After being ejected from an English ship for their illegal status, Carey and Thomas found a Danish ship. After a five-month voyage (punctuated by a violent storm), the party finally approached Calcutta. Since they had no permit to enter the country, the captain set them on a small fishing boat, and they floated into Calcutta, arriving on November 11, 1793. When Carey and Thomas stepped onto the banks of the Hooghly River, the great attempt had begun.
Christian History Magazine-Issue 36: William Carey: 19th c. Missionary to India. 1992. Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today.
On this day in 1832, Melville Cox, the first missionary sent out by the American methodist, set sail for Liberia aboard the Jupiter.
For seven years, the money to send a missionary to Liberia lay unused. The mission committee could find no one willing to take the risk. They could find no one, that is, until Melville Cox stepped forward. Deathly ill with tuberculosis, he could speak only with pain. In 1830, his wife, baby and several close family members had died within a short span, devastating him, but releasing him from ties that might have held him back. Now his heart burned with desire to carry the gospel to people who had never before heard it.
“If you go to Africa, you’ll die there,” warned a student at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University.
“If I die in Africa, you must come and write my epitaph,” retorted Melville Cox. He felt that it would be no loss to die far from home (as long as Christ were with him) but hoped that his death would spur forward the cause of mission work. Even his epitaph should reflect that spirit.
“What shall it be?” asked the student.
Melville’s reply became a blazing torch to kindle Methodist enthusiasm for missions. “Let a thousand die before Africa be given up!” he exclaimed.
While sailing, he made plans, but recognized that their accomplishment was not up to him. “In making up my mind and in searching for a passage to go out, I have followed the best light I could obtain. I now leave it all with God…” The following March, he thanked God he had finally arrived in Liberia.
He immediately visited the area’s few Christians, gathered them into an assembly, and started a church. He opened a school and taught seventy students. But, as had been predicted, his health did not hold out. He contracted malaria. He could have returned home on the ship Hilarity after his first attack of the deadly tropical disease which sent shooting pains through him, but he chose to remain.
His last journal entry, written June 26, 1833, noted that it had been four days since he had seen a doctor. “This morning I feel as feeble as mortality can well. To God I commit all.” Despite his weakened state, he survived almost another month, not dying until July 21, 1833, four and a half months after his arrival.
During one of his fevers, he sang a spiritual, “I am happy! I am happy!…My days are immortal…” This triumphant spirit made his story a powerful tool for recruiting additional missionaries.
On this day in 1858, John and Mary Paton arrived at the island of Tanna, a southern island in Vanuatu, a group of eighty islands about fifteen hundred miles northeast of Australia, then known as the New Hebrides.
In his journal, John Paton recorded the experience:
We were all safely landed on Tanna. Dr. Geddy went for a fortnight to Umairarekar, now known as Kwamera, on the
south side of Tanna, to assist in the settlement of Mr. And Mrs. Mathieson, and to help in making their houses habitable and comfortable. Mr. Copeland, Mrs. Paton, and I were left at Port Resolution to finish the building of our house there, and work our way into the goodwill of the Natives as best we could. On landing, we found the people to be literally naked and painted Savages; they were at least as destitute of clothing as Adam and
Eve after the fall, when they sewed fig-leaves for a girdle; and even more so, for the women wore only a tiny apron of grass, in some cases shaped like a skirt or girdle, the men an indescribable affair like a pouch or bag, and the children absolutely nothing whatever
At first they came in crowds to look at us, and at everything we did or had. We knew nothing of their language; we could not speak a single word to them, nor they to us. We looked at them, they at us; we smiled, and n
odded, and made signs to each other; this was our fist meeting and parting.
Other missionaries had established a solid work on Anatom, a small island to the south, and several converts from there agreed to accompany the Patons north to the island of Tanna, where they built a small house on the low-lying land adjacent to Port Resolution, not realizing that it was an area infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
The Tannese people worshiped and feared many idols and had no concept of a loving God. Witches and wizards in each village cast spells they claimed controlled life and death. They stirred up warfare between the people, hoping it would drive out the missionaries. At first, the Patons felt overwhelmed by these warring cannibals. Then they realized that the Christians from Anatom had been just as savage only a few years earlier. However, warfare between tribes increased, with some of the worst fighting happening right outside the Patons’ house.
On this day in 1915, Albert Andersson, a Swedish missionary to Chinese Turkestan (modern day Xinjiang), died.
