It was one of those bright winter nights in Africa which no pen adequately can describe. The crescent moon hung low over the western horizon close to the evening star. The mighty constellation of Orion shone in the northern sky and over against it, the Southern Cross. Splashed across the sky the Milky Way glistened in wide and wondrous splendour.
Who knows the worlds and suns up there? Who calls them all by name? Who numbers and beholds them all? Yes, who, indeed, can comprehend that the Hand of the Father has established them. The same Hand that brought for you and me that sacrifice which darkened the sun, rent the rocks and opened the tombs.
Beneath this starry heaven I walked through the cedar avenue towards the churchyard, worshipping the Lord. A great longing filled my heart. A longing to lead men and women to the One who loved them and gave His life to save them.
At the churchyard gate I stopped. I could see the stone crosses shining in the light of the pale moon. I thought of the founders of this congregation, and of their children and grandchildren. Right in front lay the grave of a man who had been killed in an accident. My thoughts turned to that other grave where I had stopped only once – mother’s grave. Only once because I found it impossible to think of mother (who had kissed me for the last time in the kitchen at Table Mountain) as being there.
But now I turned quickly and went home. ‘I expect someone who cannot find his way home to the Father’s heart will call tonight.’ Somehow I knew that that very night a seeking soul would find rest in the love of the Saviour.
Hardly had I sat down beside the paraffin lamp when a young woman called. (I shall call her ‘Erika’ here.) Erika was a girl with a torn heart; she could not keep away from the dance floor or places of amusement. Yet her unsatiated thirst took her to every service as well.
‘Well Erika, what brings you here tonight?’ But I knew the answer before she spoke.
‘I want to become a child of God but don’t know how to.’ After a pause she continued, ‘I want to follow the Lord Jesus but cannot. I don’t want to go with the world any longer and yet I cannot leave it.’
Taking out my pocket Bible I read to her the wonderful words: ‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that believe on His Name…’
Erika gazed with intent eyes before her, her face framed by her beautiful fair hair. Despair and the desire to live were curiously mixed in those eyes. How tired they looked.
Slowly she lifted up her face and asked, ‘How can I receive Him?’
‘Erika,’ I replied ‘Do you believe that this book is the Word of God?’ – ‘Yes, I believe it,’ she answered with childlike simplicity.
‘So everything written in this book is the absolute truth, Erika?’
‘Yes, I believe the Bible talks the truth,’ replied the tired girl.
I opened the Book near the back and read, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’
‘Erika, do you believe this? Do you believe that the Lord is knocking? Do you believe you belong to those whom He say, ‘if any man….open the door?’
This time she nodded briefly and I continued, ‘If now He stands at the door and knocks, and you open to Him ?’ I looked ay her enquiringly.
She lifted her head. Her eyes were shining, ‘Then He comes in – then I have received Him – then I am a child of God!’
A deep hush fell on the room. Strangely enough, at that very moment, into my mind flashed the memory of the day when I rushed home in fury because God had called me into His service. I would never have acted like that had He already been living in my heart.
Erika lifted her head and asked softly, ‘How do I open the door?’
‘Tell me, Erika, what do you do at home when someone knocks?’
‘Sometimes I just call out ‘come in!’ Or I go to the door and open it.’
‘Is it enough when you say come in? Is that quite enough, Erika?’
‘Yes, that is quite enough.’
Now the light was breaking and she asked happily, ‘Do I only need to say, ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus?’
There was no need to answer. At last she understood in the radiance of the Lord’s grace. With all the simplicity of a little child she lifted up her heart and prayed.
Since that evening Erika is a changed person. Her great desire is to follow Jesus – and she is able to do so. She no longer wants to go with the world and she separates herself gladly from her old ways. She did not have to kill her love for dancing, it just disappeared. She is rejoicing in the Lord and does not seem to mind being scoffed at.
At first the parents were angry and worried. ‘Will she ever get a husband if she never goes to dances?’ They fretted. ‘She must never again enter the parson’s house, no never again!’ Little did that father and mother realise that the Holy Spirit was already at work in their hearts, slowly preparing a room for the one Lord.
They became His glad servants a short while later.