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.”
As 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?”
“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