From Hospital Boat To Robbers’ Den (Part 4)
By Oswald J. Smith
Adapted from a 1926 article in The Sunday School Times about R. A. Jaffray, a missionary with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. In previous segments, Jaffray and his three companions were captured by Chinese bandits and forced to march a long, treacherous trail through rivers and up mountain sides to the robbers’ den. The cavern was filled with men and women with hard faces and cruel eyes; sin written on their faces. Although horrified by what he saw, Jaffray also knew that Christ had died for those before him and that God’s grace could reach even these.
Mr. Jaffray lost no opportunity of presenting the Gospel, and day after day, robbers came to him, requesting that he preach to them. How well did he recall the time when he had asked God to send him to “the regions beyond”! And now he was right in the midst of men and women who had never before heard the name of Jesus. Never had he seen such hard faces, such low, depraved living. There was no sense of shame or guilt so far as he could tell.
As a result of diligent work on language study he was able to converse freely with them in their own tongue. This was his chance to prove the power of the Gospel. And so, as the responsibility that was his pressed in upon him, he began to cry mightily to God.
“What message will I give?” he prayed. “This may be their only chance. Never before have they heard, and perhaps never again will they be given an opportunity. What then will I tell them? O, God, direct me.”
There was only one story, one message for such an hour, and he gave it. It was the story of Calvary. It was the message of God’s love and Christ’s death for them; the power of the Gospel to save them from their sins. And as he spoke he saw that they were moved. Hardened though they were, they could not hide their emotion. Abruptly they would leave him, but in a few moments return. They could not but be drawn by such an appeal. Never had they heard such a message. To them it was a new story, never told before.
And not only the men themselves, but the chief also. He, too, was interested. Often did the missionary have opportunity to talk to him and to answer his questions. He was only a young man, thirty-five, or thereabouts, but he was clever and keen to a degree. The missionary always addressed him in the most polite Chinese, and he answered in the same vocabulary. The chief had no education, could neither read nor write, but he could speak when he wished to with culture and refinement. He used the language of a scholar when addressing the missionary. No Chinese gentleman had a more beautiful flow of language.
A few days passed and again the robber chief approached him.
“Mr. Jaffray, will you preach for us tonight?” he asked. “I will gather together the whole camp if you will.”
“Why, certainly,” answered Jaffray, “I shall be only too glad to.”
And so the chief rounded them up, old and young, men and women. Many were away robbing boats and plundering villages, but there were at least 150 left, and these, including the women and girls, were all gathered in a group around the missionary. Jaffray surveyed his ungodly congregation, enlisted his fellow missionaries to pray for him, and began.
He knew that he must be as wise as a serpent in order to win their confidence, so he first of all spoke of his own predicament.
“I suppose,” he began, “that you think we missionaries consider this a great misfortune. But I want to tell you that we do not. We look upon our imprisonment as a unique opportunity. We believe God sent us here to tell you the Good News of salvation, for you would probably never have heard it otherwise. And so we heartily thank God that we are here.
“And now first of all, I want to warn you about something. I say this for your own good. Many of you are dressed in our clothes. You have our foreign milk tins around your necks, and our foreign straw hats on your heads. Now, you know as well as I do, that it would be easy to get lost and separated from your brethren in these mountains. You might miss the trail some dark night. And if the soldiers were to find you and see just one of these foreign articles on your person, you know that they would at once identify you as the robbers who kidnapped the missionaries, and you would immediately be executed. Of course, you are welcome to our things. But I feel that I ought to warn you of your great danger. Do not think that we are going to tell the officers where you are, and try to get you into trouble. We do not wish your destruction, but the salvation of your souls. What I say is true. Am I not right, Chief?”
“Yes,” at once replied the chief, who had been standing quietly on one side.
“Then you enforce it for the safety of your men,” urged the missionary.
Jaffray could see the heads of the robbers nodding in assent all over the room. Now he had their interest. They saw that he was in earnest and that what he had said was only for their own good, and consequently they gave him all their attention.
Then in half an hour he told them how to find Christ, how their souls might be saved, that Jesus was the one and only Savior. And thus he held up the Son of God, the Christ of Calvary. Again they were mightily moved. The Holy Ghost was at work, and the Day will declare the results. Jaffray firmly believed that he would yet meet some of that robber band; saved by the precious blood.
Suddenly, one night, the chief came to the missionary at midnight, with a paper in his hand which he demanded that Jaffray sign. It was an arrangement to furnish $200,000 in cash and $100,000 in rifles and ammunition for the ransom of the missionaries.
“But I cannot guarantee this,” objected Jaffray, “I will sign, and I will do what I can.”
“Sign it then, and do your best,” commanded the chief.
Next morning Jaffray and one other, Dr. Miller, were released. The other two, Mr. Carne and Mr. Ray, were to be held until the ransom money was paid. Grass sandals were provided, and a moment later Jaffray and his companion took their last look at the robbers’ den, said good-bye to the brethren, and the perilous trip down the mountain began.
The journey was a terrible ordeal. At some places to walk was impossible. They rolled down the most slippery places, and tumbled down others. Ice could not have been more slippery. Their feet went out from under them again and again – their robber escorts faring no better. But at last they reached the river where the robbers quickly commandeered a row boat and forced its owner to row the two men down the river, while they stood on the bank watching.
“Remember,” they cautioned, “we will see you always.”
“Do not forget what I have told you about Jesus Christ,” called Jaffray from the boat.
“Don’t forget the ransom,” responded the robbers in return.
At last the two missionaries reached Wuchow and were soon in the arms of loved ones, free from the robbers’ den, safe from the pursuit of lawless men. And oh, what joy filled their hearts! How good it was to be home once more.
The ransom was raised by the Chinese officials of the district – not the one demanded, but a very small amount – and after negotiating for six long weeks, the last of the four missionaries, Mr. Carne, who had been brutally treated and was sick almost unto death, was released. The other missionary, Mr. Ray, had escaped earlier.
God had answered prayer! During their ordeal cables had been sent to America, and reports published in newspapers everywhere stirring thousands to pray. To God alone belongs all the glory for their release. Hallelujah!