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1927 - Arise and Go South with Radio!

Clarence Jones family (c1927) at the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle Lake Harbor campground (now Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference)
Clarence and Katherine Jones with their two daughers at Chicago Gospel Tabernacle Lake Harbor Campground (now Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference).

While Clarence Jones was an associate pastor at the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, he was in charge of the radio ministry, music and young men’s ministries. At one point Clarence was asked to develop work with boys and girls. He had little experience in that area, so he would recruit help from fellow Chicago Gospel Tabernacle musicians and long-time friends, Richard Oliver, Lance Latham, and Virginia Highfield (who Lance would later marry).

Together they developed what they called the Tabernacle Scouts program which was loosely based on the Boy Scouts, but added more scripture. Lance and Virgina Latham would later develop the Tabernacle Scouts program into the AWANA program. (The AWANA theme song was written by Clarence Jones)

Of course, what does every good scouts program need? A camp! The Chicago Gospel Tabernacle bought ground along Lake Michigan near Muskegon, MI (present day site of Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference).  Lake Harbor was for more than just children. Clarence was placed in charge, repairing and constructing new buildings, and even adding a golf course. Clarence scheduled speakers, musicians, hired staff and did all of the things that camp director does to run a camp. That is when he wasn’t in Chicago for Rader’s weekly radio program, or playing trombone at one of Rader’s evangelistic crusades.

One Sunday morning at Lake Harbor, Paul Rader gave a missionary challenge, and at the invitation, Clarence, who had been leading the singing, went forward to give his life for missionary service.  Rader was greatly moved. “God bless him.  We need Clarence Jones here in this work.  But if God wants him in missionary work, that is what we want for him.”

Not long after, Clarence was sitting in the service at Lake Harbor as missionaries Ed and Carol Carlson told of their work in Tibet; but what tugged at Clarence’s heart was their personal tragedy in having both of their children die on the long trek home. Yet tears of joy were on their cheeks as they told of their experiences of walking with God in very difficult situations. Despite their sorrow and loss, they were going right back to the place where God had called them.

Clarence recalled, “I thought of my two little girls in the cottage with Kath—Marian had just turned two and the new baby. What if I had been them? Would I be willing to give them up?”

The Lord spoke to Clarence Jones that night in a voice so clear that Clarence was sure it was audible to all around. Just as God had said to Philip in the book of Acts [8:26], “Arise and go south” to Clarence He spoke the same words, but added “with radio.”

“Go South with radio? Is that what God has been training me for? What about Kath? Often she has said that one reason she was content to marry me was that she knew with the work I was involved I, I would never be a missionary. And that suited her just fine.”

Clarence walked along the beach after the service, his head and heart whirling, yet he felt a strange quiet certainty. “Here I was in a fervor of missionary zeal, setting up conferences and programs for missions, and now it was turned around, pointing right at me. Would I leave this fruitful work, an area where God was obviously blessing, and set out for a spiritual desert?”

When Clarence returned to the cottage, he didn’t tell Kath of God’s call, nor that he had answered yes. But at breakfast the next morning, Clarence broached the subject: “Kath, if the Lord were to call us to the mission field, would you be ready to go?” Kath came around the table and wrapped Clarence in her arms. “It’s all right, dearest heart. Last night while I was putting the babies to bed and you were in the service, the Lord came to me, and very plainly He asked, ‘Kath, will you go?’ Yes, my love, we will go.”

Later that day, Clarence and Kath left the little girls with Paul Rader’s mother, and walked the path through the sand dunes to the Prayer Tower overlooking Lake Michigan. There they climbed the thirty steps to the first level, then up another eighteen to the privacy of the higher platform where they knelt together. Clarence was twenty-six years old, and Katherine was not quite twenty-three. “We wanted to be absolutely sure that this was not just an emotional ‘upsurge’ but was truly a call from the Lord himself. After half an hour, we knew beyond any doubting.” 

But there were many doubts ahead for Clarence and Katherine.  In 1928, Clarence  traveled to Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Cuba, seeking permission to start a missionary radio station. Finding all doors closed, Clarence returned to Chicago questioning his calling. 

Next: 1930 - Permission granted for a radio station in Ecuador

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