Missionary Stories

Missionary Stories

“ I have made my boast of God amongst the people, and told them that I had unshaken trust in God…”

At just forty-three years old he was financially ruined, ostracized by many of his fellow missionaries, and teetering on the brink of insanity; John Thomas was a failure. But that is only half the story.

Thomas’s work is virtually obscured by the dazzling ministry of his much more famous partner, William Carey, yet Thomas was the very agent that brought Carey to India. Not only did John Thomas play a pivotal role in the establishment of modern missions, but he was also the first European to preach in Bengali, the first to undertake a translation of the Scriptures into Bengali, and one of the earliest Europeans to actively evangelize the native population.

Thomas, a former Royal Navy surgeon, spent five arduous years in India, pioneering a ministry among the Bengalis before returning to England for a brief period in 1792. In the course of his travels through England, Thomas brought his burden for India before the newly formed Baptist Missionary Society. The timing was perfect: Thomas and the Society united for the cause of the Gospel. John Thomas and William Carey were sent out that same year as the first two missionaries of the Baptist Missionary Society.

Unfortunately, Thomas was overtaken in the later years of his life by debts he had incurred, mostly through his well intentioned, though poorly planned efforts to aid the Bengalis. Younger missionaries, misinterpreting his plain speech as evidence of bitterness, avoided him, and the greatest hopes and dreams he had built came tumbling down around him. Only a year before his death, Thomas suffered a mental breakdown. He recovered, however, by the grace of God, and shortly before he died saw the first printing of the complete Bengali Bible.

Overlooked and forgotten, his life might almost seem a waste, until we see the great door of missions that opened when John Thomas, trusting God to guide him aright, took his first step into the pathway of faith.

Story from John Thomas : first Baptist missionary to Bengal, Arthur C. Chute



And shall I now draw back? Shall I withhold anything  from Jesus?”      —Eliza Grew Jones, March 24, 1830

February 17, 1831: The brig Bucephalus unloaded its cargo on the banks at Moulmein, Burma. Among the disembarking passengers was newlywed couple John and Eliza Taylor Jones. In a land just beginning to experience Western influence, the Jones were part of a great influx of foreigners: merchants, diplomats, and teachers. The Jones, however, were not seeking to fulfill any personal interest.

John and Eliza Jones were among the earliest missionaries to respond to the cry of the Far East. The American Baptist Missionary Union originally sent the linguistically talented couple to Burma, where they studied Burmese and Taling simultaneously. Within a year, John preached his first Burmese sermon. Soon, however, the Jones were called to Siam (present day Thailand) by the request of another missionary, Karl Gutzloff. There they remained for the rest of their lives, the first permanent Protestant missionaries in Siam.

Here in Siam the Jones’ linguistic skills became more apparent. Eliza  produced a Siamese–English dictionary. Continuing her work, she created a Romanized script for Siamese and recorded various Biblical stories in  Siamese. John also succeeded in learning Siamese and in 1843 finished a translation of the New Testament into that language. In fact, he applied himself so diligently to the language that he was more eloquent in Siamese than in English, often surpassing the native teachers in knowledge of their own tongue.

The price of living in countries with abysmal sanitation was high: two of Eliza’s children died before she herself succumbed to cholera after seven years of service in Burma and Siam. Such dedication greatly moved the Siamese people, and Jones touched both rich and poor with his ministry. He became an indispensable asset to the king of Siam, who often called upon him to translate in various diplomatic affairs. When he died in 1851, there was no question as to where he should be buried; Siam was his home, the Chinese and Siamese believers his brethren.

Today, all that marks John and Eliza Jones’ graves is two modest headstones in the Bangkok Protestant Cemetery. Perhaps this is because no monument could capture the spirit with which they gave their lives to God’s service.


Most of us have at least heard the name of Hudson Taylor. Perhaps many of us know something about his life’s work, his beautiful relationship with Maria, and his establishment of the China Inland Mission. However, it seems that well known missionaries are often viewed as super-spiritual   giants of faith who seldom, if ever, struggle with the “common” battles of “ordinary” Christians.