Less than forty years earlier, several Swedish missionaries had settled into this Northern area of China, where they began a mission among the Uyghur people. The Uyghur people were a predominately Muslim people and the missionaries found the work slow and difficult. But the hardest part was not so much the heart of the people, but the missionaries themselves. Tornquist, the missionary who was the head of the station, realized that few of his missionaries were learning the language or understanding the culture. This was killing the work he was trying to get done. Towards the end of his ministry, Tornquist wrote to a friend that, “Of the 35 missionaries that have been working here so far, only three men and one woman have been fluent in the Chinese language.“ It was clear to Tornquist that something had to change.
The mission soon began to search for a man who had been living in mainland china and have a strong grasp on the language who could join their team and help them. Their searching lead them to Andersson, who had already been working several years in another mission. When he heard of the opportunity to work in the new mission, he gladly excepted the challenge. His ability to speak Chinese and his time already spent in China made him invaluable to the work being done there.
In 1903, they started their long journey to their new home. However, the boxer rebellion at that time was under way and they were delayed several times along the way. They would spend the next nine years among the Uyghur people, seeing great results. In 1912, Albert’s health broke and he was forced to return to Sweden, where he died three years later.
However, the work among the Uyghur people continued on. Lead by Tornquist, the mission would see several churches started and nearly thirty young Chinese and Uyghur men working alongside the missionaries. In 1948, Rachel O. Wingate wrote an account of the work being done in Turkestan. In her book, she refereed to the mission among the Uyghur people as “the most successful mission to Muslims ever carried out”.
On this day in 1812, flames engulfed the printing shop of Carey and Wade in Serampore, India. Despite many hours of exhaustive efforts to fight the fire, the building burned to the ground.
The fire, aside from destroying £10,000 worth of supplies and equipment (Only five pieces of equipment were saved), also destroyed Carey’s massive polyglot dictionary, two grammar books, sets of type for 14 eastern languages, and ten whole translations of the Bible. These lost works accounted for countless hours of work.
Such a staggering loss would have drove many men to the point of quitting. And indeed it drove Carey to his knees and tears. But as Carey surveyed the ashes, he said:
In one short evening the labours of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God. I had lately brought some things to the utmost perfection of which they seemed capable, and contemplated the missionary establishment with perhaps too much self-congratulation. The Lord has laid me low, that I may look more simply to him…The loss is heavy, but as traveling a road the second time is usually done with greater ease than the first time, so I trust the work will lose nothing of real value. We are not discouraged; indeed the work is already begun again in every language. We are cast down but not in despair.
Indeed, God did use this fire in his way. News of the tragety catapuleted Carey and his work into the center of attention of churches all over the Europe and America. In just fifty days, in England and Scotland alone, about ten thousand pounds were raised for rebuilding Carey’s publishing enterprise. So much money was coming in that Andrew Fuller, Carey’s friend and a leader of his mission in England, told his committee when he returned from a fund-raising trip, “We must stop the contributions.”
Within twenty years of the fire, Carey had rebuilt the press, expanded it, and had forty-four Bible translations being printed to distribute all over India!
On this day in 1812, Adoniram Judson was married to Miss Ann Hasseltine, who was destined to become the heroic “Ann of Ava.”
In June of 1810, Judson and his three friends came to Bradford to attend the Massachusetts General Association of Congregational Churches. They were hoping to present themselves to the board as foreign missionaries and ask for the boards support. During the first few days of the convention, the young men were invited, with other delegates, to the home of Mr. Hasseltine, a lead deacon at the church, for dinner. During the night, Judson continually noticed a beautifully stunning young woman serving food. It was truly love at first sight. Judson’s son later recorded his parents first meeting:
“During the sessions the ministers gathered for a dinner beneath Mr. Hasseltine’s hospitable roof. His youngest daughter, Ann, was waiting on the table. Her attention was attracted to the young student whose bold missionary projects were making such a stir. But what was her surprise to observe, as she moved about the table, that he seemed completely absorbed in his plate! Little did she dream that she had already woven her spell about his young heart, and that he was, at that very time, composing a graceful stanza in her praise!”
