A Personal View of the Twentieth Century
by Robert Brow
Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 2000
After our first term in India we arrived back to stay at Mollie's home,
112 Mulgrave Road, Sutton, Surrey. I met her parents and their family when
we already had two children (Rachel aged 2, and Peter aged six months).
7 May 1957 We sailed from Bombay on the Stratheden via Cape Town
15 May 1957 The first British Hydrogen bomb was tested on Christmas
Mollie had been sent out as a missionary from Cheam Baptist Church.
Although she had married an Anglican minister, and had moved into his very
Anglican mission, they graciously welcomed me with her into their loving
community. Mollie had studied at Redcliffe Missionary Training College
before going to India, and they wondered what kind of a man she had married.
So they asked me to speak at the College garden party. With some trepidation
I wanted to say something about the new image of missionary work that was
emerging. But it rained on and off, and in between interruptions
I made a disastrous comparison with the new image given to prunes by the
California fruit growers. This was greeted with shocked silence.
Princeton Theological Seminary gave me a wonderful opportunity to spend
a whole year reworking my New Testament foundations. I did two very stimulating
courses with Professor Bruce Metzger, who seemed to know every Greek text
from 400 BC to 600 AD. I still have the interleaved New Testament I used,
and I have consulted it again and again ever since.
26 Aug 1957 The USSR announced their first ICBM (ballistic missile)
3 Sep 1957 We sailed to New York on the Italia.
4 Oct 1957 Russians launched their Sputnik (first artificial
3 Nov 1957 Russians launched a second satellite with a live dog.
The thesis topic I chose was "The But I Say Unto You Sayings in the
Sermon on the Mount." This has found expression again and again in my sermons.
It has also resulted many years later in another major model shift, though
I did not grasp the implications of this at the time. I have come to see
that God works through nations (Acts 17:26-27), and in the Sermon on the
Mount Jesus gave his "But I say unto You" for the Jewish mix of laws and
customs at that time. But in every period of history any nation has its
own quite different background of legal and cultural assumptions. And concerning
each of these Jesus also wants to declare his "But I say unto you." This
means that in proclaiming the good news we should first respect the history
and culture of the people of that country, and then point out how it needs
to be seen in the light of God's kind of love.
For me studying in the Seminary was enjoyable hard work. But taking
care of our day to day needs was a severe test of faith. We had a free
apartment provided for us by the Seminary in Payne Hall. But our small
furlough allowance from England hardly covered our basic necessities.
We needed a car for preaching engagements in New Jersey and beyond. So
we bought a 1950 Chevrolet for $275. One tire went flat as we arrived at
the apartment, which seemed ominous. But after that the car never stopped
once in 11,000 miles, and we sold it when we left eight months later for
$60. We could easily have been in big trouble as we traveled up and down
the east coast, and west to the Urbana Conference. Once as we were leaving
the Regions Beyond Missionary Union office in Philadelphia, I knew we did
not have any money to buy gas to get to Nyack, our destination that evening.
But as the car was already moving, Bertel Vine rushed down from the top
floor, came out and stopped us. "The Lord has told me to give you $20 for
Here is a sample of personal and international news at the time :
At that time there were more millionaires per square mile in Princeton
than any other place in the world. But we used to buy two day old bread.
We had not thought about medical or dental coverage, but we were saved
from major problems till we got back to England.
4 Jan 1958 I began teaching Mollie to drive in New Jersey and New
14 Jan 1958 Our funds had run out.
31 Jan 1958 The U.S.Army launched a small earth satellite.
6 Feb 1958 Again faced a severe financial situation
13 Feb 1958 Mollie passed her driving test.
7 Mar 1958 I had severe toothache. We prayed, and I was healed the
17 Mar 1958 The U.S.Navy launched their first satellite.
On March 12 we sat down for breakfast with our two children, Rachel
and Peter, we gave thanks, and knew we had nothing left to eat for the
next meal. The mail came immediately after breakfast, and that day to our
astonishment there was an envelope with $200 from Mrs. Gordon, the mother
of Jocelyn Gordon of our mission in India. On May 14 again we gave thanks
for our breakfast, knowing there was nothing left for lunch, and an envelope
arrived in the mail from Mrs. Gordon this time with $300. We thanked her,
but I am sure she never knew what those gifts meant to us.
By the end of our time at Princeton we realized that we were less and
less comfortable with the idea of going back to India with BCMS (Bible
Churchmen's Missionary Society). Having come from a Baptist church, and
gone to India with an interdenominational group, Mollie had found the strongly
Anglican basis of our mission. I was studying at the leading Presbyterian
Seminary in North America, and most week-ends I preached in Presbyterian
churches. The Episcopal (Anglican) church in Princeton did not appeal to
us, and we attended Westerly Road Independent church. Our circle of friends
from different denominations, and our increasing interest in student work,
and Indian Inter Varsity in particular, was interdenominational. So nothing
was drawing us to continue in an exclusively Anglican mission.
