Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth
Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth

One of the greatest necessities and challenges for Christians is to genuinely love those whom we serve. Such Christlike love makes our service much more effective, and enables us to faithfully serve even when ministering to difficult people or under trying circumstances. Rosalind Goforth, who served with her husband Jonathan as a missionary in China for forty-seven years, learned that love lesson from a fellow missionary and sought to live it out through her many years of faithful service.

About nine months after arriving in China in 1888, the Goforths moved to an inland mission station in Shantung Province. One of the missionaries serving there was a Mrs. S., who was widely known for her success in ministering to Chinese women. One day Rosalind went to visit her shortly after she returned from teaching in the neighboring villages. “Mrs. S., I wish you would tell me some of your experiences that might help me in reaching the women.” 

“I think something I went through today might help you,” the veteran missionary responded. She then related the following incident:

“This morning I went to a distant village where the Christian women of that section were to meet in a certain house for study. But it began to rain, and no outside women came. So I started to read with the Christian woman at the home. We were sitting close together on the kang [a brick platform bed]. I had my arm around her as we read. Suddenly she began to cry, saying, ‘O Mrs. S., don’t let us read any more! My heart is so full I must talk to you.’

Rosalind Goforth with her children
Rosalind Goforth with her children

“So I drew her closer while she told me her troubles. The woman went on to say: ‘My sister died some months ago, and since then I have had to care for her children as well as my own. Besides all the regular work of meals, sewing and so on, I have to weave cloth late into the night. And for weeks I have had no time for lice hunting. I and the whole family are just crawling with them. Even the bed we are sitting on is just alive!’ ”

“O Mrs. S.,” Rosalind gasped,” didn’t you jump off the kang?” She replied: “Mrs. Goforth, listen! I felt like it. But just as I was about to do so the words flashed through my mind, ‘The love of Christ constraineth us’ [2 Corinthians 5:14]. And instead I just drew the woman closer to me.”

When Rosalind heard this, tears flowed freely as she cried in her heart: “O God, give me such love for my service in China!” She would later write: “Never was the lesson forgotten, and in years to come it was often needed as like experiences were gone through.”

In 1890, after moving to the town of Chuwang in Honan Province, Rosalind needed to put that lesson into practice in what proved to be one of the greatest tests in all her missionary experiences of properly loving people. The people of Chuwang were initially quite hostile toward the Goforths as foreigners.

Rosalind had given strict instructions to the amah (nanny) of their infant son Paul never to carry the child outside the gateway of their home’s “fairly large courtyard with trees.” But one day as Jonathan and Rosalind were leaving to have lunch with a neighbor missionary, she turned to wave goodbye to the baby in his high chair. His face had a strange expression on it, and he was wriggling back and forth violently. Rosalind ran to her son, fearing something was hurting him. When she lifted his shirt, she discovered his entire back was covered with eighty big lice! (They counted them later.) She immediately stripped the child and put him in a bath.

Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth’s Gravestone

Some hours later, Rosalind conducted “a council of war” to determine the cause of what had happened. It was learned that, against her orders, the amah had taken the child into a Chinese home nearby. A Chinese teacher then spoke up to reveal further: “We must tell you the truth. It is not an uncommon thing for a woman who is jealous of another’s child to gather all the vermin possible and put it on the little one!”

Rosalind afterward related both her initial reaction and her eventual victorious response to this situation: “Oh, the horror of it! For days I went about simply loathing the thought of getting in close contact with the women again. But as with Mrs. S., divine love conquered, and from that time I felt a love for the women such as I had never realized before. A miracle? Yes, truly, the miracle of divine grace!”

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Rosalind Goforth wrote several inspiring books, including her autobiography Climbing, Memories of a Missionary’s Wife. I believe that volume is no longer in print, but can easily be found online through various used book sources. It is well worth the effort to track down and read the work, in which Rosalind honestly and humbly relates her own beneficial (and oftentimes remarkable) experiences of growing in her relationship with and service of the Lord. Reading that book may very well lead you to read several of her other works, as I have. 

Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie

Andrew Murray at age 28.
Andrew Murray at age 28.

Here’s the first of a two-part feature on a major speed bump Andrew Murray hit on his road to matrimony. His example serves as a helpful reminder that committed Christians need to exercise sensitivity and wisdom rather than being presumptuous in working through the complexities of romance and courtship.