This is certainly far from the truth. Though the circumstances in which a missionary is engaged in battle may be more dramatic than those faced at home, victory is achieved in the same way in both locations – and it has little to do with the supposed spiritual invincibility of the missionary soldier. Hudson and Maria Taylor were people just like you and me, with the same flesh, the same weapons, and the same God.

The founding of the China Inland Mission marked the beginning of a new conquest: the advancement of the glory of God into the interior of China. The Taylors’ policy of identifying with the Chinese by adopting their dress, language, and culture was changing the image of Christianity from a Western religion to a universal religion.  As the soldiers of God advance, however, it is certain that the enemy’s attack will intensify.

The first wave of trouble for the Taylors was dissension and disloyalty among certain members of the mission stationed in another town. Pride swelled hearts and caused some to rebel against the mission’s principles. They returned to dressing and eating as Westerners, which caused confusion and mistrust among the Chinese toward the Christians. The result was a riot, the beating of a Chinese Christian, and the forcible expulsion of the estranged missionaries from the town.  Yet, the personal attack against the Taylors continued, including letters written to smear their reputation in their home country.

Though they were hurt deeply, Hudson and Maria chose forgiveness and love over anger and bitterness. Victory was not found by striving in their own power, but by relying on God’s. Abiding in God’s grace allowed them to overcome their natural response and live the love of Christ, which would faithfully sustain them through every trial to come.

The early years of the China Inland Mission (CIM) brought tremendous struggles to Hudson and Maria Taylor. During this time of tempest and tragedy, though, the mission did not lose focus on their purpose: they pressed inland to pioneer new stations and carried on with the work at the home base. In August of 1867, the Taylors’ oldest daughter became ill. Hudson had to leave her side for a day, but he hoped to find little Gracie well when he returned. However, an urgent message that a missionary at another station was sick took him further away from his daughter. Discovering it was a false alarm, he rushed home, only to find Gracie languishing. Hudson diagnosed her condition, but it was too late. She died, leaving her father wondering if an earlier return could have saved her.

June of 1868 found the Taylors and several other missionaries moving to the city of Yangchow to begin a new work. During this time, the feelings of the Chinese toward missionaries were changing. The situation, inflamed by suspicion and rumors, came to a head on August 16th. A mob attacked the station with a lust for loot and blood. The missionaries escaped from a second story window, and one man of their number suffered a serious injury. The Taylors demanded and desired no restitution, but they soon found themselves in the middle of a political storm. The English government stepped into the situation, and soon the missionaries were being accused of inciting riots, demanding redress, and preaching the gospel with English guns.

Attacked from all sides, Hudson also began to feel the weight of his own failures. Like every Christian who desires Christ’s life, he longed for freedom from self and sin and intensely struggled to find it. The answer he discovered was a profoundly simple truth that continues to hold power for those who realize it today.

“Not a striving to have faith, or to increase our faith, but a looking at the faithful One seems all we need. A resting in the loved One entirely, for time, for eternity. It does not appear to me as anything new, only formerly misunderstood. To let my loving Savior work in me His will…abiding, not striving or struggling.” (179)

Pollock, J. C. Hudson Taylor and Maria.





The year was 1914. William Christie had called China and Tibet home for twenty-two years when the outlaw band led by Bai Lang (also known as “White Wolf”) swept through Central China, ruthlessly pillaging and slaughtering. Through God’s protection, the missionaries of Min Chow were spared the physical harm that ravished their city and many others.

After escaping through an unguarded city gate, Christie led his wife, young daughter, and two single lady missionaries 110 miles to refuge across the Tibetan border at the Lupa mission station. From there they could make plans for relieving and rebuilding Min Chow after the decimation White Wolf had left.

Days after the missionaries’ arrival at Lupa, two loyal Tibetan believers made a furtive nighttime visit to them with a somber warning. One hundred seventy armed Tebbu tribesmen were en route to attack the station. After two hours of armed vigil, William discovered a few Tebbu who had scaled the wall and were preparing to burn the mission buildings. While sounding an alarm, William directed the women to hide and pray as the Tebbu rushed to open the gate for the waiting warriors outside. The missionary men took positions and fired their rifles into the air. Twenty minutes of chaos later, the confused Tebbu fled out the same gate through which they had stormed in.

