History of The International Miners' Mission

Richard Glynn Vivian 1905

The IMM was founded by a wealthy mine owner and industrialist, Richard Glynn Vivian, who had sadly gone blind at the age of 70.

When visiting Brighton in 1905 on the recommendation of his doctor, this needy elderly man's plight was brought to the attention of James Philips, pastor of the Union Street Mission, then situated in the Lanes of Brighton in the UK.. Accepting Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord, Richard Glynn Vivian's life was transformed spiritually. He now felt a great desire to reach miners and their families for Christ both in Britain and other parts of the world, where he had visited mines in years past. As a result he founded the Miners' Mission in 1906 and a mission hall was opened in Swansea in South Wales, Richard Glynn Vivian's home town. The first pastor was a young man, Herbert Voke, who had also been instrumental in bringing Glynn Vivian to Christ, and who had subsequently acted as valet and private secretary to the elderly blind man.

The headquarters of the Mission were established at the Union Street Hall in Brighton. The original Trustees and Committee included Richard Glynn Vivian (Founder), Colonel James Philips (Treasurer) and James Budd (Secretary).

 Ashio Copper mine - note the lack of trees and vegetation due to the poisonous fumes Richard Glynn Vivian endowed what was originally called "The Glynn Vivian Miners' Mission" with £30,000 before he died in 1910. Most certainly without that initial investment in God's Kingdom, it would have been a great struggle to get the work off the ground, particularly as the Mission lost its visionary founder so soon after its formation. The Mission is still benefiting from the income of this endowment to this day.

Missions in at least ten countries were proposed, in the 1906 "Articles of Association" namely Germany, Spain, France, Chile, South Africa, Russia and Siberia as well as England.

In fact the first overseas Mission was started in a remote copper mining area of Japan. A chapel was built and opened for the princely sum of £160 in 1908. As a result of that one mission station in the copper mining town of Ashio, there is now a thriving fellowship of some 30 churches in Central Japan.

 Prefabricated chapel originally set up in Libercourt, Pas de Calais, France for the miners. Through the efforts of the original Trustees of the Glynn Vivian Miners' Mission (GVMM), missions and ministries to miners were established in various mining centres in Britain, France, Spain, Germany, South Africa and Chile in the 1920's and 1930's. In Wittenheim, France and Puertollano, Spain there are thriving churches with growing congregations active to this day. In Britain there were four Glynn Vivian Miners' Mission chapels established for miners in the Kent coalfield, two in South Yorkshire and two in South Wales. By the end of the Second World War, when the GVMM was in need of re-establishing itself, Dr. W.E. Shewell-Cooper (Chairman) and Kenneth Banham (General Secretary) took on the difficult and challenging task of re-launching and expanding the work. Now called the International Miners' Mission (IMM), new mission halls were purchased or rebuilt, following war damage, with ministries to miners in the Pas-de-Calais (coal) and Alsace (potash) in France, in Gelsenkirchen, Germany (coal), Ampflwang, Austria (lignite), Jos, Northern Nigeria (tin), Zambia (copper) and Rancagua Chile (copper). In Chile, IMM evangelist/missionary Victor Varas has engaged in one-to-one outreach work to the thousands of workers in Rancagua's huge 'El Teniente' copper mine for many years.

Dr. Shewell-Cooper was also instrumental in encouraging the formation of a second IMM Committee in Switzerland in 1956. Through the efforts of a dedicated group it has been possible to reach miners with the Gospel of Christ in South Africa (gold and platinum), Portugal (tin) and currently Zimbabwe (coal, cobalt and other minerals).

 Pastor Elijah Dube waiting in the mobile Bible book van for miners coming off shift outside a West Rand gold mine in South Africa Pastor Elijah Dube in the West Rand gold mining area of South Africa provided Bibles and literature in many different languages for the miners who came to work in the mines from various parts of Southern Africa, including Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Botswana. For some fourteen years between 1990 and 2004, IMM Switzerland provided funding for his salary and Bible book van, from which he sold Christian literature to thousands of miners. Today Elijah Dube is a member of the new IMM South Africa Committee.

