NEWS: Special Report

Students probe opportunity to serve. IVCF convention shows evangelical vitality, broadening social interest.

Gathered in the mammoth University of Illinois Assembly Hall, 7,000 youthful delegates lifted hearts and voices in climactic lines approaching the pitch of a battle cry:

We are on the Lord’s side,

Savior, we are Thine!

Perhaps it was their way of repudiating student escapades at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, and Seaside, Oregon. Or perhaps the Congo martyrdoms had stirred a new measure of spiritual vitality. Whatever the reasons, the Seventh Inter-Varsity Missionary Convention held during the last five days of 1964 could show the world an army of Christian collegians in a sincere quest for purposeful living and service.

At the same time, 3,500 Methodist college students and campus ministers met at Lincoln, Nebraska, for the Eighth Quadrennial Conference of the Methodist Student Movement. At Richmond, Virginia, the Eighth Quadrennial Youth Convention of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. drew 540 students.

The Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, convention, sponsored by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in the United States and Canada, drew its record turnout from nearly a thousand campuses. Almost too restrained at the outset, the students proved to be earnest seekers and intent listeners. Only on the last night did an unruly element protrude. Announcement of a ban on picture-taking by Dr. John W. Alexander, IVCF’s newly appointed general director, was greeted by a defiant succession of camera flashes. When Alexander was left speechless, the crowd roared in good humor. That episode aside, delegates behaved in a way becoming their collective destiny: tomorrow’s missionary task force.

The Urbana convention has become the world’s leading trade fair of the foreign missions enterprise and the most productive medium of missionary recruitment.

“It’s a candidate secretary’s dream,” said Dr. Horace L. Fenton, associate general director of the Latin America Mission. “These delegates badger us from early morning until late at night. What’s more, they voice important concerns, not things like ‘what’s there to eat on the field?’ ”

One missionary representing a major denominational board reports that more than 50 per cent of its candidates for overseas service have had IVCF contacts. To buy up opportunities, that board sent four staff members to man its displays. Another missionary board executive said that fifteen of its 1964 recruits had attended Inter-Varsity’s last convention.

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A total of ninety denominational and independent missionary boards were represented by convention displays. The exhibits stretched across nearly a half-mile of concourse corridors in the circular, ultra-modern hall. Walkways were remarkably clean. indicating a minimum of waste among the 1,000,000 or more pieces of literature that changed hands during the convention.

The cresting interest of denominational boards in Inter-Varsity candidates provides a widening wave of evangelical missionary commitment within mainstream churches. It also works to diminish the embarrassing number of conservative missionaries abroad who avoid an ecumenical identification or association.

Among the delegates were the editor-in-chief of the student daily at Yale, a nephew of Kenya’s Tom Mboya, a drama student from Korea, and the son of a missionary martyred in Bolivia. In all, some seventy-five denominations were represented, including Roman Catholicism: at least eight trainees for the priesthood were on hand. In the absence of a category of “observers,” under which they had proposed to attend, they registered as delegates.

The breadth of concern among delegates carved out new avenues of involvement for Inter-Varsity. Questions sent to panel discussions by the students dealt largely with racial justice and Roman Catholicism. Student sensitivity to these issues obviously will encourage Inter-Varsity to regard them as focal points for future campus discussion and planning.

As new general director, the 46-year-old Alexander assumes responsibility for the movement’s strategy. His credentials include a distinguished academic career at the University of Wisconsin and visiting professorships at Harvard and UCLA. He comes to an organization which has been plagued by internal strife despite a realization of unparalleled opportunities for Christian outreach on secular campuses throughout North America. The academic world ignores Christianity before exploring it, he says, and thus rejects an unknown.

IVCF’s response to the temper of the times was stamped indelibly on the convention program. Easily the most electrifying suggestion to come out of the panels on social issues was one which challenged missionary boards to reject financial aid from churches which deliberately encourage segregation. Further underscoring the intensity of the racial problem was panel member Ruth Lewis, who was one of the first Negroes ever to enroll at the University of Alabama and who is now studying for a doctorate there. Arthur Glasser, home director of China Inland Mission—Overseas Missionary Fellowship, predicted that missionaries’ concern for racial justice would be “determinative.”

