As I’ve been reading lots of missionary biographies lately I have seen a few trends that are of interest to me. First, pretty much every one of the missionaries about whom I have read experienced some intense physical sickness. Yes ok, a lot of these guys were missionaries in the 1800s when they didn’t have the medicines and healthcare that we have today. But still. Many of them had to leave the mission field and go home for months or years to recover from all kinds of crazy maladies. In Taylor’s case, he had to return from China because of a severe case of tuberculosis, and on top of that he got dysentery on the ship-ride home. Like ya do.
I point this out because it has actually been an encouragement to me. Since I’ve been in Romania, I’ve been sick absurdly often. In the past year alone I had 3 colds, the flu, a chronic 9 month cough, bronchitis, and scoliosis. Which is not tuberculosis or dysentery or malaria or dengue. But it’s annoying and frustrating to so often be slowed down and “out of commission.” But. I have come to see that maybe in some ways it’s just part of the package of living in foreign places in general and missionary life in particular. When I know that HUDSON TAYLOR had to leave his ministry for several YEARS because of illness, I don’t feel so frustrated that time’s a wastin as I’m laying sick in bed for a few days. And yet he had an incredibly thriving ministry and impact for Christ. God is sovereign, and He will accomplish what He has to accomplish. And perhaps it is for the best that I am weaker physically, as God’s strength can shine all the more brightly!
Furthermore, all these missionaries faced intense trials and tribulations of alllll sorts. Again, there is no comparison between a four month journey on a boat and 20 hours of plane rides (even if you have 4 connections!), but it’s still hard and tiring in its own way. And that’s not even the least of it. Taylor’s wife and several of his children died, and Mueller actually lost both his first and second wives (whom he married after the first died, to be clear haha). Many of these missionaries faced intense rejection from family and friends, were sharply criticized for what they were doing (even by other Christians!), or were told they were wasting their time and gifts. It’s incredibly encouraging for me to persevere in trials I face; if I am walking with the Lord and following His leading, I can rest confidently in His approval.
I also appreciated the fact that Taylor made a huge effort to assimilate into the Chinese culture in every way possible, so as to remove barriers to the Gospel. He didn’t compromise on his beliefs, but he did his utmost to connect and build bridges. He dressed like the Chinese, cut his hair like them, learned the language, and ate like them. And this wasn’t a globalized 2011; imagine the difference between 19th century BRITISH and CHINESE clothing/food/ways of life! He was pretty severely criticized and looked down upon by other missionaries and expats for doing this, but he was firm in his conviction. I really appreciate this and aspire to this!
This brings an end to my missionary biography bonanza, for now at least. I would highly recommend reading a few missionary biographies at some point; they will undoubtedly encourage and challenge you!