Having been approached from many quarters and believing that our people, who have given freely and generously to the fund raised for the brethren and sisters in Jamaica, are entitled to a few words concerning our recent visit and labours there, a few lines in regard to the visit and labour will now be given.
We, Mr. Harry Zwak and the undersigned, left Chicago at 10 o’clock A.M., April 20, and arrived safely at Montego Bay six hours later. It was, at least for Mr. Zwak going from snow flurries to semitropical climate in three quick “jumps,” for his journey began at Grand Rapids, where flurries had been falling, and we’met together at O’Hare Field to begin to labor together for twenty-eight days of constant fellowship. Our journey to Jamaica was not without its significant happenings, which, when related to the Islington congregation, brought us closer to these brethren and sisters in the Lord who are of another race and color. The flight to Miami was without incident, but from Miami to Montego Bay we encountered an extremely violent storm over Cuba; and our plane, after being tossed around like a leaf in the wind, suddenly made a flat drop of over five hundred feet in one sudden rush toward Cuban soil. We experienced the difference between having fear and living in His fear. And when, on Sunday, we related this experience with the explanation that it was, looking back but not desiring such an experience itself again, a wonderful experience with blessed implications for us in that we understood as never before the words of Moses to Israel, “Underneath are the everlasting arms,” Numbers 33:27, the congregation as led by Rev. Elliott responded by singing “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.” Indeed, the world and the unbeliever may say that we struck an unusually large and deep air pocket and then reached at the lower altitude the “thicker” air; but we prefer in His fear to say that underneath the plane and its wings were the everlasting arms of the God of our salvation, Who had work for us to do in Jamaica and “added unto us all these things”which we needed for that work. Here already we felt at once that color and race mean nothing in the Church of Jesus Christ and that concern for our wellbeing and thankfulness unto God for our safe journey are not to be-explained by such physical matters as race and color but by the t words of Paul inEphesians 4:4-6, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are calledin one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” The reaction likewise at Lucea, Rev. Frame’s congregation, where we spent our last Sunday and the greater share of our time on the Island, when parting tears were shed unashamedly for us of different color and race, is not to be explained by material considerations and natural reactions. We were on an Island—whose population is only two percent white; and we did not frequent the places where white tourists spend their time and money, but went up into the hills and deep recesses of the mountains and inner part of the Island where few white men come; and those who do, come, not to labor and represent the cause of Christ, but for curiosity or of necessity. Though for many an hour we were the only white people within miles and we, no doubt, were extremely conspicuous among those definitely not of our race and color, we felt perfectly at home, because those with whom we dealt had the same Spirit within them and have the same Lord and Father. Of this we were convinced time and time again.
It might be well to state here that the Jamaicans with whom we dealt are a spiritual, though emotional, people. How strange and yet wonderful for us it was to come into stores and hear sacred songs sung without reserve and shame. How refreshing to wake up in the night—for due to poverty and lack of ability to buy and maintain automobiles, there is a steady stream of humanity walking the roads to get to their destination, either home from a distant place or unto such a place—and to hear a rich baritone voice lifted in a song of praise! How different from our material, worldly-minded life when one cannot tell a believer from an unbeliever on the street. O, indeed, we heard the songs of the world and saw unbelief and wickedness as well. We saw and heard much of which we cannot approve. But we found among those with whom we dealt a desire to be instructed, and that means a great deal. How many are there not who have been taught the truth from infancy, have all the resources and opportunities of being instructed, and turn up their noses, despise speeches and lectures on spiritual matters, reject the faith that they have been taught and run after men and doctrines of men! More tolerable will it be in the day of judgment for those who never heard so rich a truth and now express desire to be taught that truth, than those who were taught and cast from them the truth t ey were privileged to hear. One must not go on a mifsion field expecting to find converts sitting there waiting to tell you how fully and richly they believe the truth that you wish to bring to them. But one certainly does expect in the church to find its sons and daughters cherishing the truth handed down and contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.
But to return to our visit, we plunged into the work at once and drove on Wednesday to Lucea and worshipped there that evening in a Wednesday evening prayer serv ice. Undersigned preached to the congregation from the Word of God as found in Isaiah 49:16 and assured the congregation assembled that somewhere in those walls that are eternally before the God of our salvation and engraven in the palms of His hands were the brethren and sisters on the Island of Jamaica, and that one day we would all be together, not as separate races but united as the various members of the one body of Christ. The next two days were spent visiting the churches of Rev. Frame on the western end of the Island. Being scheduled to preach twice in Islington which is on the eastern end of the Island—which, by the way, is about one hundred and fifty miles long and about forty miles wide—we spent Friday afternoon and Saturday travelling to Islington and looking up Rev. Elliott.
As is the case in America, where the Protestant Reformed Churches are a handful by comparison and on the whole little known, so the Protestant Reformed Churches in Jamaica are not known even in a little town such as Islington; and it took some diligent searching and questioning, as well as visiting of other churches, before we finally found Rev. Elliott.