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The Rev. Ruben Lores, a native of Cuba who has been appointed evangelism program coordinator for Latin America Mission, admonished Christians not to take social issues lightly. Evangelicals in the Latin American situation, he said, must press for political evolution, rapid social reform, industrial development, and fair trade agreements.

The most interesting platform personality was P. T. Chandapilla, 38-year-old general secretary of the Union of Evangelical Students of India. Chandapilla, clad in a white linen dhoti and shoeless, exhorted students to make their life their message. His own volatile spirit encouraged a more militant approach to evangelism.

Students also will remember the quietly persuasive appeal for Christian unity voiced by Executive Secretary I. Ben Wati of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, the plea for “a lifetime of Bible study” uttered by the Rev. John R. W. Stott of the Church of England, and the articulate delineation of the convention theme—“Change Unparalleled, Witness Unashamed, Triumph Unquestioned”—by Dr. Eugene Nida, translations secretary of the American Bible Society.

Evangelist Billy Graham told a crowd of 13,500 that the academic world is losing its influence among students because it avoids the issues of sin, suffering, death, and the purpose of history. Only the Bible, he said, speaks to the ultimate situations.

Other highlights of the convention program included a memorial service for martyred missionaries and a New Year’s Eve communion service.

The morning-to-night schedule mapped out for delegates left little time for informal social contacts. Even the couple who spent their honeymoon at the convention were obliged to frequent the residence-hall Bible studies and prayer meetings. Couples who did manage to pair off during the proceedings were more likely to be thinking of a future together on the mission field than of an enchanted evening under Urbana’s cold, starless sky.

From The Big Ten

The Urbana convention was a homecoming for Dr. John W. Alexander, the new general director of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in the United States. Alexander was born in the Urbana area and won his undergraduate tuition by playing a D-flat clarinet in the Illinois Concert Band.

Alexander is giving up a distinguished academic career to join IVCF. He leaves the University of Wisconsin as chairman of its Department of Geography. He had also been an assistant dean of its College of Letters and Sciences.

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Alexander succeeds Charles H. Troutman, who will continue with IVCF in another rapacity.

Raised a Free Methodist, Alexander is now a member of Park Street Congregational Church, Boston. In Madison, Wisconsin, he and his wife have been attending a Conservative Baptist church. They have four children.

Following undergraduate work at Illinois, where he earned Phi Beta Kappa honors, Alexander served as a gunnery officer aboard an aircraft carrier during World War II. He earned a master’s and doctor’s degree at Wisconsin and stayed there to teach. His accomplishments include a pacesetting 660-page textbook on economic geography published by Prentice-Hall in 1963.

One of his first aims in Inter-Varsity is to attract more revenue and to increase staff salaries. Another is to cultivate contacts and extend cooperation in denominational student ministries.

The Gospel Provides A Sequel

Ten years ago a young Buenos Aires accountant named Eduardo Burgos murdered his mistress and cut the body into small pieces. The sensational press of Argentina made the most of the sordid story, and the case of “Burgos el descuartizador” (Burgos the quarterer) was played up from virtually every angle.

The sequel to the story is now being published by the same papers, and all reports stress the unusual feature of what would otherwise have been a very ordinary event: While in prison, Burgos heard the Gospel and was converted. The change in his life impressed jailers and judges and influenced them and public opinion in his favor. His sentence was shortened because of good conduct, and last month he was freed.

In statements made to the press Burgos, in a humble simple manner, told how the Lord had saved him. The Gospel had not had such a good press in Argentina since the visit of Billy Graham in 1962!

Burgos is one of many convicts reached in Argentina by a group of Plymouth Brethren who specialize in prison work. A former gangster, converted while serving his sentence, is now a full-time worker with the group. Evangelical churches have been formed by groups of converted inmates in two prisons. In the city of Villa Maria the head of the local prison is an evangelical, and the government recently paid tribute to “the astounding success of his social and spiritual work.”


Congo: Present With The Lord

Fifty years ago last year C. T. Studd went to the Congo to establish the first work of the World Evangelization Crusade.

