By Norman Grubb
Norman Grubb and Alfred Ruscoe were coworkers in the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade for 59 nears, until Alfred Ruscoe went to be with the Lord.
Alfred Ruscoe, commonly known among Weccers as “Rusiko” (the way by which the Africans pronounced his name), was one of God’s glaring contrasts. He joined C.T. Studd in the heart of Africa in 1920 – C.T. Studd being famed as England’s great cricketer who had renounced fame and fortune to take Christ to a lost world; whereas Rusiko, small of stature and far from strong from birth, used to joke about being called “England’s last hope” when conscripted into the British Army in World War I. (Indeed, all readers of this should get Rusiko’s own highly humorous but richly instructive account of how God uses His “weak things” in his little book, The Lame take the Prey, published by W.E.C. Headquarters.)
It was perhaps because Rusiko was free to laugh at himself that C.T. Studd was drawn to this contrast to himself. Studd looked upon him as a son, as he equally formed friendships with the then primitive Africans he had come to live among. He was in the process of teaching them how to trust God by taking bands of them on “faith treks” in the forest, looking to God to supply their needs from village to village. I remember one special aged old African queen called Manzege, a great witness for Christ among her people, who used to call Rusiko, “Sonny”!
But in those first early years God had much to do in His servant as well as through him, to fit him for God’s full unexpected plan for his life. It was to take a few years, during which years he would pass through his discipleship to apostleship, from the school of faith to the life of faith.
Two attacks of the white man’s dangerous enemy, Blackwater Fever, made it best for Rusiko to return to England for a period. But something else was also happening. C. T. Studd was continuing as a total firebrand for Christ and souls. From early 4 AM to late at night his sole occupation was to bring Africans to “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” resulting in holiness of life, for “faith without works is dead.” Such a standard of total dedication, combined with the determination to be content with nothing less than African believers “holy for He is Holy” by the power of the Blood and Spirit, meant that some of us were not ready to follow along with Studd on such high standards, for only fire can burn along with fire!
Upon returning to England, Rusiko lined up with the critics of Studd and resigned the Crusade, much to the shock of C. T. Studd and others. He later returned to another part of Africa with a group who were equally true servants of the Lord, but a bit more moderate in what they expected to see in their African converts. All of this was just the Lord’s clever way of opening Rusiko’s eyes to the contrast between a leadership by human self-effort under which he then served and what he now saw to be a ministry in the power of the Spirit in C.T. Studd. It was God’s next stage in showing Rusiko his own need of something more than just consecrated service.
At the same time he had been brought into contact with the teaching of the “overcoming life” through one who was God’s special voice in those days in England in opening up the truth of identification with Christ in His death and Resurrection – Mrs. Penn Lewis; and he began to search the *Scriptures such as Romans 6-8 with a new interest.
Knowing with the mind is one thing, and a stepping stone, but the inner knowing in the Spirit is another. This final step in transforming a Bible understanding into a Spirit experience took place by a new link back in Britain between Rusiko and Rees Howells. Rees Howells was the founder of the Bible College of Wales, and had himself in the days of the Welsh Revival known the moment when, in his own words, “The Third Person of the Godhead had come in. Immediately I was transported into another realm, within that sacred veil, where the Father, the Saviour, and the Holy Ghost live. There I heard God speaking to me, and I have lived there ever since. When the Holy Ghost enters, He comes to ‘abide forever’. To the Blood be the glory!” And we who came to know Rees Howells knew that difference about him, as with C.T. Studd, which enormously attracted us until we had that same Spirit baptism. And from him we also went on to learn that use of the word of faith, by which aspirations become realization and on to the topmost secret of being the intercessors who take the way the Saviour and Paul went, who could say, “So death works in us, but life in you.”
