29 July 2008

Heartbeats: Herbert Ernest Grings

This is the second half of Missionary Heartbeats the pamphlet published a couple of decades ago about the Herbert and Ruth Grings. - Matthew
Herbert Ernest Grings

In uniform: U.S. Navy 1910-1914
"Thank God He gave me the grace to turn my back on a U. S. Navy career and ... dedicate my life to Him," wrote my father of the decision he made as his four-year enlistment period drew to a close. He was in line for promotion and pay raise, but now he was faced with a crossroad. Would earth or heaven be his goal? Kneeling down on the deck of his ship he yielded his life to the Lord's service and, in his words, "from that time on I never turned back."

Upon receiving his honorable discharge, he headed right for Bible school in Los Angeles, California. In later years his children would hear of the joy of those days. "Oh, what a new and glorious life opened up to me as young men and young women gathered ... All dedicated to the Lord Jesus and with one purpose, to know Him and make Him known." He continues, "As ... we began to study ... how my spiritual life grew, and my burden for lost souls increased! Giving out tracts, testifying in street meetings ... became a joy to me." Of his first preaching assignment he says, "... and so I was launched to be a preacher of the Gospel to the ends of the earth." The tempo of his life never idled. The urgency was ever present to "go the second mile, climb the next hill." The Lord ordered his steps and he went from strength to strength.

During his summer vacation he "canvassed nearly all of East San Diego, street by street with gospel literature, wall mottoes, etc." Eager as always to excel, he joined the Fishermen's Club in his last year of Bible school and tells of a challenging message - "Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel." The speaker, godly "Daddy" Horton, exclaimed with out-stretched hands, "Oh, that I could put some of that woe upon you, young men!" A receptive heart responded - "Truly it fell, upon me." Another of the young men present left for Africa, but soon died of malaria. When the question came, "Who will take his place?" my father took up the mantle.

He applied to the Africa Inland Mission, filling in the waiting period after graduation with mountain missionary service in northern California. This was the time of World War I and drafting was in effect. Due to being under weight requirement, he was exempted from further U.S. military duty and thus cleared to proceed to Africa in his Master's service. Let us not think at this point that all was "easy sailing." The devil was not slow in devising delays and discouragements of one sort and another, but "having put his hand to the plough" Daddy also kept his face steadfastly set for Africa and, in due course, arrived.

What were conditions in Africa's heartland in the second decade of this century? Civilization had by no means reached its vast stretches. How were they to be reached for Christ? "Beautiful feet" trudged the trails and climbed the steeps spreading the "good news" to remote comers. The accomplishments of pioneer missionaries of these and earlier years leave one with mouth agape.

You recognize a kinship to the "hall of fame" of Hebrews 11. Yes, 20th century heroes by God's grace! "And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of ... WHO THROUGH FAITH ... subdued kingdoms" -hostile chiefs and warring tribes; "wrought righteousness " - saw thousands of primitive peoples taught and turned to Christ; "obtained promises" - from Almighty God and likewise aliens to His rule; "stopped the mouths of lions" - actual beasts and many other "roars." I could go on down the list in verses 34-38 of our Faith Chapter.

Station sites were selected, settled, and maintained in formidable situations. Foreign-sounding languages were mastered, reduced to writing and translated to Scripture. Piteous physical conditions were compassionately cared for; and hope and life and a new way of living became reality. Education provided trained preachers and leaders for the churches coming into existence. Miracle followed miracle as God showed Himself strong in behalf of those who were so whole-heartedly giving their lives in His service - yea, unto death.

The record of these committed and love-constrained ambassadors is blazoned in eternal annals beyond many a lost-to-sight over-grown grave. Nine years in eastern Congo were bestowed on this bold and brave endeavor to "preach the gospel where Christ was not named." What a reward will be given at Christ's coming for these who turned many to righteousness and will shine as the stars forever and ever!

