How it all began
Charles Thomas Studd (C.T. as he is often known) was considered by many to be one of the best athletes of his day. After captaining the English cricket team he began his missionary career as part of the famous Cambridge Seven. These seven Cambridge university graduates had hit the headlines of Edwardian England as society men, who turned their backs on a privileged life, to go and preach Christ in inland China.
They became examples to thousands of students of choosing purpose over privilege.
After 21 years overseas, C.T. was back in England with health that those who saw him described as ‘a museum of diseases’. Nevertheless, one night he saw a meeting advertised with the words ‘Cannibals want missionaries’. Intrigued, he went in, and was challenged by the need of people in the heart of Africa who had never had the opportunity to hear about the Lord Jesus. With no organisation, no money and no support, not even initially from his wife, C.T. Studd sailed alone for Africa in 1910.
Upon arrival in central Africa, C.T. would literally remount his bicycle whenever he discovered missionaries and press on to find those who had never heard of Jesus. Finally after seeing the needs deep in the Congo, he returned to England to launch the new mission. In the meantime however God had spoken to C.T. Studd as he journeyed into Africa’s interior:
“This journey is not for the heart of Africa only, but for the whole unevangelised world.”
As a result, what began as the Heart of Africa Mission became, in time, Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ – now a global fellowship of around 2000 workers under the umbrella of WEC International.
The mission was headed by Studd and his wife Priscilla, who worked tirelessly at the home end while her husband lived in the forests of central Africa.
After C.T.’s death in 1931, leadership was taken over by Norman Grubb. Against the backdrop of the severest depression to ever strike Great Britain, Grubb led WEC to believe God for significant advance and for all of the resources needed to undergird that. So began a period of tremendous growth when each year faith for more workers exceeded the year before and this during a time of unprecedented hardship. The legacy of C.T. Studd’s extraordinary faith was taking shape in this young mission.
C.T. had exemplified the character that gave WEC the guiding principles of sacrifice, faith and holiness. Norman Grubb added fellowship to these, and moulded WEC’s organization and development over the following years.
For more on C.T. and Priscilla Studd read the biography No Sacrifice Too Great by Eileen Vincent. For more on Norman Grubb read the book Faith on Fire by Stewart Dinnen.
100 years before Bear Grylls
2013 was the year WEC reached the milestone of turning 100. From its beginning, WEC has remained faithful to the Lord’s commission to preach the gospel “to the ends of the earth”. Today, with the job not yet finished, 2000 workers in 70 nations continue with this same purpose.
Looking back though, what was it like 100 years ago? In places like Africa, pioneering mission was very basic in 1913. Excerpts from the diary of CT Studd, the founder of WEC, bear testimony to this. Without the benefit of a pizza van and an ambulance hiding somewhere, CT shares in matter-of-fact fashion about the hardships he and a companion faced surviving, “Man vs Wild” style, the extreme life endangering wildlife and people of the Belgian Congo.
Mahagi – May 5, 1913 “The steamer across the Lake Albert from Butiaba to Mahagi started at 8am, and we reached Mahagi at noon. Mr Gribble and I had porridge for supper, and a turn round in the bush to try for a buck as we had precious little food. We got nothing, and as there was a possibility of meeting lions, we returned. At night we were plagued with flies of all kinds which provided the treble to the grunting of crocodiles. The lake was only twenty yards from our tent. It was not altogether nice to have them so close, and I took the precaution to keep a good fire burning between my bed and the lake.”
Jankoba – Saturday, May 24, 1913 “Porters left at 6am, Alfred and I stayed to read and then pray, then left cycling. Gribble had ridden the donkey and gone with porters. We came down the hill and then found two roads – which one should we take? Gribble had left no mark. We decided to take a very steep one to the right; we went along for a good way, but finding no trace of the donkey we returned and took the other road. We went down a regular precipice with our cycles, having dismounted, and even then putting on the brakes, we could hardly control them. Then we had to ascend a similarly steep hill; it was not pushing as much as hoisting our cycles, and again and again similar ascents and descents. Thus we walked for three hours passing through innumerable villages of the warlike Balinda tribe, who were delighted at seeing the first cycles ever over those regions.”
“Suddenly, we came across an Indian trader returning. He said that road did not lead to Kilo [our next town] at all. There was nothing but to return by this long hilly path, and then try to catch up to Gribble and porters. We were absolutely done with the exertion of shoving our bicycles up such ascents and bad roads. We tried to get food, but not knowing the language that was difficult. Then when we were entering another large village we met a man with sweet potatoes in his basket. Alfred persuaded him to give us some [in exchange] for a few buttons. Soon we had a fire made, and sweet potatoes were thrown on and a cup of water brought to drink, and there we were – two British cyclists squatting among a crowd of Balinda, the dread of natives. There were their filed teeth, the badge of cannibals, but we laughed, and they laughed and we had a hearty meal.”
Kilo – Friday, May 30, 1913 “On October 16 our canoe was beached at Niangara landing, and our loads dumped at their long-sought destination.”
CT and his companions waited for more baggage in Kilo for three months before they could move on to their final destination. This was the beginning of WEC. In spite of sickness, the poor conditions and the threat of being eaten alive by animals and cannibals alike; CT remained in the Congo until his death at the age of 70 (in 1931). His purpose was to present the gospel to as many as he could to plant and grow the church in the heart of Africa.
Today, the Congolese church numbers around 395,000 believers – where the name of a stubborn, physically frail white man is still revered. Of course there were many doubters when CT set out in 1913. How could a man in his fifties and in poor health consider going to a place like the Congo? The following quote typifies the stubbornness that CT is both famous and infamous for: “Before the whole world, yes, before the sleepy, lukewarm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God. We will venture our all for Him, we will die for Him…we will a thousand times sooner die trusting only in our God than live trusting in man. And when we come to this position the battle is already won…we will have the real holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts; we will have a masculine holiness one of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ.”
In short: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.” This was CT Studd’s answer to the many who doubted him and his crazy pioneer mission – 100 years on it continues to be WEC’s motto.
Democratic Republic of Congo facts Formerly Zaire and Belgian colony
- Population 67,827,495
- Annual growth 2.8%
- Density 29/sqkm
- Capital Kinshasa
- Pop under 15 yrs 47%
- Life expectancy 47.6 yrs
- GDP income per person $185 (<0.5% of USA).