1479) The Father of the Modern Missionary Movement

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The Roman Catholic Church had always been sending missionaries to the ends of the earth, ever since Jesus himself sent the first disciples out to all the nations.  But the Protestant churches, newly formed in the 16th and 17th centuries after disagreements with the Catholic church, did not right away take up this missionary task.  William Carey was one of the first to challenge the Protestant churches to obey this command of Jesus, and his story is truly one of the greatest in the history of missions.  It is told here briefly in this piece adapted from a chapter in 100 Bible Verses that Changed the World, by William and Randy Peterson, 2001.

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     William Carey seemed to be an average youngster in Paulersbury, England.  He became apprenticed to a shoemaker as a teenager and married before he was twenty.  Though he had only a basic education, he soon became a lay preacher in a small nonconformist church eight miles from his home.

     He didn’t appear to be talented.  He couldn’t manage his shoemaking business, and he didn’t seem gifted as a preacher.  When the local schoolteacher quit, Carey volunteered.  But he didn’t do well at teaching either.  “He would frequently smile at his incompetency,” his sister wrote later.

     Then Carey discovered his true talent.  He could learn languages easily.  In a short time he could master Greek, Hebrew, Latin, or whatever language he decided to learn.  Unfortunately, there were no jobs in his little village for foreign language experts.

     Carey was also fascinated by faraway places, and he loved maps.  Hanging in his room was a large map to which he attached sheets of paper containing information about each country.  He looked up at that map often when he was fixing shoes or writing a sermon.  He dreamed of going to distant lands, not to see the sights, but to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus.

     William Carey couldn’t understand why Christians weren’t trying to preach the gospel in all those countries that he saw on his map.  Carey would always bring this up at meetings, and was always told to be quiet.  One Baptist leader tried to put him in his place by saying, “Young man, sit down.  When God pleases to save the heathen, he can do it without your aid or mine.”  Carey spoke up at a meeting of Baptist ministers, but the chairman rebuffed him.  “You are a miserable enthusiast,” he was told; “Nothing can be done before another Pentecost.”

     Once he was ordained, Carey decided to keep pressing his concern.  In 1792 he wrote a paper entitled “An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen.”  Three weeks later he preached a breakthrough sermon to his fellow ministers on Isaiah 54:2 (“Enlarge the place of thy tent”), urging them to catch a wider vision, to develop bolder programs, to dwell in the bigger world.  Then he said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

     The ministers took no action on Carey’s appeal.  Toward the end of the business meeting, Carey grabbed the arm of the pastor next to him and said in too loud a voice, “Is nothing again going to be done?”  That got action.  Before the meeting was adjourned, a motion was passed “forming a Baptist Society for propagating the Gospel among the Heathens.”

     Soon Carey himself was set apart for missionary work in India.  A fellow pastor said, “There is a gold mine in India, but it seems almost as deep as the center of the earth.”  Carey responded, “I will venture down, but remember that you must hold the ropes.”  The church would pay his way to India, but no more support was provided.  He had to support his family by farming, along with the work of being an untrained missionary.  He was a  missionary pioneer in uncharted territory, figuring it out as he went.

     Carey arrived in India in 1793 and served there until his death in 1834.  He supported his family by raising indigo, and went to work learning the languages of the area.  It was not just one language he had to learn, but India is a land of many languages and dialects, and Carey learned dozens.  Because he mastered languages easily, he made possible the translation of the entire Bible into six languages, parts of the Bible into twenty-nine more, and the development of seven grammars and three dictionaries.  Under his direction the Serampore Press “rendered the Bible accessible to more than three hundred million people.”  It was an amazing achievement.  Carey also stimulated the formation of many mission societies and boards in subsequent decades, so it is little wonder that he is known as the father of modern missions.

     But Carey did more.  He served as professor of Oriental languages at Fort William College in Calcutta.  He became one of the outstanding amateur horticulturists of his time, bringing many improvements to the agriculture of India, and was given an honorary doctorate by the Horticultural Society of London.  Carey was also active in Indian politics where he fought for human rights.  In 1829, after protesting the practice for years, he helped end the burning alive of widows after their husbands died, and the drowning of unwanted children in India.

     William Carey, the seemingly untalented cobbler of Paulersbury, England, helped fulfill the prophecy that inspired him; enlarging the place of God’s tent, and making it big enough for India to climb inside.

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Isaiah 54:2  —  Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.

Matthew 28:18-20  —  (The Great Commission)  Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Acts 1:8  —  (Jesus said), “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

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 Merciful Father, your kindness caused the light of the Gospel to shine among us.  Extend your mercy now, we pray, to all the people of the world who do not have hope in Jesus Christ, that your salvation may be made known to them also and that all hearts would turn to you; through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978, page 45

1398) Missionary Influences: Four Brief Stories

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     During our first year as missionaries to a newly opened primitive area of the highlands of New Guinea, we soon became aware of much tension and rivalry among the various tribes, which often resulted in open hostility and warfare.  They were then usually rounded up by the local police and herded to the nearest stockade, where they were forced to live and work together for many months.  After the incarceration, they would return to their respective villages, only to repeat the cycle of animosity, hatred, and fear of one another.

     After we had been there a while, several people in these various tribes began to listen to the “Miti” (Gospel).  Eventually, some requested further instruction in the catechism and worship in preparation for baptism.  This first baptism would be a totally new experience for them.  Therefore, as part of the preparation, they decided to leave their villages and build a single village, for all the believers from the various tribes, near the future site of the baptism.  When asked about this daring move, an elderly man of wisdom rose to his feet and said:  “We have been living as enemies for generations.  We were consumed with suspicions, hatred, and killing that kept us apart.  We knew only about revenge.  Now the Miti has come and taught us about Jesus and his love; about reconciliation through forgiveness; and about how we are all brothers and sisters in Christ through baptism.  So we have come to prove to ourselves that we can truly live together in peace and love as brothers and sisters.  If not, then we are not ready yet to call ourselves Christians.”

     After living together in peace and harmony for more than a year, all 168 of them decided to be baptized.  The day before the baptism, all items of black-magic, sorcery, and warfare were publicly burned.  The old elder then mounted the platform and said: “The police, guns, and stockade could force us to act like brothers for a while, but it is the Gospel that changed our hatred into love and our revenge into forgiveness.  Now we have become reconciled and we can live as one single tribe or family.”

