Daddy Grings—Father of Missionaries
Herbert & Ruth Grings’ Home Life
But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: Ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed that the Lord hath blessed. Isaiah 61:6, 9
My heart thrills, as I sit down to write a brief account of this missionary patriarch, and the generations that follow him. A patriarch is one who has extended his influence far beyond the reach of an earthly life. “Daddy Grings,” the name his loved ones gave him, was that kind of man. Though a pilgrim and a stranger on earth, with hardly ever a place that he could call home, he managed to deposit more into his children, than most who have a home.
Many of you probably do not know of this godly man, unless you have listened to the sermon, “Love with Shoes On,” by Darrell Champlin. It is available through the Tape Ministry. This sermon is a life changer, and if you have not heard it, you must. In this sermon, Darrell tells some of the story of this man’s life, which is his father-in-law. Herbert and Ruth Grings are the parents of Louise Champlin, Darrell's wife. Darrell and Louise are missionaries in Surinam, South America, in the Congo in Central Africa, and in North America. They are true missionaries, and dear friends of mine, walking in the spirit of their father, “Daddy Grings.” I gleaned the information for this article from a telephone interview with Louise, and from an old autobiography written by her father.
Dozens of missionaries have come forth from the union and dedication of this godly couple. As always, there are clearly defined reasons why a company of missionaries has followed their lead. I want to study those reasons in this article. My study will focus more on Herbert, because Ruth died of black fever on the mission field while the family was still young. This left five children to rear on the field without a mother. Robert, the oldest, was sixteen, and Mark, the youngest, was five. I will write more on this later.
Most authorities on child training agree that the first few years of a child’s training are the most crucial and influential. It is in the early years that lifelong foundation stones are laid. God’s Word brings this truth out so clearly in many different places. As I studied the small amount of material I had about Ruth, it was very evident that the mother of this troop of missionaries was very busy laying lifelong foundation stones in her children, before she passed on to her heavenly reward.
Mother was a missionary in her own right. Her parents were missionaries to the American Indians in Montana, and she joined her parents on the field as a teacher, after she finished her schooling at Moody Bible Institute. This was back in 1910, when Montana was truly a mission field with very few conveniences. After seven years, she departed for Africa to work with C. T. Studd’s mission. It was there in the Congo that she met Herbert, and their missionary union began.
As God began to give them children, Ruth willingly turned much of her attention on her new responsibilities. She was, however, as I already stated, a missionary. Her burden for the lost brought creative ways to reach out to the lost while caring for the children. Dad and Mom covered about sixty villages on a regular schedule. When Herbert would return from a three-week preaching trek, Ruth would tie her baby on her back, like the Africans do, and head out for two weeks on a bike.
In the early years of missions in Africa, home schooling was the only option. Ruth was well equipped to tend to the schooling of the children because of years of previous experience. The Bible was the first reader the children used to master their reading skills. By the time the children reached the age of five, they had memorized all of the ABC Bible verses and could quote them on demand. The children received a basic education in reading, writing, and arithmetic. After these basics, a godly life was the curriculum.
Mother’s example and willingness to endure much hardship stamped an impression on every one of her children. They lived way out in the bush, days away from anyone else or helpful facilities. The doctor was ten days away, one way. This is probably the reason she died of the fever. It was too far to go for help. She made her mud hut a home in very simple ways and graced it with a kind spirit of love and encouragement. This is what missionary mothers must do. Their mother heart moves them to find ways that most American mothers would never even dream of or imagine. The family was always supplied with dried meat and sun-dried tropical fruit. They ground their own peanuts by hand for peanut butter, and made delicious banana jelly to provide the old American favorite, “peanut butter and jelly.”
In a very real sense, mother did not die of the black fever in 1936. She had already died long before she breathed her last breath. She gave her life every day for her family and the lost souls they had come to win. The children saw this, and the missionary fire was passed on. Mama Grings had a prayer, which is actually a song, hanging on the wall of her African home. It describes her sacrificial heart so beautifully. I will close this part of our study with those sacred words which were her prayer, as she labored for her family and the heathen:
Not I, But Christ
Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted:
Not I, but Christ, be seen, be known, be heard;
Not I, but Christ, in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.
Not I, but Christ, to gently sooth in sorrow;
Not I, but Christ, to wipe the solemn tear;
Not I, but Christ, to lift the weary burden;
Not I, but Christ, to hush away all fear.
Not I, but Christ, in lowly, silent labor;
Not I, but Christ, in humble, earnest toil:
Christ, only Christ, No show, no ostentation;
Christ, none but Christ, the gatherer of the spoil.
