I never thought of more than one nation. When India was the country, well India was the country. After we were there, invitations came from different angles and it was only by invitation that I went anywhere. By invitation I went three times around the world.
Shortly after our wedding, we received an invitation from brothers and sisters in Borneo. In full agreement with the elders in Madras we went over and spent seven weeks in Sarawak under rather primitive conditions.
Then in 1951 and 1952 we were in Singapore to help a local church there. Bakht Singh had been in Singapore and he had appointed elders for the group that was there. He asked us to follow up so that took us to Singapore. We had quite a nice room for our accommodation. One night I was sitting on the side of the bed facing the main road. At night it was fairly quiet and I saw a young man being led by a woman. Obviously this was a harlot taking him to her residence. I wish I had shouted, I could have shouted, it would have carried to him easily. You get the picture of that in Proverbs, about women enticing men, taking men apart and what ruin it is. But I saw this happening and yet I didn’t do anything about it. I feel I missed the mark.
We were in Singapore for about 5 or 8 months, working with an assembly there. We worked with Faithful Luke. Actually he was the cause of our going; not only because Bakht Singh had been there and had appointed elders. He was our link. He came to Madras for a few days where I first met him. We couldn’t accommodate him and his family in our room, so we rented an apartment for them in Madras.
In 1956, after much prayer with the elders in Madras, we paid a visit to England. Meg had been in India now for nearly six years and needed a break. During our stay in London we enjoyed the fellowship of the church at Honor Oak. In l957, when we were in London, Mr. Sparks returned from a visit to the East, including Manila, Philippines. He came back with an urgent invitation from the leading brothers in Manila, “Please send somebody to help us.” So, the elders at Honor Oak asked my wife and me to pray for it. We hadn’t any anticipation to be in other lands. In fact we were due to return, as we thought, to India. However, we did pray about it. I said, “Lord, is it the Philippines, or is it India; India, or the Philippines?” The Lord said to me, “Don’t pray like that, be specific.” I was reminded of what James writes about Elijah, “The fervent prayer of a righteous man is answered.” Fervent means specific; we must be specific in our payer. So after shuttling from India to Philippines and from the Philippines to India, the Lord said, “Be specific.” So I said, ‘We expect to go to India, but do you want us to go to the Philippines?’ And the answer came through, yes, we should go to the Philippines.
We didn’t know what this call really meant, “Come and help us.” But it was a genuine call, and so when we went we believed that we should find out there what we were going to do. I went ahead of Meg and she followed me one month later. We spent eighteen months in Mindanao, the large Southern Island of the Philippines, where we ministered and made many friends. It was similar to my experience in India; an indigenous group that we were invited to help. There was a Chinese brother, a dear man of God, who was leading the assembly there on the island of Mindanao; he was the one who really appealed for help. His name is Narciso Lim. So there he was and when we went, he greeted us and said, “Whatever you want please ask for it.” He was by that time quite a wealthy man. He was exporting copra, the interior of coconuts. He said, “Ask what you want.” We didn’t have the habit of doing that except asking the Lord. We never asked Bakht Singh or anybody else. They accommodated us in quite a nice wooden house—the biggest they had. It was also their meeting place. So we had a small part of it for our accommodation.
Narciso Lim has an interesting history. He was born in China, but his parents were so poor that they sold him to another person, who eventually shipped him across to the Philippines for his education and business training. He wasn’t a Christian then. He wanted to marry. He heard that the Japanese had treated his foster parents in China very badly, so he was angry and determined to take revenge against the Japanese. There were some Japanese in Manila; in fact he was living with some Japanese about that time. He asked them for a daughter to marry him and they consented. He took her to be his wife, but he treated her badly out of vengeance on the Japanese. And the poor girl, she died in childbirth. Then he came in touch with an elderly Filipino couple, who were godly people. They quite impressed him and eventually he found out the secret of their life: knowing the Lord. He came to the Lord too and He changed him. He now wanted to make amends for the bad treatment of his first wife. There was another daughter of the same family and so he asked the Japanese for this daughter and again they gave her to him. But now there was a real change is his behavior because he was a changed man. She was a believer too so they asked the Lord for a happy family. The Lord gave them a happy home with three boys and a girl and they educated them well.