As we struggled with this, and wondered what we would do with no mission
affiliation, we decided the first thing was to take the step of resigning
from the mission we were with.
We had been invited by the Duewels, with whom we had served at the Allahabad
Bible Seminary, to join them at the Winona Lake Conference Center. We were
astonished to see cars with the bumper sticker : "When the Lord comes to
rapture us, this car will be driverless." That again forced us to think
about our view of the Lord's coming.
6 Jun 1958 I graduated with a Th.M. (Master of Theology)
20 June 1958 We wrote to BCMS to resign from our mission.
23 June 1958 Drove to Winona Lake, Indiana to meet the Duewels.
Mollie had taken a course at Princeton Seminary with Professor Metzger
on the Book of Revelation, and she had already moved, as I had, from a
pre-millenial view of the second coming. But it is only in the last two
years that I have seen how the eternal Son of God had kept intervening
and coming in days of the Lord throughout Old Testament history. After
the ascension, the Lord has continued his reign, and the first great day
of the Lord for the Jewish people was the destruction of the temple and
the religious establishment of Jerusalem in AD 70. Jesus had said this
would take place in the generation of his hearers. But then he has continued
coming and intervening in the lives of individuals and in days of the Lord
among nations. There will be a final coming when He terminates out space-time
system, but I no longer talk about the second coming, as if the Lord has
done nothing for the past two thousand years. (See the book Advent
Comings of the Lord in History)
That was a very close call. At 8.30 a.m. Mollie was vomiting and obviously
very ill. We called the family doctor, and he thought it must be a severe
case of the flu. Happily Mollie was nurse, and she had mentioned to me
the possibility that the spotting she had had might be the beginning of
an ectopic pregnancy. As the doctor was already leaving the house, I mentioned
this to him, and he immediately realized what had happened. Her pulse had
already stopped and she would have been dead if there had been another
hour of delay. But five pints of blood and emergency surgery saved her
just in time. We were very grateful for the free British medical coverage,
as the cost would have been astronomical in the United States. That evening
I went for the final interview with our new mission.
30 Jul 1958 We embarked on the Queen Elizabeth to return to England.
4 Aug 1958 I met with Jack Dain of BMMF (now called Interserve).
15 Aug 1958 I began correcting Greek papers for the London Bible
16 Aug 1958 Mollie and I filled in the application forms for our
2 Oct 1958 I began teaching two days a week at the London Bible
20 Oct 1958 Mollie had emergency surgery for a ruptured ectopic
We had known BMMF (the Bible and Medical Missionary Fellowship) since
we first went to India. And Mollie and I were engaged outside Edgehill,
the BMMF guesthouse in Landour. Having begun as a women's mission, Jack
Dain was invited to include men in the team, and lead them out of their
institutional work in hospitals and schools in the new directions needed
for India and Pakistan. We knew Alan and Sylvia Norris who had joined them
as field leaders in India. Peter Bagnall was a friend at Cambridge, and
he and Alison were already in Karachi, where we met them in April. The
mission had been interdenominational from the beginning, and we could see
that they were already moving in the direction of the kind of bloodstream
ministry that we were interested in. I later wrote about the model shift
that occured in this quite new approach to mission in New
For the first three years of our second term in India we continued in the
same work we had been involved in at the Allahabad Bible Seminary. But,
in addition to my teaching, we found ourselves working more and more with
university students. A group of them were from the Naga tribes. Their grandparents
had been fierce head hunters, but many had become Christians through the
work of an American Baptist mission at the turn of this century.
28 Oct 1958 John XXIII was elected Pope.
6 Nov 1958 We were accepted for service with BMMF.
13 Nov 1958 The cold war began as the U.S. shifted to ICBM (missiles)
18 Dec 1958 The United States Air Force sent a 4 ton satellite
12 Jan 1959 I began a six week internship with John Stott at All
21 Mar 1959 We sailed on the Caledonia via Karachi to Bombay.
The missionaries began translating the New Testament into their languages,
and then were expelled from those politically sensitive areas of the eastern
borders of India. The first group of young people who had become literate
came to study for B.A. and M.A. degrees in Allahabad University, and we
loved having some of them every week in our home. The Nagas had been taught
as children to write music in simple tonic solfa notation. Mollie would
play a melody, or we would sing a new song to them. To our amazement
they immediately wrote the melody down, put in the alto, tenor, and bass
parts, and sang it straight back to us in beautiful four part harmony.
One of these, Chiten Jamir, became the Education Minister for the new Naga
state, and we were thrilled to hear of others tasking responsible positions.
