Hudson Taylor as a younger manDo you ever feel overwhelmed by a faith-stretching undertaking to which you sense God is calling you? Here’s how Hudson Taylor worked through such a situation.

In the summer of 1860 Hudson and Maria Taylor returned from China to England so Hudson could recuperate his failing strength and health. In London Hudson was bluntly told by the physician who gave him a thorough medical examination, “You must never think of returning to China unless you wish to throw your life away.”

The young missionary couple, however, had no intention of giving up on their God-given call of service to China. They promptly set to work on producing a pair of much-needed works in the Ningpo dialect, a more accurate translation of the New Testament and a hymnbook. Hudson was also led of the Lord to renew and complete his course of medical studies at the London Hospital. In 1862 he became a member of England’s distinguished Royal College of Surgeons and completed another degree, the Royal College of Surgeons’ Licentiate in Midwifery.

Hudson & Maria TaylorAfter his medical studies were completed, Hudson commonly devoted ten or twelve hours per day, Sundays excepted, to revising the Ningpo New Testament. As he continued to work on that project, God laid an expanded vision on his heart. On the wall of the study where Hudson did his translation work hung a large map of the vast Chinese empire. As he contemplated the map, he came to be increasingly burdened for the whole of China.

Hudson later explained: “While on the field, the pressure of claims immediately around me was so great that I could not think much of the still greater need farther inland, and could do nothing to meet it. But detained for some years in England, daily viewing the whole country on the large map in my study, I was as near the vast regions of the interior as the smaller districts in which I had personally labored.”

Although mission work had made good progress in the seven coastal provinces of China during recent decades, eleven inland provinces (comprised of 200 million individuals) were without a single Christian witness. Hudson interviewed or corresponded with all of the main English missionary societies about the need to send workers to the unevangelized provinces of inland China. Repeatedly he was told that available funds were not equal to current demands, much less taking on new commitments.

Through the early months of 1865 Hudson sensed the Lord prompting him to establish a mission that would have as its objective the evangelization of the inland regions of China. Knowing the marked challenges, trials and responsibilities such an undertaking would entail, he hesitated. For weeks he wrestled with God about the decision.

“Suppose the workers are given and go to China,” he reasoned with himself. “Trials will come. Their faith may fail. Would they not reproach me for bringing them into such a plight? Have I the ability to cope with so painful a situation?”

China Inland Mission map, 1948

China Inland Mission map, 1948

At the same time he could not escape the persistent thought, which seemed burned into his very soul, that one million people each month were dying in China without God. For two or three months he hardly slept more than an hour at a time night or day and feared he might begin to lose his reason. Still he would not give in to the Lord’s leading.

Late in June he was invited to spend the weekend at the seaside home of a friend, George Pearse, in Brighton. On Sunday Hudson attended a large Presbyterian church where he heard a stirring message. But he could not bear the sight of a congregation of 1,000 Christian people rejoicing in their own security while millions were perishing in China for lack of knowledge. After the church service he wandered along the seashore in great spiritual agony.

Finally he prayed: “Divine Master, I surrender myself to You for this service. All the responsibility as to outcomes and consequences must rest with You. As Your servant it is mine to obey and to follow You. It is Yours to direct, to care for and to guide me and those who will labor with me.

“God, I ask You for twenty-four fellow workers, two for each of the eleven inland provinces which are without a missionary and two for Mongolia.” Opening his Bible, Hudson wrote in the margin above Job 18: “Prayed for 24 willing, skillful laborers, Brighton, June 25/65.”

The China Inland Mission's first group of missionaries

The China Inland Mission’s first group of missionaries

He afterward related: “The conflict ended, all was joy and peace. I felt as if I could fly up the hill to Mr. Pearse’s house. And how I did sleep that night! My dear wife thought Brighton had done wonders for me, and so it had.”

Two days later, accompanied by Pearse, Hudson went to the London and County Bank. There he opened an account under the name of The China Inland Mission with an initial deposit of ten pounds, the American equivalent of fifty dollars.

From that humble beginning, The China Inland Mission would grow into the largest, most fruitful missionary agency in China. In one of my future Perspectives, Lord willing, I’ll share a bit about the CIM’s remarkable growth and fruitfulness under Hudson Taylor by Vance ChristieHudson Taylor’s faith-filled leadership.

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You can learn much more about Hudson’s life of exceptional Christian faith and service in my book Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China. I think you’ll find (as I certainly have) his outstanding example both instructive and encouraging in your own relationship with and service for Christ.

Copyright 2018 by Vance E. Christie

Young Hudson Taylor

Young Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor was twenty-one years old when he first sailed as a missionary to China. His mother Amelia came to see him off at the dock at Liverpool, England, on Monday, September 19, 1853. Neither mother nor son were at all sure they would see each other again in this life.

When the time came for the small ship Dumfries to edge away from the dock, the grieving mother sat down on the wharf and started to shake all over. Hudson put his arm around her and sought to console her: “Dear Mother, do not weep. It is but for a little while, and we shall meet again. Think of the glorious object I have in leaving you. It is not for wealth or fame, but to bring the Chinese to the knowledge of Jesus.”