Murray was a capable, consecrated and confident Christian minister who enjoyed marked success in his endeavors of life. A family member wrote of him in his early years of ministry: “[Andrew] is so bold, he carries the day. ‘Never fear’ is his motto. He never anticipates difficulties or refusals. With Andrew an idea suggests itself, approves itself to his judgment and then he never rests till it is carried out.” This appears to have been Murray’s general outlook on and approach to life. While such a confident outlook and bold approach often brought him success, they likely contributed to his failure in his first proposal of marriage.

In 1854, at age twenty-six, Murray was honored to be one of two delegates sent to England to represent to the British Government the interests of the British and Dutch settlers he ministered to in the Orange River Sovereignty. The ORS was the large region between the Orange and Vaal Rivers in South Africa.

Cape Town, South Africa, about 1850.

Shortly after returning to South Africa from England in May, 1855, Murray was introduced to Howson Edwards Rutherfoord, a respected and influential Christian merchant, philanthropist and politician in Cape Town. Rutherfoord, his wife and children belonged to the Church of England. Though they were devoted to their own denomination, the Rutherfoords’ Christian sympathies were broad, and they were well-known for their generous hospitality to missionaries of every society and denomination.

Howson Rutherfoord memorial fountain

Upon meeting Murray, Rutherfoord promptly invited the young clergyman to join his family for dinner at their home on Herschel Estate near Claremont, one of the southern suburbs of Cape Town. After that, Murray was a regular and welcome guest at the Rutherfoords’ home and table. As the hospitable Mr. and Mrs. Rutherfoord were inclined to do with some of their guests, before long they invited Murray to stay in their home for a time.

Murray, who had just turned twenty-seven years of age, soon began to be attracted to the Rutherfoords’ twenty-year-old daughter, Emma. Emma’s older sister, Mary, was married and lived with her husband in India, while Emma’s older brother, Frederic, was pursuing his education in England. Emma also had two younger sisters, Ellen and Lucy, both of whom were still living at home.

Howson Rutherfoord memorial fountain inscription

Since the time of Mary’s marriage three years earlier, Emma had inherited the title of ‘Miss Rutherfoord’ and carefully fulfilled her duties as the eldest daughter at home by paying calls with her mother, helping to receive visitors and keeping the weekly household accounts. Emma taught children’s classes at the High Church School in Claremont, regularly visited the sick and poor, and carried out a tract distribution ministry.

Emma and her sisters were taught at home by their mother and visiting governesses and masters. Besides studying such basics as reading, writing, grammar, literature, arithmetic, history and geography, the Rutherfoord girls also received lessons in French, Italian, German and Dutch. Emma and her sisters were also trained in skills that were considered essential for accomplished young women in the Victorian era – music (both singing and playing the piano), fancy needle work as well as drawing and painting. Emma was an avid reader and had an appreciation for a wide variety of books.

As Murray observed and learned more about Emma he was impressed with her and his heart was drawn to her. Though he had known her less than a month, he concluded he desired to marry her. He further decided to propose to her straightaway, apparently presuming she would be receptive to that. As it turned out, he was completely mistaken.

Besides the fact that his proposal was totally unexpected, it was also poorly timed. Emma and Ellen were right in the middle of helping with a children’s birthday party for the five-year-old son of some neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Boyle. Mr. Boyle was Aide-de-camp to Cape Colony’s new Governor, Sir George Grey. In addition to a sizeable group of children, the party was to be attended by Sir George and Lady Grey themselves. Young Mordaunt Boyle’s birthday was on Thursday, June 21. After spending that entire morning at the Boyles’ house finishing the decorating, Emma and Ellen returned to their own home. They planned to be back for the party the latter half of the afternoon.

Murray had left the Rutherfoords’ home that morning but returned ‘most unexpectedly’ early that afternoon. Finding Emma alone, he presented her with a rather businesslike proposal of marriage. She was so completely stunned by it that she was unable to make any reply. Instead, she fled to her bedroom and locked herself in. When Ellen, who had gone out riding, returned home, she found her sister, very uncharacteristically, in an overwrought state. As a result of these unfortunate developments, both sisters were too upset to return to the Boyles’ for the birthday party. While there is no record of Andrew Murray’s response to all this, likely he retreated from the Rutherfoords’ home feeling confused, distressed and embarrassed at what he had unintentionally precipitated.