With this as background, let us turn to some family history. It is nearing the end of 1892, December 16 to be exact, in the railroad town of Burwell, Nebraska. My father, Herbert Ernest Grings, gives but scant space in his autobiography to the fact of his physical arrival, hastening on to his spiritual birth at the age of ten. There is a gladness as he tells how things of the world dropped away and he found, to use his term, "satisfaction" in church attendance and obedience to the Word of God. How quickly a demarcation formed as he participated in Christian service and fellowshipped with those of like faith. From his heart came the song, "What a I wonderful change in my life has been wrought, Since Jesus came into my heart!"

Business college provided secretarial skills that in later years served him well to support his family and also keep his Pitman shorthand diary. The Navy and Bible school years, already touched on, were excellent preparation for the mission field. But he did not serve alone. God had a well prepared helpmeet for him in Ruth Fuller, a school teacher who ventured forth on the same ship in 1917. God blessed their joint lives and ministry of opening new stations and going out in village evangelism. The four children born to them were right in there, too, carried by bicycle to the villages and drawing many a crowd to hear the Gospel.

Furlough time came in 1926 and they eventually located in Florida where Louise and Mark were born. Grant went to be with the Lord. Daddy's perpetual "chase the rabbit" kept the family busy in starting Sunday Schools and nightly showing stereopticon Bible pictures. But Africa called again! Passage was obtained, an outfit purchased, and in June of 1933 we were on our way.

'Tis well the promises of God can be depended upon for like Paul and his ship we stood the loss of all our possessions, but also no loss of life. Does not the same God stand by us with His unfailing assurance? "I am with thee ... I am thy God ... I will strengthen thee ... I will help thee ... I will uphold thee." And, "When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them." Yes, though the old four-masted sailing ship went to her watery grave as a burning S0S signal, another ship steamed to our rescue and we soon sailed again.

The travel time was doubled, but to Congo we came and into the interior. A bark-walled, thatch-roofed house became Home, but in reality just a "rest stop", as it was most important to get out into the villages. "Going with the Gospel, Teaching and Translation" was our motto and goal. The companion leaflet to this one, "50 Years Memorial" for my mother, also tells something of this period of our lives. She went to be with the Lord only three years after our coming, but our conduct at the time of her death and burial was such a testimony to the people that though no one had previously committed himself to the Lord, now they were ready to step out in faith and trust in Him and be baptized.

There was a resulting rich time of harvesting in the next ten years with churches begun and leadership appointed. It was now 1946 and World War II had ended. An opportunity to go to the States presented itself. Daddy's oft-repeated, "The happiest days of my life were those I spent in Bible school," laid the purpose to follow his example.

Bob went to South Africa for his training, staying on in Congo when the others left. Roy was called into the United States Army, but in time joined Bessie, Louise and Mark in Los Angeles, California. Daddy placed us in the care of two of his former Bible school mates where we could study and he continue his missionary service. Congo closed for him at this time, but nothing daunted he traveled in Europe getting out much literature in trains and ship docks as well as speaking through interpreters, especially in the Scandinavian countries.

Back in the States in 1948, he visited "The Grings Quartet" in Los Angeles and then God opened a new "door of utterance" for him in Mexico, Central America and thence to South America. He used gospel recordings and phonographs as he traveled for the next sixteen years in country after country.

What a story the pages of his passport tell, stamped with the varied visas of the places where he went. Visas which gave him opportunity to get back to the Indians whom no one had ever reached with the Gospel. It would be impossible to detail or describe his "wanderings" as the faithful of old, in jungles and rapids-filled waterways, the dangers and unending difficulties. He was sometimes destitute and ill, hindered by bureaucracy, but determinedly keeping on. None of those things moved him, neither counted he his life dear unto himself. What an undeviating course he trod! Somewhere during all his itineraries, he also found time to write. His autobiography was printed, and later a second volume -Victrola Victories.

In 1962 he was 70 years old and still in the race!! Seventy years ... the normal life span. "Threescore years and ten" as Psalm 90 words it. Seventy years, the limit set for the priests in the service of the tabernacle. Might the Lord take him home? Daddy thought of his children whom he hadn't seen for so long, and he wrote them his "Last Will and Testament." It could have been the aged patriarch, Jacob, pronouncing his beautiful benediction: "The God of thy father shall help thee, the Almighty shall bless thee - blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep, ... Blessings unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills."

