The Gospel Mule
September 23rd, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-23-62 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing an address from a four-week tour, and preaching mission, and revival meeting recently shared with our dear missionaries in the seven nations immediately south of our border that we refer to as Central Latin America.
Now let us read for a little bit from the Word of God. Turn to the Book of Acts chapter 14, the Book of Acts chapter 14. And he speaks there, in verse 21, of Lystra, and Iconium, and Antioch. And we will read beginning at verse 21 to the end of the chapter. The Book of Acts, chapter 14, beginning at verse 21. Now let us all of us read it out loud together:
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.
And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia:
And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.
And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
And there they abode long time with the disciples.
And that’s what we’ve done this gracious Lord’s day: "And when they returned, they gathered the church together, and rehearsed all that God had done with them" [Acts 14:27].
On any mission tour, it isn’t all sadness, and it isn’t all sorrow. The missionary has many, many things that develop in ridiculous situations. And, of course, because the burden of his ministry is so heavy, usually when you’re with him, at a dinner or along a trip, there’ll always be many things of a light and humorous nature that he will speak of and describe.
Well, my journey through it all was just like that with so much that was heavy. For example, in the last Sunday, in a twenty-four hour period, I conducted six full services, two Saturday night and four last Sunday. And the Sunday before that, I held three services – and during the week, just preaching everywhere. But, with all of the burden of it, and the intercession of it, there is so much of it that is also sort of foolish and ridiculous.
One of the things I had a difficult time remembering was that I not only had to get into a country, I had to get out of it. You have immigration going out as well as going in. I have a hard time remembering that because of a habit of going down here to the air terminal, present your ticket, get your suitcase checked, and away you fly. But there you’ve got to remember you must go through immigration. You’ve been checked in, you can’t leave until they let you leave.
At the San Salvador airport in the country of El Salvador – I went early because there’s so many things that can develop – I went early and checked in. And while I was in the airport, I found two university students and began to talk to them. And I was so interested in the long conversation – more than two hours talking to those university students – that I just simply forgot about everything else.
Now, over the loud speaker, they began to call for a seÃ±or Crewee. Well, I guess those letters on your airline ticket don’t read very good anyway. It never occurred to me that they were calling for me. That went on for about thirty minutes, a long, long, time. Eventually, the girl there at the Taca airline counter found me and said, "You haven’t gone through immigration and they are calling for you, and have been for thirty minutes. What’s the matter with you?" "Well," I said, "I am stupid and I don’t know my own name."
So, I went through immigration and the airplane going to the Tegucigalpa in Honduras was right out there. And, say, when I got through, I went through the armed guard there, I went through the Taca agency, I went through the other barrier on the other side, and I made a beeline up that ramp and into that plane.
And when I got in there, that was the funniest looking crowd I ever looked at in my life. It was filled with Mexicans in gala costumes. They had those hats with ribbons falling down the back and the front and all around. They had guitars. They had all kinds of things and they were in the most rip-roaring, up-roarest, mood I ever saw in my life. Well, it was just an amazing thing to me! There was one seat left. And I sat down in it, got my glasses out, pulled out a magazine I’d brought, took off my coat, undid my collar, and prepared to read in comfort and in quiet.
Well, just as I got real good and settled, there came a Taca agent into the airplane and he began to holler, "SeÃ±or Wall-e-a-amoose Greasewheel." I knew for sure that was I, so I stood up. I said, "That’s me, sir." He said, "You’re on the wrong plane. That your plane." I ran to the door and "that plane" I was supposed to be on had the motors running and the guy was pulling the ramp away. I ran down the ramp with my glasses, and my case, and my satchel, and my magazine, and my coat, and I – "Hey! Hey! Alto! Alto! Hey! Hey! Hey!"
Man, I’d have put soprano, profundo bass, and high tenor in it if it’d done any good. Well, the guy heard me and he signaled up there to the pilot, and they pushed that thing back, opened the door, I ran up the ramp and the girl said something to me in Spanish. And I said to a guy sitting there that looked like an American, "What did she say?" Well he said, "I don’t know what she said, but it had something to do about being there by the skin of your teeth."