Christ, only Christ, ere long will fill my vision;
Glory excelling soon, full soon I’ll see--
Christ, only Christ, my every wish fulfilling,
Christ, only Christ, my all in all to be.
Herbert lived forty-one years longer than his dear wife Ruth did. They labored together for sixteen years, with a break to rest in the states squeezed in there. After Ruth died, he never married again, but gave himself wholly to the evangelization of the heathen.
When Herbert was a young man, the Spirit of God challenged him about his priorities. God said to him, “Will you sacrifice your career, so I can send you to the lost of this world?” Immediately, he yielded everything to his Master, and in his words, “From that time on, I never looked back.” All his focus was now on preparations, and the work that lay beyond his studies. This dear man lived for one thing, to preach the Gospel to those who had never heard. When the government of the Congo rejected his plea to return to his previous mission field, he turned his attention on the ripe fields of Central and South America. He literally traveled from country to country, sowing seeds and planting churches. At the end of his life, age seventy-five, he appealed for permission to return to the Congo, and his request was granted. What a beautiful missionary heart this soldier of the cross had. Most of us would think it is time for him to retire and rest, but not Daddy Grings. He spent the last ten years of his life traveling jungle paths from village to village on a bicycle. He passed on to his reward in 1977 at eighty-five.
God’s Special Missionary School
We have taken a brief look into the lives of these two missionaries, and I am sure you will agree it is inspiring. There is so much more that could be said about each of them and their labors for the lost; however, that is not the purpose for this article. I want to look at the home, and the principles they obeyed, which produced all the missionaries that followed them. Some of what we will consider was done on purpose, some of it just happened through missionary life. Either way, there is much to be learned from them.
In 1936, Ruth passed away of black fever. I consider missionaries who die on the field, martyrs. She gave her life for Christ. This left Herbert on the field with five children. It does not take much imagination to picture the straits he found himself in. It took six months for his letters to go across the ocean and a reply to come back. He was advised, “Gather the children, and come back to the States.” What would you do? There is a fork in the road, and a very important decision needs to be made. The wrong choice will affect generations of men and women. Only eternity will tell us what might have been, if the family would have returned to America. “Daddy Grings” had a family meeting. He wisely spread the letters out before the children, and they all considered them together. After prayer, they took a vote. “Shall we stay, or shall we go?” The verdict was unanimous, “We are missionaries, and we will stay.” The whole family knew that the death of their mother had opened the hearts of the natives, and souls were being saved everywhere. They proclaimed, “The yoke has been broken, and the enemy is on the run; why go home now?”
This decision opened the way for a tremendous Missionary Training School called “Hands-on Experience,” which lasted for ten years. Father and the children trekked from village to village, living in each village for about two months. They preached, they prayed, they won souls, and established churches. What a tremendous school. Would any of you like to spend ten years learning at the feet of an experienced missionary? We all know what would happen.
Having stated these things, I could close the article right here, because all of us know that such a school alone, without any other input, would produce missionaries. However, I want to draw out the details of this ten year period, as well as other points, so we can apply them to our homes.
Principles that Mold Missionary Children
- The Word of God
As I interviewed Sister Louise about home life on the mission field, Old Faithful, the Bible, took the lead. Their lives were filled with the Bible. They learned to read with the Bible. They memorized five verses each week (5 verses x 52 weeks x 15 years = 3750 verses). If you count thirty verses for a chapter, that is 125 chapters in the Word. The children read through the Bible every year in their personal devotional time. Father and Mother taught them the Bible during family times of worship, and last, but not least, they all began teaching the Bible at a young age. They were all missionaries. Wow, look at all of the input these children received from God as they were growing. They were truly “planted by the rivers of water,” Ps. 1, from the beginning. “From a child, they knew the Holy Scriptures.” II Tim 3:15.
- The Children were Missionaries
The call to missions was a family call. When the counsel came to bring the children back to the states, the children rose up and said, “We are missionaries—we can not go to the States.” There are many missionary children who are disconnected from the burden and vision of the lost. Mom and Dad are missionaries, and they are just the children. Wise parents will engage the children in the work, so they can catch the vision and purpose of God for their lives. This is a most powerful principle. I am sure there were many flats spots in the home life of these itinerate missionaries; however, because they involved the children in the work, this carried them through many a failure. Children who are active in the work of souls, are co-laboring with the Holy Spirit, and He is addictive. Daddy Grings’ children were immersed in the fishing business from an early age. I know this is one of the major reasons they are all missionaries today.
