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What hath God wrought?

To consider the importance of perseverance and the value of communication

by Stuart Yeates

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To consider the importance of perseverance and the value of communication.

Preparation and materials

You might like to practise the Morse Code.

Bible Reading

Numbers 23.23

Assembly

  1. Imagine a world without telephones, television, email or the internet. Where the only way to communicate with people over a long distance would be either to write a letter or to speak to them face to face.

  2. In 1830, it took 5–8 months for a letter from the UK to reach India! Imagine that – by the time you found out something had happened it would be just a distant memory to those involved.  By 1879 a telegram could arrive in Bombay in 5 hours, a definite improvement, but still not exactly instant messaging.

  3. The invention that made this possible was the telegraph, invented in 1844 by Samuel Morse.  Morse also invented a special code made up of dots and dashes which could be sent along the telegraph wire and decoded at the other end.

  4. For instance:
    (tap out the following Morse Code: . . . .   .   .–. .    .–. .   – – –  ).
    That means ‘Hello’ in Morse Code.

  5. Samuel Morse was the son of a Christian minister, who loved to study the Bible. He started one of the first Sunday Schools in America and served as its supervisor.

  6. In 1818, at the age of 27, he married a girl called Lucretia. Seven years later Morse went to Washington DC to work as a painter. However, owing to the lack of quick communication, Lucretia had died and was buried before Samuel had even received a letter informing him she was ill. This tragedy spurred Samuel on to find a fast way to transmit news.

  7. Before completing his invention, Morse suffered many setbacks, for instance at his first public demonstration of the telegraph, in 1842, he laid a wire across a New York harbour, but before he could complete his transmission, a ship’s anchor caught the line and cut it.

  8. Finally, in 1844, he strung together a series of overhead lines between Washington DC and Baltimore, and transmitted the first public telegraph message: ‘What hath God wrought!’ This was a phrase taken from the book of Numbers in the Bible.  Morse said the telegraph was ‘God’s work, and He alone carried me this far through all my trials and enabled me to triumph over obstacles, physical and moral, which opposed me.’

  9. The first message sent via the telegraph sounded like this (tap it out):

    .– –   . . . .   . –   –  / . . . .   .–   –  . . . .  /  – –.   – – –   –. .  /  .– –   .–.    – – –   . .–   – –.   . . . .   –    . .– –. .


  10. In answer to Morse’s question ‘What has God wrought [done]’, people at the time answered in various ways: some were confident that the telegraph was a gift of God for building up community and world-wide communication; others were fearful and cynical.

  11. However, while some were confident and some fearful, a forward-seeing few were aware of the potential of the new technology.

  12. Through people like Samuel Morse, whose faith was never shaken and who always persevered, we are now able to enjoy almost unlimited communication and access to information. There are examples of parents finding medical solutions unknown to their home doctors. People can also get in touch in emergencies, find long-lost friends and families, and educate others living in remote areas the world.

  13. Today the possibilities of mobile phones and the internet arouse much the same kinds of reactions as were seen in Morse’s generation, with the difference today that people seldom refer to God. For Christians, of course, communication is central. In the beginning was the Word, God’s communication with us.

Time for reflection

Prayer:

Lord God,

You created everything through your Word,

Help us to use the technology we have

To communicate with others:

To comfort the lonely,

Give hope to the desperate,

And spread your love throughout the world.

Amen.

Hymn

‘It’s a new day’ (Come and Praise, 106)

Publication date: July 2005   (Vol.7 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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