Saturday, November 16, 2013

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) by Chris White

Oswald, Biddy, and baby Kathleen

It was a clear and bright day in November of 1917, far different from the cold and rainy weather of his homeland, that Oswald Chambers was laid to rest with full military honors in Cairo Egypt.  Two years prior Oswald felt compelled to suspend a very successful ministry in London and take a new assignment as a chaplain/missionary to Australian and New Zealander troops stationed in Egypt during World War I.  Chamber’s missionary sponsor was the YMCA of England.  Their idea of military ministry was to provide a fun and wholesome social center for the troops as a means of dissuading them from visiting brothels and drinking establishments during off hours.  While certainly an admirable goal, Oswald Chambers was not going to waste his time on social events while the men he was sent to serve were in harm’s way and could potentially die outside of the grace of God.  Although his superiors didn’t think it would gain much traction, Oswald began offering Bible classes and talks related to the gospel which were well received and attended.  Chambers was a man of great spiritual passion and was known to be a very compelling speaker, but most of all he was a willing vessel for the Spirit of the Lord who lived out the message he preached.
 As a young man, Oswald had married Gertrude Hobbs whom he lovingly called “Biddy”.  Three years later their only child Kathleen was born in 1913.  Biddy had a special talent that made her an ideal partner and complement to Oswald.  She was an excellent short-hand secretary who was able to record 250 words per minute which is faster than most people can ever speak.  She would take down in shorthand Oswald’s every sermon and then later transcribe them for future use.  Biddy and Kathleen followed Oswald to his assignment in Egypt and offered a touch of family to many whose service had separated them from their own.  Unfortunately, Oswald Chambers dedication to the troops, led to his early and untimely death.  When he came down with an attack of appendicitis, he refused to the hospital because the beds were needed for injured troops.  When he finally relented and received an emergency appendectomy, things had gone too far and he ended up dying of post-operative complications.
Although Biddy and Kathleen Chambers had lost a husband and father, they faithfully continued his ministry the remainder of their lives.  Shortly after his death, Biddy went through all the sermon notes she had transcribed  and from them developed several books which were published under his name.  The most popular of these is My Utmost for his Highest which has never been out of print and has been translated into 39 languages.  When Mrs. Chambers passed in the early 1970’s and Kathleen died in 1997, a trust was formed to continue the ministry well into the future.  As Utmost for His Highest approaches its 80th anniversary of being in print, its footprint has expanded in the digital world with a number of websites, twitter feeds, Facebook pages, even Youtube features all based on the teachings of this book.   Though he has been gone nearly 100 years, the ministry of this humble and passionate disciple of the Lord Jesus continues to bless the world and that is probably the greatest honor Oswald Chambers would have ever wanted.

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