This short and simple skit is perfect for a mission moment during worship to share the Haystack Story.
Imagine that we were gathered in a field about two hundred years ago, in the privacy of Sloan’s meadow, quite a distance from where the Williams students resided. Five of the young men of that time had come out away from their studies in order to join together in prayer. They were, by name and age:
Samuel Mills, 23
James Richards, 22
Francis Robbins, 19
Harvey Loomis, 21
Byram Green, 20
Let’s listen in to what their conversation might have been.
Samuel: Let’s find a good place to settle down for our prayer meeting, friends; we are far enough away from our books by now!
Byram: (pointing to the west) But I don’t much like the look of those dark clouds over there, Samuel; don’t you think we better go back to West College?
Francis: It sure is hot. Living in these mountains it’s easy to believe what my natural philosophy professor said: humans beings suffer more from heat when it’s humid than when it’s dry. I wonder what it’s like in the deserts of the Far West?
James (startled, shrinking back): Whoa, did you see that bolt of lightning? That was pretty close! And pretty loud!
Harvey: What do you think of this storm, friends? Do you actually that God is trying to prevent our little meeting? Or do you think we’re doing the Lord’s work?
Byram: If it hadn’t been so terribly hot this afternoon, more of our colleagues would’ve joined us for this expedition, don’t you think, Samuel? Then you would have been more convinced of our merit, Harvey!
Samuel: Oh yes, I suppose we would have been more than a dozen on a fair day. There’s been quite an increase in the number of us who have gotten religion here. They tell me that six years ago, there were only two Christians in the whole of this college! Now we are in good company!
Francis: I’m glad to be here with you fellows, to strengthen my own faith, and I say we get on with our prayer meeting right now!
James: But what about the storm? (Cringing from another crash) Is it safe?
Harvey: Oh I’m sure we’ll be fine, perhaps just a bit wet. Here comes the rain! Let’s gather in the leeward side of this haystack where the cows have carved us out a little cave and here we can talk.
(all five run over to the haystack and sit down)
Byram: So tell us, Samuel, how is it you come to be so committed to your faith? You are always the one who inspires the rest of us.
Samuel: I guess you know that my father is the minister down in Torrington, Connecticut, I grew up with it all around me. But I’m really convinced that it was my mother’s prayers that did it. I despaired of seeing God’s purpose for me, but my mother prayed and prayed, and said: “I have consecrated this child to be a missionary.”
Francis: And you will be a missionary one day, Samuel, don’t doubt it! She knew what she was talking about, I bet!
James: Maybe that is God’s voice speaking to us in the thunder, because I am having the same warmed heart, the same conviction. I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than travel to a far distant land to bring the good news to those who are so much in need of good news.
Harvey: But it’s so dangerous! Just like it’s dangerous to be out here in this storm, you foolish fellows. We can’t go just walking into some country that is full of hostile people without first dispatching soldiers to subdue them!
Samuel: We can do it if we will, boys, God will give us the strength. God has made martyrs for thousands of years.
Byram: I am with you, Mills!
James: And so am I!
Francis: Then let us join our hearts in silent prayer, and ask God to bless us and to give us the courage and the vision to go out into all the world to serve as Jesus did.
(All bow their hearts, fold their hands in intense prayer.)
Narrator speaks over this scene:
If this one scene under the Haystack had been the only effort these young men put forth toward their ideal, certainly it would’ve died then and there. But in fact they were persistent and committed. They continued to meet together in prayer each week, with more and more added to their number each time. As some of them transferred into other schools, they brought this secret society dubbed “The Brethren” with them, along with the custom of prayer and the conviction of going out into the world to serve. In 1810 James Richards and Samuel Mills entered the newly-opened Andover Theological Seminary, where the coded minutes of their secret organization are still kept. Adding to their number Adoniram Judson and Samuel Newell, later that year the four went to the annual meeting of the Massachusetts General Association (the predecessor of our Conference) and asked for help in sending forth missionaries. In the following days the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed. It sent out its first ship to Asia less than two years later.
(Dismiss actors – thank you, friends, for joining in this simple skit.)