In response to an article on the life of F. S. Arnot in our March 1991 issue, we were sent a copy of a news item published in Britain at the time of one of Arnot’s visits to his homeland. Since one of the purposes of this magazine is to seek to stir up evangelistic interest, whether at home or abroad, we thought it helpful to include this graphic account.
“Arnot is to be at Ayr on Friday night.” This intimation was sufficient to cause twenty-eight of us to make for the county town. Beside Mr. Arnot, there were on the platform, Mr. Jones, missionary from China, and Mr. Donald McLean, a young Scotsman, who is just setting out for the mission field in India . . . The young missionary is unassuming to a degree. He gives a quiet, unadorned account of his “wanderings.” He indulges in no flights of eloquence. There is no studied attempt to produce an effect. Yet a great effect is produced. There is the profoundest attention. Mr. Arnot has dispensed with an introduction. He simply takes his cane, and says, “We’ll commence here,” pointing to a certain spot on the coast of southern Africa. It was here he lost his fellow laborer, and had then to proceed single-handed into the great African wilderness. It was at this point that the oxen gave way through famine of water, and the journey had to be continued by the aid of native carriers. It was here he had fellowship with the apostle in hunger and thirst, and perils in the wilderness. It was here the wild bushmen, with a wonderful philanthropic instinct, took mercy on him when faint through long-continued thirst, and, by the aid of their long canes, sucked as much moisture out of the earth as revived him to resume his journey. It was here, when provisions failed, that he killed three antelopes, and after being compelled to divide the spoil with the wild beasts, he defended the remaining carcasses till help arrived at three o’clock in the morning. It was here that water again gave way; and the bushmen, in his dire extremity, again came to his help. It was here, after crossing a parched-up wilderness, that the waters of the Zambesi river burst on his view. It was here that he rested his wearied body and raised his Ebenezer for journeying mercies. It was here he broke the virgin soil with the Gospel, and told the benighted Africans about Jesus. It was here he rescued the little native children, doomed to death by the requirements of the awful slave trade . . . and it was from that point he set out to pay a visit to his native country, and give us at firsthand a picture of the great heathen world, as he found it in the heart of southern Africa. We need not wonder that his visit is creating a profound interest in the African mission field. In his “wilderness journey” he had been followed by many a prayerful and loving heart; and it is only “natural” that many should be eager to see and hear one whose path of danger and hardship had made it doubtful if they would ever see him again.
But, by the tender mercy of God, he has been kept alive in famine, and preserved amid all the perils of the way. He has come back for a little season to testify to the abounding grace of a faithful God, and to stir us up concerning the claims of the dark places of the earth. That the meeting effected this purpose, we cannot doubt. Yet, strange to say, there was very little exhortation. Each of the foreign laborers simply told his story, and left that story to tell its story. They spoke as men who could say, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.” There was no flourish of trumpets. They had not come as theorizers; but as men who had been face to face with heathendom on its own ground. They had beheld its festering sores; they had heard with their own ears its inarticulate wail for deliverance . . .
Such are the men wanted for the “foreign field.” It may be pleasant to sing of regions “where Afric’s sunny fountains roll down their golden sand.” But it was made clear to us on that Friday night, that in the center of an African wilderness, missions are entirely bereft of the air of romance; and it was a pleasant reflection to us that the brethren on that platform had not only trod the foreign field thus robbed of its halo of sentimentality, but were so delighted with the Master’s service that they were going right back again! The Lord send them help from the sanctuary, and strengthen them out of Zion!