Psalm 105:44 – “He gave them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for.”
The immediate context of this verse was the exodus, but it’s made me reflect on how we’re reaping much today from our forebears’ dedicated and dogged labours of yesteryear.
Our work is stunningly beautiful and fruitful, but only because other previous generation ploughed some rough terrain. I think of the early Anglican pioneers, who included my great-grandparents, who came out at huge personal sacrifice, to offer up their lives in laying the foundation for the Church in Burundi.
Many were misunderstood. My grandfather had the title of ‘Senior Wrangler’ at Cambridge University, i.e. the top mathematician of his intake and therefore one of the very best in the whole land – and people said: “What a waste of an incredible brain!” when he went off to be a missionary in obscure darkest Africa. Yet a few years ago, I was preaching in a suburb in Chicago, and the only black man in the congregation came up to me afterwards and bellowed enthusiastically in my face: “GUILLEBAUD! You’re grandparents led me to Christ and changed my life!” What an encouragement in this random obscure congregation on another continent far away to hear that! How many others could say the same?
What a waste?! I think not!
Then there was my great-aunt, Rosemary Guillebaud, who continued the translation work begun by my great-grandfather Harold, who was the first Archdeacon of this nation. Rosemary completed the translation of the Bible with Burundian helpers over a twenty year period. How effective could we now be without the Scriptures in Burundians’ own language? Truly we are heirs to what others toiled for! And my fabulous Auntie Meg, who took on the baton for the next generation, proceeded to equip hundreds of pastors to handle the Word of God rightly.
And I absolutely don’t mean that the Guillebauds were the only or even the main ones. At the bottom I’ll try to list as many of the people as I can think of (please send in those I’ve missed out in the comments section below) who laid the foundation for us to continue to build on. I want to honour every single one of them, whether their work appeared fruitful or not. They loved the truth enough to live it. They made mistakes, as I have as well, but they gave it their best, and the Lord has honoured their labour.
1 Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
So let’s no waste our lives. Let’s give Him our best. May others in the future build on what we have done and reap what we have sown. May our ceiling be their floor, as they see further and reach higher for the glory of the King of Kings!
Amongst the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ are the following: Stanley Smith, Adeney, Church, Hindley, Leakey, Court, Bowen, Angus, Huthwaite, Hamber, Barham, Noelle, Singyard, Johnson, Nicholson, Wiegel, Brandon, Vibbert, Cox, de Benoit, Anderson, James, Lindsay, Brooks, de Berry, Hangar, White, and many more. God bless you!