By Ashley Calhoun
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. -- On Sunday, June 30, the Rev. Ashley Calhoun will portray Bishop Walter R. Lambuth alongside W. Isaac Holmes of Paine College as Dr. John Wesley Gilbert at Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska.
Calhoun is a retired member of Holston Annual Conference. For three years he has been portraying and telling the inspiring story of Bishop Lambuth, representing the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and Dr. Gilbert of the Colored (now Christian) Methodist Episcopal Church, who traveled together as brothers in Christ to open a mission in the heart of the eastern Belgian Congo in 1911-12.
The production is entitled, "Of Men Who Ventured Much and Far," taken from the title of a book written on this journey by Dr. E. Clayton Calhoun in 1961 while he was president of Paine College. The presentation is a part of the Centennial Homecoming Week at Lake Junaluska June 30-July 4.
VENTURE OF FAITH
Bishop Lambuth was the son of missionaries in China, trained to be a missionary at Holston's own Emory & Henry College, graduating in 1875. He went on to Vanderbilt Seminary and Medical School and elsewhere before returning to China as a medical missionary. He was a missionary in Japan and Korea as well, returning to the States to become General Secretary of Missions.
He was elected a bishop in 1910 and assigned to Africa and Brazil. He recruited his long-time friend Dr. Gilbert to travel with him as a brother on this great venture of faith.
Gilbert was born to recently emancipated slaves in 1865 in Hepzibah, Ga. He had an insatiable desire to learn from an early age. He entered Paine Institute as the first student to enroll. He proved to be a brilliant student and linguist, graduating with honors from Paine and Brown University in Rhode Island. There he earned his master's degree and participated in an archaeological team to Greece. He became the first African-American member of the faculty at Paine College in Augusta, Ga., where he was a demanding and much beloved teacher of pre-ministerial and language students. Lambuth was a trustee of Paine for over 20 years, and there he became good friends with Gilbert.
Traveling to the Congo at that time involved weeks by ship to London, then by train to Antwerp, Belgium, to acquire permits and equipment for the arduous journey. After sailing from Belgium to the mouth of the Congo River and then by a small river steamer in cramped quarters for weeks down the tributaries of the Congo, they arrived at Luebo in the east central part of the country.
At Luebo was a mission started by the Southern Presbyterian 20 years earlier. After a few weeks there learning from missionaries and native Christians, they set off for a destination known only to God, aided by 60 Christians from the mission as guides and carriers. They had no idea how long it would take nor the obstacles and challenges they would face. They knew one thing, that they were men under orders, not from their denominations, but from Christ himself as he gave the Great Commission. They encountered leopards, crocodiles, hippopotami, water buffalo, mosquitos, ants, tsetse flies, fevers, cannibals, and treacherous terrains. Yet nothing stopped them in their quest to find the place God had chosen to establish this mission.
After walking 700 miles into the heart of the Congo on February 1, 1912, they walked into the village of the powerful cannibal chieftain, Wembo Nyama, who was not welcoming. Despite that, they were sure this was the place God had chosen. But the rest of the story is as amazing as was the courage, determination, persistence, and faithfulness of Lambuth and Gilbert as well as the 60 native Christians who made the trek with them. The journey in and out of the Congo took many months and meant walking over 1,500 miles.
Bishop Lambuth gave his passionate report at the first gathering, a great missions conference from June 25-29, 1913, at Lake Junaluska. His report was given with Gilbert and newly recruited missionaries also present on Sunday, June 29, 1913, one-hundred years to the day of the week before the presentation of "Of Men Who Ventured Much and Far."
Ashley Calhoun has portrayed Bishop Lambuth to many groups at Lake Junaluska as well as at Emory & Henry College and First Broad Street United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tenn. He and Holmes gave this presentation just prior to the opening of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference at Lake Junaluska on July 17, 2012.
Please consider bringing groups from your church to be inspired by this presentation and to enjoy the exciting programs each day and evening of the great Centennial Homecoming Week at Lake Junaluska June 30-July 4.
If you would like a presentation at your church, contact Calhoun at firstname.lastname@example.org or (828) 926-4741.
The mission itself is in dire need of financial and prayer support. To give, write a check to your local church with The Advance number on the memo line or give online at Agricultural School at Wembo Nyama #3021396 or Minga Hospital and Wembo Nyama Repairs and Solar Panels for Maternity #135730.