I worked under P.T.Chandapilla, the very gifted and dedicated leader of
the Union of Evangelical Students of India. When I asked him what he wanted
me to do he said "You take North India." I discovered this included Calcutta
University with 135,000 students and a dozen universities from the Punjab
to Assam and down into central India. I was also to develop the Graduate
Students' Fellowship all over India. These alumni of the student work have
not only supported the movement financially to this day, but began and
encouraged new work all over the country. For me there were the demands
of constant long distance travel in crowded third class railway compartments.
But Mollie had to stay at home, mind the children, and take care of all
that needed to be done just to survive in a foreign country. Hardest of
all was having to put our Rachel from the age of six and then our Peter
from the age of five into boarding at Hebron School in Coonoor. The distances
and travel were horrendous. Here are some extracts from my diary:
30 June 1960 The Belgian Congo suddenly became an independent
3 Aug 1960 Our third child, Timothy Graham Brow, was born.
16 Aug 1960 Cyprus became an independent republic.
21 Sept 1960 At a conference in Landour I was released for student
20 Jan 1961 J.F.Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the U.S.
2 Feb 1961 Corrie ten Boom came to preach, and stayed with us for
1 May 1961 I began full time student work under P.T.Chandapilla
16 Jul 1962 I also took on the work of North India Area Superintendent.
1963 was a challenging year for me, but it was very hard on Mollie. When
the year began we were in Benares (now called Varanasi), the sacred city
for Hindus who long to be cremated there and have their ashes thrown into
the River Ganges. Our Tim was only two, and Susanne was three months old.
I was North India Superintendent of our mission, and had two conferences
to attend, visits here and there, and many things to settle before I left
for a three month speaking tour in Australia and New Zealand.
29 Apr 1961 Travelled third class overnight to Itarsi with our three
30 Apr 1961 A hard day travelling towards Madras. Rachel & Tim
both had dysentry
1 May 1961 Arrived Madras at 11 am, but found the Cyril Thompsons
were out. We spread out bedding on the floor of the station till
our train at 6 pm.
2 May 1961 Arrived Mettupalayam at 9.30, but missed the first train
3 May 1961 Rachel & Tim perking up in the cool. We liked Hebron
1 Sep 1962 Mollie was unwell so we put Rachel and Peter back into
3 Sep 1962 Mollie has jaundice (very dangerous with pregnancy).
Packed and left.
4 Sep 1962 Arrived 9 am at Vellore Christian Medical College. Mollie
5 Sep 1962 I arrived back in Coonoor with Tim (aged 2) in the afternoon.
15 Sep 1962 Arrived Vellore 3.15 am, picked up Mollie and left at
18 Sep 1962 Arrived at Edgehill, Landour at 11.30 am. Mollie coped
21 Sep 1962 Tim's temperature to 105. He and Mollie both admitted
11 Oct 1962 Second Vatican Council convened by Pope John XXIII.
26 Oct 1962 Susanne Elizabeth Brow born in Landour, and Mollie is
For this speaking tour I prepared a series of talks and sermons on the
theme of a local church congregation as a body with many members. I pointed
out that the only kind of church membership taught in the NT is having
a function as a member of the body. By way of missionary emphasis I also
developed the idea of the bloodstream that moves all over the world to
nourish and correct the life of local churches. This theme was published
as The Church: An Organic Picture
of Its Life and Mission, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968. I believe it was
the first exposition of the function of each of the gifts of the Spirit,
which is now standard teaching in many churches. Unfortunately the publicity
and sales people at Eerdmans viewed this as a head on threat to Calvinistic
doctrine. They had the book remaindered almost immediately, and it never
even got into their catalogue.
The book was published in Britain with the title Twenty Century Church.
I discovered twenty years later that various groupings of the new house
church movement had used the model I suggested of apostles as church planters
for the phenomenal growth of their movement. So what had seemed a failure
turned out to have fruitful results after all.
When I arrived in Australia I was given a cheque to cash at the bank. I
had been used to our bank in India where, although I was known, my cheque
was handled by seven different men. The last two sat cross-legged at the
counter and after one had counted the notes, the other counted them again.
The teller in Perth glanced at my cheque and shelled out the notes so fast
I stood there looking dazed. She asked me if there was anything else I
was waiting for? I fell in love with the city and its people, and
wondered if we couldn't settle there.
4 Feb 1963 At an hour's notice I had to escort the group of Hebron
6 Feb 1963 Got to Madras by 2. Took the children to the beach. Left
at 8 pm.
7 Feb 1963 Delivered the party of children to school, and left half
an hour later.