I had to pass a course and an examination in Latin, and in German, as well as in Hebrew, and in Greek in order to qualify for a doctor of philosophy degree. But I never took a course in Spanish in my life and I don’t know anything about Spanish. And what a handicap! I think all of our American children ought to be taught Spanish. This vast area below us, and the trouble you get into when you don’t know the language!
I sat by Eddie Gilstrap, one of our young missionaries in Costa Rica language school, and he said, "Sunday after Sunday I sit here. I know all about the windows, the walls, and the cracks in the floors, just sitting here in these Spanish services, not understanding anything." And that’s sure the truth when you go to the meeting in the house of the Lord and it’s in an unknown tongue.
I received a letter in Honduras from Kitty Wilson, and when she had written what she wanted me to see, she had a little postscript down there and said her girl, Kathy, wanted me to know that she knew two Spanish words: "maÃ±ana," which means tomorrow, and "pajama," which means tonight.
We have a mission work in every place except in El Salvador. I’ve been going, day and night, preaching in the bush and in the jungle, and everywhere you could imagine, and I thought, "Well, I will just rest in San Salvador." So, when I got to the airport, I found out that the hotel reservation that I had cost eighteen dollars a day up, and the meals on top of that. Well, I am just too blooming Scotch, and miserly, and close-fisted to spend that much money if I had it.
So, there’s a fellow there and he said, "I have an American guest house." Well, I said, "We’ll just go there." Well, don’t you ever listen to those fellows who are perambulating around in an airport. That was the beatenest thing you have ever seen in your life. Didn’t have any hot water. I slept on a bed that had a sheet over a piece of iron. And I had a hard time all the way around. The hostess even asked me if I’d like to be introduced to the beautiful Mexican girl who lived next door.
When I came out, she had a girlfriend, one night, there. They were drinking right in front of my door, had a little party there. Beatenest thing I ever went over in my life. So, I couldn’t help but pass by. And she said, in her nice way, if I wanted to join the party? Well, I excused myself in the nicest way that I could. I’m a minister of the gospel of the Son of God, you know, and I can’t do things like that, and I don’t want any of my sheep doing them either.
Well, the hostess of the house was very nice. She, when she found out I was lost and didn’t know where to go or what to do, she said, "I’ll get a mop for you." Well, I said, "A mop?"
"Yeah." She said, "You need a mop."
"Well," I said, "What in the earth would I do with a mop?"
And she said, "You find yourself around with a mop." Well, she finally came forward and she had a map in her house. I wanted to go to Ilopango, which is a beautiful, incomparably beautiful, crater-lake out from San Salvador. We passed over it, we flew over it when the plane came in, and I said, "How do I get there?" And I can get there by bus. So I wanted to take a bus to Ilopango. So I went to the desk there in that dump, and I said to the little shrimp of a guy that was there that I wanted to go out to Ilopango.
Well, I thought he asked me a question: where I was from. And I said I was from Texas. And I understood him to say back to me that he had gone to Texas on a bus. And I said, "A bus? To Texas?" He said, "Oh! Texas." So, he got me a taxi. "No. No. I said I was from Texas. I don’t want a taxi."
Well, I didn’t know how to get out there. So the hostess said, "I will give you my maid." I said, "Your maid?" "Yes," she said, "yes, my maid." "Oh," I said, "I’m afraid not." I didn’t know how to get out there, so I didn’t go. The next day, she wanted to know if I still wanted to go to Ilopango. I said, "Oh, so much." "I will give you my maid." "Oh, no!" I said. "I’m just too tired to go today."
So, the third day, she still wanted to know if I wanted to go to Ilopango. I said, "Oh, so much." Well, when she offered her maid again, I said, "That one?" "Oh, no! That one." Well, it was that little shrimp. I said, "Do you call him a maid?" She said, "Yeah. Yeah. He my maid." "Well," I said, "you don’t call a man a maid. That’s feminine." "Well," she said, "what do you call him?" I got to thinking. She didn’t want to call him her servant. That didn’t sound good. What would you call a male maid? I said, "Dear lady, I don’t know what you call him. We’ll just forget it."