A Tibetan friend later told Brother Christie, “Your Jesus gave you the victory!” Those words aptly sum up not only the harrowing experiences William Christie faced in 1914, but also the other sixty-three years of unreserved service he rendered to his King. In a time when Tibet was considered to be a land forbidden to outsiders, Christie devoted himself to evangelizing its people. He carried God’s Word on horseback through mountains and valleys, in driving rainstorms, and under the sun’s relentless heat.

In the face of demonic opposition and physical persecution, he lived in God’s strength and looked to God for victory. Our God has not changed; He offers the same strength and victory to those who will passionately pursue Him today. May we live and serve rejoicing in our victory in Jesus!

See William Christie, Apostle to Tibet by Howard Van Dyck for the complete story.



After twenty-two years of serving the Lisu, John and Isobel Kuhn came to a brick wall. It was 1950, and the communists recklessly took over China. With an uncertain future, Isobel (Belle) decided to take six-year-old Daniel to America for schooling. John agreed with their mission agency to survey Thailand before joining her. He  assured Belle he would make no promises until they had discussed together the possibility of serving in Thailand.

Back home, Belle chose not to set her heart on retirement; instead, she sought the Lord. God spoke to her as she read Amy Carmichael’s book, Climb or Die. It spoke of the decline of those who suddenly refuse spiritual exertion and instead seek ease. A picture of snow-covered mountains reminded Belle of her climb out of China. Her legs had been numb from the knee down, but if she had stopped, she would have died!

As she reflected on the possibility of Thailand as a new mission field, Belle realized that she would have some mountains to climb. Old age had arrived, a new language would have to be learned, and life in Thailand would include actual, rough mountain-climbing! What about retiring for her children’s sake? God answered, “Do you think your children would benefit by being with parents who made such a choice?” (Kuhn 18).

God confirmed to both John and Belle that they should continue their ministry by planting indigenous churches among the Lisu in Thailand. In Thailand, the “White Community” rallied for the Kuhns to join their social circle. The Kuhns, however, chose “the indigenous pattern,” spending times of relaxation with the nationals (36, 37). Belle found that the nationals loved their welcoming lifestyle, and in this way the Kuhns were able to make contacts with non-believers.

Because the Kuhns chose a lifestyle of identification with the people, the natives noticed their sacrifice. A Chinese neighbor once asked, “Just why are you here in this rough-living country?” Belle was able to honestly reply, “For the love of One who loves you” (274).

When our brick wall appears, may we seek God and not retreat.

Kuhn, Isobel. Ascent to the Tribes. Chicago: Moody Press, 1967.








John Hunt sailed for Fiji in the 1800’s and immediately began studying the language and spending quantity time with the natives.  Knowing the people motivated him to preach and begin translating the Bible within six months.  He would first read from the Greek and English New Testaments, research word definitions, and study Bible resources.  He then consulted many natives to improve his use of the Fijian language.

Culture shock hit hard.  Hunt’s firstborn died as natives mocked, an elderly woman was strangled at Hunt’s door, and eleven bodies were dissected by cannibals in front of his home.  Worse yet, Hunt was asked by local chiefs to leave.  However, God gave a supernatural love which grew in proportion to the mounting hate.  He wrote, “I am determined to…be spent in trying to do them good, until God…shall remove me from them…”  (The Life of John Hunt:  Missionary to the Cannibals – George Stringer Rowe, pg. 106)  He concluded, “We seem to labor in vain, but faith can never come to such a conclusion.”  (pg. 111)  Hunt pressed “onward,”  as was his motto.

God soon sent encouragement.  God rescued Hunt’s ship from attacking natives, and transformed a prominent chief into an effective missionary.  Finally, God anointed the island with revival.  Hunt wrote, “During the first week of the revival, nearly one hundred…[obtained]… forgiveness of sins through…Jesus Christ…Many who were careless…have become…devoted to God…Many never understood till now…”  (pg. 184, 185)  Hunt gave God the glory!

