Bible which says: 'Desire the sincere milk of God's Word that you might grow thereby'. Although I did not realise it at the time, I was growing by reading the book.

Nine months passed and I had not spoken to any of my fellow prisoners about my Lord or my faith.

Everything changed on Saturday 19 April 1941 with the arrival of a middle aged prisoner called Fred Goodchild who was crippled as the result of shrapnel injuries. Fred wanted to organise a church service the following evening and because I was the only person with a Bible, he turned to me to do the preaching. That was when the seed of my father's verse all these years before suddenly sprouted. The next evening, and for the next four years I preached in that prison billet, with the men always ready to sit round and listen. For me, this was the germination of a seed sown eleven years before, one thousand miles distant in the village of Aberlour. The question was: would there now be a harvest?

The very first evening, big Joe Wathen from Sheffield threw in his lot with us. This was a great encouragement because he had a rich baritone voice, and later was to sing solos.

I was however far from confident that I could carry out the mission that had been given to me. The mountain seemed to be too high, but over time I found that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Shortly after we were joined by another POW, Tommy Lear. He arrived carrying a piano-accordion. Although neither he nor anyone else could play the instrument, I could, and it was used to accompany the good old psalms and hymns during our services. Some time later my dad sent us some twenty Redemption Songs books via the Red Cross, so the Sunday evening service was extended to hymn singing and a sermon. Later, a violin arrived and a Londoner called Stan Rayner was able to play it, and not to be outdone, Syd Whyte a master carpenter made himself a banjo: the harvest was ripening!

Soon, I had a prayer partner in a lad called Alex Espie from Luss. I well remember one evening, talking with Alex and another fellow-prisoner from Ayr, Bob McCallum. Bob was extolling the benefits of letting out a good mouthful of oaths when things went horribly wrong when Alex said quietly, 'Bob you have not heard me swear in six weeks'. What a joy that was to me. Later I heard the same Bob who had advocated swearing, singing as he worked ploughing a nearby field on his own singing the old hymn, 'Nearer my God to thee, e'en though it be a cross that raiseth me'.

Looking back, this all began years before with words sown by my parents, and my aunt, Isabella Morrison.

Let's not leave the sowing to someone else like the Minister or some evangelist. Be a sower, and in due season you shall reap if you faint not.”

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