Silas Fox “The white Fox of Andhra” (1893 -1982)
Silas Fowler Fox was one of the most outstanding, interesting and an unusual missionary who laboured for more than fifty-one years in Andhra Pradesh. He was nick named “The White Fox of Andhra”. S.K. Agrippa, a native evangelist was his co – worker for nearly fifty years was called as “The Black Fox”. Both Agrippa and Silas had several things in common, and God used these two mighty men. Together they served a generation. In 1973 at the age of 80, Silas Fox was awarded the honour of ‘Alumnus of the Year’ by the Toronto Bible College from where he graduated in the year 1916. “In the citation, he was referred as “A man with the heart of a Viking and simple faith of a child”.
Early life and education
Silas F. Fox was born in Josephsburg, Alberta, Canada on December 22nd, 1893. He was the youngest of three children born to Attorney Caleb and Bessie Fox. Caleb died three weeks after Silas’ birth. Silas’ siblings were Paul and Florence. Bessie married again to Mr. Roberts, who was a postmaster and a storekeeper. Silas’ stepfather was an abusive alcoholic and caused the family great suffering. While Silas was still a young child, his mother left his stepfather, taking the children with her. He grew up in a single-parent home with no Christian influence. Because of the family’s poverty, Silas went to live with his uncle, a Baptist preacher.
At the age of four and a half, he started schooling and continued till he was eleven and a half. He had a great desire to excel in his studies and always stood first in his class. Thanks to his uncle, time to time, he came under the sound of God’s word. Life had been a hard struggle for Silas right from the beginning.
When he was twelve he moved to Toronto to rejoin with the family. To meet the daily needs, he had to hunt for jobs at the age of twelve. Even though the law of the land prohibited child labour, he concealed his age in order to get a job. Silas began working as a riveter in a Higel piano factory in 1905. He went on to find jobs with other companies as an errand boy and store clerk.
Conversion and call for the ministry
In his neighborhood at Toronto he met a girl named Emma and fell in love with her at first sight. It was through her influence that he began to attend a Baptist church. In due time he made a profession of faith and was baptized, but he really did not live for the Lord as he should have. It was the testimony of a middle-aged alcoholic who said to him on one occasion, “Silas, take some advice from a drunken bum. Take Christ as your Saviour, and you won’t end up like me-a good for nothing.” It was with these words in mind he finally fell on his knees and cried out to the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted Him as his true Lord and Master.
During this time, seven Canadian Baptist missionaries addressed the needs in the mission fields to the Sunday school children. Call was given to the children to commit their lives for the missionary service and invited them to sign their names in a book. Many children wrote their names, and along with them both Emma Grau and Silas Fox also enrolled one after the other.
As he was attending West Toronto Baptist Church, he came under the powerful ministry of Andrew Imrie, a preacher with an evangelist’s heart. This man regularly held classes for soul winners and challenged the audience. One Wednesday night, it was Silas’s turn to be challenged. It was as though the finger of God was pointing directly at him. “I mean you Silas Fox. I want you to become involved!” He left the place with a great burden and started sharing the good news to others. Next day he shared the Gospel to Mr. Max, and could win him for Christ. From that day onwards he started winning souls for Christ and it continued for more than half a century. He also developed a great urge to study the Bible. Hence he joined the Toronto Baptist Bible College and studied along with his job. Mean while Emma also joined in the Bible College. He completed his graduation on April 28, 1916.
Missionary to India.
While studying, one day an elderly Englishman Mr. Davidson of the Ceylon and India General Mission came to the college and addressed the students. He spoke of India and the need of workers in the various villages of India. After a personal conversation with Davidson, Silas was convinced that the Lord wanted him to go to India, at a place called Madakasira in the Madras presidency. He married Emma on November 23, 1916. After two days the newlyweds left Toronto for Vancouver and from there they sailed to India, where they arrived in 1917.
