In 1911 Chambers founded and was principal of the Bible Training College in Clapham Common, Greater London. Chambers accommodated not only students of every age, education, and class but also anyone in need, believing he ought to “give to everyone who asks.” “No one was ever turned away from the door and whatever the person asked for, whether money, a winter overcoat, or a meal, was given.”
“Savvy London residents were appalled by Chambers’ seeming lack of discernment in a city known for its network of beggars who quickly told each other the location of ‘easy marks.’” Chambers replied, “My responsibility is to give. God will look after who asks.”
Between 1911 and 1915, 106 resident students attended the Bible Training College, and by July 1915, forty were serving as missionaries.
In 1915, a year after the outbreak of World War I, Chambers suspended the operation of the school and was accepted as a YMCA chaplain. He was assigned to Zeitoun, Cairo, Egypt, where he ministered to Australian and New Zealand troops, who later participated in the Battle of Gallipoli.
Chambers raised the spiritual tone of a center intended by both the military and the YMCA to be simply an institution of social service providing wholesome alternatives to the brothels of Cairo. When he told a group of fellow YMCA workers that he had decided to abandon concerts and movies for Bible classes, they predicted the exodus of soldiers from his facilities. “What the skeptics had not considered was Chamber’s unusual personal appeal, his gift in speaking, and his genuine concern for the men.” Soon his wooden-framed “hut” was packed with hundreds of soldiers listening attentively to messages such as “What Is the Good of Prayer?” Confronted by a soldier who said, “I can’t stand religious people,” Chambers replied, “Neither can I.”
Chambers irritated his YMCA superiors by giving away refreshments that the organization believed should be sold so as not to raise expectations elsewhere. Chambers installed a contribution box but refused to ask soldiers to pay for tea and cakes.
“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.”
Chambers was stricken with appendicitis on 17 October 1917 but resisted going to a hospital on the grounds that the beds would be needed by men wounded in the long-expected Third Battle of Gaza. On 29 October, a surgeon performed an emergency appendectomy, but Chambers died 15 November 1917 from a pulmonary hemorrhage. He was buried in Cairo with full military honors.
Before he died, Chambers had proofread the manuscript of his first book, Baffled to Fight Better, a title he had taken from a favorite line by Robert Browning. For the remainder of her life—and at first under very straitened circumstances—Chambers’ widow transcribed and published books and articles edited from the notes she had taken in shorthand during the Bible College years and at Zeitoun. Most successful of the thirty books was My Utmost for His Highest (1924), a daily devotional composed of 365 selections of Chamber’s talks, each of about 500 words. The work has never been out of print and has been translated into 39 languages.
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