— Lutheran missionary Herman F. Mansur

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     During a preaching mission in India I heard a story about a Christian missionary, (serving in the name of Jesus), who had managed to dig a good well of water that served a small rural community.  Years after the missionary was gone, non-Christian asked one of the villagers why he kept an old page from a newspaper hanging on the wall of his house.  The villager explained that once when he had purchased some fish at the market, the merchant had wrapped them in the old newspaper.  When the villager opened the paper, he saw  picture of Jesus on one of the pages.  “I framed that page and put it on my wall,” he explained, “because that man,” pointing at Jesus, “gave me clean water to drink.”

–Walter Hinson in The Power of Holy Habits

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     Rev. T. Dalington, who has worked under the auspices of the China Inland Mission for more than twenty years, tells very remarkable stories of changed lives.  One day brigands attacked the town in which he was working and where he had built up a Christian congregation.  To show that they would stand no nonsense they killed a number of children who were playing in the street.  Then they told everyone to stay in their houses.  That night the missionary went into the church, opened wide the doors, and invited the brigands to enter.  They did so with threats and cursing.  Beckoning for silence, the missionary read to them in their own dialect the story of the Passion and Death of our Lord.  They had never heard it before. They listened in silence.  He invited them to come the following, night and promised to read the same passage.  The following night the same thing happened, and it went on through the week. Feeling that the Holy Spirit had been moving in their hearts, the missionary asked those who wished to accept this Christ as their Savior to come forward and kneel down.  Thirteen of those men who had killed people, cut out their hearts, and eaten them, came forward with tears in their eyes and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.

–W. Eddleston

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     In World War II an American airman was shot down over the Pacific, but was fortunate enough to make it to the safety of an island.  The native islanders, who were former cannibals, found him, took him to their village and nursed him back to health.  As he lived with them, the American learned that in that village there was no murder, no drunkenness, no divorce, no fighting, and no poverty.  He asked the chief to tell him the secret of such happiness and peace.  The chief looked at him reproachfully, wondering why the man even needed to ask the question.  The chief said, “Your own grandfathers taught us Christianity,” he said simply, and then added, “We have taken Christ seriously.”

–Leslie Weatherhead, Time for God.

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Romans 1:16a  — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…

Acts 13:47  —  For this is what the Lord has commanded us:  “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Psalm 46:8-9  —  Come and see what the Lord has done...  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.  He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

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O God, we cannot pray to You to banish war, for you have filled the world with paths to peace, if only all people would take them.  We cannot pray to You to end starvation, for there is food enough for all, if only all would share it.  Amen.

–From Gates of Repentance, by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1978.

1365) Harmless Superstitions?

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From The Continuing Story of Manuel, by Hugh Steven, 1987, Credo Publishing Corporation, (pages 40-44).

Manuel Arenas (1932-1992) was born into the Totonac tribe of Indians in eastern Mexico.  He worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators translating the Bible into his language.  He spent his life working to provide educational opportunities for the Totonacs and other tribal peoples in Mexico.   He traveled throughout the world speaking in colleges, universities, Bible schools and churches about the work of Wycliffe.  This story took place after a speech in Switzerland.

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     In attendance on the evening Manuel spoke to the youth club was a young man who had come to the rally at his fiancé’s invitation.  When the meeting ended, he and his fiancé introduced themselves: The young woman expressed her happiness that the Totonacs had the New Testament in their own language.  “How wonderful there are so many believers in Jesus Christ,” she said.

     But when her fiancé spoke to Manuel, he expressed no such appreciation.  Instead, he asked, “In your talk you said you were glad this Bible translator had come to your village, and that if he hadn’t come, you probably would never have heard about Jesus Christ.”

     “Yes, that’s true,” said Manuel. “The man’s name is Mr. Aschmann and—”

     “That’s very nice,” interrupted the young man, “but what I would like to know is why you gave up your religion in favor of this Western religion.  Why is it so important for the Totonac people to know about Jesus Christ and Christianity?  It’s my opinion that if Western man wants to believe this sort of thing, it’s okay.  But the Totonac people have their own religion. It’s just as good as Christianity; maybe even better.  Why do you want your Totonac friends to believe like you?  I’m sorry, but I just can’t believe Christianity is better than your Totonac religion.”

     “Tell me,” said Manuel, “do you know what Totonacs believe?  Have you lived in a Totonac house to see how our household gods are worshiped?”

     “Well, no, not exactly. But I have read some books—”

     “And I have also read books,” said Manuel. “Books that describe what our people look like and what they wear, how we build our houses, and how weddings and funerals are conducted.  These books also tell others what we believe.  But what these books can never tell is how we feel down deep inside.  We may look happy on the outside and we may laugh, but inside we are a people who have deep churnings, and nervousness, and mistrust of others.  And we have a great fear of the gods and spirits that live in special trees and rocks and streams.”

     “But that’s just harmless superstition,” said the young man.

     “Let me give you an example of what it is like to live with what you call ‘harmless superstition,”‘ said Manuel.  “When you are thirsty, you take a drink of water whenever you want.  But in my village, if you are thirsty at high noon, you must wait.  You must wait because the people believe the lords of the water and the nearby stream take away the spirit of the person who drinks water at high noon.  If they do happen to take a drink of water at that time, the person becomes sick.  The witch doctors are called, candles are lit, and special flowers and spices are spread around the sick person.  A chicken is sacrificed and the blood poured out on the ground.  Maybe the witch doctor will come four or five times, and after about a week, he will tell the sick person that his spirit has returned and he is better.  All this is paid for by the sick person’s family.

     “I grew up fearing the many evil spirits of the forest, the stream, the earth, and the trees.  We believed evil spirits were everywhere.  I saw how strong they were and how they bullied those who sacrificed to them.  But when the New Testament Scriptures were translated into our language and Totonacs began to believe and accept Jesus Christ into their lives, I saw those fears gradually disappear.  This is why I want all Totonacs and everyone to become true believers in Jesus Christ.  Only He can take away fear and give hope and peace, for this life and for the true life to come.”

