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'Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise from the ends of the earth'
It was in December, in 1963, and Joy sat looking through the glass french doors of her top storey bedroom in a Swiss Bible College to sunlit snow-clad Alps across the lake. The last few months had been filled with almost continual travel through Europe, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France--the variety and challenge of it all had been almost breath-taking. Now in this little period of time before she must leave for the airfield her mind was leaping ahead to the 25th anniversary celebrations being planned even now in Los Angeles. She would have to speak then, and it was not so much a report she wished to give as to proclaim again the spiritual secret which had become, as it were, the spring of her being. Rejoice! Again I say, Rejoice!
She paused as she remembered the past years, and her mind went back to the attic bedroom in Witmer Street where she had lain 25 years ago and told herself that she must, she could, and she would rejoice. Memories welled up again of the making of the first Spanish Gospel record; of the conversion of the stable into the studio; of the early recording journeys to Mexico and Alaska and the ever widening horizons that had opened up before her as she responded to the calls of the little people who were waiting for a voice proclaiming news of salvation to ring out across their earthly wilderness.
She remembered some of the apparently unsurpassable barriers that had loomed up before her as she and her companions had accepted the responsibility of sending the gospel to every last tribe and language in their own tongues. Indo-China was closed, Indonesia was closed, Burma was closed, New Guinea had presented baffling problems, as had the Sudan, Ethiopia, India . . . And yet, one by one, the doors had swung open.
The year 1963 had closed with the 4 1/2 million mark passed for records produced since the beginning of the work; and with the total number of languages recorded standing at 2,900. She could never expect to keep track of the exact number of languages captured now. Exultantly she reflected on the fact that for the past 12 years an average of four new languages each week had been recorded, and the number was climbing up to the 3,000 mark they hoped to reach by the 25th anniversary.
To her the greatest cause for rejoicing had been that to the people speaking some 2,000 of the languages and dialects, these were the first translations from God's Word, recorded or written, that had reached or would yet reach them in their own tongues. And still the recordists were moving on. Vaughn had completed the vast majority of the languages of South America, and was preparing to glean what remained. Don Richter, now married--had completed his 12th year as a recordist--mostly in the Islands of the South Pacific. Ann, with a young companion and two new recordists from Switzerland were in West Africa; two more in Mexico; three in India . . . all told there were 13 full time recordists now, quietly plodding into the by-ways off earth's highways--and they were not going to the task alone. Some missionary societies, fired with enthusiasm for this method of rapid evangelism, were loaning workers for limited periods to mop up the dialect in their own areas. How the scope of the work had widened as the song of praise had been raised!
'Our 25th birthday verse could well be the same as our 20th birthday verse,' she thought, 'The former things are come to pass and new things do I declare. Before they spring forth I tell you of them. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise to the end of the earth.'
At the 20th anniversary gathering in 1959, she had said:
'These former things remind us, not only of the great things God has done for us, but of the obstacles and hindrances, the needs and trials which He has turned to blessing. I have a deep conviction, that wherever, no matter how hidden or how restricted by circumstances, a song of praise goes up and up from loving hearts consistently, in continual thanksgiving for all He sends through trial or pain, it shall reach even unto the end of the earth. No wall can hinder it, no vault can retain it, no distance can deter it, hot suns cannot wither it, nor pelting rain drown it. This new song made fresher and sweeter because of the circumstances that would bind it, shall carry His praise throughout earth's circuit. How often along the way, when everything seemed hard and even impossible, we were reminded to rejoice. And time after time when we could have given up, by the remembrance of His promises we praised the Lord for that which we knew He would do and for the triumphant sequel we were sure to see according to our expectation.'
Those expectations had been many and varied. The development of the phonette, now being sent out by hundreds, even thousands, to all parts of the globe; the formation of branches, distribution centres, offices or even factories, in Australia, India, New Zealand, England, Singapore, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, Indonesia . . . the provision of full time workers, some 80 of them in all. It almost took her breath away to reflect on it.
Yet it was not sufficient to rejoice in the past. Strength must be gathered for the final assaults, the moving forward to conquer the spiritual Everests. And after 25 years, she had a fairly accurate understanding of what they were. It was not only the countries like Sudan and others in Africa, India and others in Asia, where entry for the Gospel was becoming more and more limited. Her months in Europe had brought her in sight of the barrier compared with which all the others seemed but trifling . . . . . . The Iron Curtain countries.
Suddenly she had become conscious of being chilled, and realised that the sun had disappeared behind the Alpine giants. The peaks which a short time before had been gleaming white against a blue sky were dull and grey, looming in ominous impregnability. They seemed not only to defy assault, but in some mysterious way to threaten to engulf her, and Joy shivered involuntarily. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed. . .
Resolutely she had turned her eyes away and fixed them instead on what she had been typing. Her watchword had always been 'Rejoice and sing', and should she change it now?
'. . . We would as before move forward by faith, not by sight, to scale a wall or bridge a chasm with the assurance He will not fail, new things will include new tribes possessed, new areas penetrated, new conquests won . . .'
Vaguely conscious that the room had lightened, she had looked up again and caught her breath. The mountain peaks with their heavy covering of snow seemed to be alive. They glowed and scintillated as though a light gleamed through from a source she could not see. Their gloomy dusk had been transformed with radiant light. The last rays of the sun piercing across the sky and touching the peaks like a hidden flame, had come to her as a silent message that her Everest could be reached.
'The more than 5,000 tongues recorded, and the kiss of God's eternal Son would write finis to the assigned task,' she wrote quickly, as she recaptured the thrill of that moment. 'This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.'
If that light upon the mountains had been God's message to her, it would be His message to others, too. She must pass it on. Quickly she typed to an end, then having done it, she shut her typewriter briskly, hurriedly crushed her papers together, smiled her goodbyes, and made for the plane. The King's business demanded haste, and it was the King's business she was on . . .