The story so far is that there are at least a million Bible-believing people in most countries of the world. This did not happen by accident. I never fail to be enchanted by the stories of those who have gone before us in making Christ known to a burning world.
For example, Henry Grattan Guinness (grandson of Arthur Guinness), born in Dublin in 1835, became a key player in worldwide mission by setting up missionary training, first in Dublin, later in London. In the process he founded three whole missionary societies as well as training over a thousand students. When he was setting up in Dublin his first student was Thomas Barnardo, who went on to found ‘Barnardo’s’ which is today a major provider of programmes to help children and families in Ireland and a leading UK children’s charity.
Those turn-of-the-last-century missionaries were spunky people. In 1885 students at Dublin University (Trinity College) set up their own mission (the D.U. Mission) through which graduates were sent, especially to India and China. One of the many from Dublin was Samuel Synge, doctor and a brother of John Millington Synge, who went to China in 1896 and weathered the storm of the Boxer rebellion in 1900 alongside Chinese Christians who suffered for their faith.
When you choose to obey Christ’s commission you follow in noble footsteps. One place you can almost hear those footsteps is in the entrance to Trinity College, just inside the Front Gate. As you proceed inside the archway you will notice framed wooden notice boards along the walls. They are reserved for the notices of the various clubs and societies, each of which have a discreetly painted name. One of those on the right still has the faded name “D.U. Mission.”
Another place with noble footsteps is down the street and round the corner on Eden Quay, for it was there that Eva Stuart Watt and her sister Clara set out to help city centre people find peace in Christ in the 1940s. Eva wrote that it started one evening,“after midnight when, walking up Grafton Street, we met a lovely girl. We told her that God wanted her to come back to him. ‘I?’ she exclaimed rather startled, stepping back against the shop window to face us. ‘I’ve gone too far!’ As we accompanied her down the partially lighted street, she looked this way and that way like a frightened bird. ‘All the police recognize me,’ she said. Then came the story we all know so well, of womanhood – childhood in this case – sacrificed on the altar of vice.”
Then, a few lines further in her account, Eva simply says, “We kissed her.” That attitude of radical Christian compassion exemplified Eva and Clara’s work. They recalled meeting “a tall handsome young fellow in evening dress, with a beautiful girl leaning on each arm…What touched him seemingly was the hour they were being spoken to, two-thirty in the morning.” That was normal for the Stuart Watts because that’s when they could meet the most people with the most needs. “Another morning we dropped into the Colburn Café in Marlboro Street for a hot drink just before closing hour, 4:00 A.M.”; “About 2:00 A.M. one summer Sunday morning in O’Connell Street” they met “a young chap, shivering and unshaven.”
They describe a visit to an “all-night drinking den” at one o’clock in the morning. With the permission of the manager of this shebeen/brothel they distributed Christian literature and the New Testament and invited some of the clients around to their flat “for a cup of tea” (now at two o’clock in the morning!). This ‘flat’ where they lived in frugality was a tiny place near Busaras which was just then being built.
They wrote most of the leaflets they distributed (by the thousand) around the city centre. In one of these, “Blood In The History of Ireland”, they quote from Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet and from Thomas McDonagh’s address to the court martial that sentenced him to death. McDonagh salutes his hero, the 15th century Savonarola, “whose weapon was not the sword, but prayer and preaching.” Eva even writes about the “future history of Ireland” which is to “influence the world.” “Henceforth we are missionaries or we are nothing!” “The gates are even now ajar for a great moral and spiritual awakening, that could bless humanity far beyond the limit of our shores.”
Many have come and gone and served with distinction since Eva and Clara but the work of Teen Challenge reminds me of them a bit. It’s back in Marlboro Street, back to help addicts, back to midnight, back to bring the gospel to the neediest.