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Late last fall WEC received a telegram beginning simply, “Following glorified.” On the list were William P. McChesney, Phoenix, Arizona, Muriel Harman of Victoria, British Columbia, Cyril Taylor of New Zealand and James Rodger of Dundee, Scotland.

The U. S. State Department did not confirm the telegraphed news, but hostages rescued at Wamba late in December said that the rebels had singled out “the American” there for a particularly brutal death, first trampling him and then throwing him into the river. McChesney was the only American known to be in Wamba.

The sole WEC missionary still unaccounted for was Miss Winnifred Davies of North Wales.

Other WEC missionaries who were previously unaccounted for, some of whom were feared dead, are now known to be alive and safe. Among them are: Miss Daisy Kingdon of Jamaica, Miss Patricia Holdaway of New Zealand, Miss Elaine Aitken of Coventry, England, Dr. Helen Roseveare of London, Miss Elaine de Rusett of Australia, Miss Florence Stebbins of London, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Scholes of Blackbull, England, Mr. Brian Cripps of London, Miss Amy Grant of Wolverhampton, England, and Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey Brown and their four children of Canada.

The Unevangelized Fields Mission reported early this month that five of its people who were missing are now known to be alive and safe. They are Mrs. Chester Burke of Calgary, Alberta, whose husband is still missing, Mr. and Mrs. George Kerrigan. Miss Louie Rimmer, and Miss Olive McCarten, the last four from Great Britain.

A UFM spokesman said that eighteen others previously unaccounted for are still missing and presumed dead, although their bodies have not been found. Clothing of one person was found by a river; the passport of another turned up in Leopoldville.

The killing of McChesney brought the total of known Protestant missionary deaths in the Congo last year to eleven. A Vatican paper said that more than forty Roman Catholic missionaries died at the hands of Congolese rebels during the latter part of the year. The number of Congolese killed by the rebels since the rebellion began last May is estimated at 10,000.

The Christmas Carpenters

Last October the Antioch Baptist Church, a Negro church in Mississippi, burned to the ground after a civil rights meeting. December 25 found sixty whites and Negroes there for a Christmas service.

The church had no roof and no windows, but there were pews made of boards and cement blocks. After the congregation had sung the last Christmas hymn, they picked up their tools, which were scattered around the church, and set to work on the roof.

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The students, who called themselves “Carpenters for Christmas,” had determined that the church, located in Ripley, Mississippi, was going to have its Christmas service as usual. Some of them had earlier participated in civil rights activities in the area.

At the end of the service, a Negro woman rose with tears in her eyes to present the students with boxes of fruit and candy. They hoped to have the work completed before going back to their colleges.

During the building of the church, a few firecrackers were thrown and shots were reportedly fired at a worker’s car, but no injuries were reported.

Speeding The Light

Missionary Aviation Fellowship plans to take delivery in March on its first multiengined aircraft, a $90,000 Aero Commander 500B earmarked for service in West Irian.

MAF officials say the sleek, twin-engine Aero Commander was chosen because of its speed and payload. It is a well-proved model similar to that approved for use by President Eisenhower during the late 1950s. It is expected to do the work of 2.75 Cessna 185s, the single-engine planes now employed by MAF in West Irian. The resulting savings in personnel will help to alleviate a problem stemming from the government’s reluctance to grant visas to prospective new missionary pilots.

MAF, which started out on a shoestring in 1944, now has a total of thirty-seven planes and 158 people serving missionaries in fifteen countries. In twenty years of operation MAF pilots logged some 10,000,000 air miles without a fatal accident.

Focus On The Great Commission

Next year Christians from all over the world will meet in Berlin to discuss the urgency of the Great Commission.

This is the objective of the World Congress on Evangelism, according to Billy Graham, honorary chairman, and Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, congress chairman and editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Discussing the congress with newsmen, Graham said that Christianity is losing ground because of a “lack of emphasis on evangelism,” and that an evangelistic renewal is needed inside the Church as well as outside.

“The involvement of church members in incidents of racial violence and hatred is one proof that we still have plenty of evangelizing to do right at home,” Graham declared.

He also said, however, that the South has made “tremendous progress” in race relations.

The Congress on Evangelism is sponsored by CHRISTIANITY TODAY as a tenth-anniversary project. It will be held October 26 to November 4, 1966.

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