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Helen Cadbury: Founding member of the Pocket Testament League

Helen was only twelve when she went with her father, Richard Cadbury, and sat at the back of a hall watching volunteers talking with the people coming in from the local neighbourhood. Some of the people coming in looked poor and even hungry, and some, sadly, were affected by alcohol.

Richard cared very much for poor people and did a lot to help them. He had built a big hall for just this purpose. He and fellow Christians invited men, women and children from the neighbourhood to come and, depending on the difficulty of their circumstances, they might be given a meal or some clothes. While he showed them in this practical way what the love of God looked like, visitors could also hear about the love of God.

This day, Helen listened as the preacher finished explaining how people, through trusting in Jesus and what he had done on the cross, could have their sins forgiven and have a good relationship with God. His words moved Helen, and she decided that day that Jesus’ love was for her, too.

Helen’s family had strong roots in the Christian faith. Her grandfather, John Cadbury, was also already well-known as the founder of the Cadbury cocoa and chocolate company in Birmingham. It was the faith of the members of the Cadbury family that drove them to care about the welfare of those who worked for them, and for underprivileged people in their community.

At school, Helen kept a Bible in her desk. At break times, she liked to bring her Bible out to show other girls verses about how to become a Christian and how God would want them to live. But it wasn’t easy carrying a Bible around in the playground, so Helen and her Christian friends had pockets made in their dresses for carrying a Bible or a New Testament. These girls shared a keen interest in sharing their faith with their friends at school. By 1893, when Helen was 16, the group had become known as the ‘Pocket Testament League’ and had a membership of 60 girls.

As Helen grew up into a young lady, the enthusiasm she had for her faith started to wane. Helen went to college and there learned different ideas and opinions about Christianity. Many of her college lecturers made anti-God statements, and this caused Helen to have serious doubts about whether the whole Bible was the true word of God.

However, all that changed after her father’s death. Helen began helping her mother back at the big hall her father had built where she had first put her trust in God. Helen again saw the love of God being lived out before her eyes through her mother and the others who were helping the poor. Gradually, her faith returned to what she had believed as a schoolgirl.

In the years that followed, Helen married the famous evangelist* and song leader, Charles Alexander. Together with some other evangelists, they brought ‘The Pocket Testament League’ back to life. It is estimated that over 100 million portions of Scripture have been distributed by the Pocket Testament League – and it’s still going strong today!  

The Pocket Testament League has produced many stories about people whose lives were wonderfully transformed through reading the Bible. One such story is of Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese commander who led the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Darwin but found faith in God and forgiveness after the war was over, which you can read about here at Did You Know Education.

Many people across the world have become followers of Jesus, all because a young girl was determined to share her faith with others and help those in need.

* An evangelist is someone who tells others about Jesus.

Written by Jordan Jamieson.


The Pocket Testament League Australia:

Simon Fox, Helen Cadbury and Charles M Alexander, Marshall Morgan and Scott Publications, London, 1989

Article from The Methodist, 26 June 1909, page 6

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