     And so Manuel and the young man talked.  Manuel carefully and enthusiastically explained the personal benefits he had received since accepting Jesus Christ into his life.  Manuel emphasized that authentic Christianity had little to do with religion, traditions, or moralizing.  Rather, he stressed that Christianity had to do with truth, compassion and love; the love of God and his Son, Jesus Christ; a love so strong and full of integrity that it allows the true Christian to treat his neighbor as he himself would like to be treated.  

     That very night, after several hours of hearing Manuel describe what it means to be a Christian, the young man came to faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

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Revelation 5:9  —  They sang a new song, saying:  “You (the Lamb of God, Jesus) are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

Psalm 34:4  —  I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

Luke 2:10  —  And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

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 Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

1339) Jungle Christmas Carolers

By Joseph Degi, Copperas Cove, Texas, in Guideposts magazine, December 1988.

     None of us sailors in the 119th Construction Battalion were in the mood for Christmas.  No wonder!  Two hundred of us had been stuck for months right in the steamy middle of the tropical jungle, installing fuel tanks that were supposed to figure, somehow, in the last stages of this war with the Japanese.  It was so hot we pitched our tents on platforms and slept in hammocks to catch any passing breath of air.

     The lonesome, muggy, homesick days were far removed from the traditional Christmases we remembered.  We didn’t even have a chaplain on hand to help us celebrate.  In fact, the only regular visitors we saw were jungle tribesmen who haunted the fringes of our camp.  Dressed only in loincloths, the small bronze-skinned men would suddenly materialize in the undergrowth, staring at us from the shadows of the New Guinea rain forest, vanishing as noiselessly as they appeared.  Short and stocky, with flat faces and kinky hair, they were said to have been ferocious warriors before the coming of the missionaries.  Even now, the sight of them made us uneasy.

     Certainly that was our reaction on that unforgettable Christmas Eve of 1944.

     Shortly before dusk that day, they were there again, peering from the forest edge.  We were standing around the mess tent in our fatigues, not doing much, not saying much, just hanging around, sweating and brushing away the insects, trying hard not to think about what day this was.  Suddenly from all around the clearing they began to advance, scores of scowling, nearly naked tribesmen.  Never before had they ventured beyond the cover of the Jungle, and instinctively we Seabees moved closer together.  There was nothing to fear from these solemn-faced unarmed men, but we couldn’t talk to them and we didn’t know what they wanted.

     The natives began to circle us.  Then they stopped and stood still.  The forest itself became very, very quiet, as if even the jungle was on alert.  Then, incredibly, the little men began to sing.  The words were strange and harsh-sounding in their native tongue, but the tune was unmistakably… “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…”

     Blinking back the sudden moisture in my eyes, I mentally supplied the familiar English lyrics.  When the former warriors finished, they launched into more songs in their deep guttural voices.  For half an hour these men sang us the songs of home, carols they must have learned from some unknown missionary in the brush.

     That night after our guests slipped back into the rain forest, I lay in my hammock, sweating, uncomfortable as ever, but no longer quite so melancholy.  Through their music and through their caring, these strangest of strangers had made us feel the familiarity and warmth of home.

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Psalm 68:32  —  Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord.

Isaiah 66:18-19  —  I…  am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory.  I will set a sign among them, and I will send some of those who survive to the nations, …and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory.  They will proclaim my glory among the nations.

Luke 2:10-14  —  The angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.   And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

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O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie;
above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight…

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
o come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!

–Phillips Brooks  (1835-1893)

1338) Hopeless?

By Bernie May, in the Wycliffe Bible Translator’s bimonthly publication ‘In Other Words,’ March 1986, p. 8.  Bernie May was Wycliffe’s United States Division Director.

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     It is easy to get discouraged these days.

     Sometimes I’ll come home in the evening and turn on the TV to watch the news.  It’s always bad.  Nations are threatening to blow each other up.  Terrorists are killing innocent people.  Drunk drivers are crashing their cars into helpless motorists.  People are being murdered, robbed, and beaten up.  Disease is rampant.  The world is filled with bad things, and it is discouraging.

     Even in church I sometimes get discouraged.  Attendance is down.  Offerings are off.  Church leaders are going bad.  Churches split.  People don’t seem to care about the things God cares about.

     What should Christians do when things seem hopeless?  We are the ones who are supposed to bring hope into this world.  But how can we spread hope when we, too, are discouraged?

     When the people of God grew discouraged in Bible times, God would often send a prophet to remind them of His faithfulness in times past.  Some Isaiah or David would show up to remind them of the God who delivered their ancestors from Egypt, who parted the Red Sea, and who protected them from being wiped out by their enemies.  In the New Testament they talked about the resurrection of Jesus.  Prophets were messengers of hope.

     Millie Larson is that kind of prophet.  I have been reading her book Treasure in Clay Pots, and it has caused hope to spring up in my heart.

     One of my first flying assignments when I went to Peru as a jungle missionary pilot in 1956 was to bring Millie and her co-worker Jeanne Grover out to their remote mission post with the Aguaruna people.  I landed the little float plane on the Maranon River near a small Indian village and taxied up to the bank.  I helped the women crawl out and then carried their big, canvas duffel bags up the high, muddy bank to the village.  It was hot, the stinging insects were swarming, and we were covered with mud.  I made three trips up that slippery embankment, carrying their bags.  They also had a heavy radio.  After sweating and straining to get that up the bank, I had to climb two trees to string the antenna wire, so they could communicate with the home base at Yarinacocha, more than three hours flight across the jungle.

     I lingered under the thatched roof of the tiny hut with its dirt floor where these two wonderful young ladies were going to live– one a nurse, the other a translator.  I felt reluctant to fly off and leave them there.  I looked around at the Indians who seemed to glower at us.  They were known as killers.  When they talked, it was as though they were shouting at each other with deep, gutteral sounds.  The children were naked.  No one smiled.  I had not been in South America very long, and these Aguarunas pretty well fitted my childhood concept of “savages.”

     That night, back in Yarinacocha, I told my wife what I had been thinking.  “It’s a hopeless situation,” I said to her.  “Those two women believe they can make friends with those people, learn their language, form an alphabet, translate the Bible into their language, and then teach them to read.  I admire their courage and idealism, but it is hopeless.”