- The Power of Prayer
Prayer played an important part in the molding of these children. They were encouraged to pray in their personal devotion time each day. There were prayer times for the many needs around them continually, and Father set one day each month as prayer and fasting day for everyone. During this day of solitude, the labors of the month were evaluated, seasons of specific prayer followed these evaluations, and then they all sought God for direction for the coming month. These kinds of activities have to have an effect on the next generation of missionaries. Then to top all of this prayer off, Herbert prayed for his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren every day. This went on for many years. I am sure his prayers are still chasing after his family today.
- We Learned to Obey
These are the words that Louise used, when I asked her about discipline and authority. The rod was used as the Bible directs us, but it was not needed very much, because the children learned, “We must obey the words of our parents.”
- Love Prevailed
The family lived in dozens of different houses during the ten years of itinerate work. There was no security drawn from the place where they lived. They never knew where they would lay their head next. Even though they were on the move a lot, there was a spirit of love that flowed among them. This is where true security comes from. We are often tempted to think it comes from an exterior environment, but we are wrong.
- We Sang Day and Night
Hundreds of songs and hymns were memorized, and then they sang them from their heart, in the midst of all kinds of trying circumstances. We have a singing religion, and you cannot measure the silent influence this singing has upon the forming mind and heart. Besides, they were on the front lines of the battlefield, and singing is part of the strategies that bring victory.
- Chores Build Character
This is true the world around. It does not matter if they are farm chores, family business chores, or missionary chores; they all work the same kind of inner character. What do I mean by missionary chores? They had to maintain the village life of their missionary father, and there is a lot of labor involved in village life. They washed clothes by the river with washboards, carried water for eating and drinking, and many other village life tasks. They cared for animals so they would have some protein to eat. They carried wood for the fire to heat the water to wash the dishes. I know that many would look on and cry out, “Those poor children!” but wait a minute. Remember, they were missionaries, and nothing else mattered.
- Suffering and Sickness
I have said it many times that missionary experience is the closest thing to a persecution experience because of the suffering they endure. The hardships of bush life are endless. A cut takes three times as long to heal, you sweat all the time, and there are many sleepless nights because of the heat. Sickness is a way of life for a missionary. I asked Louise about sickness. She said there was always someone who was sick. They knew the fevers of malaria back in the days when there were no preventatives. They were constantly dealing with dysentery, parasites, and who knows how many other “-ites.” There were bug bites, snake bites, and scorpion bites to live with. These children suffered for the sake of the call, and this molded them into soldiers of Jesus Christ.
- They Developed Compassion
The Grings children grew up in the midst of a hurting, neglected, dying people. They saw suffering everywhere. This has a beautiful yet silent effect upon the inner man. Father and Mother guided their thoughts toward compassion, and it is in them to this day.
When God orders experiences of self-denial for children, He uses them to teach them to give up their will. It is very important for parents to know this so they can labor together with God for the children. Missionary life provides many everyday lessons in self-denial. The food is very simple with not much variety. The people live way below what we would call poverty level, and therefore so do the missionaries and their children. This has to have a tremendous effect upon the children. I have noted in most of the previous “Home Histories” that poverty was usually there to mold them. With missionaries it is more akin to voluntary poverty for the sake of the Gospel, but it still has the same effect on the next generation. If the parents will guide the child’s heart through these things, it will make a soldier out of them.
- The Missionaries’ God
Our God is a living God, however, many children grow up learning about God, but never seeing Him actively working in their lives. To the Grings children, God was an ever-present help, and they had experienced Him many times. They sensed His presence when hostile natives with spears and bows greeted them. They saw Him bring a ship to rescue them fifteen minutes before a storm came to blow them away. They watched their heavenly Father provide for them when they were hungry. Many people do not go to the mission field because of fear and unbelief. It is hard for them to trust God in the difficult times. These children learned firsthand that God is always watching and caring for His servants.
There is much more that should be written on this subject. Child training from a missionary perspective is full of training thoughts. Because I know how missionaries live, I could write several more points. Nevertheless, I want to stay with the points that Louise gave to me. The whole missionary experience, if entered into with an open, positive, and purposeful attitude, can be an exciting training ground for godly children. I want to be realistic also. It is much more difficult to order your priorities and home while on a mission field. There are many hardships to overcome, and many have lost the next generation while reaching the lost. I think the attitude of the heart is the most important element for the parents. Only God knows how many more of Herbert and Ruth Grings’ descendants will serve Him on the mission fields of the world. As I evaluate the heart of the ones that I know, it seems to me there are yet more to come. Great-great grandchildren shall rise up and say, “I hear the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’”
Here am I Lord. Send me.
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