Perseverance, the Secret Behind the Progress of Christian Ministry–Missionary Examples
Pr. Ajeesh George
Often discouragement and disappointments cause the missionary on the field to turn from his call and commitment, but enduring to the end through all the tests and sufferings is the mark of a missionary. If the meaning of the word ‘perseverance’ is persisting in, or remaining constant to a purpose, task or belief inspite of obstacles and opposition, it is an unavoidable quality for a missionary. Because once you committed for God’s mission you can’t imagine the hardships and challenges awaiting you. But you have no right to go back. Jesus said to His disciples “No one who puts his hands to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Lk. 9:62.NIV). The missionary should hold on to his commitment, call and work. 'To persevere', means to finish the race (II Tim.4:7). Apostle Paul the great missionary the world has ever seen is a good example of someone who persevered despite apparent failure (II Cor. 11:23–27). His list of failures would make most of us quit, but Paul didn’t give-up. He persevered and today his ministry is remembered for its unmistakable successes. The heroes of faith in the Word of God and all the missionaries whom we love and respect, persevered for God by paying great price for their call and commitment. The life experience of good role models can influence us to follow the same pattern to become successful in our mission. Here I share some of the missionary experiences which can be a great source of motivation for the readers to possess the quality of perseverance.
The life experience of the first Protestant missionary to India gives us 14 years unforgettable contributions to the Indian church. This man reached India at young age, when he was 22 years old. He died in India at the age of 37, of course his life span was very short. But the 14 years of his endurance in the Indian mission fields produced long lasting fruits for the growth of Indian church.
The quality of perseverance we see in his very childhood days. He lost his dear godly mother at the age of 6, after two years his father passed away, after one year one of his sister passed away. After that a great fire happened in his city. But in the midst of all these tragedies young Bartholomeaus persevered with a great desire to study the Word of God. While he was in high school his headmaster commend about him was “he is an immature boy in his mind and body”. But his quality of perseverance made him mature and brilliant in the future. When Bartholmeaus had decided to come to India as a missionary with his friend Henry Rluetschau, many advised them to turn back from that foolish decision. But he didn’t give-up, their conviction was that life belonged to the Lord and should be spent for his service. Their sea voyages to India was filled with great difficulties, fatigues and toils. They suffered with the enmity of the captain. When they reached in India, Tranquebar in Tamil Nadu, the Danish governor misunderstood them as spys of the king of Denmark. They were not allowed to enter in the land for 3 days. And they were given a place in the dirty corner in the market of the town to stay with the poor and slaves. But Barthalomeaus rejoiced in the Lord and begun his mission in India. Danish governor became a great enemy to them. He spread bad stories against them to be denied by the people. He tried to stop the financial support for the missionaries from the Danish Emperor. But nothing could quech their passion to serve the Lord.
God used the local people and the German soldier to give financial support. Barthalomeaus opened a European library for the Europeans who were living in Tranquebar. He was physically weak from his childhood. The climate and food in India was not suitable for his health, but he enjoyed the life with the poor and slaves in Tranqubar. Through a great hard work he was able to use Tamil language within one year. When other Europeans in India were focusing to gain more money though trade, Barthlomeaus’s focus way gaining the soul and developing the Indian society by enduring any kind of hardships. The chaplains of the Danish East India Company envied them. The Roman Catholic priests and the orthodox Hindus opposed them alike. Governor J.C. Hassius gave all possible troubles against the mission. Once Ziengenbalg was beaten-up by the governor. When Ziegenbalg thought of filing a case against the governor God spoke to him through Rom. 12:19–21, so the missionaries surrendered before the Word of God and could overcome all the evils by doing good. Once he was put in prison for several months by the false accusations of the governor. But he came out of the prison with a renewed commitment and passion to continue his work.
