JAC Online

Her Labour Was Not In Vain
by Colonel Edward H. Joy

This is a selection from the unpublished manuscript,
'Our Fathers Have Told Us',
some early-day stories from The Salvation Army

The Officer of whom I now write was a woman who had said good-bye to a charming home in one of England’s prettiest villages, and had left behind all the ‘nice’ things of life when she went forth to face the terrible actualities of Salvation Army service among the heathen peoples of India. 

She was not strong and quite young.  I recall her sweet pale face as I write; those patient eyes, that smile what was always hopeful.  How I wondered at her courage in giving up so much for her Lord; not even the enthusiasm of those early days could quite explain it.  The last sight she had of her home town was when her train for the coast whirled through it, and from the high-flung viaduct she saw the street lights twinkling, and caught a glimpse of Army comrades standing on the platform waving her through.

She was sent to be stationed in a difficult corner of the Indian battlefield – a village where the preponderance of a certain caste made hard soil for any missionary.  Apparently no good has been accomplished for some months previous to her taking charge of the little mud hut, - her quarters on the outskirts of the place. 

Her dark-skinned Lieutenant would open her large eyes wide with astonishment when her fair Captain used to blame herself for not having the joy of seeing more converts.  Maybe she understood better the strength of the caste chains.

The Captain had a habit of going out every morning into the jungle to pray before the sun had risen.  Alone, with her Bible in her hand, she would wander through the sleeping village, and every morning, in the same solitary spot, she would kneel and cry to God – the God of India, to come and teach her how to bring Salvation to the people for whom she had given her life.

Her prayer was answered, but not in the manner she had expected.  Her work was soon finished.  God has His own way of putting the ‘finishing touch’ to work that, apparently, has only just begun.

Why do you ask?  I never knew; I never should understand; I never tried to understand.  But so it was.  He short, sweet life was claimed; those patient eyes were closed by strange though tender hands, and the frail body was laid in an Indian grave.  Her prayers, her tears, her sacrifice of home and friends and self seemed to have been unavailing, - no fruit at all for her reward!  Don’t you believe it.

A long time afterwards, a tall young Hindoo paid a visit to the same mud hut.  Another Officer came to the door, drawing back the straw curtain that hung across the entrance.  She was not a little surprised when, observing the caste mark on his forehead, that he quietly seated himself on the offered mat, and nervously fingered the golden-fringed ends of the chuddah he wore around his neck.

A few moments of silence, and then he spoke, and as he did so, he wept.  He talked of her who was no longer there; of himself, who had been one of her bitterest foes – the hidden meaning of those patient eyes; the explanation of that smile of hope.

One morning in the uncertain light of the creeping dawn, he had followed her, unseen; and then again, and again, and again.  He had stood at a safe distance, hidden by the thick jungle, and had seen her on her knees as if in despair.  He had heard her cry out to God – the God of India – his country – she had said; and he gazed upon her tears, at first with amazement, and then with love.  They had fallen so fast, and had been shed for the people of the village – her village, she had called it in her prayer.  And he was one for whom she had prayed.

“And then,” lifting his large dark eyes to meet those of the listening Officer, “then I believe that the God of that woman was a real God, and I have made up my mind to follow Him and worship Him.  Will you show me the way?  Please, show me the way!”

Did she know, she who gave her life for the Salvation of the village?  I have often wondered whether God has told her.  Perhaps He has, perhaps He has not.  She may be waiting until the Hindoo himself will take her by the hand in Heaven, and make it known that the seed we so often think is never sown at all, is the deepest sown of all, and the reaping is most sure, for our ‘labour in not in vain in the Lord’.








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