The next morning Emma composed a written refusal to Murray’s proposal: “Dear Sir, It was with feelings of perfect astonishment and wonder that I received your communications yesterday, which on further consideration quickly changed into those of deep pain and regret. A proposal of marriage after so short an acquaintance shocked me much. It seemed to me that there could be no mutual sympathy, and no clear knowledge of character, necessary for so close, so holy a relationship. With these sentiments I feel obliged to decline any further acquaintance. But wishing you a safe journey and much prosperity in your future labors, Believe me, yours truly, Emma Rutherfoord.”

In a letter written that same day to her sister Mary, Emma further revealed: “I cannot tell you what pain and suffering this has cost me. And more so I cannot help feeling that if left to himself he would not have proceeded with such haste, but that he has been spurred on by the Rev. Mr. Long and his Uncle Rev. Mr. Stegmann, as up to that unfortunate day his conduct had been such as to put me perfectly at ease. Our interaction hitherto had been so pleasant and I had entertained such a respect for his character, felt that his mind was no ordinary one, that his want [lack] of appreciation and consideration has wounded me most painfully.

“To my real character I feel he is as perfect a stranger as I am to his. And if I loved him with all my heart, it would be a bitter trial and a great sacrifice to leave such a home as mine, and enter into a field of much hardship and self-denial. Of all this he seems to have made no note. While I feel it must be a love passing anything I have yet known, to keep me from fainting under the trials and sorrows of wedded life – a love that I feel in my inmost soul that I am capable of and therefore will never marry anyone till I feel it awakened. No respect, no ideas of usefulness (for they would be false where my heart was not) shall ever induce me to leave my home.”

Three days later, on Monday, June 25, Emma concluded her letter to Mary: “Mr. Murray called on Papa today to know if my answer was decisive and negative. I feel so fashed [vexed], so wearied about it. It pains me that one of no ordinary mental capacity and vigor of piety should be so totally devoid of proper feelings on this one point. And then I get vexed with myself for feeling so pained … Sad that one whose mental superiority and whose work is all I could desire, should so want heart cultivation.”

(To be continued …)

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I have written a comprehensive biography on Murray entitled Andrew Murray, Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa. Much spiritual encouragement and instruction can be gained through the consideration of his outstanding life of service for Christ Jesus.

Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie

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’s entire career of five decades of missionary service in China was characterized by remarkable faith. In order to prepare Hudson for such faith-stretching service, God allowed him to face a number of faith-growing experiences during his years of preparation before going to the foreign mission field. To follow is one of those incidents.

As part of his training for serving as a medical missionary in China, Hudson lived for a time in Hull, England, where he attended lectures at the medical school and assisted one of the leading surgeons in the city, Dr. Robert Hardey. Once when the doctor was several days late in giving his assistant his quarterly paycheck, Hudson found himself in possession of only a single coin, a half-crown piece.

That Sunday he attended church in the morning and, as had become his custom, spent the afternoon and evening holding evangelistic services in the poorer sections of Hull. Just after he concluded the final service about ten o’clock that night, a man who was obviously very poor approached him and asked if he would come and pray for his dying wife. Taylor readily agreed, and the two set out for the man’s home.

Along the way, noting the man spoke with an Irish accent and supposing him to be a Roman Catholic, Taylor asked, “Why did you not send for the priest?”

“I did, but he refused to come without a payment. My family has no money even for food, so I couldn’t pay him.”

Taylor immediately thought of the single silver coin in his pocket. He also contemplated the fact that he had almost no food of his own back at his lodging. He had enough porridge left for supper that night and breakfast in the morning but nothing for dinner later on Monday.

Suddenly he started feeling anxious, then irritated with the man who had come to him for help. He actually started reproving the poor man: “It is very wrong for you to have allowed matters to get to this state. You should have sought assistance from the appropriate public official.”

“I did,” the man related meekly. “But I was told to come back at eleven tomorrow morning, and I fear my wife might not live through the night.”