Hudson boarded the ship. Amelia walked along beside the vessel until it passed through the gate at the end of the dock. Suddenly a piercing cry of anguish escaped from her aching heart. Of that cry Hudson later said: “It went through me like a knife. I never knew so fully, until then, what ‘God so loved the world’ meant. And I am quite sure my precious mother learned more of the love of God for the perishing in that one hour than in all her life before.”

Mother and sonAs the ship started out to sea, his mother stood on the dock waving her handkerchief. Climbing into the rigging, Hudson doffed his hat and energetically returned the farewell signal until her figure disappeared from sight.

When the Dumfries headed into the Irish Sea it encountered a westerly gale and made little progress for several days. By Sunday the gale had gained near-hurricane force. Struggling up to the deck from his cabin in the middle of the afternoon, Taylor was greeted by a scene he would never forget. The sea was white with foam and waves towered above the ship on either side, seeming about to swamp it. Despite the crew’s best efforts, the wind was rapidly carrying the vessel toward the rocky coast. “I’ve never seen a wilder sea,” Captain Morris shouted. “Unless God helps us, there’s no hope.”

Back in his cabin Taylor prayed: “God my Father, I commend my soul to You and my friends to Your care. If it be possible, may this cup pass from us. Lord, have mercy on us and spare us, for the sake of the unconverted crew members as well as Your own glory as the God who hears and answers prayer.”

Suddenly the words of Psalm 50:15 came to his mind: “And call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”

“God, I plead with you to fulfill this promise in our behalf,” Taylor fervently prayed. “Nevertheless, Father, I submit myself to Your perfect will, whatever that may be.”

As night came on, a bright moon appeared but the gale-force wind continued. They could see the land toward which they were being relentlessly pushed. “Could the lifeboats survive a sea like this?” Taylor asked the captain. When Morris responded they could not, the missionary queried further: “Could we lash the loose masts and booms together to make some sort of raft?”

“We probably shouldn’t have time,” replied the captain. “We can’t live half an hour.” Then he asked the young missionary, “What of your call to work for God in China now?”

Ship on stormy sea“I wouldn’t wish to be in any other position,” Taylor responded truthfully. “I still expect to reach China. But if not, my Master will say it was well that I was found seeking to obey His command.”

With the treacherous shoreline looming before them, Captain Morris, at the risk of having the sea sweep the deck and wash everything overboard, gave the order to try to turn the ship back out to sea. When the first attempt failed, they tried in the opposite direction. Just then the wind shifted slightly in their favor, and they were able to head back out to sea. The ship cleared the threatening rocks by no more than twice her length.

Five months later, after further perils at sea, Hudson Taylor arrived safely in China and began his fifty year missionary career.

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You can learn much more about Hudson’s life of exceptional Christian faith and service in my book Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China. I think you’ll find (as I certainly have) his outstanding example both instructive and encouraging in your own relationship with and service for the Lord.

Copyright 2018 by Vance E. Christie

Mary Slessor (seated) with a Nigerian family

Mary Slessor (seated) with a Nigerian family

Throughout her thirty-eight year missionary career in southern Nigeria, West Africa, Mary Slessor (1848-1915) exhibited the spirit of a true pioneer missionary. She was never content to settle down permanently in one location, but was always seeking to advance Christ’s kingdom work into hitherto unreached areas.

The first twelve years of her missionary career were spent along the coastal region of Calabar, where Scottish missionaries of the United Presbyterian Church denomination had ministered for three decades. Mary then gained permission from the UPC Foreign Mission Committee to carry out missionary service in the previously unreached Okoyong region, which she did for the next seventeen years. (See my June 21, 2017, Perspective for a summary of her courageous, compassionate service during those first two periods of her missionary career.)

In 1904 she once again gained the Foreign Mission Committee’s permission to expand her work further inland to a pair of unreached tribes, the Ibo and the Ibibios. Slavery, human sacrifice and cannibalism had been carried out among them from time immemorial. While the British Government was seeking to curtail those practices, they were known to persist, especially in more isolated regions.

Mary Slessor at a Nigerian village

Mary Slessor at a Nigerian village

In opening that new work, Mary was initially granted one year in which to carry out itinerate ministry in the area. She took with her a small group of Christian teenagers whom she had trained in Okoyong to assist her in the new ministry. Amazingly, by the end of that year of itinerating, Christian schools and congregations had been established in six towns and villages along Enyong Creek which ran between the Ibo and Ibibios.

When Mary’s year of ministry travels concluded, her mission board desired her to resume her former responsibilities back in Okoyong. But she could not reconcile herself to that prospect, explaining: “There is an impelling power behind me, and I dare not look backward. Even if it cost me my connection with the Church [denomination] of my heart’s love, I feel I must go forward. I am not enthusiastic over Church methods. I would not mind cutting the rope and going adrift with my bairns, and I can earn our bite [food] and something more.” She was greatly relieved when the Mission decided to free her from normal responsibilities at a fixed base so from that point forward she could act as a pioneer missionary.