     Now here we are, thirty years later.  Not only did they finish the translation, but the greater miracle is what has happened to the Aguaruna people.  There are now churches in over 160 villages.  There are more than 8,000 believers.  There are 120 pastors.  More than 250 Aguarunas are now school teachers.  In fact, I recently talked to an Aguaruna man who has graduated from Peru’s National University with a degree in economics.  And this is all because two women heard God’s call, responded, and never gave up.

     Surely, that is the secret of overcoming hopelessness.  Millie and Jeanne had heard God, dedicated their lives to this task, and stuck with it.  As the story of the crossing of the Red Sea has given the Israelites hope through the ages, so the story of the Aguarunas give me hope.

     So when the news is bad, as it always is, be encouraged.  God is still at work.

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Millie Larson (1925- 2014), in 2012 at her retirement home in Bagley, Minnesota, 20 miles east of Bemidji where she graduated from high school in 1943.

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AN EARLIER BIBLE TRANSLATOR:

Englishman Robert Morrison (1782-1834) was the first Protestant missionary to China.  He had prayed “that God would station him in that part of the missionary field where the difficulties were the greatest, and to all human appearances, the most insurmountable.”  Morrison arrived in China in 1807 and spent the next twenty-seven years there until his death, returning to England only once in 1824-25.  Morrison translated the entire Bible into Chinese and wrote a dictionary and grammar of Chinese for use by Westerners.  In 27 years Morrison baptized only twelve converts, but his work paved the way for all future missionary work.  There are now over 300 million Christians in China (as many people as were in all of China during Morrison’s time).

The captain of the ship that brought Morrison to China asked him if he really expected to make an impact on the Chinese Empire.  Morrison replied, “No sir, but I expect God will.”

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Isaiah 57:9b-10  —  You sent your ambassadors far away; you descended to the very realm of the dead.  You wearied yourself by such going about, but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’  You found renewal of your strength, and so you did not faint.

Romans 5:2b-4  —  We boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Hebrews 10:23  —  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

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Almighty God, who called the Church out of the world so that the Church might bring the world to Thee: Make us faithful, we pray, in the work that you have entrusted to our hands.  Stir up the hearts of your people here and everywhere, that by our prayers, gifts, and labors, we may do our part in the spreading of your Gospel over all the earth.  Raise up for this great work faithful and able men and women, who shall count it all joy to spend and be spent for the sake of your Son, and for the souls for whom he shed his blood.  Hasten the time when all the ends of the earth shall turn to the Lord, and all people of all nations worship Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Service Book and Hymnal, Augsburg Publishing House, 1958 (adapted).

1337) The Right to Interrupt

By Bernie May, in the Wycliffe Bible Translator’s bimonthly publication ‘In Other Words,’ sometime in the the mid-1980’s.  Bernie May was the U. S. Division Director of Wycliffe and one of his duties was to speak to groups to raise funds for Wycliffe’s work in translating the Bible for people around the world who do not yet have it in their own language.

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     I get a lot of invitations to speak in churches, to civic organizations, and special interest groups.  I turn down most of them because I simply don’t have time. But the ones I do accept have caused me to re-evaluate my entire concept of persuasion.

     One of the reasons I have been reluctant to speak is I know most people are simply not interested in what I have to say.  Oh, maybe the pastor has a heart for missions.  Some of the people may have the vision.  They may even be Wycliffe supporters.  But the vast majority of the people in the churches of America do not care about missions— much less about Bible translation.

     It’s not that they are intentionally uninterested in missions.  They just have other priorities.

     You know, it’s hard to be concerned about people you’ve never met, who live in a land you’ve never visited, and have names you can’t pronounce— especially when your only car has a broken transmission and you don’t have a way to get to work.

     Most of the people sitting in the pews today are simply trying to survive.  They have problems at home.  Their kids are rebelling.  They’ve been told their job is phasing out.  They have elderly, parents who have great needs.  Even the strongest of today’s Christians are bombarded with incredible pressures.

     The same is true with pastors.  Most pastors understand the Great Commission. They want their churches to be mission minded.  They believe the Bible is the Word of God and know it should be placed in the hands of every tribe and every nation— in their own tongue.  But it’s hard to keep up a mission emphasis when U.S. Steel has just closed down its plant and 30 percent of the congregation are suddenly out of work.  Or the associate pastor has just confessed he’s been having an affair with the secretary.  Or the deacons have just had a secret meeting to discuss the recent shenanigans of the pastor’s teenage son.

     So, I’ve been asking myself:  Do I have the right to break into someone’s thoughts when his car won’t work or he’s just learned his father is dying?  Or the right to talk about something which he feels does not even apply to his situation?  Something like Bible translation?

     Yet I know if a man is going to be blessed by God, he has to start thinking as God thinks.  God’s concerns need to become his concerns. If he is ever going to tap into the resources of God, which I believe are for all men— happiness, health, prosperity, peace with self and all mankind— he has to do it God’s way and by thinking God’s thoughts.

     What are God’s concerns?  I think God is deeply concerned about this world, and about the people of this world.  He gave His only Son so the people of this world could have eternal life.  If that message is not taken to the world, then God’s will is not done.

     Whom does God want involved in taking the message?  Whom does He call?  He calls the man who has just learned his father is dying.  He calls the woman whose car has just broken down and she can’t find a ride to work.  He calls the preacher whose family is having problems.  He calls us all.

     The Bible says the way we find the answers to our problems is through concern for others.  The man who loses himself in caring for others finds himself, Jesus said.  When I give up my concerns for the sake of others, I find the answers I need for myself.

     I realize it doesn’t make sense.  In fact, it doesn’t make sense to me.  But I know it’s right because every time I put it into practice in my own life, remarkable things happen.

     For instance, Nancy and I have learned that when we begin to have financial problems, we start looking for something we can give money to.  And invariably God meets our need.

     What I’m saying is, it is right for me to invade the lives of people with great problems and challenge them with the needs of the world.  The finest way I can help people is to get them thinking God’s thoughts.  And God is always thinking about the people who don’t even have the Bible.