They entered a particularly rough section of Hull where saloons and cheap lodging houses abounded. At one tenement they ascended a dilapidated flight of stairs and entered a wretched dwelling. There a scene of abject poverty and woeful misery confronted Taylor. Four or five children stood around the room, their cheeks and temples sunken from malnutrition. On a pallet in one corner lay the exhausted mother. Her tiny baby, only thirty-six hours old, moaned rather than cried at her side.

Taylor’s heart went out to the desperate family. He felt an inner impulse to help relieve their distress by giving them his lone coin but he resisted the prompting. Instead he tried to share words of comfort: “You must not be cast down because, though your circumstances are very distressing, there is a kind and loving Father in heaven who cares about your needs.”

“You hypocrite!” his conscience smote him, “telling these unconverted people about a kind and loving heavenly Father, and not prepared yourself to trust Him without half a crown.”

“If only I had two shillings and a sixpence instead of half a crown,” Taylor thought to himself, “how gladly would I give them the two shillings and keep the sixpence for myself.”

Feeling nearly choked and finding further attempts at verbal consolation impossible, he decided to pray instead. “You asked me to come and pray with your wife,” he said to the husband. “Let us pray.” Kneeling down, he began to recite the Lord’s prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven …” Such an inner conflict raged in Hudson’s heart he could barely get through the prayer. After he finished it he arose from his knees in great distress of mind.

As Hudson stood back up the poor husband and father implored him, “You see what a terrible state we are in, sir. If you can help us, for God’s sake, do!”

Christ’s instruction flashed into Hudson’s mind, “Give to him that asketh thee” (Matthew 5:42). Surrendering to the prompting of God’s Spirit, he put his hand into his pocket and slowly withdrew the single silver coin. Handing it to the poor man, he stated: “It might seem a small matter for me to relieve you, seeing that I am comparatively well off. But in parting with this coin I am giving you my all. Yet what I have been trying to tell you is indeed true—God really is a Father who can be trusted.”

Instantly joy flooded his heart. He could again freely express himself, and inwardly he felt the wonderful truths that he was verbalizing outwardly. Late that night, as he made his way through the deserted streets back to his lodging, his heart was so full that he spontaneously burst out in a hymn of praise to God.

After eating his next-to-last bowl of porridge as a late-night supper, Hudson knelt at his bedside and reminded God of the teaching of Proverbs 19:17: “Dear Father, Your Word promises that he who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord. Would you not allow my loan to be a long one? Otherwise I will have no dinner tomorrow.” Then, being completely at peace, he had a restful night of sleep.

The next morning, while eating his final bowl of porridge, he heard the postman’s knock at the door. A moment later his landlady came in with a small packet for him. Examining the little parcel as he took it, he did not recognize the handwriting. The postmark was blurred so he could not determine where the package had come from.

When he opened the envelope he found a pair of kid gloves folded inside a sheet of blank paper. As he removed these, a gold coin—half a sovereign, worth four times the amount he had given to the poor family the previous evening—fell to the floor.

“Praise the Lord!” he exclaimed as he picked it up. “Four hundred percent for twelve hours’ investment; that is good interest. How glad the merchants of Hull would be if they could lend their money at such a rate!”

God still grows the faith of Christians today by leading us through faith-stretching experiences. If you’ve had such an experience, Hudson Taylor by Vance ChristieI’d enjoy hearing about it if you’d care to share it.

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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


Stained Glass Church Window of Mary Slessor in Calabar

Stained Glass Church Window of Mary Slessor in Calabar

Mary Slessor (1848-1915), a Scottish Presbyterian, served as a missionary to Calabar (southern Nigeria), West Africa, for thirty-eight years. At that time Calabar was considered one of the deadliest and most degraded countries in all of Africa. While the European slave trade had been largely abolished in Calabar decades earlier, the country’s population continued to be ravaged by intertribal warfare, disease and superstitious pagan practices. Mary compassionately, courageously pioneered in areas of Calabar that other missionaries and even traders avoided.

For the first several years of her missionary career, Mary ministered in two mission settlements, Duke Town and Old Town, on the Calabar River, about forty miles from the coast. She was soon placed in charge of the mission work at Old Town and its three small outstations. In those locations she held regular school sessions for both children and adults during the week, then led worship services and a Sunday School on the Lord’s Day.