Results of His Perseverance
It is really amazing to know about the results his 14 years of above mentioned perseverance in Indian mission fields. He learned Tamil language through rigorous self-disciplined learning. He made the first Tamil Dictionary with 20,000 words. They started the first girls school on 28th December 1707. After six years of arrival there were five schools under their care. Ziegenbalg built the first protestant Tamil church in 11th Oct. 1718. Within two years there were 470 baptized believers in the church. He translated the first Tamil New Testament by March 21st 1711. He and his friends started the first paper mill in India. He translated the first Tamil hymn book and published in 1715. He printed the first Tamil European calendar. He took all the initiative to began the first seminary in India and established on 23rd Oct. 1716.
Ziegenbalg, Endured to the End
In the midst of various opposition from people inside and outside, with all physical weakness, with all financial crises Ziegenbalg persevered for the accomplishment of his vision. During the year 1718, his health declined, during his last days prayer and praise in Tamil language was heard from his lips. In 1719, February 23rd the young missionary endured death for God in Indian mission field.
Here is a man who did not allow his zeal to wane nor enthusiasm to rust. He combined wonderfully the degrees of a scholar and the activity of a missionary. Ziegenbalg is considered as the father of Indian mission, the apostle to India. The secret behind his successful mission in India was the way he persevered for the Lord.
Amy Carmichael-Persevered for the Women and Children in India (1861-1951)
19th and 20th centuries known as centuries of mission, but there were few women who went to different countries as missionaries. Amy Carmicahel is one of the powerful missionaries of the twentieth century. Amy was born in Ireland into a God fearing family. At the age of sixteen she dedicated her life to live for Christ. She was influenced by the socialist ideas at her early days. She had a special place in her heart for the poor and downtrodden in the society. Later she was chosen as the first sponsored missionary of Keswick Mission. She was sent to Japan, but after one year, illness forced her to return to England. But she didn’t give-up her call for mission. Here we see the quality of perseverance in her life, she was accepted by the church of England Zenona Missionary Society to work at Bangalore in South India. She come to Tinnelvelly district of Tamil Nadu and joined with other missionary family of Rev. Walker.
Any missionary who came to India during those days found great difficulty with the social and religious systems. When Amy Carmichael reached India in 1895 she immediately encountered the full impact of the country’s religious barrier. At the mission school where she was stationed, were not able to impact the society for the conversion of people. Amy’s heart was moved by seeing the temple children, both boys and girls, who were condemned to be ‘married’ to the gods for vile and immoral purposes. The orthodox Hindus and the evil practices and other superstitious beliefs were the great hindrance before Amy to do something for the deliverance of the people and development of the society. Lack of education and educational institutions, lack of medical care were another challenge she faced. The limitations as a woman was another barrier to work.
But nothing could stop her commitment to serve the Lord. Her commitment was to endure for the Lord till the end. She took initiative to talk to the government and mission authority to strengthen the law to defeat the evil practices like ‘devadassi system’. Amy moved to Dohnavur from Tinnalvelli. In 1901 she received the first temple child, and she became her mother for the rest of her life. Amy formed her mission organization called Dohnavur fellowship. She built a home and school for the orphan children and the children who were rescued from temples. When the number of children increased she built more houses in different places for children. By 1913 there were 140 children in her homes. She built another house for mentally and physically challenged children. And there was a prayer house also built for the people who were with her. When she felt the need for a hospital, she asked her people to pray for 10,000 dollars. Their prayer was answered and a hospital was built, it was called as ‘place of heavenly healing’. The aim of the ministries of Dohnavur Fellowship was to save the children in moral danger and to make God’s law known to the people of India. She was called ‘Amma’ by the people and children. She bathed her children and cared for them in sickness. She played with them and took them on walks in to the forest where she taught them to love animals and appreciate nature.
A great hindrance to the life and ministry
While Amy was a progressing through perseverance in mission, 24th Oct 1931 she fell down on the floor broke her leg and dislocated an ankle. That incident left her an invalid for the rest of her life. After 36 years of unbroken service in India being confined in to a room for the rest of her life was unbearable. But Amy was an extraordinary lady, because she had the ability to persevere in any situations of life. She didn’t give up, she continued her role as Amma to her family. She kept in touch with outside world through her writings, she wrote thousands of letters. The amazing thing is, she wrote 13 works during this period, as well as revise her other works and produced more poetry. Even in the 20 years of bed ridden life, she persevered for the Lord.