We didn’t know what we were going to do. We thought that we had gone to join an indigenous work like we knew in India. But it was so different. The people we worked with were so legalistic—not born again and very legalistic. They were linked with Chinese people, for there had been a Chinese brother there, who professed to be a co-worker of Watchman Nee. That wasn’t really true and he taught them all this legalism: on leaving their denomination and getting baptized. So people were baptized ‘out of the denominations.’ We worked hard. We had the opportunity for that because we lived in the building where the people would gather; and they were happy in gathering.
They were really under the influence of Witness Lee, who worked with Watchman Nee. Witness Lee had developed his own method of training. He would give the believers a booklet on fundamental truths for them to study for a month. That would be the training he provided. It was all very legalistic. Nevertheless, people living in sin, even in adultery, were taking part in the Lord’s Table. We did what we could, we prayed, wept and preached. We had opportunity among the women and the children. There was nothing for them when we came. Work for the children wasn’t in the Bible so according to them you couldn’t do any work for the children. We persuaded them it was right to provide proper religious instruction for children. So we said, “Give us the teachers and we will train them and we can start work among the children.” That they did and there were about 60 people who were prepared to be Sunday school teachers. One girl brought a friend and she in turn brought others. So that is how it went with the religious instruction for children, which really rested upon Meg. And it grew, so after some time there was a considerable number of children in our Sunday school. We helped the teachers by instructing them once a month for three days. The Lord did something, I am sure. So we worked there for 18 months. After these months we felt the Lord was saying, “Go back to India.” I said to the Lord, ‘Why did you bring us? We wept, prayed and worked, but we haven’t seen much fruit of our labouring.” And He said to me, “I brought you here to have fellowship with Me in my sufferings, that you might know as I know, and feel as I feel and sorrow as I sorrow,” and so on. And I said, “Thank you. I think that will equip us for our service.” So we left the Philippines and returned to India. I liked this brother, Narciso Lim and we got along well together while we were there. But the work itself was difficult.
The second time I went to the Philippines, a young man met me at the airport with a woollen cap pulled right down to his ears, or rather over his ears. I looked at him and said, “Who are you?” And then I realised who he was, his name was Sibiu. “Why do you have that hat on?” Here is the story he told me. He was a married man and had three (or four?) children. But he fell in sin with a woman who had paid him to go to her and he was therefore unfaithful to his wife. Now he hadn’t got hair on his head. What was the explanation? Well, he got fed up or convicted with this life he was living. And he prayed to the Lord, “Oh Lord, somehow deliver me from this woman. Make me unattractive for this woman.” And when he woke up in the morning, nearly all his hair was on the pillow and in two days he hadn’t got a hair anywhere; moustache, eyebrows, anywhere. Now he got this hat on. He wanted me to get him a wig, but I said, “No, and take that hat off. Look, you can’t play with God. God will find you out.” I urged him to use his experience to warn people. I don’t think he could, and he didn’t do it. But that was quite an experience. His hair didn’t grow, he had no hair – he would have been a good sign to be used of the Lord to warn people not to play with sin or try to cheat God.
It was a difficult situation there in the Philippines. One day a young man came to me and he said, “I’d like a nose like yours.” “What’s the matter with your nose?” I asked. “It’s flat.” Well, it’s true, there are flat noses and there are noses like beaks, well like mine. He had a flat nose and he wanted a nose like mine. The Lord didn’t change the nose, but He does change hearts.
In 1959, we spent eight months in Australia, to follow up the ministry Bakht Singh had had there. As I said before, we never expected to go anywhere except one country, India. To us that was enough, but Bakht Singh asked us to go to Australia to follow up and see the Christians that he had met there. We went, but it was an abortive visit really, because there was already much prejudice against Honor Oak and people were not particularly interested in us. So we didn’t get very far and we weren’t there very long.