In the New Testament one church (ekklesia) was planted in each city, and gatherings, house groups, and assemblies of that church met in various locations to influence the world around them. A historian could record how Dennis Clark (1916- 91) was at various times connected with the Church and local assemblies and congregations in London, Bath, Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Delhi, Toronto, Lausanne, Vancouver, Victoria. In each of these he taught the Bible and communicated his vision. But these were only temporary stopping places.
Like a human body, the universal Church has a bloodstream that moves to nourish the functions that are located in each place. Dennis Clark belonged to the Church's bloodstream. That's why he never stayed long in one place. His concern was for the nourishment and vitality of the universal church throughout the world, but especially in the countries of South Asia.
(For the model of mission as the Church's bloodstream see The Church: An Organic Picture, chapters 13 & 14)
We call Paul an apostle because he never remained to control the work in any place. After the initial church planting in and around a city, he taught them all they needed to begin. Then he appointed elders, and he moved on to the next task. In that way he was able to say that "from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum (present day Croatia) I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ" (Romans 15:19).
Dennis might not have called himself an apostle, and he certainly would not say he had fully proclaimed the good news. But in each place he left behind those who caught his vision, and lived it out in new and unexpected ways.
That is what happened to me, and that is why I am writing this review.
I will limit myself to four or five areas of the work of Dennis and Gladys Clark that I was personally interested in. While in Lahore they began a local Urdu speaking congregation called "Bethany." When they moved on to Peshawar in 1943 that little assembly continued to grow and planted other congregations. These were usually called -bhais- the brethren. And in the midst of much opposition they continue to this day.
During the winter of 1944 Dennis Clark was very ill with Typhoid fever, but he used the time to establish the Central Asian Trading Agency. The aim was to use business methods to open up Afghanistan, and then other countries to the north, for Christian mission. CATA began selling bicycles and other items, and in 1946 Dennis obtained a visa to go in on a business visit. He established an office in Kabul but he was arrested and expelled for possessing a Persian New Testament, and speaking about its contents. He was able to hand over CATA to John Mackie. Eventually twenty years later, through the work of Christie Wilson in Kabul, the International Afghan Mission was formed (February 2, 1966, which later became the International Assistance Mission). But it was Dennis Clark who originally gave us this vision of making the good news in Afghanistan.
In December 1946 Dennis attended the "Jehovah Shammah" convention in Madras. He was impressed by this movement of Indian nationals led by Bakht Singh. And both these apostolic leaders encouraged each other in many ways. One of the things that became evident was that the growing Christian groups would need literature in their own native languages. Dennis agreed to undertake this. So in 1947 he used some of the profits from the Central Asia Trading Agency to found a Christian publishing house in Lahore. That year India and Pakistan were partitioned with thousands killed as Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs disentangled themselves from each other. Meanwhile the assemblies of Bhais loved and multiplied in the surrounding areas. In spite of the terrible confusion, machinery was imported for the presses, and Dennis handed over responsibility to others as soon as possible. MIK (Masihi Isha'at Khana), 36 Ferozpur Road, Lahore has continued to provide books and other materials for the churches of Pakistan to this day.
Six years later in 1953 Dennis and Gladys Clark moved to Delhi, and established the Masihi Sahitya Sanstha to publish materials in Hindi, the national language of India. That year I was involved in teaching courses at the Allahabad Bible Seminary in Hindi, and we worked with MSS to develop the materials which would be needed among the two hundred million Hindi speaking people of North India.
Dennis Clark was the one who first encouraged Interserve to extend their areas of work further afield from India and Pakistan (see New Bottles). He also worked with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students to encourage movements among nationals in emerging countries all over South Asia. And again these student groups have continued to flourish under their own leadership, and they provide much of the leadership that the new churches need.
Finally let me end with some facts which may be relevant. Dennis Clark never went to Seminary or Bible School, but became a giant as a Bible teacher. He was trained in hotel management in Switzerland, and in a commercial school in London, and then in the family business in Bath, England.. After a very serious motor-bicycle accident in 1939, he was exempted from military service and sailed to India during the war the next year. In the area of North-West India now called Pakistan he studied Urdu in the city of Lahore. He learned to speak this so well, that when he was dressed in a black -atchkan- and peaked turban people couldn't distinguish him from a Pakistani. He also went on to learn Pushtu, the language of the Pathans of Afghanistan and some Persian.
He had first met Gladys in England, and they were married in Simla on October the 11th. 1941. They traveled and worked together in many countries for the next 37 years. They had four children, Judy, Paul, Martyn, and Michael. Dennis died eight years ago, aged 74. (Dennis was born October 24th 1916. - He died October 14th 1991 - almost 75 years of age) Gladys lives in Victoria, B.C. and she gave me some of the above dates to fill out what I myself remember. Meanwhile the work of this apostle to South Asia continues to bear fruit in all sorts of unexpected ways as local churches led by nationals of each country live out the good news that Dennis loved to proclaim.
A note from Gladys Clark: ---
He decided that hotel management was not a suitable career for his new Christian commitment. So he attended a commercial school, and in 1936 joined the family business, becoming manager of the Bath branch in 1938. Missionary conferences were held at the nearby Monkton Combe School, and he was particularly drawn to one speaker, Charles Wright, who was speaking of his trek to Western Tibet. Later when he met his future partner, Gladys Wright at another Monkton Combe Conference, he did not know she was Charles Wright's daughter.
Gladys went back to join her parents in India, and worked as office secretary with the YWCA in Delhi. During the Battle of Britain Dennis came round the Cape, landed in Bombay, went up to Delhi to meet Gladys, and they were engaged. After passing his first year Urdu examination they were married on October 11, 1941. They lived in Lahore, and Dennis, following the example of Hudson Taylor in China, began wearing Indian clothes. Their first child Judy (now Judy Loveless) was born on November 3, 1942.