Retired Grace Brethren pastor Roy E. Glass (Basore Road Grace Brethren Church, Dayton, OH) recently had an interesting chance encounter in a fast-food restaurant. here is a slightly-edited version of his recounting of the incident:
We were recently in Miamisburg on a Sunday night and stopped at a McDonald’s for an ice cream cone. We were seated across from the TV watching the Sean Hannity show. Several couples were seated beneath the TV. We finished our ice cream, and as I bid them goodbye, I introduced myself and they returned the favor. One introduced himself and turning to his friend, said, “And this is James Gribble Hays.”
That startled me, since James Gribble (pictured) was the pioneer missionary of our Brethren work in Africa. So began a very interesting conversation. James Gribble Hays was born in Lost Creek, KY, and was named for our pioneer who had visited there in 1916 to speak at the Riverside Institute, a Christian school, started in 1905 by a minister named George Drushal. The school is still going today with almost 100 students grades K through 12.
After this interesting conversation, I went home and dusted off the dog-eared copy of Undaunted Hope, the Life of James Gribble, written by his wife, Florence Newberry Gribble, M.D. Filled with curiosity, I wondered how did a man from the backcountry of Kentucky come to be named for our pioneer Brethren missionary? Then on page 149 I found it.
Dr. Gribble writes, “A very precious privilege lay before the missionaries. They were to visit the mission established by Rev. George Drushal and his wife, under the auspices of The Brethren Church, at Lost Creek, Kentucky. God had signally blessed and owned the work of this mission. Never were missionaries privileged to work among a people of greater natural intelligence and ability. The opening of Riverside Institute at Lost Creek has been indeed the fruition of prayer and persevering effort. From among the teachers and pupils of Riverside Institute, were to come some of the missionaries of Oubangui-Chari Mission.
“Greatly blessed in this visit, James Gribble and his wife turned their faces homeward, looking forward to the long-promised visit to father and mother, brothers and sisters.”
The book is composed of most of his daily diary entries as well as many letters written to and from him. James Gribble was a streetcar conductor in Philadelphia and regularly passed the First Brethren Church. An accident over which he had no control caused him concern over life and death and the very next Sunday he attended the church  whose lively and joyous singing had attracted his attention.
After the service, he met with the pastor, Louis S. Bauman, and announced, “I have decided to be a Christian.” That night he was baptized and the next day he became a candidate for the mission field.
He made application with the African Inland Mission and on October 31, 1908, he set sail on the steamship St. Paul. Miss Florence Newberry, M.D. was part of that small party headed for Africa. It wasn’t until their fifth year in Africa that they finally married. James Gribble was attracted to her from the very first, but she rebuffed his proposals, not wanting to hinder her missionary vision.
The book is a fascinating account of a man totally dedicated to the Lord. How he survived in such a harsh environment is unbelievable.
Desiring to learn more, I checked the Brethren Encyclopedia. In volume 2, page 1111, I found:
“Riverside Institute was the first boarding and community school in rural Breathitt county to offer grades one through twelve. Daily chapel and classes in Bible study have always been a part of the program of instruction. The school’s graduates have become college presidents, professors, ministers, and professionals in many fields. A number of its teachers (Minnie Deeter, Charlotte Hillegas Jobson, Mary Emmert) later became foreign missionaries. The school’s enrollment ranges from 100-150 for the twelve grades and kindergarten (1981).”
James Gribble Hays, who was named for our pioneer missionary, did not accept the Lord until he was 26 years old. He knows many of our Brethren folks from Kentucky including the Landrums, Sewell and Clyde, and the Harold Combs families.
The Lord works in strange ways and nobody knew that better than James Gribble.
The website for the Riverside Christian school is http://www.riversidechristian.org/