Every so often I find my way across the hall and into the archive room of the World Mission Prayer League. The four cinder block walls contain a treasure trove of historical significance. Shelves are laden and boxes are filled with documents, photos, books, reports, obsolete technology and other intriguing items. Adam and I spent an hour or so this past week poking around. While he investigated a number of maps and other rolled posters, I randomly browsed old newsletters that had been boxed away in manila folders. One of the first I pulled was the very first newsletter distributed to those “among us” in the Prayer League. It is an advent-laden document. Written by Paul Lindell in February 1947 (months after Ernest Weinhardt’s death and within a year of John Carlsen accepting a call outside the Prayer League), it presents the foundation for a number of structures still in place and integral to the current identity & operational framework of WMPL.
Together in Prayer
Many requests have come to us both from our missionaries and friends for some sort of monthly news circular or report of what is happening in the Mission. Many things cannot be reported in WORLD VISION but should somehow be made known to “ourselves” and our praying friends so that we can be in closer touch all through the ranks and unite in prayer about them. To try to meet this need in a small way we hope to get together the most important matters each month and circulate them “Just Among Ourselves”. This will be the first letter. We hope that you will keep us supplied with fresh up-to-date information about yourselves and your work and that you will feel free to make any suggestions which will help to strengthen our fellowship in the furtherance of the Gospel.
The question was raised at a recent Council meeting as to how the Council and the Executive Committee could be relieved of having to meet so often to go over many detailed affairs … And so the suggestion was made that in place of calling the executive committee together so often a small committee composed of lay men could be formed to assist the General Director in caring for the details of the work and in making decisions.
The Mission Handbook
For a long while we have felt the need of having a handbook of principles and practices to cover the general work of our Mission. We lack that unifying factor and have felt keenly the lack of it when facing certain problems which arise. In a faith mission like ours it appears increasingly necessary and important that we adopt certain general policies of operation. Without any question one of the strong points of the China Inland Mission, for example, has been their careful and faithful adherence to the lines of their calling as clearly set down for all to see. You will be interested to know that a rough sketch has been drawn up for such a handbook and that the Council now has it under consideration. I suppose that after the Council has had an opportunity to work it over, it will then be sent to the fields for their consideration. It is still too rough to be sent out to all of you, but when it has been knocked around here first and cleaned of its rough edges then you will all get a copy to study and can make suggestions for its improvement.
We have been thinking of ways by which new candidates can be thoroughly taught in the vision, the work, and the policies of the Mission before they leave for the field. Experience has been showing the great importance of this. We have felt the need for a Mission Candidates Course in which such instruction can be given. No exact plans have been made yet but we are thinking of having such a course twice a year for six weeks. During this time all the candidates or prospective candidates will live at the Mission Home where the course will be given and will have much time for prayer, open forum, fellowship, and instruction. Perhaps in some cases more time will be needed. If so, a longer course can be arranged.
In addition to laying the groundwork for a managing body, a governing document, an internal monthly publication, and a missionary training course, this letter touches on a few other items. I consider the following thoughts to be not only timely for the Mission in 1947, but essential today, as together, we navigate a new landscape.
At the annual meeting of the Mission last fall, Rev. Conrad struck a key note for the coming year by reading the well known passage in Isaiah, “Lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes.” It has been a feeling with us that we have been in grave danger of running ahead of the Lord in many of the plans which we have entertained. At the last Council meeting this was especially emphasized. There is a need for strengthening our stakes, consolidating our gains. Before we know it we may be out beyond our depth and be unable to swim. And so it was felt that we should take a firm hold of those things which the Lord has clearly given us to do and make strong our stakes. With this in mind the Council set itself to review our work and then make such adjustments as seemed to be necessary.
As a Prayer League, we commit ourselves (not only as individuals, but as a body) to the Way of the Cross. We believe the Triune God – in faithfulness, love, and life – is at the heart of mission. He is the heart.
In these days, as we do life together as a Prayer League, may we learn from those who have gone before, those who have trod the path and blazed a way forward, those who embraced a vision and invited others into its realization. And, may we remember the One who first unveiled the vision and laid the path we now tread. May we continue in His way and keep our eyes set on Jesus. Let us pray these things.