The Power of Witness

by Arthur W. Anderson

I have often wondered what makes a powerful witness to the faith. Is being very verbal about it the most telling?

There is no question that being authentic persons who cares about others in the everyday is more convincing than we usually perceive. What often surprises me more is the power of a symbol.

One of my most telling moments of witness occurred more years ago than I care to admit; it was an experience in the dewdrop days of my life. One extraordinary summer day I was driving Dr. Theodore W. Anderson, President of the Covenant, around the farm country in central Minnesota. He was especially drawn to the old farm place where Peter Matson, missionary to China, once lived. When we introduced ourselves to the current owner, we were led out to a particular haystack which was known to be like the one where Peter Matson knelt and committed himself to serve on the mission field in China. Just approaching that haystack made us feel that we were on “holy ground.” We froze in our steps. President Anderson led us in long moments of silence until we were joined in his prayer. We could make up a dramatic description of treading on holy ground, but this was it. That haystack became a venerable symbol of faith and witness!

As a junior in the seminary, I was invited to serve the Lily Lake Covenant Church. Talk about the beautiful little white church in a picturesque setting, this was it!

One Sunday Martha Anderson, also a missionary in China and then on furlough, was asked to speak at the Lily Lake Church on behalf of her mission. After the service, she and I were invited to a farm home for a chicken dinner. And as you would very well know it would be a feast fit for a king! In spite of the lavish spread, Martha chose items very sparingly. This, of course, was noted by the rugged, quite outspoken host, who promptly shouted, “What’s ‘da matter, did ya bring yer lunch wid ya?” At this loud interruption, Martha broke out in uncontrollable laughter. As many of us knew, her laughter was vintage Martha.

I can still remember how full I felt after that meal, but even more vividly, I will remember that laugh as long as I live. She was a charming, vivacious person whose laughter was like music!

I think of that incident often, and cannot forget that she followed her heart and went back to China, the land she loved—a land of brutal challenges. She went back in a time of continuing terror and gave her life as a martyr. But her robust laughter was a symbol of her faith and witness during these gruesome times in China—and not least in a humble farm home in central Minnesota!