Editor’s note: this article should not be taken as this magazine’s approval — tacit or otherwise — of the life and works of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, in his after-war life, became a devout Christian. Many are familiar with the motto attributed to him, “Get there firstest with the mostest.” Whether he actually said it that way or not, he certainly practiced it in his use of cavalry. This speedy and wise tactic was a key to his success, and the men who served under him were proud after the war to say, “I rode with Bedford Forrest.”
“Get there firstest with the mostest.”
The saying simply means that one should move quickly to the point of decision, where the forces are most needed, and get there with sufficient resources. When mission opportunities arise, we need not dilly-dally, but grasp what God puts before us. The saying “He who hesitates is lost” is a reminder that the window of opportunity may not remain open for long. If we are excited about Him and His mission for us in this world, we really ought to be chomping at the bit to go forward to the sound of the guns, where the action is. And when we are given free rein—off we go!
Martin Luther Bible School of the Berea Evangelical Lutheran Church (BELC) in India began anew in February of 2007. I worked with them in my role as overseas missionary, but I have to admit that I was not “firstest.” It was Pastor D. Paul, the head of the BELC, who pushed forward on this project to train men in a two-year program to serve congregations and mission stations. Every two years since then, between sixteen and twenty-four men have graduated to serve.
The “mostest” was there.
There can be a dilatoriness that impedes the advance of our work for Christ. When we started, we did not have fine buildings for this new Bible school at Nagalapuram, India. We rented, for a small sum of money, a very humble site. I admit the wait was too long before I even recommended any move forward to better quarters. All was in place; the “mostest” was there. The students were there, the teachers were there, and above all the overwhelming force of God’s precious Word was there. So God advanced His work despite our shortcomings. And the graduates have been going forward to where the action is ever since.
It goes without saying that more workers are needed. The Lord points at the harvest and says that the workers are few. In a country such as India, there is a clear harvest to be reaped; we are talking conversions, not just transfers within the visible church. There are vast numbers of villages where there is no Christian church at all. Here, the need for workers is as plain as the nose on your face!
Bedford Forrest served a cause that was lost, and later found the true cause for living. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) May God bless this and every year’s graduating class of Martin Luther Bible School as they go forward to the sound of the trumpet.
David Koenig has served as a foreign missionary in Africa, India, and elsewhere. Though officially retired, he continues to be active in the synod’s mission endeavors.