Willie Brown - RE: A Situation in South Africa - 1948

Here's a true story of how a friend (not a worker) actually got others saved while consigned to a lepers' colony:

In 1928, my companion and I were working among diamond diggers in South Africa. Two men and their wives, who heard our message, made their choice for God.  We left there in 1930 and some time later we got a letter from some of those friends, saying, “My dear Willie, you will be very sorry to hear that our brother ‘so and so’ is a leper.”  When we were there, he had little blotches on his skin, but we didn’t think it was leprosy.  But the man who saw him said it was leprosy and called a doctor, who verified it.  The poor man called in three doctors, one after the other, and they all verified it.  He couldn’t believe he was a leper, but it had to be faced up.  He had a wife and five children.

According to the law, he had to leave home.  When the authorities’ car came to take him away, he was on his knees and he was reading that verse in Psalms 39, “And now Lord, what wait I for?  My hope is in Thee.”  He greeted his wife and children for the last time, before he left home never to return.  He was taken to an institution for lepers in Pretoria in which there were 900 Blacks and 300 white people.  He still had his sight then.  What did he do when he got there?  He didn’t sit there and grumble but began to speak to those other inmates of the love of Jesus.  He soon had one convert.  Then he went to a man who had no legs and only one arm; he had lost three limbs because of leprosy.  Fanny said to him, “Don’t you think it is time for you to begin to serve God?”  The man said, ”No, I’m tired of life.” 

A few days later Fanny went to him again and said, “Will you accept a New Testament?”  The legless man said, “Yes.”  Fanny said, “Will you read it?”  The man said, “Yes, I will.”  Not long after, Fanny and the man and a colored man, who also had given his heart to God, were holding a little meeting together when the legless man came hopping along the ground with the New Testament between his teeth because he had no hands to hold it with.  He levered himself somehow with one hand and said, “I would like to make a start to serve God.”  A wonderful change came over that man.  His nurse said, ”He used to be one of our most difficult patients, but he has changed.”  She too decided, though sad to say she never went long.  But she was moved just the same.

After Fanny had been in the lepers compound for some time, I got a letter from him which had been typewritten.  He said,”My dear Willie, I have gone blind, I can’t see to write so I’m typing this letter.”  He wasn’t taken up with his own affliction but went on to tell me of the others there and how they were getting on and what interest was shown in the things of God.  I went to see him as soon as I could.  When we greeted each other I couldn’t shake hands with him because of his leprosy.  He said, “It is good to hear your voice but I can’t see you.”  We sat down and had a fellowship meeting with those few souls who were professing there.  We sang a hymn which Fanny chose:

Oh, for the peace of a perfect trust, my loving God in Thee,

Unwavering faith that never doubts, Thy choice is best for me,

Best tho’ my health and strength be gone, tho’ weary days be mine.

Shut out from much that others have, not my will, Lord, but Thine.

As we sang, I looked around and saw that my companion was weeping.  I wondered how I could ever get enough to speak in that meeting that morning.  I hoped then that I would never be found by God grumbling about anything again.  The legless man did not live very long.  About 20 were at his funeral.  The Government offered the lepers a radio each, and the only two who didn’t accept were Fanny and the colored man, and they were both blind.  But someone came to them and read to them for half an hour each day - they were thankful for that.  They could have had any literature they wished, but they chose the Bible.

One day, I thought of going to the camp.  My companion was busy that day, he had some letters to write so could not come, so I went to see the lepers by myself.  I found Fanny alone.  The first man was in the hospital sick and the other colored man was dead.  The authorities asked me would I like to bury him.  I did, and at the funeral I asked Fanny would he like to say a few words.  He did, and in speaking of this colored man with whom he had fellowship, he said, “It is wonderful how you can love someone whom you have never seen.”  Those words flashed to my mind immediately, “Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, ye love!” Peter 1:8

Six lepers decided there in that compound through the faithful witnessing of that man, and they have gone on to be with Christ which is much better.  The time came when Fanny also died, and there were 200 friends at his funeral.  At the grave side our elder brother, Alec Pearce said, “God could trust him as He could trust very few, even tho’ it was under such circumstances.”  God entrusted him with that mission in the lepers’ compound.  The circumstances were not easy but God was able to work.

This land to which you journey is a land of hills and valleys, it is a land of ups and downs, but it is watered from above. I’ll close with this verse:

O Saviour, we plead for Thy mercy

And grace to be true each day.

Lord, be near as we pass through each valley

Till we get to the end of the way.