Feature

Nothing to Be Depressed About

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During the Great Depression (1929–1933) The Christian and Missionary Alliance did not hunker down but accepted the world’s financial condition as an opportunity to reach the lost for Jesus.

The Great Depression was much more severe and prolonged than the economic times we seem to be enduring today. By 1933, nearly half of the United States’ 25,000 banks had failed. In urban areas the unemployment rate was as high as 40.6%.

There were no welfare or unemployment programs. Municipalities set up food lines, and the unemployed were lucky to obtain one meal a day. The situation lasted for more than four years. In spite of this, God’s people continued to donate money to fulfill the Great Commission.

In his President’s Report to Council 1932, H. M. Shuman’s major concern was the changing world conditions. He was concerned by narrow nationalism and Communism, which closed countries to missionaries. And in most of the world organized, atheistic and anti-Christian tendencies expressed both in literature and legislation created a worldwide barrier to the gospel.

He stated, “Economic conditions have almost monopolized the attention of the statesmen of the world. However, in the face of these conditions, which have very seriously affected many of our people in the homeland, the contributions for missions, as given through our Society during the past year, give evidence of much prayer and the supernatural working of God.” C&MA treasurer William Christie, an old China missionary himself, stated in his report that he looked at the Depression as an opportunity to reach the world for Jesus because people who had nothing were open to the gospel.

Each year during the Depression, The Alliance sent approximately 20 new missionaries to the field. For instance, in 1932, 57 people applied to become missionaries of which the foreign office determined that 32 were eligible. Of the 32 eligible, 23 sailed. As missionaries reaching home assignment returned to the United States to help distressed families and relieve The Alliance of expense, there was always a pool of eligible, newly trained recruits ready to replace them.

During the Depression the work in the field never faltered. Baptisms in the field, closely documented to ensure that a person baptized was truly born again, grew steadily. In 1932, the field reported 5,712 baptisms. From 1929 to 1933, The Alliance entered four new fields: Thailand, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia and Hong Kong. During this time approximately 15 new stations were started each year.

—C&MA National Archives

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