Dan Crawford – Missionary to Africa

This is the day that … Dan Crawford was converted in 1887.

Born in Scotland on 7 December, 1870, he was only four years old when his father died, and a meagre education followed.  He grew up a “guid laddie”(good boy), became a member of the local kirk, and then became a Sunday-School teacher.

At the age of 17, as he taught Sunday-School, the influence of another teacher gave him uneasiness of soul.  “For some weeks he was in great anxiety.  One evening he attended a mission hall and heard a plain working man, out of a full heart, tell of a Saviour’s love …”  Convicted by the preaching but still unwilling to yield to the Saviour, Dan now found himself confronted by his friend’s final plea.

“Dan,” said Mr Storer as he drew a line on the floor with a carpenter’s pencil, “you’ll not step over that line until you have trusted Christ.  Will you trust Him now?”

There was “a minute’s dead silence,” says the biographer.  Then Dan Crawford said:  “I will” and strode across the line.  And, adds E. Enock, “he never faltered from that moment.”

“Dan started right away to tell all around of his new found Saviour.  He would preach anywhere.  In the street he would stop, doff his cap, and start to tell out the Gospel …” (Gathered Sheaves, page 2).

He threw in his lot with the Brethren, took to open air preaching, fell in love with Grace Tilsley … but declined to propose as he was going to Africa as a missionary.  And because he had developed such a “bad cough” in his street preaching days – in all kinds of inclement weather – the doctor did not expect him to live more than 12 months.

On 23 March, 1889, Dan Crawford sailed for Africa, in the company of F.S. Arnot, and there as a missionary sent out by the Brethren Assemblies, he served his Lord for the next 37 years.  In 1898 Grace Tilsley joined him, and they were married on 14 September.

He “relied upon unsolicited gifts and preferred to work alone.”  He translated the Scriptures into a native tongue, and wrote Thinking Black, a classic missionary volume that anticipated “modern cultural anthropology” (Who’s Who in Christian History), and “became a valuable contribution in the field of missionary practices and principles.”

Bishop Stephen Neill, in his History of Christian Missions, devotes three pages to Dan Crawford and the impact he made, not only on the African peoples he evangelised, but on missionary strategy.

On 29 May, 1926, during a restless sleep, he knocked his hand on a raw-edged shelf beside his bed.  Blood poisoning set in and he died five days later.

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