What a treasured "document" we have, as Daddy recalled the happy family years in Congo when we did everything together, and the glory of God was shed on our way. Incidences involving each one were drawn from memory's treasure file, and in spirit his hands were raised upon each head, seeking Divine favor. His children are all married with grown children of their own, and their grandchildren coming along. They in turn are all serving the Lord on the mission field. Silver-haired and still bringing forth fruit in his old age, he admonishes, I am writing to you, my dear children, to exhort you to faithfully and patiently bear your cross to the end of life's journey. We are often tempted to put down our load and take a rest, but we can't do that. We must take more strength and keep going." He adds a personal testimony: "Thank God for His wonderful grace which has enabled me to take up my cross and follow Jesus all these years. It has been a glad and satisfying service."

There was one remaining desire - to return to Congo (now Zaire), and that he did in 1967. He hoped to serve out his years and be buried in the same land as his wife. No, the immigration officer couldn't understand why this aging, white-haired man wanted back in the country, but he stamped a permanent visa in his passport.

God gave him ten more years of constantly witnessing and giving out Scriptures and leaflets, many of which he hand-printed himself. He visited his first field of service in east Congo and amazed folks that he could still speak those first learned languages. He went to Europe again and back. He wanted to chronicle another account, "Travels and Testimony of Herbert E. Grings," but he lived it rather than wrote it. There was, however, that last Christmas, his personalized, hand-printed promise to each of his children. As always, his spiritual values had priority.

Still planning another trip, he took ill in Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire, and was hospitalized. He was just a month short of his 85th birthday, with sixty years of uninterrupted service for his Lord, when he slipped into His presence November 7, 1977. Our heavenly Father's tender care was never more real than in those final minutes of life here on earth. The one who stood by his bedside was Pambo, son of one of those earliest converts back in 1936. It was he who now sang hymns and read Scripture to Daddy as he dropped his robe of flesh and entered eternal light and bliss.

What joy for the weary pilgrim to be home at last, moored on the shining shore and welcomed by loved ones. What a legacy he left behind! Psalm 16:6 speaks for us: "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage." And we might add, a "godly" one. Yes, that is what of lasting value he left us - not the few earthly possessions; a well-worn Bible, fiber hammock, a little cash. No, our riches lay in inner qualities -

(1) Knowledge of the Bible through regular reading from our youngest years
(2) Knowing and proving the power of prayer
(3) Memorization of Scripture
(4) Living for God and being in His service,
(5) The gift of those who prayed for him carrying over into our lives and ministries
(6) The example of his life.

Of material things he had little, but his treasure was laid up in heaven where it could be neither diminished or lost. And we have gained that vision for ourselves. As a tribute to our parents, we children had the God-blest privilege of serving for more than thirty consecutive years when there was one or more of us in the Congo.

As we close this chapter we find ourselves saying with a combination of admiration and sincerity, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!" If Daddy could have had a "last word" it might have well been this chorus:

"All that I want is in Jesus, He satisfies, joy He supplies, Life would be worthless without
Him, All things in Jesus I find."

The second and third generations are carrying on in the course laid outback there in 1917. The great-grandchildren are being raised on the mission field as their parents were before them. Bob and family are in Zaire as is Roy. Bessie and Mark and their families are in South Africa. Louise and family are in Suriname, South America.

Our prayer, as you read this "real-life" story, is that God will stir your heart to live for Him. You, too, can prove His faithfulness and see Him honor Himself through you. One thing that will surely stand out in this account is the importance of training up our children in the way they should go - living before them the example of "setting our affections on things above, not on things on the earth" that we might gain an incorruptible crown.

"Lead on, O King Eternal, We follow not with fears!
For gladness breaks like morning
Wher-e'er Thy face appears;
Thy cross is lifted o'er us, we journey in its light:
The crown awaits the conquest -
Lead on, O God of might."

With appreciation to God and our parents,
The Grings, Ganders and Champlins.

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