We have a periodic bout of angst about the relevance of our books, particularly to younger readers. That may be on the basis of language or subject or treatment and presentation. The old joke has a girl on an American campus complain to her friend. "My boyfriend keeps going on about 'relevance'. What's relevance got to do with anything?" But we want to touch people in places deep in their spirits with books that will involve them with world mission.
Helen Roseveare is a WECer who has been retired for some time, and that was with a generous overrun on normal retirement ages. Most of her books go back decades, not just in their stories, but Give Me This Mountain, for instance, was first published in 1966. That's almost half a century ago. Yet my daughter, as a student a few years ago, got it out of the church library, and was so inspired by it she went out to buy anything else by Helen Roseveare.
C T Studd: Cricketer and Pioneer by Normans Grubb was first published in 1933. Another student has recently read it, and as a result has applied to go for a short term experience with WEC Trek.
Helen Roseveare spoke at our centenary meeting a couple of weeks ago. She is an old lady, but what she brought to us was fresh and living, relevant (dare I say it) to everyone there, whatever their age.
In the early 1950s there was a remarkable revival in the Congo. Out of it came a booklet called This Is That, a reference to Acts 2:16. It was an allusion that would have resonated with many evangelical Christians at the time, but when I tried it out on a friend he replied, "This is what?" But the accounts still packed a punch. So in 2000 we reissued it with a new title, The Spirit of Revival. I wrote to Helen Roseveare to express our concerns about the possibly dated language and attitudes of the 1950s. She wrote an Introduction which addressed those concerns, but is worth reading in its own right.
Helen describes a meeting in the Congo in July 1953, at which an account of revival happening elsewhere was being shared. "Suddenly, all heard the fearful roar of an approaching hurricane. Stewards moved round the hall, taking down the wooden shutters to prevent accidents that could occur, should they be blown in.
"I glanced out into the night, expecting to see dark scudding clouds, palm trees bending low to the ground, dust spirals rushing towards us - it simply wasn't there! The clear sky, upright palm trees silhouetted in the moonlight, all was still, utterly still. Yet the storm lanterns, suspended from the central beam the length of the hall, were shaking wildly. The very building seemed to rock, as though a rumbling earthquake was beginning to erupt. A noise as of a rushing mighty wind filled the place.
"All over the hall, people were down on the ground, crying out to God for mercy. Others were shaking violently, apparently uncontrollably. ..."
It's probably time you read some of these relevant books.