By Fred Melton
Have you ever heard “things in the night” or in daytime for that matter? I don’t mean some supernatural manifestation that is “better felt than told”-rather some thought or idea that constantly invades the mind to the extent that you lose some sleep over it.
Children always seem to be the ones who suffer the most from the misdeeds or lack of concern of adults and God has said that it is true, “because thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hos. 4:6). Not that God desires future generations to be doomed, but the saving power of the gospel will have no influence in their hearts.
There is a whole generation of children out then in foreign fields and especially in England that is ripe for the harvesting. Some have suggested that the church in Britain should be rebuilt from the ground up, and since Jesus has said unless you “become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” perhaps this is literally a good place to start. Now I know the old Catholic adage, “Give us the first seven years of a child’s life and he will always be a Catholic” is not always true; otherwise; you could never convert a Catholic, but you must admit that it certainly gives them the inside track. As Solomon said, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old hit will not depart.”
Children are a very important aspect of any foreign work and should be given a good deal of attention. During the number of years my family and I spent in England, I personally feel we had great success with the English children. Unlike their counterparts in America, where some liberal minds seem to believe neighborhood children must be bribed into church classes through entertainment, bus ministries, etc., these little English “aliens” are very receptive to simple personal attention which I cannot consider as bribery. Of course, the home is always the primary and ideal place to instill Bible principles but since that is usually impossible under their circumstances, the Bible class should be utilized.
Some days during our annual week of summer Bible school in Tunbridge Wells and Bristol, attendance would run over one hundred of which thirty-five to forty would remain relatively faithful in Sunday morning classes throughout the year. Some of these young people, ranging in age from six to sixteen would get up, dress and feed themselves, and make it to the classes without any effort or concern whatsoever on the part of their parents. Such unexpected zeal is remarkable in light of the religious apathy of English society at large. Surely within this small element there is the exceptional child or two that God is looking for who will make it all worthwhile. I also discovered that many of the adults who showed an interest in either hearing or obeying the gospel in England had a history of Bible school attendance while they were children — usually with some denominational body.
Obviously a good deal of time and energy is required in the training of such children which may explain a small success rate since the worker is not able or does not choose to stay with them a number of years.
About the time the English child reaches the age of twelve, a terrible thing memo to happen to them. One aspect of this tragedy takes the form of state supported religious schools which are many times academically superior to comprehensive schools but require the student to attend Sunday Bible classes at the local parish church. Spiritually speaking, this amounts to the proverbial “hitting them over the head with a hammer” for they teach them nothing substantial while making it virtually impossible for anyone else to reach them. I remember one very promising young student whom parents insisted she attend one of these parochial schools. She seemed very disappointed to leave us and stoutly affirmed she would return after a mandatory term of one year with the Anglicans; we never saw her again.
Another devastating force is, of course, peer pressure universally present among the young and extremely powerful with the British children. I have heard of estimates ranging up to seventy percent attendance in Bible schools of children in some areas of southern American, but in England I would judge it to be only a handful outside of what might be called a nursery generation among the Anglicans. Peers must be established among strong and faithful members of the Lord’s church to offset this detrimental influence.
I’m afraid good British brethren do not always help matters when they tend to adopt the traditional Anglican attitude that relegates the children to a “classes only” status. The transitional period from class to assembly (or child to adult) is hard enough without having to wander through a no man’s land of not knowing exactly where you belong.
Alas, if it were asked, “So then, Fred, where are all your little aliens now?” I shall ask my God for strength to do better while concentrating on His great love and mercy toward all those who hear and obey His voice-when I hear children crying in the night.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 17, p. 517
September 5, 1985