Our third article of excerpts from SASRA in the Second World War concern the end of the war and continuing need of Christian witness to the Army and RAF.
An account from a SASRA Rest Room on the first VE day:
VE-DAY found us prepared — The Union Jack fluttered from our top window — Flags of our Allies stretched across the front window, and the stairway. Over the front door hung a tin hat full of flowers, raising a smile from all passing under.
Each table had fresh beech twigs and leaves with red, white and blue bows, which have drawn endless remarks from the girls. ‘Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ ‘The Lord wrought a great Victory and He hath Triumphed Gloriously.’
The Canteen was packed for the morning service — we kept open for Mr Churchill’s speech at 3 pm then handed tea and biscuits round, and then listened to the wireless service which followed. We shall never forget the crowds in the evening during the King’s speech. Every table and all up the stairs was filled: and not a sound for twenty minutes.
SASRA considered its post-war ministry:
As ‘V Day’ approaches, our members are, one by one, writing to say they believe they are being led of God to Evangelistic and Missionary Service, while some have indicated their desire to become Scripture Readers.
As … soon as peace is proclaimed and demobilisation commences, the Association will need some forty to fifty young men as [Scripture] Readers to take the place of those, both at home and abroad, who will retiring — some to resume their pastoral duties, having come to the Association for the duration of the War only, and others, whose period of overseas service has long since expired.
As it is realised that the War period has prevented as deep a study of the Scripture on the part of many who otherwise would have delved more deeply therein, it has been made possible for a Bible Correspondence Course, free of charge, to be available to any Ex Service Scripture Readers desiring to avail themselves of it during the first two years of their service as such.
The whole nation, from the King down to the labourer, has testified to their thankfulness to God for His overwhelming mercies and deliverances which we, as a people, have deserved so little. May we not in the days to come, forget Him and turn everyone to his own way, pursuing selfish and worldly aims, and thus turn our backs upon God. It is realised by all thoughtful people that the time of peace making and peace keeping will be fraught with great difficulties and many dangers.
In war time men, who are faced with the possibility of death or wounds, naturally have their thoughts turned to the world which lies beyond this present one, and to eternal issues. Speaking broadly they are more inclined to give ear to the Readers’ message, the message of eternal salvation through faith in the atoning sacrifice of the only Saviour, Jesus Christ.
With the coming of peace, however, the picture is changed. Demobilisation, the return to home and family, and the prospects of permanent civil employment, naturally fill the man’s thoughts and tend to crowd out thoughts of the world to come, and to obliterate spiritual impressions which in wartime have made themselves felt upon his mind. In so far as this is the case, the task of the Reader is made more difficult by the prospects of a long and lasting peace, but his duties are as urgent as ever.
There is no release in his warfare against sin and the devil, or in the necessity for him to press eternal issues upon his hearers, however much or however little they may be inclined to respond. For it is appointed unto every man to die and after death the judgment and none can know what a day may bring forth. Let none of us be slack in upholding the Readers both by prayer and by gift.
Let none of us think that because the war in the West is over, the work of the Reader, and the necessity for that work has become any the less important. We may be certain that Satan will be active in seeking to snatch away the seeds which have been sown, and that the thorns will spring up more abundantly than ever to choke the growing wheat. It is incumbent upon us to gird up the loins of our mind and to press forward on the straight and narrow way. May the Lord of might and God of Grace strengthen each one of us, both Readers and friends, in fulfilling His most holy will.
A subject which is very much upon our hearts just now is the return to ‘Civilian life’ of those who have so very much enjoyed and have been helped by the Christian comradeship which a Service career affords, and how best we may be able to help them. Some have already written since they have been demobbed, saying how much they are missing the fellowship and opportunities of service which they have so recently enjoyed. Others have even said that they are finding it harder to live the Christian life as a civilian than when serving in the Forces.
As at the end of the war SASRA today is seeking to increase the number of Readers in the field. Further information can be found on the SASRA website, sasra.org.uk.
Bill Newton is editor of ‘SASRA in the Second World War’ and a volunteer with Mission Assist.