As we remember the centenary of the First World War, with sober hearts, and hope for the end of all war and tears, we can seek comfort in the words of Daniel, as he praised God:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.”
The 1915 LCM Annual Report gave the terse news that “One missionary has five sons at the front, and has been honoured by a letter from the King’s Secretary, expressing His Majesty’s pleasure at hearing of the fact”. Later, in the November/December 1917 LCM Magazine, we read that three of the five sons of Mr John Coles died in action. In Streets Paved with Gold, the history of LCM up untill the turn of the last century, significant space is given to accounts of LCM missionaries, workers and friends who were involved in some way with the war effort.
Perhaps most striking in the accounts are the sheer scale of those who did not return home, those who had been prepared to die fighting, and who died in the fight. Missionaries reported the shift in public opinion, post war, that meant that they felt obliged to fulfil the role of counsellor and comfort to grieving families. 124,000 Londoners did not come home from Flanders Field.
The words above of a young man far from home, from Daniel 2, remind us that throughout history God has seen and heard the cries of young men and their families, in times of trial. Daniel and his friends were taken by a hostile power – and yet they stood firm in their faith. The same Annual Report that celebrated a royal honour for five missionary’s sons in 1915, went on:
“This earthly conflict, however, terrible as it is, only typifies on which is still greater, one in which every true Christian must take a part… the conflict between light and darkness, between truth and error, between sin and righteousness; the tremendous spiritual conflict between Christ and the Great Adversary of mankind”.
Many of LCM’s staff walk past the Tower of London every day, where in the week running up to the 11th of November, thousands of torches are lit as music hauntingly reminds passers by that it has been 100 years since the Great War. As we remember the sacrifice, so we must look forward with hope. Not a false hope, or a hope tainted by the present darkness, but a hope in the God of Daniel, the God who motivated our LCM forefathers in the Great War to keep praying and serving, even as and because a greater war has been won.
In our staff prayer times we have been reading and praying through Ecclesiastes. In chapter 3, we are reminded that there is a time for war and a time for peace. Hopeless, is how many people might describe such a statement. Yet Daniel reminds us that behind the violence of history are the purposes and plans of a good God. And so, 100 years on from the end of the Great War, we continue to press on, bringing the good news of Jesus to a London that needs a King.
If you’d like to hear more about the work LCM is doing with younger people, do grab a free copy of our magazine, Changing London.
To read more about how LCM’s missionaries continued to share Jesus with London throughout two world wars and the other years of our long history, you can get a copy of ‘Streets Paved with Gold’ from LCM at our bookshop in Tower Bridge.