Those newly saved refused to renounce Christ although warriors gathered to feast on them one night.  God moved again, and the warriors admitted, “We came to kill these people, and we cannot lift a hand.” (pg. 190)  The retreating warriors were shocked when the Christians assisted them in carrying their weapons back to the canoes!

No missionary should expect to provide God’s Mighty Word to a spiritually-oppressed people without a struggle.  John Hunt’s life proves that Satan’s attacks are powerless against God’s victory.  Faith is the victory.   Though John Hunt died at thirty-six, he had translated most of the New Testament!  Let us also press “onward”!



“You are a good man; we will not harm you.” Roger Williams was face to face with the fierce Native American warriors. There was fighting all around him, and the town was on fire.  Roger was an old man now, and the Indians still respected him. Perhaps he was the only white man in the colonies that they trusted. This time, however, his peace-making efforts had been swept aside.

Roger Williams was a pioneer in politics, theology, church-planting, anthropology, and linguistics. He is best known as the governor of Rhode Island, the founder of the First Baptist Church in America, and an early advocate of religious liberty. He is less known for laying the groundwork for missions among the Native American tribes of New England.

Born in England c. 1603, Williams was converted as a young man. In college, he studied theology, Greek, and Hebrew. His separatist views brought the persecution of the archbishop, and he sailed for America in 1630. Upon arrival, he discovered that the Puritans were not as separated from the Church of England as they professed to be. There was no religious liberty. The state enforced the doctrines of the church. They persecuted Baptists and Quakers. They treated the Indians as inferior and took their land by force.

Williams pastored two different churches during a five-year period. His own churches loved him, but the community hated him for his outspoken views.  He strongly opposed the unfair treatment of Native Americans, urging that the colonists pay the Natives for the land. He also preached the right of every man or woman to follow his or her own conscience in religious matters.

The Salem court sentenced Williams to banishment in the winter of 1635.   He fled on foot into the snowy forest. He walked 105 miles to an Indian village where he was accepted into their homes for the winter. The following spring, he was joined by his wife and ten of his friends, and together they founded Providence Plantation, and eventually Rhode Island colony.

Williams was a true friend to Indians and settlers alike. As a peacemaker, he saved the colonies on several occasions. He studied the Algonquin language and wrote a linguistic key called, A Key into the Language of America. This book also contained many pages of cultural notes, touching every aspect of culture—from salutations to death and burial. He laid the groundwork for Bible translation and the missionaries who would come after him.

Near the end of his life, Williams saw his own town of Providence burned to the ground and many of his friends killed in King Phillip’s War.  However, he lived to see peace restored and the town rebuilt.



Alexander Mackay was born in Scotland in 1849 and surrendered his heart to Christ as a young boy. Reports of David Livingstone, a fellow Scotsman and missionary in Africa, inspired young Mackay. He was interested in mechanics and building and went to engineering school, but he longed to serve God, too. In 1875, a letter published in the local paper spurred Mackay to action. The letter was written from Uganda by Henry Stanley: “King M’tesa has been asking me about the white man’s God… Oh that some practical missionary would come here…who can cure their diseases, build dwellings, and turn his hand to anything.”

Four months later, Mackay was on a ship for Africa. The first thing he did was build a road 230 miles through the jungle to Lake Victoria. Mackay identified his pioneer ministry with that of John the Baptist, preparing the way for the coming of the Savior. The road he built through the dense jungle was symbolic of the spiritual inroads he would make into the dark land of spirit worship. Mackay wrote: “This will certainly yet be a highway for the King Himself; and all that pass this way will come to know His Name.”

Uganda was one of the larger kingdoms in Africa. Mackay was welcomed into the court and invited to preach before King M’tesa himself. The king wanted to learn about the white man’s God because, in contrast to the Muslim slave traders, the white men he met did not exploit the Ugandans. The king and his court were impressed by Mackay’s skills such as carpentry and basic medicine. Men, women, and children began to repent and believe in Christ. Mackay began translating and printing portions of the New Testament. The king spoke of being baptized. But Mackay knew there was no repentance in his life as he was unwilling to give up his 300 wives, involvement in slave trade, and other cruel vices.