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THE GREAT COMMISSION:  Matthew 28:19-20a  —  (Jesus said), “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

JESUS INTERRUPTS FOUR MEN:  Matthew 4:18-22  —  As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.  Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John.  They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Isaiah 6:8  —  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”

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Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

–Jesus, Matthew 6:10

Image result for wycliffe bible translation images

Two women from Papua New Guinea show their new Bibles in their own language provided by Wycliffe translators.

1211) Jesus in Timbuktu

By Steve Saint

      For years I thought Timbuktu was a made-up name for “the ends of the earth.”  When I found out it is a real place, I developed a fascination for it.  During a fact-finding trip to West Africa for my job in 1986 this fascination became an irresistible urge.  Timbuktu wasn’t on my itinerary, but I was going anyway.

     I hitched a ride from Bamako, Mali, 500 miles away, on a small plane chartered by UNICEF.  Two doctors were in Timbuktu and might fly back on the return flight.  That meant I could be bumped, but I decided to take the chance.

     When we landed, I stood by the plane on the windswept outskirts of the famous Berber outpost.  There was not a spot of true green anywhere in the Saharan landscape.  Dust blotted out the sun.  I squinted in the 110 degree heat, trying to make out the mud-walled buildings of Timbuktu.

     The pilot approached me as I started for town.  “The doctors are on their way,” he said.  “You’ll have to find another ride back to Bamako.  Try the marketplace.  Someone there might have a truck.  But be careful.  Westerners don’t last long in the desert if the truck breaks down.”

     The open-air marketplace in the center of town was crowded.  The men and women wore flowing robes and turbans as protection against the sun.  The men were well armed with swords and knives.  I felt their suspicious eyes.

     I went from person to person trying to find someone who spoke English.  I finally came across a local policeman who understood my broken French.

     “ I need a truck,” I said.  “I need to go to Bamako.”  His eyes widened. “No truck.”  He shrugged.  Then he added, “No road, only sand.”

     My presence was causing a sensation in the marketplace.  I was surrounded by at least a dozen small children jumping and dancing, begging for coins and souvenirs.  The situation was extreme.  What was I to do?

     I wanted to talk to my father.  He had known what it was like to be a foreigner in a strange land.  But my father, Nate Saint, was dead.  He was one of five missionary men killed by the Auca Indians in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956.  I was only four then, and my memories of him were like movie clips; a lanky, intense man with a serious goal and a quick wit.  He flew missionaries and medical personnel in his Piper airplane.  Even after his death my father was a presence in my life.

     I’d wanted to talk with him before, especially since becoming a father myself.  But in recent weeks this need had become urgent.  For one thing, I was new to relief work.  For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who were hostile to the Christian faith.  It was a parallel to the situation Dad had faced in Ecuador.  Just like my dad, I said, “My God is real; He lives inside me.”  Yet the question lingered in my mind:  Did my father have to die?  I couldn’t help but think the murders in Ecuador were an accident of bad timing.  The missionaries had landed just as a small band of Auca men were in a bad mood for reasons that had nothing to do with faith or Americans.

     Now I felt threatened because of who I was and what I believed.

     “Where’s the telecommunication office?” I asked the policeman.  He gave me directions, then said, “The message goes through only if station in Bamako has their machine on; but if not,” he shrugged, “no answer will ever come.  You can only hope message is received.”

     If I could not make arrangements by nightfall, what would happen?  This was truly that last outpost in the world.  Several westerners had disappeared in the desert without a trace.

      “God,” I prayed as I looked around the marketplace.  “I’m in trouble here.  Please keep me safe and show me a way to get back.”

     Then I remembered that just before I’d started for Timbuktu a fellow worker had said, “There’s a famous mosque in Timbuktu.  It was built from mud in the 1500’s.  And there’s also a tiny Christian church.”

     I asked the children, “Where is l’Eglise Evangelique Christienne?”  The youngsters were willing to show me the way, though several elderly men and women scolded them harshly as we passed.

     Finally we arrived at the open doorway of a tiny mud-brick house.  No one was home but on the wall opposite the door hung a poster showing a cross covered by wounded hands.  The French subscript said, “By His stripes we are healed.”

     Then the children pointed out a young man who was approaching us in the dirt alley.  There was something inexplicably different about the handsome young man with dark skin and flowing robes.  His name was Nouh Ag Infa Yatara.

     Nouh signaled he knew someone who could translate for us in an American mission compound on the edge of town, so we went.

     I asked Nouh, “How did you come to have faith?”  The missionary began to translate.

     “This missionary compound has always had a beautiful garden,” he responded.  “When I was a small boy, a friend and I decided to steal some carrots.  It was dangerous.  We’d been told that Toubabs (white men) eat children.  I was caught by the former missionary here, Mr. Marshall.  He did not eat me; instead he gave me the carrots and some cards that had God’s promises from the Bible written on them.  He said that if I learned them, he’d give me an ink pen!”

   “You learned them?” I asked.  

    “Oh, yes!” he said.  “But the problem was that only government men had a Bic pen!  So when I showed off my pen at school, the teacher knew I must have spoken with a Toubab, which was strictly forbidden.  He severely beat me.”

     When Nouh’s parents found that he had portions of such a despised book defiling their house, they threw him out and forbade anyone to take him in.  He was not allowed back in school.  But something had happened.  Nouh had come to believe that what the Bible said was true.

     Nouh’s mother was desperate.  The family’s character was in jeopardy.  Finally she decided to kill her son.  She obtained poison from a sorcerer.  Nouh was invited to a special family feast where his mother poisoned him.

     Nouh ate the food and wasn’t affected.  But his brother, who stole a morsel of meat from the deadly dish, became violently ill and remains partially paralyzed.  Seeing God’s intervention, the family and the townspeople were afraid to make further attempts on his life.  But he was condemned as an outcast.

     After sitting a moment, I asked Nouh the question that I always wanted to ask my father:  “Why is your faith so important to you that you’re willing to give up everything, perhaps even your life?”

     “I know God loves me and I will live with Him forever.  Now I have peace where I used to be full of uncertainty,” Nouh said.  “Who wouldn’t give up everything for this peace and security?”

     “It couldn’t have been easy for you to take a stand that made you despised by the whole community,” I said.  “Where did your courage come from?”

