Sarasvati Ramabai and Mukti Mission

Pundita Sarasvati Ramabai Dongre was born in the forests of Southwest India to Brahmin parents. It was April 23, 1858. By the age of 12 years she had committed to memory 18,000 verses from the Hindu scriptures (Famous Missionaries, Famous Missionaries, by J.C. Lawson, page 53).

When she was 16 famine struck and the family lived on water and leaves for 11 days. When both her parents died she was protected by her older brother, who later died, leaving her alone. Her education enabled her to gain respect and she married an educated Bengali who had also thrown off Hindu teaching. Nineteen months later her husband died and Ramabai was unprotected once again. She also had a baby daughter to care for. Such a situation is shameful in Indian culture and young widows are in a very vulnerable state.

Visiting Calcutta in 1878 the educational leaders bestowed upon her the title “Pandita”, meaning “Learned” (English pundit) – the first woman in the world to have received such an honour.

But further study of the Hindu writings – and the realisation that they held “little or no hope of salvation” for women – led her to turn her attention to investigate Christianity. Widowed, the mother of a small child, she visited England and was impressed by Anglican “Sisters of the Cross“, and their devoted Rescue Mission work. In 1883 Pandita Ramabai was baptised into the Church of England.

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Eight years later she chanced upon the book, From Death to Life by Rev. William Haslam – and to quote Pandita Ramabai: “I read the account of his conversion and work for Christ. Then I began to consider where I stood and what my actual need was…  I took the Bible and read.  One thing I knew by this time, that I needed Christ, not merely His religion” (Pandita Ramabai, by H. Dyer, page 35).

So this brilliant Indian lady came to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. When she visited the USA she studied their education system and determined to return to India to educated widows, so they would not be at the mercy of those who would exploit them.

She returned to her native land and, in 1896, commenced the Mukti Mission. “Mukti” means “Salvation” (literally the escape from reincarnation’s horrible repeated cycle of life and death), and from that centre the old time gospel was faithfully proclaimed to thousands of women and children.

In 1905 “a Holy Ghost revival swept over Mukti and hundreds of girls and some boys were gloriously saved” (Herald of Hope, by John Ridley, December, 1959). Ramabai had heard of the revivals in Wales and elsewhere and was desperate to see the power of God. She organised the children to pray.

Thirty young women met for prayer every day. On the morning of June 29 a missionary working at the Mission “was awakened at 3.30, by one of the senior girls saying, ‘Come over and rejoice with us, J. has received the Holy Spirit. I saw the fire, ran across the room for a pail of water and was about to pour it on her, when I discovered that she was not on fire.’ When Miss Abrams arrived, all the girls of that compound were on their knees weeping, praying, and confessing their sins.”

The next evening, during a message on the adulterous woman “the Holy Spirit descended with power, and all the girls began to pray aloud so that she had to cease talking. Little children, middle-sized girls, and young women, wept bitterly and confessed their sins. Some few saw visions and experienced the power of God, and things that are too deep to be described. Two little girls had the spirit of prayer poured on them in such torrents that they continued to pray for hours. They were transformed with heavenly light shining on their faces.”

The girls called the revival “a baptism of fire. They say that when the Holy Spirit comes upon them it is almost unbearable-the burning within. Afterwards they are transformed, their faces light up with joy, their mouths are filled with praise.”

Ramabai also had inexplicable ecstatic experiences: “a consciousness of the Holy Spirit as a burning flame within her and times when, alone in prayer, she involuntarily uttered some sentences in Hebrew.” This Pentecostal revival was marked by confession of sins, prayers, much singing, dancing, clapping, speaking in tongues, and sensations of being consumed by fire.

Before her death on 5 April, 1922, apart from impacting so many lives that would otherwise have been ruined, Pandita Ramabai had also translated the Bible into the Marathi language.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

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Henry Havelock Christian Soldier

Henry Havelock was born on April 5, 1795, in Bishop Wearmouth, in Sunderland England, the second of four sons to William Havelock a well-to-do shipowner and his wife, Jane (Carter).

So serious minded was he as a lad that his school friends called him “Phlos” – an abbreviation for ‘Philosopher’.  But there were others who taunted him with cruel jibes – “Methodist”, “hypocrite”, for it was known that he prayed and read the Scriptures daily, as his godly mother, Jane, had taught him to do.

For a while he went on to study law, and then at the age of 20 we find him entering “The Rifle Brigade” of the British Army. It is interesting to note that all four of the Havelock boys became soldiers.