Opposition began to mount against Mackay because he preached against the king’s vices; and the Arab slave traders—who hated Mackay for interfering with their business—flattered the king and spread lies about Mackay. An era of persecution began with the beating and torturing of Mackay’s converts. King M’tesa died, but his son M’wanga was even more wicked.

Mackay toiled on and a few years later, at the age of 41, he succumbed to a tropical fever.  But within thirty years of his death, the king and tens of thousands of Ugandans were Christians, and the slave trade was abolished.


The patient stirred. Dr. Wallace tried to soothe him in his Tennessee-accented Cantonese. The patient was waking from an abdominal surgery. They alone were left in the upper story of the Stout Memorial Hospital in Wuchow, China. Everyone else had taken refuge in the basement when the air raid alarm had sounded. The year was 1938, and the Japanese were invading China. Just then there was an explosion on the roof directly above them—and doctor and patient were thrown to the floor! Miraculously, neither were hurt.

Bill Wallace heard God’s call to be a medical missionary at seventeen years of age while tinkering in his garage one summer afternoon. For the next ten years, he did not cease to prepare himself until he was an excellent surgeon in the residency program at Knoxville, TN. At that time, Dr. Beddoe, administratorof the Southern Baptist mission hospital in Wuchow, China, sent a desperate plea to the mission board: “We must have a surgeon!” Bill Wallace sent in his application for missionary service the same month.

Dr. Wallace was a humble servant, a man of action and not a man of words. But his presence brought a new vitality to the mission hospital. “The Chinese had heard sermons before, but [now] they began to see one, and that made the difference. ..Sometimes his soft, stuttering witness to [God’s love] was more effective than the most eloquent evangelist’s plea. ” The influx ofpatients increased by 50%, and there was spiritual revival. While Wallace was saving lives with his scalpel, God was saving souls.

The hospital survived the Japanese invasion, while Wallace, a handful of other missionaries, and the Chinese staff continued the work. Dr. Wallace operated day and night, sewing up the mangled bodies of the victims of war. Later on furlough, Wallace was asked why he would return to Wuchow. He simply said, “It’s where I’m supposed to be.” By the time Wallace was forty, the Communists were persecuting Christians. Many missionaries left. Wallace chose to stay. Now the beloved doctor who stood so tall for Christ was a threat to the communist agenda. They planted a gun under his pillow and arrested him. After weeks of public accusations, humiliation, and torture,the night guards beat him to death in his cell. Chinese Christians erected a shaft over his grave with the inscription, “For me to live is Christ.

1 Quotations from Bill Wallace of China, by Jesse C. Fletcher





Nathan Brown, the oldest of five boys, was born on June 22, 1807, to devout Baptist parents. At age nine, he was convicted of his sinful condition after attending local revival meetings, trusted Christ as his Savior, and was subsequently baptized in a stream.

Brown graduated from Williams College at the top of his class and married  Eliza Ballard on May 5, 1830. They moved to Brandon, Vermont, where he edited a religious newspaper. As he prepared to print letters from Adoniram Judson, the Lord  burdened him and his wife for Burma. “What Christian,” he wrote, “can read the late appeals from Mr. Judson, and not feel a desire to go? I cannot think of staying back.”   After seeking his pastor’s and parents’ advice, he resigned his job and entered Newton Theological Institution.  He and Eliza sailed for Burma under the Baptist General Convention on December 22, 1832.

Mr. Brown worked two years in Burma with Adoniram Judson. Then he was sent to Assam, India, where he translated the first Assamese New Testament, baptized numerous converts, planted Baptist churches, and appointed national assistant pastors. Due to shattered health, the Browns returned to the U.S. in 1855. Mr. Brown wrote, “One of the hardest partings (and I have had many) I ever experienced. The native women and girls wept as if their hearts would break. We sorrowed most of all that we should see each other’s faces no more. … If God in mercy restores my health so that I can again be useful, I will return and labor for them till life ends, with all my heart.”

Mrs. Brown died in 1871. Mr. Brown later remarried, and at age 65, he and his second wife went to Yokohama, Japan, to assist in church planting and Bible translation. Brown resigned from a translation committee that insisted on translating baptism with the Japanese word for sprinkle. He began his own translation, completing the very first Japanese New Testament in 1879. He died in Japan at age 77, leaving eight Baptist churches and numerous converts. The Bible he completed is an accurate translation and is still referred to today. May we also “labor till life ends.”