The ‘Fellowship homes’ established by Amy Carmichael’ is still open today to receive unwanted children. The work of Amy started continues to exemplify the love of God, and the staff at Dohnavur with one exception, are all Amy’s grown up children, fulfilling one of her dearest wishes. Throught her struggle in India, Amy was always aware that a battle was being fought, yet in it she learned to know Christ in the power of his resurrection, and in the fellowship of his suffering.
George Muller: Perseverance through Prayer
George Muller is known to the world as mighty man of prayer. After his Bible College training he went to England as a missionary to the Jewish people living there. But later left that and became a pastor in Teignmouth, Ebenezer chapel. Later moved to Bristol as a pastor at Bethesda Chapel where he spent rest of his ministerial life. When he entered ministry the first decision he had taken was for every need he will ask only God alone and not any man.
In 1834, he decided to start an orphanage (on seeing the orphan children in the streets of Bristol and Teigmouth). A man without any proper financial support decided to became father for the orphans living in the streets. The motivating fact behind this decision was, he knew about a prayer answering God. He asked God for money and his prayer was answered. In1835 he opened the orphan house with 30 girls.
The number of orphans were increasing, years after year. And built new buildings. Every step he took by faith and prayer alone. The first 10 years his faith was really tested. Sometimes it was at the last moments that his prayer was answered. He never gave up. Until the money came into his hand he prayed on his knees. When the neighbors of the orphan houses complained, he was forced to move to a new place. He prayed, God gave him new land and money to build new homes. He built 5 buildings for 2050 children to stay. And also a school for the children. Every single amount came through prayers.
He was extremely honest in financial matters. He kept account for every income and expense. Muller and his wife spent more time in secret prayer than for any other works. He had written in his diary about 30,000 experiences about how God answered his prayers. Many of the world famous missionaries and preachers like Hudson Taylor, Bernardo, Spurgeon were all motivated by the prayer life of Muller.
It is amazing how he was able to meet the needs of 2000 plus children every day Not only did he persereve in the midst of all the needs and challenges through prayer but also he was able support many missionaries around the world. In the initial stages of China inland mission, Muller was the main financial source for them. For many years he supported 189 missionary families. He established 100 schools with 9000 childern. Prinited 40,00,000 trackts and published and distributed thousands of Bibles free of cost. Until his death she could take care of 10,024 orphans. During his last years he travelled around the world and preached gospel.
When he was criticized by others he prayed; when his children were affected by different sickness, he prayed. When some of them passed away, he prayed to move forward. When their was nothing to eat for the childern he prayed. When his neighbors complained, he prayed for new place and new buildings. God answered all these prayers and George Muller persevered to become a faithful world famous missionary of God.
An entry in Muller’s Journal from 1874 underlines his continued faith in God. “ God who has raised us this work through me; God who has led me generally years after year to enlarge it; God who has supported this work now for more than 40 years, will still help, and will not suffer me to be confounded, because we rely upon him”.
Muller’s faith is a challenge to the ‘respectable’ Christians of every age, and provides a visible reminder of the reality and faithfulness of God. Faith in a faithfull God will meet all yours needs in the mission field. Prayer is the best weapon to perseverance in the ministry.
Barthalomeaus Ziegenbalg speaks to us that its not how long you live that matters, rather how we live matters. Live like Barthalomeaus making every oppositions into opportunities and enduring to the last breath. Amy Carmichael speaks to us to, face the need of the society and overcome every barrier before the deliverance of the people and development of the society. Her contribution from the last 20 years of bed ridden stage proves that, if you are willing to endure the hardship, the physical infirmities are not a barrier to work for the Lord. George Muller speaks to us when we are discouraged and disappointed with lot of needs, prayer is the best weapon to perseverance it. Because prayer will open the doors of heaven to meet all your needs. We are surrounded by a great cloud of lives whose examples call us for our best. They invite todays missionaries to finish well. Focus on the author and finisher of our faith, consider his life lay aside every weight and sins which so easly ensure us and run the role with endurance.