     “Mr. Marshall couldn’t take me in without putting my life in jeopardy.  So he gave me some books about Christians who’d suffered for their faith.  My favorite book was one about five young men who risked their lives to take God’s good news to Stone Age Indians in the jungles of South America.  I’ve lived all my life in the desert.  How frightening the jungle must be.  The book said these men let themselves be speared to death, even though they could have killed their attackers!”

     Our missionary translator remembered the story too.  “As a matter of fact, one of those men had your last name,” he said to me.

     “Yes,” I said quietly, “the pilot was my father.”

     “Your father?” Nouh cried.  “The story is true!”  

     “Yes,” I said, “it’s true.”

     The missionary and Nouh and I talked through the afternoon.  When they accompanied me back to airfield that night, we found that the doctors weren’t able to leave Timbuktu after all.  There was room for me on the UNICEF plane!

     As we hugged each other, I realized Nouh and I had gifts for each other that no one else could give.  I gave him the assurance that the story that had given him courage was true.  He, in turn, gave the assurance that God had used Dad’s death for good.

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Steve Saint, with Mincaye, one of the Auca who killed the five missionaries in 1956.

(see EmailMeditation #809: https://emailmeditations.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/809-the-worst-people-on-earth-a/  )

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Psalm 61:2a  —  “From the ends of the earth I call to you…”

Jeremiah 31:8a  —  “I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth…”

Isaiah 45:22  —  “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”

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Heavenly Father, we pray for Nouh and those like him, whose hope is in you, and who serve you amidst much danger and difficulty.  Bless their work and send your Holy Spirit to open the hearts of those to whom they preach, so that they too may know the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

1207) “The Woman’s Power” (part two of two)

Mary Slessor and her family

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     (…continued)  Life was very difficult up country— especially during the first months, as entries in her diary indicate:

“In the forenoon I was left alone with the mud and the rain and the general wretchedness, with a gap round the window frame and more round the doorway.  I looked on helplessly day after day at the rain pouring down on the boxes, bedding, and everything…  I am living in a single apartment with a mud floor and that not in the best condition.  Moreover it is shared by three boys and two girls and we are crowded in on every side by men, women, children, goats, dogs, fowls, rats and cats, all going and coming indiscriminately.”

     For the next quarter of a century and more, Slessor would continue to pioneer missions in areas in which no white man had been able to survive.  Her reputation as a peacemaker spread to outlying districts, and soon she was acting as a judge for the whole region.  In 1892 she became the first vice-consul to Okoyong, a government position she held for many years.  In that capacity she acted as a judge and presided over court cases involving disputes over land, debts, family matters, and the like.  Her methods were unconventional by British standards (often refusing to act solely on the evidence before her if she personally was aware of other factors), but they were well suited to African society.

     Slessor was very isolated from outsiders during much of her missions career, but in 1893, she enjoyed a visit from Mary Kingsley, a British journalist.  Though Kingsley was not a believer, she greatly admired her missionary hostess.  Of Slessor, she wrote:

“This very wonderful lady has been eighteen years in Calabar; for the last six or seven living entirely alone, as far as white folks go, in a clearing in the forest near one of the principal villages of the Okoyong district, and ruling as a veritable white chief over the entire district.  Her great abilities, both physical and intellectual, have given her among the savage tribe a unique position, and won her, from white and black who know her, a profound esteem.  Her knowledge of the native, his language, his ways of thought, his diseases, his difficulties, and all that is his, is extraordinary, and the amount of good she has done, no man can fully estimate.  Okoyong, when she went there alone, was given, as most of the surrounding districts still are, to killing at funerals, ordeal by poison, and perpetual wars.  Many of these evil customs she has stamped out.  Miss Slessor stands alone.”

     Slessor’s life as a pioneer missionary was a lonely one, but she occasionally traveled back to England or to Duke Town.  During one of her sick leaves to the coast she met Charles Morrison, a missionary teacher who was much younger than she was.  Their friendship grew and Slessor accepted his marriage proposal, with the provision that he would work with her in Okoyong.  The marriage, however, never took place.  His health did not even permit him to remain in Duke Town, and, for her, missionary service came before personal relationships.

     She was not really suited for marriage anyway.  Her living habits and daily routine were so haphazard that she was probably better off by herself.  Single women had tried to live with her, but usually without success.  She was careless about hygiene, and her mud huts were infested with roaches, rats, and ants.  Meals, school hours, and church services were irregular— all much more suited to Africans than to time-oriented Europeans.  Clothing, too, was a matter of little concern for her.  She soon discovered that the modest tightly fitted long dresses of Victorian England were not suited to life in an African rain forest.  Instead, she wore simple cotton garments.

     Though Slessor often failed to take the most basic health precautions and “lived native,” the fact is that she outlived most of her fellow missionaries who were so careful about health and hygiene.  Nevertheless, she did suffer recurring attacks of malaria, and she often endured painful boils that appeared on her face and head, sometimes resulting in baldness.  At times, however, she was surprisingly healthy and robust for a middle-aged woman.  Her many children kept her young and happy, and she could heartily say that she was “a witness to the perfect joy and satisfaction of a single life.”

     Although she was highly respected as a judge and civic leader, she reported few conversions.  She viewed her work as preparatory and was not unduly anxious about her lack of converts.  She organized schools, taught practical skills, and established trade routes, all in preparation for others to follow.  In 1903, near the end of her term at Okoyong, the first baptism service was held (with seven of the eleven children baptized being her own), and a church was organized with seven charter members.

     In 1904, at the age of fifty-five, she moved on from Okoyong with her seven children to do pioneer work in Itu and other remote areas.  Here she encountered great success with the Ibo people.  Janie, her oldest adopted daughter, was now a valuable assistant in the work, and another woman missionary was able to take over the work at Okoyong.  For the remaining decade of her life, she continued in this work pioneer work while others followed behind her— their ministry made easier by her pioneering efforts.  In 1915, nearly forty years after coming to Africa, she died at the age of sixty-six in her mud hut.

     Today she continues to be remembered in Nigeria as the great Mother Slessor.

Mary Slessor, honored in Scotland

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By Ruth Tucker at:  www.womenmissionaries.blogspot.com/p/mary-slessor.html

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QUOTES FROM MARY SLESSOR:

In measuring the woman’s power, you have evidently forgotten to take into account the power of the woman’s God.  I shall go on.