I never saw such a guy in my life. We got way out in the country and he disappeared. Never saw such a thing. Finally, there’s a fellow standing out there, way out there, and he knew where I wanted to go. So, after hours of being out there, he came running up to me and said, "Muchacho, muchacho, muchacho!"
I was watching a fellow guide a pair of oxen, a team of oxen, with a goad. I never had seen that. So often mentioned in the Bible, the goad. And I was watching it. And that bus, after about two hours came, and he hollered at me. Well, I said, "Where in the world is my maid?" I couldn’t find my maid. I can’t go. Well, an alarm was put out and the bus driver out there was kind enough to wait, and we found that guy about a half a mile away asleep in the tall grass. Ah! the things that can happen to you!
And Miriam; she was the Jamaican maid in the house where I stayed when I preached in the revival meeting in Balboa. Now, Miriam is an enormous Negro woman, and she is a Baptist, and she speaks English with a British accent like all of the Jamaicans. And I fell in love with Miriam, and Miriam fell in love with me. And we had the best times you ever heard of or saw in your life.
There was only one thing about Miriam that bothered me. She had a gesture, and she so often used it. She would speak of things that moved her heart, and things that moved her soul, and how she loved God. And when I do that, I always put my hand on my heart. The Lord moved my soul, and the Lord spoke to my heart. But Miriam always put her hand on her stomach, like that, when she was talking about how the Lord moved her soul.
She would sing, naturally, no accompanist, and that woman has one of the most beautiful voices you ever heard in your life. And sing songs I never heard of. Oh! I wish we could get songs and somebody could sing them like Miriam! Well, Miriam decided she wanted to come to church to hear me preach. So, there’s a colored maid from Jamaica, named Mary, next door, and when I stood up to preach that night, Miriam and Mary were there. The next morning when I got up, Miriam was waiting for me and she was just laughing like three hundred pounds of lard when I came in. And she said, "Oh, last night!" And God had blessed us that night.
Now, Mary was a Church of God member, a Pentecostal member. And Miriam said, "I said to Mary, ‘Now when you go to that church, remember those folks don’t shout, and they don’t say, ‘Amen,’ and ‘Hallelujah,’ and ‘Praise the Lord,’ and ‘That’s right, preacher.’ So you be nice.’" "I will be nice," said Mary. "So," Miriam said to me, "you got up there and you started preaching and Mary said, ‘Praise the Lord!’ and" she said, "I jammed her in her ribs. And you got started again and Mary said, ‘Amen, Hallelujah!’ And I jammed her in her ribs. And you said something else and she said, ‘That’s right, preacher.’ And I jammed her in her rib." And she said, "I want you to know, you got to preaching that night and saying great things and good things about Jesus, and without thinking about I said, ‘Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!’ And you ought to have felt that when Mary jammed me in the ribs!"
Now the missionary, because of the strenuous burden of his life, has many things that happen to him and that he tells about that are ridiculous and funny. They said to me, as I saw a young woman, a young wife, pass by in the language school. She had on a maternity dress and they referred to her as having on an "amoeba jacket." Well, immediately, that caught my attention – that a maternity dress should be called an "amoeba jacket." And I said, "Now that is the funniest designation I ever heard in my life. What do you mean by an amoeba jacket?"
Well, the kids that go to the language school are youngsters. They haven’t been married but one year, six months, one week, just got married, and they go down there to the language school, and that’s when they start having families. So, it’s a very common thing for a girl to be, in a family way, down there in the language school. Now, here’s where they get the name "amoeba jacket." There is a professor, they said, at the university in Costa Rica, and sometime during the year he always tells this story:
There was a young couple that came down, missionaries, came down to the language school, and he developed amoebic dysentery, which is everywhere in that part of the earth. So, he went to see the doctor, and the doctor looked at him and said, "Yep. You’ve got it." And he treated him for amoebic dysentery.
