The Pocket Testament League
Our History and the Christian Connection
Helen was only twelve when she went with her father, Richard Cadbury, and sat at the back of the hall watching the volunteers talking with the people coming into the hall from the local neighbourhood. Some of them looked poor and even hungry and some, sadly, were affected by alcohol.
Richard had built a big hall where Christians could invite men, women and children from the neighbourhood to come and hear about the love of God. There, depending on their circumstances, they would be given a meal and maybe even clothes. Many were poor and in difficult circumstances. Richard cared very much for poor people and did a lot to help them.
The preacher finished explaining how people, through trusting in the Lord Jesus and what he had done on the cross, they could have their sins forgiven and get right with God. He then asked all those who wanted to publicly declare that they were putting their trust (faith) in Jesus Christ to stand up. Helen knew that having Christian parents did not make her a Christian. She understood that Jesus had died on the cross to give her eternal life with him in heaven. She longed in her heart to know God the way her parents did, so she stood up, along with others, and went to a small room behind the stage where someone would pray with her. There in the room was her father who joyfully prayed with her.
Helen came from a Christian family. Her grandfather, John Cadbury, founded the well-known Cadbury cocoa and chocolate company in Birmingham. The family were strong believers and really cared about the welfare of those who worked for them and other underprivileged people in their community.
At school Helen kept a Bible in her desk. She took it out at break times to show other girls verses about how to become a Christian and how God would want them to live. It wasn’t easy carrying a Bible in the playground so Helen and her Christian friends had pockets made in their dresses for carrying a Bible or a New Testament. These girls were always ready to share their faith with the other girls. In 1893, when Helen was 16, the group was called ‘“The Pocket Testament League’ “and it had a membership of 60 girls.
However, what started with lots of zeal and enthusiasm became dormant for a number of years as the pressures of life pushed in. Helen went to college and there absorbed ‘sophisticated’ thinking about Christianity. The anti-God rhetoric of many of her lecturers caused her to have grave doubts about the reality of Christianity. She no longer believed that the whole Bible was the true word of God.
After her father’s death she began helping her mother, at the big hall her father had built. Gradually her views came back to what she had believed as a schoolgirl when she first gave her life to God. Helen saw the love of God being lived out before her eyes through her mother and the others who were helping the poor.
Little did she know in those early years as she was sharing the Good News with others that one day she would marry the famous evangelist and song leader, Charles Alexander. Together and with some other evangelists they revived ‘“The Pocket Testament League’.”
They produced many stories about people whose lives were wonderfully transformed through reading the Bible. One such story is of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese commander who led the attack on Pearl Harbour and Darwin.
It is estimated that over 100 million portions of Scripture have been distributed by the “Pocket Testament League”. It is still going strong today! http://tptl.org.au/
Many people across the world have become followers of Jesus, all because a young girl was concerned about the spiritual needs of others.
Lindy Kingsmill DIDUNO
Sources: Pocket Testament League
Fox, Simon: Helen Cadbury and Charles M Alexander. London, 1989, Marshall Morgan and Scott Publications
Article from The Methodist, 26th June, 1909, page 6