One of the horrifying, superstitious practices that Mary and the other missionaries strove to overcome was the custom of killing twin babies. Calabarians believed that the father of one of the twin infants was an evil spirit and that at least one of the twins was a monster. Twin babies were seized, their backs were broken and they were thrown out into the bush to be eaten by wild animals or insects. The infants of slave mothers who died were also left in the wild to perish. The missionaries rescued both those types of endangered infants whenever they could and took them to the missionary compounds where they were cared for and protected.

Mary Slessor and adopted children

Mary Slessor and adopted children

Mary spoke out against the evils of those forms of infanticide and took several such rescued children under her care. At any given time throughout her missionary career she usually had a number of rescued and orphaned children she was foster parenting. At first the people of Calabar viewed this with suspicion, thinking Mary was in league with a devil and expecting to see her suffer ill effects as a result. But in time their superstitious suppositions faded, and she became known everywhere as “the white Ma who loves babies.” (In Calabar and neighboring regions “Ma” was a term of respect for a mother.)

After twelve years of service in Calabar, Mary was granted the longtime desire of her heart when she was given permission to carry out pioneering missionary work in the previously unreached Okoyong region, a densely forested wedge of land between the Cross and Calabar rivers north of Old Town. The Okoyongese practiced witchcraft and animal sacrifice. They plundered property and slaves from neighboring tribes. They commonly used two superstitious trials-by-ordeal to determine a person’s guilt or innocence if suspected of a crime: boiling palm oil was poured over the hands of a suspect or he was required to drink water mixed with ground powder from the poisonous esere bean. As a result, many innocent people were left badly burned or dead. The illness of a freeman was invariably considered the result of someone having practiced sorcery against him. The local witchdoctor was called to supposedly identify the guilty individuals, who were then executed by decapitation. When a chief died, many individuals were put to death to accompany him into the spirit world. Liquor, guns and chains were practically the only items of commerce that entered Okoyong. Gin or rum was in every home and was drunk by every adult and child, beginning from infancy.

Statue of Mary Slessor Holding Twins in Calabar

Statue of Mary Slessor Holding Twins in Calabar

Mary ministered among these desperately needy Okoyongese for many years. Initially she taught school and held Sunday worship services at two substantial neighboring villages, Ekenge and Ifako. She also helped undermine the prevailing and devastating liquor traffic in Okoyong by introducing more beneficial forms of legitimate trade. Okoyongese began giving their time, attention and effort to producing palm kernels and oil to trade with Calabarians in exchange for cloth, pots, dishes and other useful items. In addition to material benefits for the Okoyongese, this trade also resulted in a considerable reduction in the amount of time they spent in useless drinking and fighting.

Eventually the day came when, at Mary’s insistence and for the first time in the known history of Okoyong, the death and funeral of a chief took place without the traditional sacrifice of other individuals to accompany him into the afterlife. Chiefs and other free people, one by one and unknown to each other, secretly came to Mary to thank her for her love and courage as well as for all the peaceful, life-giving policies she was promoting. They encouraged her to keep a brave heart and to continue doing away with the old customs that invariably produced death.

Mary Slessor

Mary Slessor

Mary did continue to manifest marked courage in her dealings with the Okoyongese. On numerous occasions she was seen taking large, drunken mean by the neck, pulling them away from their alcohol and throwing them to the ground! She once stopped and confiscated a canoe-load of machetes that were being taken upriver for use in war. Several times she played a key role in preventing tribes from going to war with each other. On one such occasion she intervened between two tribes that were on the brink of attacking each other. Though her heart was beating wildly, she stood between them and made them pile their rifles on opposite sides of her. With mounds of weapons heaped up over five feet high on both sides, she then negotiated a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

Four years after beginning her ministry in Okoyong, the British Government asked Mary to carry out a new judicial responsibility in that region. For many years British authorities had exercised only minimal influence over the coastal regions of Calabar, while tribes like the Okoyongese further up the Cross River wholly ignored and opposed British directives. Recognizing Mary’s unique position and influence in Okoyong, British authorities asked her to organize and supervise an indigenous court and empowered her to do all that was necessary to promote the reception of new laws in the region.

