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'My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.'
Joy's attic began to look more and more like an office and less and less like a bedroom. Typewriter, envelopes, stamps; letters, carbon paper, notepaper; hymn-books and music score; they were scattered over every available space, regardless of whether its fundamental use was for lying on, sitting on, writing on, or even standing on! But by May, 1940, eleven double-disc master records had been made, and she was sending out circular letters to a number of friends whose enthusiasm and interest she had fired with the possibilities of gramophone evangelism.
'While on the field the responsibility of reaching the lost with the Gospel rested heavily on my heart' she wrote. 'I was confronted with the great task of reaching each individual with the message quickly, realizing that each day some were dying without ever having clearly heard the words of life, even in my own district. It had, therefore, been my burning desire to find some means of greatly projecting the message for both missionaries and national workers.
'Thus God has led to the making of master records in Spanish that our own field in Honduras, as well as all other Spanish-speaking countries, may be supplied. We have recorded Gospel solos, trios, quartets, and groups, beautifully accompanied by the piano and violin, guitars and pipe-organ. The Gospel is presented appropriately and attractively, and always in the Spanish language.
'We hope to make some fifty master records so that they may be used extensively for every phase of evangelistic work. Much prayer is needed that the records may be made just as He would have them, and that this ministry may be extended quickly over all the Spanish-speaking world, while our Lord tarries.'
Already her vision, which had been focused on the little country of Honduras, was broadening. 'All over the Spanish-speaking world. . . .' If she could but produce a set of some fifty master records with such a wide ministry how well worth while would have been the delay in returning to her own beloved little corner of that vast mission field! For at this stage, it never occurred to her that she would not return to Honduas to take up the work which she had been forced through ill-health to lay down. Her health was already improving--indeed, she was so busy that she had little time to think about it now! The way seemed to be clearing, and the future plan evident. Gospel records for all the Spanish-speaking world--then back to Honduras!
But . . .
Away in one of the remoter islands of the Philippines, where the waves of the Pacific lapped on the sandy beaches, a young man, son of an American father and a Filipina mother, stood looking over the unexplored mountain regions of the long narrow island of Palawan. There in the jungles, almost inaccessible to the white man, lived the dark-skinned tribespeople, scattered in little hamlets throughout the unexplored area. His heart had been stirred by the knowledge of their spiritual need as he travelled into the forests to supervise the handling of the gum drawn from the tall palm trees. The little jungle dwellers of the island of Palawan were agile as monkeys as they swayed, tight-rope fashion, along ratten vines to the tops of the trees to gather gum. They could climb up the sheer face of a cliff carrying loads of rice, and even babies wrapped in a sling cloth resting on their hips. But fear caused them to bar very effectively the trails that led to their little villages, and the young agriculturist wondered how they could ever be reached with the Gospel in their own homes. He thought often about the matter, and eventually shared with his American father a dream which seemed almost impossible of fulfilment.
'Evangelize them with gramophones and records!' was the gist of what he said. 'Strangers cannot get through to them--even if there were scores of missionaries available, which there aren't, they could not find their villages. But gramophones could! Why, these tribespeople have even carried Singer sewing machines with them into the jungles! Though what good they are for the sort of clothes they wear it's difficult to say. But they want them, and they've carried them in. Why not gramophones, with records telling the Gospel story to them in their own tongue? I am sure that is the only way to reach the thousands of these people in the jungles--with gramophone records in their own language'.
The young man died shortly after, when the Japanese invided the Philippines, and it seemed that his dream would die with him; that the little people of the jungles would never hear a voice they could understand proclaiming the Name of the Son of the Most High. But 'the vision is for a time appointed. Though it tarry, wait for it, for it will surely come'. And the vision was longer and broader than either the young man in the Philippines or Joy Ridderhof in her attice in Los Angeles could foresee. For the one it had stopped at the scattered thousands on the long narrow island of Palawan; for the other the limit was the 130,000,000 people in the world who could speak Spanish. Neither of them could see the varied peoples of Africa, the yet unknown tribes of Asia, the hamlets of the north where people dwell in a half-light for months on end; the forest mountains of Pacific islands or the windswept plateaus of Central Asia, where dwelt those to whom the Word of God had not yet come, and into many of whose languages no portion of Scripture had been translated. But the eyes of Him who said, 'Other sheep have I which are not of this fold; them also I must bring', were on those shepherdless multitudes. And should He who had died for them have no plan whereby they might know of it?
Throughout the months of 1939 and 1940 Joy worked away in her attic, caught up in the stream of activity that the production of Spanish Gospel records involved. From their first arrival on the mission field of Honduras, it was evident that the blessing of God was upon them. Missionaries wrote enthusiastically about their usefulness, asking for more to be sent, and the little black discs found their way into the remotest parts of the country. Here is a little group of Spanish-speaking Indians, simple believers in Christ, but without pastor or teacher, and most of them illiterate. What the gramophone means to them--how they crowd around it, to listen again and again to the Scripture verses they cannot read for themselves; to learn the tunes of hymns they have never before heard. There is a busy missionary visiting in his area where he is torn between the varying claims of the unsaved who must hear the gospel and the isolated believers who must be taught and nourished in the deeper truths. The gramophone, he finds, meets the needs of the one, leaving him free to attend to the other. And when he passes on, he can leave a 'voice' behind him--a voice that always says the same thing and never contradicts itself!
As the months passed, news of this novel method of spreading the message of life reached missionaries working in other parts of Spanish-speaking Central and South America, and requests for records began pouring in to 122 Witmer Street, Los Angeles, from Peru and Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Chile, and Colombia. And then, one day, the need of the Navajo Indians in Arizona was laid before Joy. So many of them illiterate, living in such deep poverty, scattered in remove desert-like areas, and with so few missionaries working amongst them. Could she not produce a few records in the Navajo language? There was an intelligent Navajo Christian who could speak and understand English well, and he could interpret the messages into his own tongue--if only Miss Ridderhof would be willing to help with the technique she had developed, if only she would include the Navajo language in her production of Gospel records.
The request seemed simple enough, and not too difficult to fulfil. The missionaries were even prepared to travel to Los Angeles, bringing the Navajo Indian with them. If Joy herself could not understand the Navajo language, the fact of having a reliable Navajo Christian who could understand English obviated any difficulty there. Why, then, did she hesitate?
Perhaps dimly she realized that if she undertook to produce gramophone records in but one language other than Spanish she would be launching out on a stream that might carry her farther than she had ever dreamed. If records for Navajo Indians, why not records for other peoples also? Where would it end? And How would she ever get back to her beloved mountain folk in Honduras?
The longing to return to them was still there in her heart. Furthermore, there were matters of finance, equipment, new techniques that would have to be faced if she embarked on a wider production. But all these matters faded into insignificance when the Shepherd spoke:
'Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring'.
'. . .them also I must bring.'
'. . .I must . . .'
The Shepherd--and the other sheep. And little black gramophone records a means whereby they could be brought together!
As soon as Joy had the inner conviction that this commission was from God, she hesitated no longer. 'Lord, I'll make recordings in as many languages as You want me to,' she prayed; 'and I'll trust You to provide everything that is needed to do it. I'll follow You in this, just as far, and for as many people, as You want. . . .'
The task seemed big enough as she saw it then--how much bigger would it have appeared had she known that there are some five thousand languages and dialects in the world today!