Lord, the task is impossible for me, but not for Thee.  Lead the way and I will follow.

Christ sent me to preach the Gospel and He will look after the results.

It would be worthwhile to die, if thereby a soul could be born again.

Christ never was in a hurry.  There was no rushing forward, no anticipating, no  fretting over what might be.  Each day’s duties were done as each day brought them, and the rest was left with God.

Oh Lord, I thank Thee that I can bring these people the Word.  But Lord, there are other villages where no white man has gone.  They need Jesus, too.  Help me to reach them.

Blessed is the man and woman who is able to serve cheerfully in the second rank.  It is a big test.

Prayer is the greatest power God has put into our hands for service.  Praying is harder than doing– at least I find it so– but the dynamic lies that way to advance the Kingdom.

If you are inclined to pray for a missionary, do it at once, wherever you are.

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Psalm 28:7a  —  The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.

Psalm 118:7a  —  The Lord is with me; he is my helper.

Hebrews 13:5b-6  —  God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”

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O Lord, bestow thy grace upon all missionaries, that by them Christ may be lifted up in every land and all people drawn to him.  In times of loneliness and weariness cheer them with thy presence; in disappointment give them patience; in the press of daily obligations keep their spirits fresh; in difficulties and dangers uphold and protect them; in success keep them humble of heart; in failure strengthen them to persevere.  Make them to be joyful in spirit, radiant in life, steadfast in faith, zealous in service, and at all times deepen in them the sense of dependence upon thee and give them peace in thy service; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–source lost

1206) “The Woman’s Power” (part one of two)

“In measuring the woman’s power, you have evidently forgotten to take into account the power of the woman’s God.  I shall go on.”

–Mary Slessor  (1848-1915)

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     The exploration and missionary work of David Livingstone and Henry Stanley inspired scores of others to embark on Africa— women as well as men.  Most of the women, not surprisingly, envisioned their ministry sheltered within the confines of an established mission station.  Exploration and pioneer work was not even an option for a single female missionary— not until Mary Slessor arrived on the scene.

     The story of Mary Slessor, as much as the life of any missionary in modern history, has been romanticized almost beyond recognition.  The image of her as a Victorian lady dressed in high-necked, ankle-length flowing dresses, escorted by tribal warriors through the African rain forests, is far removed from the reality of the barefooted, scantily clad, red-haired, working-class woman, who lived African-style in a mud hovel, her face at times covered with boils, and often without her false teeth.  Yet, her success as a missionary pioneer was amazing, and the oneness she felt for the Africans has been equaled by few.  She held the distinction of being the first woman vice-consul in the British Empire, but the greatest tribute she ever received was paid to her before her death by fellow missionaries who knew her well and, in spite of her faults and eccentricities, honored her as a great woman of God.

     Mary Mitchell Slessor, the second of seven children, was born in Scotland in 1848.  Her childhood was marred by poverty and family strife, due largely to the sporadic work habits of her alcoholic father, who had been known to throw her out into the streets alone at night after he had come home drunk.  At age eleven, she began working alongside her mother at the textile mills as a half-timer while she continued on in her schooling.  By the time she reached fourteen she was working ten-hour days, and for the next thirteen years she was the primary wage earner in the family.

     Though she later referred to herself as a “wild lassie,” there was little time or opportunity for leisure in the crowded, polluted working-class district where her family lived.  Church activities, however, offered a fulfilling outlet from her miserable home life.  She taught Sunday school, and when she was in her early twenties she working with the Queen Street Mission.  Here, she confronted street gangs that tried to break up her open-air meetings in the blighted neighborhoods of Dundee— neighborhoods that served as a training ground for her work in Africa.

     Since early childhood, she had been deeply interested in overseas missions— particularly the Calabar Mission, established two years before her birth.  Her missionary-minded mother hoped her only living son, John, would become a missionary, but his death shattered her dreams.  But the tragedy opened the way for Mary to escape the mills and to take her brother’s place.  The Calabar Mission had always made room for women. 

     In 1875 Slessor applied to and was accepted by the Mission, and in the summer of 1876, at the age of twenty-seven, she sailed for Calabar (located in present-day Nigeria), long known for its slave trade and deadly environment.  Her earliest years in Africa were spent at Duke Town, where she taught in a mission school and spent time in the nearby villages.  But she was dissatisfied with her assignment, never feeling at ease with the social niceties and ample lifestyle of the missionary families comfortably stationed at Duke Town.  Life was too routine.  Only a month after her arrival she had written, “One does need a special grace to enable one to sit still.  It is so difficult to wait.”  Her heart was set on doing pioneer work in the interior, but for that “privilege” she would have to wait.

     After less than three years in Africa and weakened by several attacks of malaria (and many more of homesickness), Slessor was allowed a furlough to regain her strength and reunite with her family.  She returned to Africa refreshed and excited about her new assignment at Old Town, three miles further inland along the Calabar River.  Here she was free to work by herself and to maintain her own lifestyle— living in a mud hut and eating native food that allowed her to send most of her mission salary to her family back home.  No longer was her work routine.  She supervised schools, dispensed medication, mediated disputes, and mothered unwanted children (children deemed demonic and rejected by their families).  On Sundays she became a circuit preacher, trudging miles through the jungle from village to village, sharing the gospel with those who would listen.

     Evangelism in Calabar was a slow and tedious process.  Witchcraft and spiritism abounded.  Cruel tribal customs were embedded in tradition and almost impossible to eradicate.  One of the most heartrending of these customs decreed that a twin birth was a curse.  In many cases both babies were killed, and the mother was exiled to an area reserved for outcasts.  Slessor not only rescued twins and ministered to their mothers, but also fought the perpetrators, sometimes risking her own life.  But after three years she was once again too ill to remain in Africa.

     On her second visit home she was accompanied by Janie, a baby girl she had rescued from death.  She and Janie were a sensation— so much so that the mission committee extended her furlough.  She was also detained by her sickly mother and sister.  In 1885, after nearly three years’ leave, she returned to Africa, determined to penetrate further into the interior. 

