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SASRA and the World War 1 centenary (3)

October 2018

In this third article, the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Scripture Readers Association (SASRA) continues to highlight the work of its forerunners in the last months of World War One. It’s striking to note the deep concern for gospel mission in 1918 within the military and elsewhere. With the Army and RAF in mind, please pray that former service personnel who love Jesus Christ would be called back to the harvest field, ‘behind the wire’.

One hundred years ago, the First World War was drawing to a close.  Germany’s allies were agreeing to armistices (Turkey on 30 October and Austria on 4 November), their army had suffered a series of defeats and revolution broke out in Germany on 4 November, as well.

Even before the end of the war, the Soldiers’ Christian Association (SCA — now SASRA) was planning for the peace. In October 1918 the SCA secretary wrote; ‘Judging by the marvellous events of the past weeks, it would seem that peace is now in sight and that God will soon graciously answer the prayers of His people. How long this peace, if it comes, will last, it is impossible to foretell…

‘Of course the view that a political alliance, such as a League of Nations, cannot be the cure for earth’s ills is not popular; we are not, however, concerned with popularity, nor to expect it….

‘The possible approach of peace presents problems to all, but perhaps no greater personal problem calls for solution than that which faces the Christian soldier as the time of demobilisation draws near. He, during the years of War, has learned, in a way and to an extent, never experienced by others, how gloriously true it is that God both saves and keeps to the uttermost. When, during my visit to France, I heard at the “khaki” meetings the soul-stirring testimonies some of you gave in our huts of what God had done for you, I felt convinced that many would soon hear the command “Go forth and tell” and that you would not be content until you could offer yourselves for definite service in the home or foreign mission field.

‘There is already a great demand — and at the cessation of hostilities it will be greater — for workers in all fields of Christian activity, and it would be difficult to find any association other than the SCA with a greater supply of possible candidates for such posts.

‘Our committee is most anxious to do all in its power to link up this demand with the supply, and has under its consideration plans to be put into effect during demobilisation, which it is hoped may establish immediate personal contact between Christian men and the various societies requiring workers.

‘The purpose of this letter is to invite all who contemplate offering themselves after demobilisation for Christian work of any description to send to me at once their name and address…’

The call was taken up. Behind the Shield, a history of SCA written in the late 1930s, recorded: ‘To draw up anything like a complete list of those who came back into civilian life and devoted their time and thought to some form of definite Christian service, is impossible.  [It then named the] Open Air Mission, Evangelisation Society, Church Army, North Africa Mission, Sudan United Mission, Sudan Interior Mission, Regions Beyond Mission, Qua Iboe Mission, Heart of Africa Mission, China Inland Mission, and Colonial and Continental Church Association’.

To Christ be the glory!

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