John Hunt to Fiji

This is the day that … John Hunt was born in England, in 1812, to illiterate and irreligious parents.

Converted at the age of 17 when he came into contact with the Methodists, he was soon preaching in their meetings. At the age of 23 he entered their “Theological Institution” for missionary training, and on 29 April, 1838, he and his new bride, Hannah, sailed for the South Seas.

Fiji! “Those hills which they viewed upon their arrival contained the ovens in which human beings were roasted for cannibal feasts. There … widows had been strangled to accompany the dead chiefs to their ‘Paradise’.”

“Cunning was the highest intelligence. War was their business. The religion of the Fijian required cannibalism” (They Knew Their God, Volume 4, page 61).

Thus it was John Hunt and his good wife, both in their mid-20’s, tackled the unwritten language of these people that they might tell them of the Saviour.

“I determine,” he wrote in his journal, “to make known nothing among the poor Fijians but Christ and Him crucified. Oh that my speech and my preaching may be with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (Biography of John Hunt, by G. Rowe, 1860, page 173).

The savage climate led to the death of their three children soon after birth. He wrote: “I have three now in Heaven. I thank God they are safe. I feel much my need of them now; but, oh, how awful the thought of their living to sin against my God and be lost!”

For 10 years John Hunt persevered. King Thakombau – “the butcher of his people” – was a fierce foe, and his wars and hostility toward the missionary seemed to make all success hopeless.

John’s translation of the New Testament in Fijian was completed in 1847 (though not published until 1854).

And God saw fit to pour out revival among these people. There was weeping and groaning “and a general calling upon God to have mercy” by many Fijians. Even Queen Viwa was converted.

John Hunt wrote: “One hundred converts the first week of the revival… The mats of the chapel were wet with the tears of the communicants of the table of the Lord…”

But a year later – 4 October, 1848 – John Hunt died, at the age of 36.

King Thakombau was baptised nine years later by a fellow missionary.

And the gospel continued to bring light and joy and peace to those who had lived in darkness.

“The mission to Fiji has been as remarkable for its success as any ever undertaken by the Christian world. At the jubilee of that mission there was not an avowed pagan left. Fifty years before there was not a single Christian in all Fiji” (Epoch Makers of Modern Missions, by A. McClean, page 171).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Willam Carey – Desperate for Missions

This is the day that … William Carey preached his “deathless sermon”, as it is described by his biographer, S. Pearce Carey.

It was 1792, and the place was Nottingham, England.

At 10.00 a.m. the young cobbler/pastor from Leicester rose to address the small group.  His text was Isaiah 54:2,3:  “Lengthen thy cords … strengthen thy stakes …” and then rang out a fervent plea for missions. The two key thoughts he drew from that passage are: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

One who was present tells us that Carey “was in an agony of distress” as he became spokesman for the perishing multitudes in heathendom.

As the ministers “once more quenched the Spirit” at the meeting’s close and began to leave, Carey grasped the arm of Andrew Fuller and cried:  “Is there nothing again going to be done, sir?”

“This”, writes S. Pearce Carey, “was a creative moment in the history of Christ’s Kingdom.  Deep called unto deep.  Fuller trembled an instant under that importunity, gesture and heartbreak, and then his soul was stabbed awake and the Holy Spirit flooded his spirit” (page 84).

With Fuller’s ‘inspired strength’ behind Carey’s vision, things began to move.

Before long the Baptist Missionary Society was born, and Carey himself was on his way to India.

While Count Zinzendorf’s Moravian community can be identified as an earlier missionary movement than Carey’s it is true that William Carey carried the burden of Missions like no-one before him. It was an obsession for him, which accounts for his passionate preaching.

Despite the ugliest of obstacles Carey got himself to India and pursued 41 years of missionary service. His wife’s insanity was but one of the crosses he had to bear. He had died to this world and spent himself in service of heaven.

Sudan Interior Mission

This is the day that … the Sudan Interior Mission (S.I.M.) was born, in 1898.

“On 24 May, 1898,” Rowland Bingham later wrote, “Helen E. Blair entered with me into life partnership … we were married three days before the mission was born …” (Flame of Fire, by J. Hunter, page 66).

In the previous decades an awakening of missionary interest had been stimulated by the preaching of D.L. Moody and the Student Volunteer Movement (of which John Mott became the leader for over 30 years).

Literally thousands of young people caught the vision of evangelising the world – in their generation.  Among them was a young Englishman named Rowland Victor Bingham, who migrated to Canada … and then trained at A.B. Simpson’s Bible College.

With two other graduates, and without the backing of any Church or missionary society, Bingham sailed for Africa – the “white man’s grave”, as it was then known, and not without cause. 

Bingham, suffering from attacks of malaria, was the only one to survive.  He returned to Canada in February, 1895 … but that year of death, sickness and disappointment had not been wasted.

Other dedicated young men volunteered to go.  The S.I.M. was formed, and by 1900 Bingham was off again – with two other young men – to take the gospel to the Sudan.  Again the dreaded malaria struck – the mission was aborted.

But in 1901 another attempt was made … and success began to crown their efforts.

Less than a century later the S.I.M. has over 700 missionaries working under its banner.  “Over 6,700 congregations have come into being through S.I.M. ministry, all self-sustaining and self-governing” (Sixty Great Founders, by G. Hanks).

In 1954 S.I.M. set up Africa’s first missionary radio station and daily the gospel is beamed out across the airwaves from Radio ELWA.  And because its work now extends far beyond the Sudan, S.I.M. today stands for “Society of International Mission”.

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.

Run my child – Run for Me!


May 18, 2002
Out of the darkness I called you.
Out of the mire I lifted you.
Out of eternity I chose you.
Run My child. Run for Me.

When you were alone I came to you.
When you were lost I found you.
When you turned away I yearned for you.
Run My child. Run for Me.

When it was time I met with you.
When you were ready I gifted you.
When it was right I transformed you.
Run My Child. Run for Me.

When you cried I stood by you.
When you struggled I strove with you.
Before you prayed I answered you.
Run My Child. Run for Me.

As you grew I nurtured you.
As you learned I tutored you.
As you stood I walked with you.
Run My Child. Run for Me.

As you lifted your eyes I guided you.
As you opened your ear I spoke with you.
As you sought My will I drew you.
Run My Child. Run for Me.

See that distant village lost from Me.
See those darkened souls far from Me.
See those broken hearts ripe for Me.
Run My Child. Run for Me.

What is in your hand yield to Me.
What I gave offer back to Me.
Fill up your store for eternity.
Run My Child. Run for Me.

May 20, 2002
I HELPED YOU   Rest My Child. Lean on Me.
I HELPED YOU SIT.   Sit My Child. Sit at My feet.
I HELPED YOU STAND   Stand My Child. Stand on My word.
I HELPED YOU WALK    Walk My Child. Walk in the Spirit.
I HELPED YOU RUN.    Run My Child. Run for Me.