     Soon after she returned, Slessor received word of her mother’s death, and three months after that of her sister’s.  Another sister had died during her furlough, and now she was left alone with no close ties to her homeland.  She was despondent and almost overcome with loneliness:  “There is no one to write and tell all my stories and troubles and nonsense to.”  But along with the loneliness and sorrow came a sense of freedom:  “Heaven is now nearer to me than Britain, and no one will be anxious about me if I go up-country.”  Always restless, she was convinced that her calling was to preach in ever more remote areas

     “Up-country” to Slessor meant Okoyong, a remote area that had claimed the lives of other missionaries who had dared to penetrate its borders.  Sending a single woman to that region was considered by many to be an exercise in insanity, but she was determined to go and would not be dissuaded.  After visiting the area a number of times with other missionaries, she was convinced that such work was best accomplished by women, who, she believed, were less threatening to unreached tribes than men.  So in August of 1888, with the assistance of her friend, King Eyo of Old Town, she was on her way north.  (continued…)   

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Isaiah 45:22, 23b  —  “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other…  Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.”

Acts 1:8  —  (Jesus said), “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Romans 10:17 -18  —  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.  But I ask:  Did they not hear?  Of course they did:  “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

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O God of all the nations of the earth, remember the multitudes who, though created in thine image, they have not known thee, nor the dying of thy Son; and grant that by the prayers and labors of thy holy church they may be delivered from all superstition and unbelief and brought to worship thee; through him who thou hast sent to be the resurrection and the life to all men, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Francis Xavier, Missionary to India, Japan, and Borneo (1506-1552)

1176) The Mutiny on the Bounty– The Rest of the Story

Poster from the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty (movies were also made on this story in 1935,with Clark Gable; and 1984, with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins)

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By Dan Braves at http://www.Christianity.com

     On April 28, 1789, mutineers on H. M. S. Bounty, led by Fletcher Christian, dragged Lieutenant William Bligh from his bed.  They set Bligh adrift in an open launch with eighteen men.  A capable but tyrannical leader, Bligh managed to guide the little boat 3,600 miles to safety in the Dutch Indies (Indonesia).

     The mutineers, however, headed for Tubai, an island south of Tahiti.  Reception was hostile and, after a trip to Tahiti and back, in which the mutineers picked up some native women and men, and at least one child, they abandoned Tubai and sailed back to Tahiti.  Some of the sailors had not been mutineers at all and elected to stay on Tahiti.  Eight accompanied Fletcher Christian to parts unknown with the women and with six Polynesian men.  

     What became of them was not known until September, 1808, when a New England whaler, the Topaz, spotted Pitcairn Island and landed to take on water.  To Captain Folger’s surprise, he found natives who spoke a garbled English.  It turned out that the mutineers of the Bounty had settled on the uninhabited Pitcairn.  (The movies usually end here, with the brave adventurers beginning a new life on this island paradise.)

     But all was not well in paradise.  The mutineers all fought with each other, and with the native men and women (brought from Tahiti), until all the men were dead except two:  Edward Young and John Adams (also known as Alexander Smith).  

     Ashamed of the violence and horrors they had witnessed and had partaken of, the two remaining mutineers began to read the Bible (which became their textbook) and to teach it to the children who had been born to the settlement.  By the time Folger arrived, Young also had been dead several years, dying of an asthma attack.  Adams was patriarch of the clan.  Thanks to his continued efforts, the older children were able to read and write a little (Adams himself was poorly educated) and the whole community was devout.

How Christianity Came to Pitcairn Is.

John Adams/Alexander Smith, mutineer and settler/leader of Pitcairn Island  (1767-1829)

     Indeed, what impressed early visitors most was the obvious piety of the islanders, who prayed morning and evening and both before and after their meals, did not engage in the sexual promiscuity common to other islands, were able to recite the creed and parts of the Bible, and observed the “Sabbath” (as they called Sunday).  One observer wrote, “In conducting the most trivial affairs they are guided by the Scriptures, which they have read diligently, and from which they quote freely and frequently.”

     The hard conditions of the island, which could not be neglected if it were to produce enough food, and their continual grounding in the Bible stories, had made the Pitcairners a serious, although good-humored, community.  The gifts they most wanted from Topaz were books, and the whaler managed to provide them with 200 which the islanders received with the greatest delight.

     In 1887 the island’s entire population converted to Seventh Day Adventism by missionairies.

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Sir Charles Lucas, Pitcairn Island historian, describes the coming of religion to the island:

Many notable cases of religious conversion have been recorded in the history of Christianity, but it would be difficult to find an exact parallel to that of John Adams.  The facts are quite clear.  There is no question as to what he was and did after all his shipmates on the island had perished.  He had no human guide or counselor to turn him into the way of righteousness and to make him feel and shoulder responsibility for bringing up a group of boys and girls in the fear of God.  He had a Bible and a Prayer Book to be the instruments of his endeavor, so far as education, or rather lack of education, served him.  He may well have recalled to mind memories of his own childhood, but there can be only one simple and straightforward explanation of what took place, that it was the handiwork of the Almighty, whereby a sailor, seasoned to crime, came to himself in a far country, and learned and taught others to follow Christ…  

In order to fully appreciate the Pitcairn story, it is necessary to keep before the mind’s eye the contrasts which it presented.  What could be more remote from the murders and crimes of the early years upon the island, than the settlement as it developed under John Adams, in peace, godliness and comparative innocence?  Or, again, contrast the day-to-day life of this tiny, isolated group of human beings, as it flowed on in even monotony, with the wars and rumors of wars and great events which in the same years stirred the whole outside world.  Pitcairn might have been on another planet!

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For more on this story go to:

https://library.puc.edu/pitcairn/pitcairn/religion.shtml

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Pitcairn Isalnd today, population 50:

The island features beautiful scenery and wildlife but that doesn't seem to be enough to attract new residents

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Luke 15:13…17-18  —  The younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living…  When he came to himself, he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.”

Zechariah 1:2-4 (portions)  —  This is what the Lord Almighty says:  “Return to me… and I will return to you…  Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.”

Galatians 5:19-25  —  The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Isaiah 42:10, 12a  —  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earthyou who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them…  Let them give glory to the Lord.

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Merciful Father, your kindness caused the light of the Gospel to shine among us.  Extend your mercy now, we pray, to all the people of the world who do not have hope in Jesus Christ, that your salvation may be made known to them also and that all hearts would turn to you; through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978, page 45