Brother J W Thompson from Wahroonga church in Australia wondered if he could afford to send the latest tract off to his sister on the far-off Isle of Man, UK. Money was tight and the thought may have been, Would the family even read the tract? He had talked it through with his wife but was sure that helping his sister find the same peace with God that he had found was worth it.
A little time passed and the letters that came back from the Ludgate family near Douglas, on the Isle of Man, were encouraging. More letters arrived from the Ludgates as the year progressed. The news was wonderful: Brother Thompson just had to share it. The editor of the Australasian Record (now known as Adventist Record) agreed that the good news had to be published. In February 1915, the Australasian readership discovered that sharing tracts and children’s Sabbath school lessons could bear great fruit.
The Record editor wrote:
During the past few months interesting letters have been received from them, revealing the fact that this faithful seed-sowing has not been in vain. The following is quoted from their letters:
You will be pleased to know that my wife and I have commenced to keep God’s command to rest on the seventh day and keep it holy. Yesterday was our second Sabbath . . . We have never been taught how to read the Bible until you pointed the way. Bible Studies is an invaluable little work.
We hope to show our boys the way and pray that they will accept it also. The more we learn of the Bible the more we want to learn. My wife has read the tracts on the seven last plagues aloud to me to-day. It is all so plain that we cannot but understand.
What a grand promise it is that God’s people shall be free from all harm. I pray that I with all our dear ones may be counted worthy. There is more in the tracts than in any tracts I have ever read before. What a splendid woman Mrs E G White must be. Her writings are beautiful and inspiring. We cannot thank you as we wish, but we thank God that He put it into your heart to give us the instruction you have done (extracts from Record, February 15, 1915).
Reading those words while preparing other materials was heart-warming. The wider story reveals how wonderful the gift of tracts and literature came to be in the greater scheme of God’s work.
Brother Thompson kept up his correspondence with the Record. Nine years later, the following was reported there:
Australia has the honour of winning the first Sabbath-keeper on the Isle of Man. From Wahroonga, NSW, Brother JW Thompson sent literature to his sister who was residing on the island. As a result, she embraced the Sabbath truth, and her husband followed her in this step. Two of their sons are now at our college in England, the eldest, a young man of 25, desiring to be a missionary in India (Australasian Record, March 17, 1924).
There is a fuller tale recorded in the British periodical, The Missionary Worker. The pastor on the Isle of Man at the time was Pastor A S Rodd.
Pastor Rodd reported to the North England Conference office that there had been a baptism in the Broadway Baptist church in the Isle of Man on December 8, 1923, in which eight people had been baptised—with the first Isle of Man Company formed under the guidance of conference president A E Bacon.
The Seventh-day Adventist literature sent all the way from Australia had borne fruit—the Ludgate family had been baptised, there was great news to send back for the Record.
That the family on the Isle of Man were baptised is wonderful news, but the story of one of the two sons of the Ludgate family who went on to attend Watford College in 1924 bears telling. The older of the two sons was Timms Kenneth Ludgate, a former veteran of the Great War, who, with his wife, went on to mission service first in India, then in Africa at Helderberg College and later to Southern Missionary College and then Walla Walla College. An author, he translated two books into the Gujurati language and contributed to the seven-volume Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. In 1968 Kenneth was the author of the Sabbath school lesson quarterly for the third quarter, “The Book of James”.
Timms Kenneth Ludgate, once of the Isle of Man, died at Walla Walla College in the north-west of the United States in 1972.
Russell Staples, the Seventh-day Adventist missiologist, reminded the writer that unless a lesson is learned, or a truth taught, an essay will never earn an A grade. The lesson here is that if our Brother Thompson had never thought to send that literature all the way to England, God’s work would never have been blessed by a man who was willing to listen to God’s promptings and head off into mission service.
We might wonder, if we are prompted to say a kind word, if there will be any fruit from the venture. The response is that we may never know what our seed may sow, but God does, and He may prosper that seed.
Peter Jeynes is a pastor in the North England Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.