Mary presided over the court at various locations throughout Okoyong. Large groups of tribal leaders came to consult her about adjusting their customs to the new laws. Through these activities justice was promoted for the local people and the rule of law was promoted in the region. Though Mary did not relish that type of service, she sought to carry it out faithfully, believing it to be part of the ministry the Lord had for her to do. Those efforts helped to greatly reduce such practices as killing infant twins, the poison bean ordeal and executing individuals at the deaths of chiefs. Mary gained a reputation as a tough but just judge, and Okoyongese

Women of Faith and Courage by Vance Christie

Women of Faith and Courage by Vance Christie

came from great distances to have their trials held before her.

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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

Dr. Carl K. BeckerAfrica has been blessed with a long line of outstanding Christian medical missionaries. Such remarkable individuals as David Livingstone, Albert Schweitzer and Helen Roseveare come readily to mind.  “But if one medical missionary to Africa were to be singled out,” states missiologist Ruth Tucker, “for his length of service combined with his extraordinary dedication to saving the lives and improving the health standards of the African people, it would surely be Carl Becker, the great munganga [doctor] of the Congo.”

Carl Becker (1894-1990) was born and raised in Manheim, Pennsylvania. After receiving his medical training at Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, he successfully practiced medicine in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, for seven years. In 1929 Becker and his wife, Marie, left Boyertown to go to the Belgian Congo (modern Democratic Republic of the Congo) under the Africa Inland Mission. In doing so, Becker exchanged an annual income of $10,000-plus for a missionary’s salary of $720 per year.

Five years later Becker moved with his wife and two children to the tiny mission station of Oicha in the dense Ituri forest to work among the Pygmies and other jungle tribes. In that unlikely spot, among towering mahogany trees, Becker and his associates built a highly effective medical compound. With no long-range plan and no budget for expansion, rooms and buildings were added as they became necessary, and were often paid for out of Becker’s personal salary of just sixty dollars a month.

A Leper's Hands

A Leper’s Hands

Becker’s weekends were devoted to itinerant evangelistic ministry in the surrounding villages. Mass evangelism was carried out to the hundreds of Africans who came to Oicha each day for medical treatment. Young Christian patients being treated at the hospital were also helped to grow in their faith.

Medical ministry brought about the fruitful evangelization of two area people groups which had long been intensely discriminated against, Pygmies and lepers. As a result of the care and love they received from Becker and his Christian staff, thousands of them were drawn to faith in Christ.

With Becker being the only resident medical doctor at Oicha, an astounding total of more than 3,000 operations were performed each year and some 500 babies were delivered annually. While treating all variety of injuries and diseases, Becker did extensive research and specialized in the treatment of leprosy. By the early 1950s he was treating some 4,000 resident patients at his 1,100-acre leprosy village. The results were so impressive that medical missionaries and leprologists from all over the world visited Oicha to learn from Becker.

From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, 1983 editionHe also treated patients with mental illness, including some individuals who were so severely disturbed that their relatives thought they were demon possessed. Becker established a mental ward and a psychiatric clinic at Oicha. However, according to Becker’s biographer, William Petersen, the doctor “remained convinced that simple Christianity was the soundest general therapy for the mentally upset, that the Gospel of love and hope alone can banish superstition and fear.”

Becker narrowly escaped from the Congo in 1964 when it became known that Simba rebels, rapidly closing in on Oicha, were intent on capturing and executing him. Some might have thought that the good doctor, then seventy years of age, would consider retiring at that point. But a year later he was back in Oicha, rebuilding the ministry that Simba guerrillas had destroyed the previous year. And his active missionary service in Africa stretched out for another dozen years beyond that.

Art Buchwald, the prominent American newspaper columnist, once penned this remarkable tribute: “In all of Congo, the man who made the greatest impression on us was an American missionary doctor named Carl K. Becker. … We couldn’t help thinking as we left Oicha that America had its own Dr. Schweitzer in Congo.”

Another Hand on MineBut Ruth Tucker seems correct in suggesting that the greatest tribute ever paid to Becker may have been this one made by one of his African medical trainees: “Many missionaries had preached Jesus Christ to me, and many missionaries had taught Jesus Christ to me, but in the munganga I have seen Jesus Christ.”

Much profit may be gained by reading William Petersen’s excellent biography, Another Hand on Mine, The Story of Dr. Carl K. Becker of Africa Inland Mission. Ruth Tucker’s outstanding work, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, A Biographical History of Christian Missions, contains a helpful summary of Becker’s life (pages 339-342).

Copyright 2016 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