By this time his faith had lapsed, even bordering on Unitarianism.  But mid-Atlantic, on his way to India in 1823, he is befriended by Lieutenant James Gardner, “a humble, unpretending man, just twenty-one”, and a Christian.

Gardner loaned Havelock the Life of Henry Martyn – missionary hero of the CMS – and The Force of Truth by well-known Bible commentator, Thomas Scott.  Gardner’s gentle testimony led Havelock to the Saviour.

In India Havelock fought in the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824 to 1826.

On 8 February, 1829, Havelock married Hannah Marshman, daughter of one of the great Baptist missionaries to that land, a co-worker with William Carey.

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Havelock took his new faith and the example of his missionary in-laws to heart and began distributing bibles to all the soldiers. He also introduced all-rank bible study classes and established the first non-church services for military personnel.

It was 23 years before promotion came his way – first to Captaincy, then Major in 1843, Lieutenant Colonel in 1844, and eventually Brigadier-General in 1857.  During this time his Christian convictions and witness remained steadfast.

On Sundays “a flag would fly over his tent” as an indication that he was at prayer and others were invited to join him.  The influence spread through his battalion until they were known as ‘Havelock’s Saints‘!

It was in 1857 the Indian Mutiny took place – thousands of rebels demanding “the extermination of every European in India” (Brave Lives and Noble, page 283). Havelock retook the city of Cawnpor, but not before the English population had been massacred.

Havelock, with 1000 troops, marched to Lucknow to rescue the besieged Britishers – 1,700 of them, including women and children.  “The advance to Lucknow forms one of the most stirring chapters in our military annals” … ‘Havelock’s Saints’ “earned a hundred VC’s!” (1000 Heroes, by A. Mee, page 565).

He arrived on 25 September and held out against the 10,000 rebels until Colonel Campbell’s Highlanders arrived, and Lucknow was saved.  But two months later Sir Henry Havelock died in Lucknow, overcome by exhaustion and dysentery.  To Sir James Outram he had said: “For more than forty years I have so ruled my life that when death came I might face it without fear.” And to his son, also wounded and needing care, Havelock had said: “Come, my son, and see how a Christian can die” (Modern Christian Biography, page 220; Way to Glory, by J Pollock, page 252).

Many towns bear testimony to the affection which England held toward her amazing Christian soldier. Streets and Inns named after Havelock are in abundance. His statue stands in Trafalgar Square, paid for by public donations. Although the statue goes unnoticed by today’s generation its dedication brought together one of the biggest crowds ever seen there.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

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Dr Theodore Leighton Pennell Medical Missionary

Dr Theodore Leighton Pennell died on March 23, 1912, at the age of 45.  His conviction was – in his own words – “a missionary, like a soldier, should obey without question, and go where he is sent.”  And go he did – to North-west India, on the border of Afghanistan.

Pennell was a brilliant medical student who won numerous honours during his studies. He achieved his academic supremacy despite being devoted to Christian work as well as his studies. He worked among the working class lads of Euston Road, supporting the working boys’ club in Tottenham Court Road.

He was son to a gifted missionary doctor who had served in Brazil and died when Theodore was but a lad. His mother then saw to his education and also impressed upon him that missionary service was the highest call on a man’s life. He was keen to get to the field as quickly as possible, but his mother restrained him until his studies were complete.

He was 25 years of age when he went to India – and his widowed mother went with him!

In 1892 lie went out to India as an honorary medical missionary under the Church Missionary Society, and was at first appointed to the existing Medical Mission at Dera Ismail Kihlan. In 1893 he was transferred to the village of Bannu, on the North-West Frontier of India, where he had the responsibility of opening up a medical mission.

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He erected a hospital – of sorts – and before long “he was treating as many as 220 patients a day” (Blazing New Trails, by A. Wallace, page 80).

He also incurred the wrath of the Moslem mullahs, who would often stone him when he attempted to preach.

Dr Pennell adopted Indian dress, ate Indian food, and became proficient in their tongue.  Once, during a visit to Lahore, he attended a service in the Cathedral, only to find that the verger denied him entrance into the “English” pews.  After nine years in Bannu there were 26 converts.  Fear of Islamic retaliation kept many from placing their faith in the Lord Jesus. The year 1903 saw him awarded a silver medal by the Indian Government for medical services rendered, and in 1911 he was awarded a gold one.

During a brief trip home to England for an operation for the removal of a loose cartilage in his knee, his mother took ill in India and died. In 1908 he married a well educated Parsee lady named Alice, who heartily shared in his medical work. He also did much toward education, and included sport activity for the male students, to help strengthen their physical frame. Pennell wrote a captivating book about his experiences in northern India, “Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier“.

On his return hundreds of Indians gave him a rousing welcome.  He recalled that when he first arrived hardly anyone would even give him a drink of water. Two years later he again returned to England, taking Alice with him. He needed to recuperate from a severe attack of enteric fever. The demands of his work had taken a toll on his body and his resilience.

Back in Indian in March, 1912, he was operating, when he caught septicaemia, and passed into his Saviour’s presence. Just a few days earlier a younger doctor from London, William Barnett, who was sent to work with Pennell, also died of septicaemia in the Bannu Hospital at the age of 32.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

Amy Carmichael Becomes Missionary Mum

Amy Carmichael met Pearl-Eyes on March 7, 1901.

Born on 16 December, 1867, into an Irish Presbyterian home, and the oldest of seven children, Amy was truly converted in a Wesleyan Methodist school at the age of 16.

The next crisis in her life was nearly three years later when she attended a holiness convention in Glasgow.  Here she made a full surrender to her Lord. As a young woman she ministered to the women working in Belfast’s textile mills.

Amy heard Hudson Taylor of China Inland Mission describe the great need for missionaries. “In China,” he said, “four thousand souls a day are dying without Christ”. Amy’s all-consuming desire to spread the Gospel, coupled with her love of excitement and strong personality, seemed a perfect fit the mission life. Amy decided she would never marry or have a family, but would spread the Gospel in foreign lands.

So in 1893 (March 3, at the age of 26) we find her sailing for Japan, the first missionary sent out by the Keswick Convention (UK).  Two years later – after health problems forced her to return to England – we find her in Bangalore, India.  And there she remained for 56 years without a furlough!

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Then Amy met Preena (or Pearl-Eyes) – a seven year-old girl who had escaped from one of the Hindu temples where she had been sold by her parents to work as a ‘temple prostitute’.

Preena had escaped from the temple once before, making her way back to her mother. The mother, however, was afraid the gods would punish her so she took the terrified and screaming child back to the temple. Preena’s hands were branded in punishment.

On her next attempt to escape Preena ran to a church in the village where one of the local women took her to Amy. Preena climbed onto Amy’s lap and called her “Amma”, which is Tamil for Mother.

Displeased people from the temple came screaming and yelling, but their anger slowly subsided and the crowd dispersed. Thus Amy was left with Preena.

Amy had already given up the idea of family, so she could serve the Lord unencumbered. Now she was faced with a child who needed her care. She knew the Tamil saying, ‘Children tie the mother’s feet’, and wondered if the Lord was calling her from her teaching and preaching to the more mundane domestic role of mother.

So began the work of what would later be known as Dohnavur Fellowship.

A righteously angry Amy Carmichael began her crusade against the infamous child prostitution practice. Initially dozens of little girls were rescued from temple prostitution and hundreds of others from extreme poverty or neglect. By 1923 Amy was running 30 nurseries to care for these young girls who had been dedicated to prostitution, either by “sacred vow” of family members or for money.

In 1945 a missionary statesman visited her headquarters at Dohnavur and wrote:  “The number of children about to be dedicated to Hindu gods who were rescued by Miss Carmichael now runs into several thousands…  There are now over 800 children in her three homes…”

Dohnavur is situated in Tamil Nadu, just 30 miles from the southern tip of India. It was a safe, secluded place when Amma and friends decided to live there, but has since developed into a bustling city.

Amy did not treat her project as an orphanage. Children are taken into the community as life members. They even take on a new family name, Carunia, which is Tamil for ‘lovingkindness’.

Temple prostitution was officially outlawed in India in 1948, which did not eradicate the practice, but reduced it significantly.

Amy’s orphans experienced an amazing revival in 1905, known as the Donhavur Revival. Further information about that great event can be found at another post:

Amy experienced a serious fall in 1931.  “For nearly 20 years she scarcely left her room, and for the last two and a half years of her life she could not get out of bed at all.”  (God’s Madcap, by Nancy Robbins, page 93).  Her longing for the Lord to take her home was fulfilled on 18 January, 1951.

Amy’s heritage was to be totally abandoned to the Lord Jesus, not to lead a life of ease, but to give one’s life for others.

“If by doing some work which the undiscerning consider ‘not spiritual work’ I can best help others, and I inwardly rebel, thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave, when in truth it is the interesting and the exciting, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” Amy Carmichael

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg Converts the Tamils of India

Bartholomew Ziegenbalg died on February 23, 1719.

Born in Saxony in 1682 and raised in the university town of Halle, Germany, Ziegenbalg became a pioneer Protestant missionary to India, and the first to translate the Scriptures into an Indian language … some 80 years before the more famous William Carey.

This young German had been converted at the age of 17, and fired with Christian zeal by the Pietist movement within the Lutheran Church.

It was King Frederick IV of Denmark who saw the need to send missionaries to the fledgling Danish settlement of Tranquebar, on the southeast coast of India (in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu). August Francke, who was the leader of Pietism at the University of Halle, recommended Ziegenbalg as one of two men for the task.

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On 9 July, 1706, at the age of 22, Ziegenbald arrived at the Coromandel Coast in South East India with Heinrich Plütschau; the pair being the first protestant missionaries to India and encountering opposition both from Roman Catholicism and ungodly merchants. But within eight months Ziegenbalg was able to converse in the native Malabar Tamil tongue, within 10 months of his arrival he was baptising the first five converts, and on 14 June, 1707, he laid the foundation stone of his church “in spite of official jeers and opposition.” By 14 August, 1707, he could write that “63 persons gathered for worship and another to be baptised tomorrow”.

Ziegenbalg took keen interest in the new printing technology emerging in Europe. He preferred the printed word to the spoken sermon. He began writing books on Tamil language, dictionaries and manuals on printing.

After 2 years in India Ziegenbalg had compiled Biblithece Malabarke, a list of 161 Tamil books he had read, describing the content of each book.

However all was not clear sailing for this enterprising and gifted missionary. Militant Hindus opposed the work of the missionaries and the local Danish authorities did not want unrest in their new settlement.

In 1708 opposition reached its height, and Zeigenbalg was imprisoned for four months, charged with encouraging rebellion by converting the natives. But “the converts multiplied.” In October, 1708, free from prison, he commenced his translation of the Tamil New Testament, a task that was completed in three years.

Ziebenbalg found the weather a further challenge, added to the religious and official opposition. He wrote, “My skin was like a red cloth. The heat here is very great, especially during April, May and June, in which season the wind blows from the inland so strongly that it seems as if the heat comes straight out of the oven”.

In 1709 Ziegenbalg asked that a printing press be sent from Denmark and he sent back drawings of Tamil type faces he needed made into printing blocks. When the Tamil type blocks arrived in 1712 they were too large, so Ziegenbalg had locals caste smaller type blocks, from cheese tins.

The first press and paper came through the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in London, arriving in 1713, but the printing hand sent with the press ran away. Ziegenbalg then recruited and trained a German soldier to print his first book in India, in Portuguese.

Ziegenbalg was further assisted by Johanne Adler, a printer who arrived in Tamil Nadu in 1713 and who set up a type-making factory near Tranquebar to supply Ziegenbalg’s press. In 1715 a paper mill was set up in the village. And then Adler began making printing ink as well. Ziegenbalg’s printing ambitions were ready to be met, locally.

In 1716, the press produced the first English language book printed in Asia; “A Guide to the English Tongue”. Next year, the press produced a Portuguese ABC book.

Ziegenbalg and Plütschau encouraged the indigenous Indian Christians into positions of leadership. In 1733 they ordained the first Indian pastor, whom they had converted from Hinduism.

When Ziegenbalg died, at the age of 36, he left behind 350 converts, a missionary seminary, a grammar and lexicon of nearly 60,000 Tamil words, and the entire Bible in the Tamil language, along with Luther’s Catechisms, and other works translated into Tamil. We might add that he brought to India a respect for Christian missionaries, and an example for others to follow.

Ziegenbalg is credited for not only printing the first English book in Asia but also writing the first Tamil dictionary.

Ziegenbalg married in 1716 and at the same time official opposition lessened with the arrival of a friendlier governor. He set up a seminary to train the native pastors.

Another contribution from Ziegenbalg is seen in his keenness to reach the marginalised. He reached out to the untouchables and others whose place in the caste system restricted them. He sought to elevate them socially, as equals in the gospel. He also started the first school for girls, so they could be given opportunities previously denied them.

We are told that on his deathbed he shaded his eyes and cried out: “How is it so bright, as if the sun shone in my face …”

Upon his death in 1719 he was buried at The New Jerusalem church in Tranquebar, which he and his associates completed the previous year.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: