J. Girton - The Homeland

We have appreciated the quiet spirit here. When Jesus was baptized, the spirit of a dove descended. In Austria, there are many doves. The people feed them; they put seeds and bread crumbs on the window sills for them.  They feed them in the parks. One day, when I was sitting quietly in the park, one came right up to my feet. I noticed though, how easily he was frightened away--just a little moment or noise and he was gone. We need to be quiet to invite God's spirit.

I have enjoyed two visions of the homeland that John saw in the book of Revelation. Revelation 14:1  "and I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion." 3rd verse:  "And they sung as it were a new song before the throne."  4th verse:  "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth."  Revelation 21: 2 "I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."  Revelation 21:25: "And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day:  for there shall be no night there."

My companion and I were visiting the second largest city of  Czechoslovakia. It is an industrial city. There is a gray, sordid atmosphere about the whole city. The factories belch forth black coal smoke that settles over everything. The soot covers the streets and, when it rains, you slosh through black mire. It is not a pretty city. One day, we had occasion to go to the railroad depot. It is an old decrepit building with plaster falling off the walls. People were sitting or milling restlessly around, dressed mostly in old work clothes. It was a depressing atmosphere. And then I saw, something I shall never forget.  My companion saw it first and motioned for me to look. My eyes followed to where he pointed and I could scarcely believe it. There on the wall of that drab place were two beautiful pictures. One was a beautiful city and the other a lovely mountain scene. Printed under the picture of the city were the words PORTLAND, OREGON, U.S.A.  Under the other one, MOUNT HOOD, OREGON, U.S.A.  I could not hold back the tears. That was my homeland. My companion walked away while I stood in awe, yearning for my home. We stayed there for about a month. Everywhere I went, I told people about those two pictures. I wanted everyone to go and see them for themselves. I often went back to that depot to see them again. They seemed to sustain me in that drab place.  Spiritually speaking, we also need to keep the vision of our homeland. We need to think often of the path that will reach to the top of that mountain and how we can enter into the gates of that City.

In the country where I have been laboring, the people love to climb mountains. In fact, they seem to have a passion for it. And many of them sing when they reach the top. In Switzerland, they like to yodel. I climbed the second highest mountain in Austria and when I reached the top, I felt like singing.. Those who stood on Mt. Zion sang a new song.  It's because of the exhilaration and joy in the heart of the one who has made it to the top of the mountain. Think of those men who climbed Mt. Everest! They climbed higher than most planes fly. You can imagine the joy that filled their hearts when they reached the top of that mountain.  Think what it will mean to stand on the top of Mt. Zion! Everyone is going to reach the end of life, but we want to reach the top of the mountain!

Last spring, I had an experience which I never want to repeat. We spent a great deal of time walking or bicycling as a means of transportation.  One morning, my companion woke me about 5:00 a.m. to inform me that we were going to walk to a city about 20 miles away. We decided to walk along the railroad track as it was the shortest distance. That was the most boring walk I ever took. Several times, we wanted to turn back. The reason why it was so monotonous was because of the sameness of it. The journey was posted with signs telling us how much farther it was. The first sign read 38 kilometers. A short distance another sign read 37.8 kilometers. A little further there was another sign 37.6 kilometers.37.4, 37.2 kilometers, and on and on and on! With most people, life is like that. They walk through the sameness without much enthusiasm--marking time until they reach the journey's end. But God's people climb mountains! It's an effort, but every step of the way takes them higher and higher. The scenery gets more beautiful--and then they reach the top!

We had one lady interested in beginning this spiritual climb, but she was afraid to start. She had become interested in many other religious ways in the past, but after a while she always lost her enthusiasm.  Although this seemed like what she wanted, she was afraid she would tire of it, too. One of our friends in the States corresponded with her. She wrote that the way of God gets better and better. This woman did begin to walk with God. After six years, I again visited her. She exclaimed, "Now I know why Esther wrote that: this way gets better and better--because it does!"

I attempted to climb one mountain alone. I told no one about my plans because I knew they would have been concerned. It was a religious holiday and I did not want to offend the people in that community by working (I had been helping some of our friends cut wood), so I decided to climb this mountain. I didn't know the right path to take, and, after climbing a long ways, I came to an ice field. It was impossible to climb any higher alone. I needed a companion and a rope and other aids.  Climbing a mountain alone is too difficult. We need friends. I'm glad for those who have helped me. Sometimes when we come to a place where two roads meet--there a decision must be made--it's nice to have companions who know the way better than we do. When I was making my way back down that mountain, I came to an icy place where there was a rope fastened to aid the traveler, but I froze with fear. I had to force myself to keep going.

The next time I attempted to climb that mountain, I had companions with me. Part of the way was very steep. But remember, when the way gets steep, that's when you're climbing fastest. Whatever you do, don't turn back, because the best is yet to come. The higher you get, the more beautiful the view. We read in John 6 about some who were climbing this mountain with Jesus, and they turned. back. They came to a steep place and saw the cost. They said, "It's too hard," and they turned back and walked no more with him. But if we could talk to them today in eternity, they would tell us how foolish they had been. They would say, "Don't ever turn back. No matter how hard the way--keep climbing!" One young man I knew came to a steep place. He said, "I can't make it."  He turned back. I saw that man two years later at his mother's funeral, who had finished her climb faithfully. With tears in his eyes, he said, "John, I often think about those times of fellowship we had together. My heart is still with you."  But I have never seen him since. He turned back.

We have a young sister over there who is a nurse. She lived in a place consisting mostly of older professing people. She is a very attractive girl with a pleasing personality. Many of the doctors have wanted her companionship and her brother said to her, "Why don't you go with them?  All you have are old friends."  She replied, "I would rather have fellowship with old people who love God than with young people who love this foolish world."  She knows the value of companions who will encourage her to keep climbing.  "These are they, who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth." Another lady wanted to begin climbing this spiritual mount, but she wanted proof that Jesus actually rose from the dead. We were glad to tell her that the fact that there are still those willing to lay down their lives proves that He rose from the grave. The early disciples would never have suffered the things they suffered for a dead leader.  But because they knew He lived, they could face imprisonment, beatings, death and even cruel humiliation. If Jesus had remained in the grave, the way He taught would have died then. The Lamb we follow, doesn't walk too swiftly. The lamb loves green pastures. Some of you have experienced difficulties over the past few years, but none of you wou1d say that it is a hard thing to follow the Lamb. The only times the way really gets too hard is when we are rebellious.  We also read in these verses of the beautiful city that awaits us at the end of the way. Salzburg, Austria is rated as one of the three most beautiful cities in the world. It is truly a lovely city, with rolling green hills reaching beyond to rugged mountain peaks surrounding it. A peaceful river runs through it. It has lovely buildings. And there are some of God's people who live there--which is the main reason it is beautiful. But it rains a lot. And sometimes it gets very cold. There are hospitals there, with people suffering. There are pain and tears in that city. But in the New Jerusalem, where the streets are pure gold, there are no funeral parlors, no mortuaries, no pain, no sorrow-- all these things will have passed away. We read that this city is as a "bride adorned for her husband." It is a prepared city for a prepared people. Nothing will enter into it that is defiled. God wants to remove these things out of our lives now so that we will be prepared for that city.

One of our older sister workers told us a story about an old couple who had professed in their meetings. She said they had been so willing for everything. One day as they were sitting around the table this sister's eyes called their attention to an object in the corner of that room. She said, "You've been so willing for everything. I hope some day you will be able to remove that, also." It was a religious shrine. It had no significance to them as a religious object any more, but it was a family heirloom and very precious. The woman began to weep. The old man began to tremble and wept also. The sister worker and her companion began to weep and left the room. The older worker told us, "I felt terrible. I berated myself for my impatience. They would have been willing anyway some day," she thought. Sometimes we as God's servants feel that way.  But when they returned to the room, where that precious object was kept, it had been removed. It cost them a great deal. Don't be afraid to let your service to God cost you something. These old people now have children and grandchildren serving God. Her younger companion said to our older sister, worker, "Never again will that object be found in their home. It cost them so much to remove it." God was preparing them for that city.

One day, I received a letter of criticism from a sister worker. She had a  right to chastise me because she loved me, and had been a help to me and I deserved it. But somehow I felt I just couldn't take it. It was almost dinner time when I read that letter. I felt I just couldn't eat that night, and to make matters worse, my companion had cooked something for dinner that he felt I might not like. It was hard to tell him why I couldn't eat. I went for a walk. It was hard for several days, but then I was glad she wrote to me. God wants to take out anything that would defile.

Eight years ago on these grounds, I was responsible for those on night watch duty. There was one young man who had been on one watch and I was glad to entrust this responsibility to him because he was so dependable.  I asked him to serve again later on and he was glad to. Then another boy came to me wanting to serve but I had to tell him that there was no more need. He was disappointed, so this other boy said to me "I have already had a chance, so why don't you let him have my place?"  I was impressed by his spirit, because he really wanted to be on night watch again. The next day he took part in prayer and testimony. He said, "Now I am ready to go back to school."  The day following he was suddenly taken into eternity, and we had his funeral on these grounds between conventions. I know many of you remember Mark. He was prepared for that prepared city.

Not long ago, one of our old friends confided in me that she was a little afraid to face death. I told her she really wasn't afraid, but timid.  One is always a little nervous when you face something that you have never faced before. I told her of my own experience. When I found out that I was going to Austria, there was a feeling of anxiety in me. Down in the bottom of my heart I knew that those friends would accept me and love me, but it was a new experience for me. I was taking a journey that I had never taken before. When I arrived in Austria, and sat down in the convention, I felt right at home. Death is just a journey that we have never taken before. That is why one feels a little nervous about it.  When you reach the homeland, however, you will feel right at home.