There at the Bible College, one day this same Holy Spirit so totally possessed Rusiko with an inner witness (not with outer signs, but inner reality) that it set him dancing round the kitchen table with Mr. Howells, and then laid him on his back for a few days! But out came such a new Rusiko that quite soon afterwards he was back in the W.E.C. again, though too late to join C. T. Studd personally; for it was in 1931, just after C. T. had been “glorified” in the Congo. This all came about as the result of a surprise invitation which I made to him (which came out of my mouth before I realized I was making it), and by an equally surprising acceptance by him at a time when he was actually moving in the direction of ordination in the Church of England. We had met at a Thanksgiving meeting for C. T. Studd, at which I had not expected to see him in the audience (unaware of the radical change in him), so it had to be the Holy Spirit speaking in me, as I thought he was still an opponent and critic of C. T.! At that time God was leading Pauline and me in the restart of the Crusade at the home base. Part of our decision was not to take funds from the Mission, but to directly trust the Lord on the basis of Matthew 6:33. Though we did not think we would find co-workers who would join us on the same basis, it was a final seal on the episode to have Rusiko make that the one condition upon which he would rejoin us. He too had recently been experiencing the joy and reality of God’s day-to-day provision, as in his old days on the field.
So we started together in London, with others joining us, until we knew it was the Lord’s call that we should equally restart in North America – but by whom? And the word of the Lord was plain that it was to be Rusiko. That seemed such an absurdity to him that it took some months before he said his “Yes” to the Lord, knowing also that it meant with no penny of financial help from us. We would wash our hands of him and cast him on the one rock of the promises of God, no matter how rough the seas around him, just as later he would let new recruits going to the fields know he had washed his hands of them!
He went in the early 1930’s. His own story tells the absurdities of that first start on College Street in Toronto – the adventure, the narrow squeaks, the fun and yet the deadly reality of what was to become a vast outreach. All of this was evidenced by the streams of recruits going to the many new fields, the expanding financial supplies, and the growing home base staffs quartered in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, as well as in Hamilton, Ontario. New, unentered fields were to be opened in forty countries (where formerly there had been only one) in cooperation with the other home bases, implemented by a staff that grew to nearly 1000. At the same time assistance was given to the birth and growth of the Christian Literature Crusade from the same Ft. Washington HQ.
So those who first found it beyond their human reach to follow in the footsteps of their founder became his successors when that Same Spirit took up His total residence in them as in him, and then the same holy zeal and boldness of practical faith-action “drove” them forward. Indeed, while Rusiko was never an able administrator, his was the highest commission for a homebase leader. He concentrated on making as sure as he could that the new Crusaders for fields and homebase should be led into the revealed truths in the Scriptures of that realized death to sin and law in Romans 6 and 7 – out from self-struggles and self-reliance which make service to Christ and discipleship such a misery in Romans 7; then on into the settled, experienced, permanent more-than-conqueror life of Romans 8; and then on into the “intercessor” life, which is laid down vicariously for the lost world of which Paul wrote in Romans 9:3. In this life we inwardly know that, though “not sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves,” we now are “able ministers of the new covenant” and can do all things through Christ. Many tell, like Bess Butters for instance, how they first well knew Romans 6 in their heads, but under Rusiko’s insistent ministry the day dawned when she had reckoned herself dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God. When she
finally saw it she had to wake up Rusiko in the night to tell him so! To which his only answer was to tell her, “Go to bed”!
Rusiko always purposed to give the right hand of fellowship for proceeding to a field to only those whose lives witnessed that they knew the Spirit-enduement in power. In all his years in Canada and the USA, Rusiko was undeviating in living the life of faith in his personal life with his wife, Ellen. (Their romance is one of the fun and guidance stories of that little book mentioned earlier.) He solidly built the homebase and staff on the same principle of operation, by finding and knowing God’s guidances, and then moving forward on that favorite Mark 11 :24 Scripture. Every new development or maintenance of the existing work was always on the tightrope of faith, which “calls the things that be not as though they were,” and then they are. John 12:24 remained the keynote of his life, and indeed of the Crusade: “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” And as he has gone on to glory, we rejoice in the much fruit that has remained.