“As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. Now therefore give me this mountain…” (Joshua 14:11-12a)

Work Cited: Brown, Elizabeth, W. The Whole World Kin: A Pioneer Experience Among Remote Tribes, and Other Labors of Nathan Brown.   






It was 1782, and George Leile didn’t see any other way: to escape slavery once more, he had to become another kind of slave. Years ago, his former master, Henry Sharp, had graciously freed Leile so that he could wholly pursue preaching the gospel in the Savannah area. But now that Sharp was dead, his family sought to re-enslave Leile. And so he struck a deal. To escape to Jamaica with his family, he would become the indentured servant of Colonel Kirkland.

Arriving in Jamaica in 1783, at the age of 33, Leile paid off his debt within a year and immediately set off to spread the gospel. The fiery preacher, who God had made so successful in Georgia, now had greater success than ever. He preached to the slaves and to the free; and with the help of some other immigrants, started Jamaica’s first black Baptist church. God’s hand was on his ministry, and within only a few years the church grew to over five hundred members! But such dedication to God often comes with a price, and his could have cost him his life.

With the Church of England well established on the island, there came a time when the Anglican planters rose up in opposition to Leile’s work. They often interrupted his meetings, and persecuted him and his congregation in various ways. Eventually, he and his preacher friends were imprisoned. Accused of preaching “sedition” among the slaves and against the Church, they faced capital punishment. Most, including Leile, barely escaped the death sentence; but sadly, one was hung.

God encouraged Leile, however, and he did not quit. He continued to pastor the congregation, and trained men to preach the gospel in the more remote areas. Influential friends in Britain secured the funds for his ministry; and eventually, they even erected a permanent building for the congregation.

Leile, the first Baptist missionary to Jamaica, died in 1828. But the work God had begun with him in Jamaica bore yet more fruit! In the same spirit as Leile, the church had sent out over fifty missionaries to Africa by 1842. That’s how God works: He used a man born a slave in America, and sent him to Jamaica, to one day set captives free in the land of his forefathers.



Picture a teenage girl in a school cafeteria…. She’s slouched in a chair popping bubble gum. The whole world passes her by, yet she doesn’t even notice. Why? Because she’s tuned in to that little thing in her hand—a cellphone. Most likely she’s texting, instant messaging her friends, or browsing Facebook. Picture a young man on a computer in an internet café somewhere in a third world country. Or how about a young college freshman browsing the web on a laptop? The new generation coming along is radically different from you and me. I’m a young man myself and can barely recognize or connect with this new generation. But what if we could present the gospel to each of these people through their medium of communication? ….We can! (~Jared Rowe)

This is the need Jared Rowe saw, and the vision God gave him. When most people saw a predicament—a problem of the modern generation—God showed Jared a possibility. All his life, he had been intrigued by computers and set out to learn their inner workings. As the world of the web was opened up to him, he saw potential for the Gospel, and an idea was born—to “reach the masses right where they are”.

Together with his brother-in-law, Marlin Zimmerman, he created the iMissionaries website, designed to enable you to evangelize through the internet. With 16 major social media sites around the world and 1.5 billion active users on Facebook alone, it’s an open mission field that reaches into the places most people can’t go with the Gospel—from American schools to closed Muslim nations. iMissionaries walks even the most basic computer user through a simple process to place Christian ads on Facebook and other social networking sites. People around the world can click these ads and read Christian material in their own language. In the short time these ads have been being placed on Facebook, thousands of people have clicked and viewed these materials in such countries as Algeria, Iraq, Thailand, Ukraine, Indonesia, and Singapore.

However, while we do encourage you to check out iMissionaries.org and get involved in placing ads around the world, iMissionaries is only a product of a deeper motive. A greater challenge—a more far-reaching action—is that of thinking outside the box. Climb out of the rut of the typical perception of missions and use what tools you do have—no matter how unconventional—to reach out with the Gospel. Ask God, “What can I do?”