8 Feb 1963 Attended the UESI staff conference in Madras, and left
10 Feb 1963 Arrived back in Varanasi after six days of constant
2 Mar 1963 Waited 3 hours for my travel cheques. They didn't come.
3 Mar 1963 We all have thread worms, so had to begin a week of Piperazine.
4 Mar 1963 Travellers' cheques finally arrived. Booked a trunk to
5 Mar 1963 Leaving Mollie, Tim and Susanne in Varanasi, I flew to
7 Mar 1963 Arrived in Perth, Australia for a three months speaking
It was good that I had the outline of a dozen different talks ready
because every day the pace of life left no time for preparation. I would
be interviewed on the local radio station before breakfast, speak at a
coffee gathering, and a lunch, and tea, and after the last talk and questions
Australians expect you to come to one of their homes and talk till midnight.
In Melbourne I was met off the plane by a student who told me the InterVarsity
group was waiting for my arrival, and I had to speak immediately on Buddhism
and Christianity. It was not one of the talks I had prepared, but they
got one of my seminary lectures.
In Sydney I stayed with the Anglican Rector of Manley, a short ferry
ride across the harbour. I was told an actress had put her leg over the
side of a yacht the previous week and been killed by a shark. I had my
first day off swimming and sunbathing on Manley beach, and was astonished
to see thousands of people swimming. They said "Oh, the odds are pretty
good with fifty thousand people going in."
After a week each in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Tasmania, Sydney, and
Brisbane, I had a second day off on 25 April. I complained that I had not
seen a single Kangaroo. So the Pearce Skermans kindly took me for my first
sightseeing in Australia. In a park near Brisbane found myself looking
across the fence at a boxing Kangaroo. I gave him a biff on the nose and
he turned nasty. Just then two Australian boys came up and I told them
to be careful, but one of them got too close and the animal grabbed him
and tore his shirt off. I was told he could have been killed if the roo
had jumped up and kicked him with its powerful legs.
The New Zealand Interserve groups gave me a much more relaxed time.
Here is a note in my diary that day which suggests that I needed a relaxing
furlough rather than a further speaking tour in North America. I wrote
: "I can well understand the existential "angoisse," that Mounier describes
: The pressures of this furlough, leaving Mollie and our four children
in September for another three months, then going back overseas to an undefined
location with constant travel and upheavals." I bravely added "Happily
I can make the existential 'leap' to faith in Him." That was true, but
I now wonder if my heart feelings at that time did not contribute to my
decision to stay in Canada four years later and go back to university study.
1 May 1963 Arrived in Auckland, New Zealand. Stayed with Don and
18 May 1963 Arrived in Christchurch to stay with Ted and Joan Davis.
19 May 1963 Telegram from Mollie after a week in bed with anaemia.
31 May 1963 Letter from Mollie saying she had had a miscarriage.
10 Jun 1963 Left Perth to go back to India and rejoined Mollie and
28 Jun 1963 Sailed from Bombay on the Stratheden.
16 Jul 1963 Arrived in Cheam to stay with Mollie's sister Audrey
& Gerald Marsh.
19 Jul 1963 I read Emmanuel Mounier's Introduction aux Existentialismes.
My general impression is that, like many others, I was trying to do far
too much. The student work across North India involved travelling in third
class compartments two days to the east into Assam, a day and a half west
into the Punjab and down to Nagpur in Central India. I was also trying
to keep in touch with those who had graduated and became members of the
Graduates Fellowship in universities all over India. In addition to being
on the board of the Ludhiana Medical College and the Yeotmal Biblical Seminary,
I became the Interserve North India Superintendent. That involved dealing
with difficult problems of overwork and relationship pressures. A traumatic
moment was being called to the Patna, Bihar, Women's Hospital, where there
were no remaining doctors, and yet hundreds of very sick women were still
pouring in for help. The heroic nurses were at cracking point. There
and then I declared the hospital closed. Some did not appreciate the ending
of an institution which had served so many for so long, but pretending
to run a hospital without surgeons or anaesthetists was neither good for
the patients nor good for the missionaries who tried to serve them.
Already by then it was more and more difficult to get visas for missionaries
from other countries. And we all felt the strain of handing over to Indian
leaders who would have to work in quite different ways with less and less
25 Sep 1963 Left by plane from London Airport and landed in New
The missionaries who were coming in were a new breed. Naomi McGorman
did a degree in nursing in the Medical School in Delhi before going on
to work among nurses and then university students. When Basil Scott came
out with a view to taking over the student work I suggested he enrol as
a student at Benares Hindu University. He lived in the hostel, and not
only graduated with a Masters Degree in India's history and religion but
he knew the mind of the students from the inside. Dr. Ray Windsor taught
open heart surgery in a government hospital. I felt proud of BMMF (now
called Interserve) for being able to make these huge shifts into modern
Chapter 8 ...