As the result of an extraordinary chain of events God brought about the formation of a third IMM Committee in the United States in 1992. This committee with God's help is pushing forward with church planting and other ministries in the mining areas of various countries of North and South America, particularly Bolivia and Peru where some 25 missionaries are supported financially on an ongoing basis.

Latin Link Steppers helped build the miner's chapel at Poopo in Bolivia. The IMM no longer sends out missionaries from the UK, Switzerland or the USA. Instead cooperation is sought with local church groups and Mission agencies operating in the countries concerned. Often on enquiry it is quickly established that there is little or no evangelism going on amongst miners. This is commonly because of the remoteness of their places of work - sometime high up among mountains, in semi-arid desert or inhospitable terrain. The Committee members are all voluntary workers. They give of their time and energy in seeking to encourage those in the countries where mining is carried out to encourage evangelists and pastors to establish centres of witness right where the miners are.

In 2002 a fourth IMM Committee was started in Western Australia, with the aim of meeting new challenges for outreach to miners in the Pacific Rim areas. There are many mines in Indonesia and the Philippines and the long term goal is reaching 5.5 million miners in China for Christ.

Recently, in 2007, a fifth IMM Committee was formed to expand outreach to the many tens of thousands of miners and their families in South Africa. This work is based around Johannesburg (gold mines) and Rustenburg (platinum mines).

Currently IMM is supporting and collaborating with Christian fellowships reaching out to miners in Bolivia (silver, tin, tungsten) Chile (copper), Ethiopia (gold), Romania (coal), Peru (silver, lead, zinc, copper), Sierra Leone (diamonds), South Africa (gold and platinum), Zimbabwe (chrome, nickel, coal) and now most recently, the Ukraine (salt and coal).

Challenges for the 21st Century

What are the facts?
The mining industry world wide is currently experiencing a boom of colossal proportions. It is a powerful industry. Some of the largest companies in the world are mining corporations. About 23 billion tons of minerals, including coal, are produced each year (2005).There is hardly a country in the world where mining of some kind or other does not take place. The demand for minerals is colossal. Most are growing in value - gold, silver, copper, tungsten, cobalt, uranium, platinum. The price of coal is rising again - there is talk of new coal mines being opened in Germany and France.

 Artisan miner descending down a hole to go digging for gold in Ethiopia. This can be dangerous work. But now he is hearing the Gospel message of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ from IMM sponsored evangelists. But the mining industry needs miners to work in them. There are millions working in the industry around the world - possibly as many as a million in Africa alone. Miners working in large companies do quite well financially, but sometimes they are separated from their families for long periods of time, so being exposed to many temptations, including drinking, gambling and the sex industry. However most miners work in poor and dangerous conditions, without the benefit of modern machinery or good health and safety care, some living in remote places, scratching a living such as those panning for gold or diamonds. Frequently the wives and children are involved in the work. But whatever their situation economically or socially, their need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to respond to it is the same. The IMM has had the vision for over 100 years of "Introducing Miners to the Master" by taking the message of hope and reconciliation through Jesus Christ to these often neglected people.

But how do we reach them? From the world's perspective the International Miners' Mission has such puny resources. But no - we have the Lord's promise. "Behold I am with you to the end of the age." We have prayer. We have His Holy Spirit. We have more power than any huge mining company! The call to us is the one Paul made to the Ephesian Christians: "Finally my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might."

If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of the History of the International Miners' Mission, entitled 'Out of darkness - Light', please write to us and we will willingly send one to you.
If you would like to know more about the current projects being sponsored by the IMM WORLDWIDE, click on to our 'Countries' page.
To learn more about this vital ministry to miners and their families worldwide and to receive a regular copy of our 'Safety Lamp' newsletter and 'Prayer Link' please contact us

 

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