For their first term, they were based in the town of Madakasira in West Madras. Much of their time was spent learning the Telugu language. Fox also visited some 300 villages around Madakasira, preaching to crowds in the village squares. Around 1921, Fox started a little newspaper called Kalyandrug Sathyadootha, which translates as Kalyandrug Message of Truth. It was printed every month in the Telugu language and filled a need for Christian literature. It consisted of a sermon, anecdotes, questions and answers about Christianity, and notices of meetings. Fox continued for years to edit this paper, which was eventually renamed Kristava Nirikshina or Christian Hope. (Even now this magazine is getting published by Bro. Ezra Gummadi, from Chirala). When the Foxes’ first term ended in 1924, they returned to Canada on furlough. Before coming to India, in his second term, in the year 1925, he resigned from the missionary society and worked as an independent missionary. He depended upon the Lord for all his temporal needs. On one occasion while speaking from Acts 27 concerning the shipwreck, he humorously said, ” Here we see the scriptural justification for board. It says in verse 44 that some escaped on boards. Many a board keeps a sinking missionary afloat.”
His wife Emma was a great support for him in the ministry. One of the many behind-the- scene activities that Emma superintended was the circulation of his paper and other literature and correspondence, a very considerable task. She was the one who kept the family ship on an even keel. He often referred to Emma in this way, “She was a missionary wife, not just the wife of a missionary- a very important difference.”
The Lord blessed them with six children, two daughters and four sons. Emma sometimes had to manage on a slender budget. Though sometimes there was austerity, there was no lack. The larder, though not always full, was never empty. “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger” but the members of Silas’s household could finish off that verse by saying, “but the little foxes lacked no good thing”
A Dynamic preacher
As with the prophets of old, Silas said there were two “woes” that he preached. One was for the hearers: “Woe if you do not listen.” The other was for himself: “Woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” He did preach Gospel his whole life.
Even though most of the time he spent among Telugu congregation- irrespective of any denomination- his ministry was spread all over India. Sometimes he traveled by air to save time and earned the nick name “flying fox”. Silas made a point of never asking for meetings and seldom refused an invitation. His favorite pulpits were the marketplace, the roadside, and under shaded trees. He communicated the gospel in a simple and humorous way. He knew how to make the audience laugh and at the same time to weep as they were convicted of their sins.
Following incidents illustrates the power of his messages. It happened in Kerala, his translator on this occasion was Mamman Kurian, of Kallisserry. Silas was challenging the people from Isaiah chapter 6, “Who will go for us”? Before he could continue his translator took over. “I will go,” the translator told the people because God had been speaking to him for a long time, but he was dodging the call. He had a good job in the sugar factory, but when once more he had felt the call of God, and said “I am now yielding to the call of God. I will go”. He made a vow and fulfilled it. God used Bro. Mamman Kurian mightily in the remaining days of his life.
Perhaps the most memorable sermon Silas ever preached in India, was the one he preached in September 1935 in Bombay. He came to Mumbai on the invitation of Handley Bird, who started a new work in the city.
For the particular evening’s sermon, Silas had selected the text from Jude verse 23, “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire”. It was a fiery message. At the top of his voice Silas shouted ” fire, fire fire”. Within a short time the building was surrounded by fire engines and the men from fire department began to search the building. They could locate none and were convinced that there was no fire. Someone alarmed by Silas’s shout; called out to the fire department. Next morning, English dailies carried the news item with the caption, ” Fiery American Evangelist calls out Bombay Fire Department”. “The wrong country got the blame or credit,” remarked Silas. Silas Fox was not an American, he was Canadian.
Last days and home call
During his long stay in India, from 1917 onwards, he stationed at various places, Kalvandrug, Madakasira, Hindupur, Kuppam, Ootacamund, Anantapur and Bangalore. Silas and Emma Fox left India in 1961,and settled in Canada; however Mr Fox paid his last visit to India in 1968 and preached extensively. In 1971, Mrs Emma Fox sustained a heart attack and henceforth was in coma until she was called home. Mr Fox used to say that there is no retirement in gospel ministry.
With his limited health, he continued to preach from a wheelchair in 1975. All these years, their eldest daughter Ruth looked after them very well. Mrs Fox was called home in 1981 and Mr Fox was called home in the following year, May,1982.