Soon opportunity came for Ann and Adoniram to spend time together and they began to write often back and forth. In compliance with a hint from Miss Hasseltine, Judson wrote to her father asking his consent to the proposed union. His letter was direct, because it had to be. No one in America had ever gone out as a foreign missionary before. The future was dark, uncertain, and dangerous for any man. But for him to take a wife down such a road! So Judson, fully aware of this, writes to Ann’s father:
“I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you — for the sake of perishing immortal souls — for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory with a crown of righteousness, brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”
Ann’s father, in his wisdom, turned to his daughter and told her, “This is your decision.” Her choice would create one of the most powerful missionary couples God has ever used.
Happy 200th Anniversary, Adoniram and Ann!
Memoir of Adoniram Judson: Being a Sketch of his Life and Missionary Labors
On this day in 1858, Miles Knowlton, the Baptist missionary and author, wrote a letter to his mission society regarding his visit to the small mission work in the city of Chusan, China.
It was during his trip here that he was able to spend a lot of time with the people and he was able to develop a clear understanding of their culture and mindset. In his letter, he talks about the obsticle that hinders many of the Chinese to come to Christ:
The gospel is, emphatically, the only hope for this poor people. Yet, like the Jews, they are far, very far, from being to receive it. In the first place, they are too proud to give any earnest attention to anything that is not taught in their own sacred classics. These, in their estimation, contain all the truths and doctrines that man needs or can know. It is confidently believed by all that Confucius knew all that can be known from any source by man and to hint anything to the contrary to a literary man is a very grave offence. Preach repentance, Confucius taught the same and they take it for granted that he taught it much better than we red haired barbarians can. Preach morality, goodness, love, benevolence, holiness, the relative duties of life -the classics teach the same in language of surprising elegance and perfection…..
They are literally without hope and without God in the world! How sad their condition. How should the hearts of all those whose minds have been illumined by the light of life yearn over them! The church of Christ has intrusted to it that which alone can impart to them hope, can transform their character, and fit them for endless life! The atonement of Christ lays a foundation upon which, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the superstructure of a holy and godlike character may be reared. The gospel, Christ and Him crucified, is that which alone is adapted to meet the exigencies of this people’s case!
On this day in 1888, Jonathan Goforth and his new wife of only three months, Rosalind, set sail for China.
While Jonathan attended Knox College in Toronto preparing to go to China, Rosalind was at the Toronto School of Art, preparing to be an artist like her father. But Rosalind was never truly satisfied with her life. In her own words, she described the inner struggle:
From that time, and increasingly as the years passed, there seemed to be two elements contesting within me, one for art, the other—an intense longing to serve the Master to whom I had given myself. In the early part of 1885, when still in my twentieth year, I began to pray that if the Lord wanted me to marry, He would lead to me one wholly given up to Him and to His service. I wanted no other.
But since Rosalind never found a man, she continued on her art career. She finished her schooling in Toronto and began preparations to go to London to further her education. But just weeks before she left, she went to a meeting at a mission to play the organ. Here, she found a man who had a heart, commitment, and love for the Lord: Jonathan Goforth. For the next two years, Jonathan and Rosalind spent time together and worked together at different missions across Toronto. In the end of October of 1887, they were married. In February, they set sail for China.
This young couple, completely sold out to God, would see God use them in a might way. When they arrived, they made their home in the northern Henan Province, which was to be their home for decades to come. They faced hardships and challenges, trials and temptations, but they continued to look to the one who sent them. Slowly, the work grew. But all this time, the Lord was simply molding and preparing his servants for the great task that was ahead.
By the end of his life, Jonathan was leading revival meetings all over China. Often he would preach for eight hours a day, to crowds of up to 25,000 people. Thousands of sinners experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and multitudes of Christians were awakened to a more vital relationship with God. The meetings were often characterized by public confession of sin and repentance.
The Goforths were some of the greatest missionaries of their time. But they never forgot their beginning. They knew they were really nobodies and that it was simply the spirit of God working through them. Whenever someone would praise the work the Goforths were doing and elevate them to a high level, Jonathan would smile and tell this little story:
Friends, if you and I take glory to ourselves which belongs only to God, we are as foolish as the woodpecker about which I shall tell you. A certain woodpecker flew up to the top of a high pine tree and gave three hard pecks on the side of the tree as woodpeckers are wont to do. At that instant a bolt of lightning struck the tree, leaving it on the ground, a heap of splinters. The woodpecker had flown to a tree nearby where it clung in terror and amazement at what had taken place. There it hung expecting more to follow, but as all remained quiet it began to chuckle to itself saying, “Well, well, well. Who would have imagined that just three pecks of my beak could have such power as that!