Mary Slessor and adopted children

Mary Slessor and adopted children

Her advance into Ibibios territory was aided by the fact that the British government was building roads in that region. “Get a bicycle, Ma,” government officials said, pointing to the road, “and come as far as you can. We will soon have a motor car service for you.” At fifty-seven years of age Mary gamely learned to ride a bicycle after a government official presented her with a brand new model from England.

The early months of 1909 found Mary covered with painful boils from head to foot. “Only sleeping draughts keep me from going off my head,” she related. She later became severely ill from blood poisoning. She was taken to Duke Town near the coast where members of the mission attentively nursed her back to heal. But after five weeks of such care she was eager to resume her ministry responsibilities inland, and did so before some officials and doctors thought it fully advisable.

Mary Slessor Memorial in Dudee, Scotland

Mary Slessor Memorial in Dudee, Scotland

Eventually her health declined to the point that the Mission’s doctor forbad her to travel by bicycle. Hearing of her need for an alternative means of transportation, a group of ladies in Scotland sent her a Cape cart, a basket-chair on wheels capable of being maneuvered along quite easily by two boys or girls.

In the closing years of her life Mary established churches and schools in the villages of Ikpe, Odoro Ikpe and Nkanga further up Enyong Creek. She carried out ministry at those locations unaided by fellow missionaries. To her deep disappointment, the Mission had already concluded that health conditions were not safe enough in that region to place other missionaries there. To the end, however, she continued to be assisted by several African girls who lived with her as foster daughters.

Women of Faith and Courage by Vance Christie

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A fuller account of Mary Slessor’s storied missionary career in Calabar is recorded in my book Women of Faith and Courage (Christian Focus, 2011). W. P. Livingstone’s Mary Slessor of Calabar, Pioneer Missionary (originally published 1916) is the classic full-length biography of her life. Bruce McClennan’s Mary Slessor, A Life on the Altar for God (Christian Focus, 2015) is a more recent full account of her life.

Copyright 2017 by Vance E. Christie

From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, 1983 edition

1983 Edition

I realize that for some people the words “Fascinating” and “History of Christian Missions” might not belong in the same title. But for the skeptical, hear me out on this one. 😉

Ruth Tucker’s award-winning book, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, A Biographical History of Christian Missions (Zondervan, 1983 & 2004), surveys two millennia of Christian missionary endeavor in an extremely readable and engaging fashion. Tucker does this by presenting compact, compelling biographies of over 100 individuals or couples who played key roles in advancing the cause of Christian missions throughout twenty centuries of Church History.

The list of people featured in this book reads like a “Who’s Who in Christian Missions.” Some of the many prominent individuals featured include the Apostle Paul, Polycarp, Count Zinzendorf, David Brainerd, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Robert and Mary Moffat, David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth, John Williams, John Paton, Lottie Moon, Mary Slessor, Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, C. T. Studd, John Mott, A. B. Simpson, Wilfred Grenfell, John and Betty Stam, Cameron Townsend, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Nate Saint, Brother Andrew, Don Richardson.

From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, 2004 edition

2004 Edition

Some of the book’s key chapter topics include: The Early Centuries, Evangelizing the Roman Empire; The Moravian Advance, Dawn of Protestant Missions; American Indian Missions; Single Women Missionaries; “Faith” Missionaries, Depending on God Alone; Medical Missions; Translation and Linguistics; Missionary Aviation; Twentieth-Century Martyrs; Third World Missions; Islamic Missions (a new addition to the 2004 edition of the book). Other chapters trace the development of Christian missions in South Central Asia, Africa, the Far East and the Pacific Islands.

The brilliance and appeal of this volume is that as we read the interesting mini-biographies of these influential missionaries, we gain a great overview of the sweep of missionary effort throughout Church History. Even if you choose not to read the entire book, you can read of the people and topics that are of particular interest to you.

Ruth Tucker

Ruth Tucker

Ruth Tucker is well-qualified to write such a volume. She was raised in a missions-minded Christian and Missionary Alliance church where “a deep concern for foreign missions” began developing in her heart from earliest childhood. She received the Ph.D. in history from Northern Illinois University. She has taught missions studies and church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Calvin Theological Seminary.

From my perspective, one unfortunate feature of this otherwise outstanding book is its rather pronounced critical tone concerning two particular ministry issues in past centuries: (1) women having fewer ministry opportunities than men; (2) some missionaries prioritizing their ministries above their families. While some correction concerning those matters may seem called for from our twenty-first century vantage point, we need to bear in mind that missionaries and other Christians of the past operated out of generational norms that seemed appropriate and even “biblical” in their day. While they didn’t always strike a perfect balance on those and other issues, neither do contemporary Christians. In some instances their seemingly-imbalanced examples may actually have something profitable to teach us on such issues.

On the whole, however, I highly recommend From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya to you. Your understanding of missions history and your heart for promoting Christ’s worldwide Kingdom work will be strengthened by reading this book

Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie