GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER: HIS LIFE AND FAITH IN HIS OWN WORDS
Book Review by Jason Benedict – Strategist, RCE
For starters, this book startled me! It startled me because it revealed a George Washington Carver that I have never seen in any other history book. It startled me with the poignancy of this man’s life and work. I was startled by the lengths that other biographers would have had to take to tone down his walk with Christ. This book is best described as a compendium of personal correspondence and brief autobiographical excerpts from the pen of Dr. Carver. It is a quick read and I heartily recommend it. I found myself being caught up in this man’s simple faith and delight for God, as he went about the work he was given to do.
Born the son of slaves Dr. Carver became one of the most notable chemists of his day. Working in the laboratory at Tuskegee institute, that he affectionately called “God’s Little Workshop,” he developed over 300 innovative uses for the peanut as well as breakthroughs in the use of sweet potatoes, pecans and soybeans. His efforts in chemistry and food science paved the way for the growth of a peanut industry. In his day peanuts we often used for little more than animal feed, but today it has grown into a 2 billion dollar market domestically.
The boldness of Dr. Carver’s faith can be observed in the account of his address to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in Washington DC. Initially he was given only ten minutes to speak but, the committee became so enthralled that the chairman said, “Go ahead brother, you time is unlimited!” He spoke for an hour and forty five minutes expounding on the potential of the peanut. At the end of his address the chairman asked him how he had learned of all these things, and Carver answered:
“From an old book”
“What book? Asked the Chairman.
Carver replied, “The Bible.”
The Chairman inquired, “Does the Bible tell about peanuts?”
“No, Sir” Dr. Carver replied, “But it tells about the God who made the peanut. I asked Him to show me what to do with the peanut, and He did.” (p. 36)
This book reveals Carver’s holistic approach to faith and work. He was a model of someone who was used by God in a powerful way to impact the sphere of society. The following is an excerpt from Dr. Carver’s comments when asked for some of his observations about God.
“As a very small boy exploring the almost virgin woods of the old Carver place, I had the impression someone had just been there ahead of me. Things were so orderly, so clean, so harmoniously beautiful. A few years later in this same woods I was to understand the meaning of this boyish impression. Because I was practically overwhelmed with a the sense of some Great Presence. Not only had someone been there. Someone was there…
Years later when I read in the Scriptures, “In Hm we live and move and have our being,” I knew what the writer meant. Never since have I been without this consciousness of the Creator speaking to me…
Man, who needed a purpose, a mission, to keep him alive, had one. He could be…God’s co-worker… My attitude toward life was also my attitude toward science. Jesus said one must be born again, must become as a little child. He must let no laziness, no fear, no stubbornness keep him from his duty.
If he were born again he would see life from such a plane he would have the energy not to be impeded in his duty by these various side-trackers and inhibitions. My work, my life, must be in the spirit of a little child seeking only to know the truth and follow it.
My purpose alone must be God’s purpose – to increase the welfare and happiness of His people. Nature will not permit a vacuum. It will be filled with something. Human need is really a great spiritual vacuum which God seeks to fill…
With one hand in the hand of a fellow man in need and the other in the hand of Christ, He could get across the vacuum and I became an agent. Then the passage, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” came to have real meaning.
As I worked on projects which fulfilled a real human need, forces were working through me which amazed me. I would often go to sleep with an apparently insoluble problem. When I woke the answer was there.
Why, then should we who believe in Christ be so surprised at what God can do with a willing man in a laboratory?” (Pg 68-69).
Why should we be surprised at what God can do with a willing man or woman in the classroom, the boardroom, and the halls of state, or any other sphere where God is leading us to make a difference?
*Federer, William J. (2002). George Washington Carver: His life and Faith in His Own Words. St. Louis: Amerisearch.