Sunday we witnessed a Jamaican Communion service and were impressed by the solemnity of it and by the method followed. The bread is not broken in advance as is done in our churches to a greater and lesser degree, but pieces were broken off by Rev. Elliott from a loaf of Jamaican bread as he passed through the congregation, reciting as he went from the one communicant to the other the words of Paul which are quoted in our Form, “The Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it and said, Take eat; this is My body which is broken for you, this do in remembrance of Me.” The cup of blessing was a cup of grape juice, and the congregation held the bread and the “wine” until all were served and then ate and drank in communion with each other. Again, the color of the communicants did not in the least make this solemn sacrament seem strange for us to celebrate with them, nor even did we notice the color distinction during that Communion Service or during any of the preaching and labor.
The part of our labors that was unpleasant was the days when we were sent from office to office and place to place in Kingston and Spanish Town, where the offices of the Government of Jamaica are to be found. This is no reflection upon the Government, and we find plenty of red tape in our own land. But Jamaica has been independent now for only three years, and it takes time for these Jamaicans to work themselves into all the wheels of the machinery of the governing of their Island, and even to find all the records and archives. We do believe, however, that our efforts will prove to be successful and that this phase of our work was rewarding as far as the end result is concerned; and it deals with government recognition of these Jamaican ministers and the import of used clothing free of duty.
Our third week was an extremely busy one, with two services a day from Tuesday through Friday and these at 4 P.M. and 7 P.M. But the reception of the Word and the disappointment of the churches where we could not preach because of torrential rains upon tin-roofed churches and because time failed for us to be at all of them, particularly of Rev. Elliott’s group, we understood, and even that was encouraging unto us.
Space does not permit a detailed report of all our activities or of all our experiences. We could speak of a Sea Baptism of a young man preceded by a service in the church, witnessed by the whole congregation that came down for the immersion and then followed by another service that same morning at which we were privileged to preach on Acts 2:39, “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” This service was held on Hope Hill high above the Sea and reached by a twenty-five minute walk through dense, tropical country and up a steep hill behind a guide who had to be sent down to show us the way, and who had to lead us back to our car.
We can report of the distribution of the alms which were collected in our churches, of the visits to Sunday Schools and hearing of the children reciting their verses and singing their songs. And bearing in mind the great poverty among these people, we would suggest that our Sunday Schools and others remember these children in the Fall with collections or the like that these Jamaican children likewise may receive their box of candy and orange, even as our children do, at Christmas time.
But the caption which we placed at the head of these lines we firmly believe. These Jamaicans are black. There is no use trying to hide that fact, and it cannot be hidden. Nor must we want to do so. They are of the descendants of Ham, and that cannot be denied either. But Solomon as moved by the Holy Spirit says, “I am black, but comely.” And, as we told the congregations at Port Maria and at Galloway, Noah does not say, “Cursed be Ham and all his descendants.” He said, “Cursed be Canaan,” and this curse became plain in that these Canaanites prepared the whole land of Canaan with its wells and farms, its cities and vineyards for Shem’s descendants as they came under the leadership of Moses and Joshua from Egypt to Canaan. What is more, there is the Ethiopian eunuch who certainly was not cursed but blessed with salvation and the preaching of Philip. There is mention of Rahab, the Canaanitess, and the widow of Zarephath to whom Elijah was sent. Ethiopia is mentioned again in Psalm 87:4 as the place from whence God calls and gathers His people.
Though black may be the skin, do not conclude that Christ is not within. That we wishto say emphatically! And even so, when the skin is white, it is no sign of pleasure in God’s sight! Along the beaches, in the areas of the wealthy and godless white tourists we saw immorality and unbelief. And it was refreshing to flee to the hills and to the poor of this other race to find high morals and worthy examples. Particularly were we impressed with the profound respect that the children have for their parents and elders. All this may soon change, for the tourists threaten to spoil the entire beautiful island and to corrupt the inhabitants. But let no man say that Christianity is limited to the white or that eh “Dutch” have a corner on the truth and all others are simply outside the Kingdom.
Let it be borne in mind and never forgotten that the white man is saved by grace and not by his color or works. And the black races will also be saved, according to the decree of sovereign election from before the foundation of the world, by grace and by the same Christ, by the same and not by a different blood, by the same Spirit of Truth and with the same life which is from above. In our flesh dwelleth no good things, any more than there dwells in the flesh of other races any good thing. Noah did not give to Ham anything that he did not give to Shem and Japheth. He gave all three of his sons a totally depraved and corrupt nature. It is Christ who saves, and then He saves always in the same way and by the same means. His blood is able to make the vilest sinner clean. His Spirit is able to make those of the black races whiter than snow. And no man, regardless of his race and color can do that!
Black, filthy and corrupt INSIDE we are by nature, but comely and beautiful by the blood and Spirit of Christ. In His fear do not limit the sphere where the Spirit is willing and able to work.