Herbert & Ruth Grings’ Home Life - Denny Kenaston
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.
Many of you probably do not know of this godly man, unless you have listened to the sermon, “Love with Shoes on,” by Darrel 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, Darrel 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, Darrel’s wife. Darrel 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 peanutbutter, and made delicious banana jelly to provide the old American favorite, “peanutbutter, 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, 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
Taken from "The Heartbeat of the Remnant"
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 return 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.