BW Missions and Missionary Literature
The Brethren were once criticized for having no missions program. This observation was certainly based on a most lamentable ignorance of their operations from the very beginning. Brethren literature in a sense antedates even the first tract specifically associated with the movement itself. It was in 1825 that Anthony Norris Groves published a little tract entitled Christian Devotedness, in which he "inculcated wholehearted dedication of self and substance to the Lord Jesus Christ" (Veitch, p. 25, 26). Through losing four hundred pounds he had saved for a theological education he was led into an independent view of ministry, which has been exemplified by Mrs. Frances Bevan in the verse of her hymns: "Christ the Son of God has sent me through the midnight lands, Mine the mighty ordination of the pierced hands."
In 1829 Groves and his family left for Baghdad, and a very fascinating era of independent missions began. This story has not been told in full, so far as I can find out. John Caldwell Thiessen in his Survey of World Missions has twenty-eight references in his index to Plymouth Brethren missions under the name of their only well-known international society, Christian Missions in Many Lands. he says that the first Plymouth Brethren were in India in 1833 but did not begin actual missionary work until 1836 (p. 43). In 1830 Lord Congleton arrived in Asiatic Turkey to assist Groves.
Protestant work in Venezuela is said to have been begun first by Brethren in 1883 (Thiessen, p. 354). The Open Brethren were in the Azores in 1888 (ibid., p. 200). In Egypt there were reported nine thousand adherents to Brethren missions and two hundred meeting places of theirs (ibid., p. 168).
The first Protestant work in Indo-China was opened in 1902 by Swiss Brethren (ibid., p. 58). R.C. Chapman went to Spain in 1836, the first Italian assembly was in existence in 1836, and today the Brethren work is the largest Protestant work in Italy, according to Stacy Woods. For many years the most significant work being done in the Argentine has been done by the Brethren. In the nineteenth century sixty missionaries went out from Brethren circles to Africa.
It is not surprising that considerable missionary literature has arisen out of these missionary efforts. F.S. Arnot has two books on his work, Garenganze; or, Mission Work in Central Africa; and Missionary Travels in Central Africa. Northcote Deck, who died in 1957, has written South from Guadalcanal, and North from Guadalcanal. Joseph E. Dutton has an interesting book called An Evangelist's Travels, which deals with pioneering work in Europe, North Africa, America, and the West Indies (Kilmarnock, n.d.). The work of Dr. Baedeker in Russia is covered by Robert Sloan Latimer in Dr. Baedeker and his Apostolic Work in Russia (London, 1907). Incidentally, Stephen reports in Look on the Fields (London, n.d., the only book I have seen yet that summarizes Brethren missionary work throughout the world) that in 1926 it was reported by a Brother that there were six thousand assemblies of believers in Russia.
J.J. Rouse's book “Pioneer Work in Canada Practically Presented” (Kilmarnock, 1935) is a fascinating book. W.E. Vine wrote a small Guide to Missionary Service (London, 1946); Stacy Woods brought out a keen analysis of present problems in The Missionary in a World in Revolution (Oak Park, Ill., 1956).
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