After about two or three weeks, why, his wife got it and he took his wife to the doctor and said, "Doctor, she’s got it too." And so the doctor treated her for amoebic dysentery. And sure enough, the missionary says, after nine months, she gave birth to a seven and one half pound parasite.
The missionary has, ah, so many things that sweep him along and that come into his life. I was listening to two of them as they talked on our way back to our place of lodging. It was late, late at night, for we had held a service far out there in the interior. And one of them who writes music, one of them said, "You know, they put me in jail the other day and I wrote a song. ‘Jesus Must Change My Life For I Can’t Change It Myself.’" And he said, "I had every prisoner in the jail singing that song with me."
And the other missionary said, "Well, you know, the other day I was out preaching, and when I got through with the service, there was a group that came over the mountain, and they said, ‘Won’t you preach to us?’ So we had a second service. And when I got through with that and went to my lodging," he said, "a third group came from over the mountain and said, ‘Won’t you preach to us?’ and I had a third service."
He said, "I went home and went to bed and when I was asleep, they awakened me after midnight and said, ‘Far over the mountain another group has come and they want you to preach to them.’" And he said, "I got up and I preached to them and," he said, "in those four services, I had over one hundred forty conversions that night."
I was in a place and the missionary pointed out to me an old woman, and he said, "I want you to see her. Her pueblo is three day’s journey away." She had moved, in her age, to the place where the missionary lived. He said, "She came three day’s journey to ask me if I’d preach the gospel in her pueblo." A pueblo is a small village; a ciudad is one from about, oh, say, six thousand on up. "So," he said, "I promised to go and I got my mule." All over that country they have what they call "Lottie Moon mules." They’re stationed – from the Lottie Moon Christmas fund – they’re stationed for the use of the missionary to go into those inaccessible interiors. So he got his Lottie Moon mule, and his hammock, and his Indian guide and he started out.
So, he said the first night he put his hammock up there between the two trees, and in the middle of the night he was awakened by the awfullest up and down, up and down, and he looked over the edge of his hammock, and there was an old cow scratching her back against him.
"Well," he said, "the second night I thought I’d put my hammock down low." So he put his hammock down low and he said, "While I was sleeping there low in that hammock," he said, "one after another I began to get hit, and hit, and hit, and hit, and" he said, "I looked over the edge of my hammock and there was a whole herd of wild hogs a-passing right under me, every one of them a-hitting me and a-hitting me."
"So," he said, "the third night I decided to put my hammock just halfway in between," so he said, "because of the fleas and the insects, I swung my hammock in order to kind of scare them away, push them away. And," he said, "I went sound asleep and I didn’t know it but, swinging back and forth, I had worn out the rope and the thing fell down on the ground. But," he said, "knocked the breath out of me, but didn’t bother me, and I was so tired I just went back to sleep."
"Well," he said, "the Indian guide thought that I had killed myself, had broken my neck. And there I was sound asleep. And," he said, "somebody shook me and awakened me and," and he said, "can you imagine? I opened my eyes and looked right square into the eyes of somebody peering into my face and" he said, "it scared me to death!"
That consecrated mule, they were away and away to a vast interior to preach the gospel. And they stopped at a little town called San Jose for a little bite to eat and then went on their journey. And after they were about three hours down the way, they were overtaken by a posse, the sheriff and his men with machete knives a-waving, and they were arrested for stealing a mule. "Why," said the missionary, "this mule, why, this is…" "No! It is stolen. You gotta come back." "Yeah. But we’ve got to go. We have an appointment preaching . . ." "No. You’ve got to come back."
So, they were arrested, and the missionary turned to the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, and read there to the sheriff how men had been falsely arrested [Acts 16:22-27]. First time he’d ever seen that in the Bible. First time he’d ever heard of a Bible. Well, that made him pause, but he still decided to keep him in jail for stealing a mule. But, he said, "I’ll not put you in this dirty jail. I’ll put you in a rented house here next door."
So, he turned to the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Acts and read to him where Paul was in his own hired house in jail under surveillance [Acts 28:30-31]. And that made an impression on the sheriff. And then when they were seated and settled in the house, under surveillance, with a guard at the front and a guard at the back, he read to him again how Paul and Silas sang and prayed and the prisoners heard them [Acts 17:25]. And he says, "That’s what we’re going to do."
So, the missionary, and his companion, and a young theological student, they began to sing and to pray there in the jail. Well, people began to hear them and they gathered ’round. And other people began to hear them and they gathered ’round. And finally, most of the village was there. And those two and that third young fellow, they preached the gospel there saying: they intended to pass through but God intended for them to hear the glorious news of the Son of God. And they had that service and several of those men, eight of them, were converted. And today we have a thriving little Baptist Church in San Jose. How God has blessed their marvelous and wonderful witness!
The reward of these ministries is beyond compare. Last Sunday night at the end of the sixth service, I sat down, so tired I could hardly move and I was sort of feeling sorry for myself. And seated there at the end of the service, one of the men came up. He’s in our home mission board office in Panama. And he said to me – he’s a Panamanian – he said, "I don’t know whether you noticed it or not, but," he said, "last night at the Saturday night service," one of the two Saturday night services, he said, "last night did you notice an old gray-headed woman who came forward and took Jesus as her Savior and joined the church by baptism?"
I said, "Yes, I noticed her because of her age and her gray hair." He said, "That was my mother." He said, "I was converted twenty years ago, and for twenty years I’ve been praying for my mother. And," he said, "last night while you were preaching and then making the appeal, I never prayed so hard in my life. And last night my mother came. Oh!" he said, "I’ll never forget you! And I thank God for you, and the Lord bless you as you go back to your people in Dallas."
There were two children who came forward at the eleven o’clock Sunday morning service – they were saved. And the two children said to the preacher, "This past week our father was converted, and this past week our mother was converted." And those two children said – a beautiful little boy and a beautiful little girl – they said, "There is such a change in our home. We want to be saved too." So, that Sunday night there came up the father, and the mother, and the little boy, and the little girl, and they said, "We thank God for you. Oh, what a change has come into our lives!"
And the reward that God gives the missionary is beyond compare, nor will it be ultimately known ’til we meet one another in glory. In an interior city, far interior, I saw a missionary and his wife who for years have borne the brunt and burden of that ministry. They sang before I stood up to preach and the song they sang is, to me, one of the most preciously moving of all the songs in any of the books. It was this:
Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
And sometimes through the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the water, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrows, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.
["God Leads Us Along," George A. Young]
Ah! The favor, and the preciousness, and the blessedness of God upon the witness of His dear people!
Thank you, radio, for leaving this hour on far beyond the time. And God bless the people who have listened to its message.
And now, in this great auditorium, in this appeal tonight, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus. Somebody you, put your life in the fellowship of this dear and precious congregation. As the Spirit of the Lord shall lead in the way, shall say the word to your soul, would you make it tonight? I’ll be standing down here to the left of the communion table. Come, make it now. "Preacher, I give you my hand, I give my heart to the Lord." Or, "This is my wife, these are our children, all of us are coming tonight." Or just one somebody you, make it now; while we stand and while we sing.
THE GOSPEL MULE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. On the trip
A. San Salvador airport
1. Talking to university students, forgot to get on my plane
2. Getting on the wrong plane
II. The language
A. Eddie Gilstrap, Kitty Wilson
B. San Salvador – the "American guest house"
1. Mop, Map
2. My maid
III. The missionary
A. Miriam and Mary
B. Amoeba jacket – maternity dress
IV. On the mule and in jail
A. In jail for preaching, wrote a song and had every prisoner singing "Jesus Must Change My Life for I Can’t Change it Myself"
B. Holding a service in a village, groups kept coming to hear
C. Three days’ journey on a mule to preach in a pueblo
2. Shared the Scriptures with the sheriff; sang while in jail(Acts 16, 28)
3. Now have a thriving little Baptist Church in San Jose
D. Reward God gives the missionary beyond compare