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Raised in Poverty
Mary Slessor (1848-1915) was born, the second of seven children, into a poor and troubled home in Scotland. Although her mother was deeply religious, her father was a violent drunkard, who brought the family to abject poverty, fear and misery. Their one-roomed home had no water, lighting or toilet and hardly any furniture. Mary slept on the floor. Mary’s older brother died, leaving her as the oldest surviving child. When her father died, the burden of supporting her family fell upon her young shoulders. At 10 Mary began work as a half-timer, spending half her time at school and half her time at the mill. At 14 years Mary began working full time, a 58 hour week at the looms. However, her mother ensured that Mary went to Church every Sunday.
Hudson Taylor’s father, James Taylor, before his birth, knelt beside his 24 year old wife, Amelia, in the parlour at the back of his busy chemist shop in Yorkshire, England, and prayed: “Dear God, if you should give us a son, grant that he may work for You in China.”
By age 4, Hudson would declare: “When I am a man, I mean to be a missionary and go to China.” Also by age 4, he had learnt the Hebrew alphabet. Hudson was home-educated and grew up in a Godly home. However, by age 17, he was severely backslidden, restless and rebellious against his parents.
Henry Martyn was born in Truro, Cornwall, England, and he was only two years old when his mother died from tuberculosis. (His sisters followed their mother to an early grave and by the time he was 28, he was the only member of his family still surviving.)
Henry was a gifted student, and the ease with which he was able to learn, tempted him to avoid hard work and he gained a reputation for idleness. He was not popular and his small physique invited bullying by other boys. To protect him from bullying, the teachers placed him under the protection of another boy, who had an enduring Christian influence on his life.
Frederick William Baedeker - Missionary to Russia
Over half of F.W. Baedeker’s life had passed before he became a Christian. His early years were spent in business, the army and in much travelling.
Transformed by Christ
In 1866, in his early forties, he became a Christian. “I went into the meeting a proud rebellious infidel and came out a humble believing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Along with his remarkable spiritual transformation came a corresponding improvement in his health. His previous ill health had led many people to predict an early grave for him. But now, from his conversion, he began to undertake such strenuous journeys that would have depleted the energy of much younger and healthier men.
“Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.” Genesis 18:18
Chaplain to Convicts
Samuel Marsden (1764-1838) was born in Farsley, Yorkshire, and the son of a Wesleyan farmer. He won a scholarship and studied for the Church of England ministry at Cambridge. Samuel Marsden was offered the influential post of Chaplain to the convict colony of New South Wales in Australia. His college friend, the Evangelical Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce, organised this appointment. Within a month of marrying Elizabeth Fristan, Samuel was ordained and sent off by ship to New South Wales.
Robert Moffat (1795-1883), was brought up near Edinburgh by devout Christian parents, who filled his heart and mind with accounts of the exploits of missionaries in other countries. After being apprenticed as a gardener and a brief experience as a sailor, Robert Moffat determined to join the London Missionary Society. However, his first application was rejected. Undaunted, the Scot tried again the next year and was accepted.
In October 1816, at Surrey Chapel in London, he and 8 others were set apart for the work of the LMS. One of the others was John Williams, who was destined to lose his life at the hands of cannibals in the South Seas. Robert Moffat set sail for Africa, arriving in Cape Town in January 1817.
John Williams was happier with a hammer in his hand than a pen. When he was 14 he went to work in an ironmonger’s shop. It was with great reluctance that he allowed himself to be persuaded by his employer’s wife to go to church. Moorfields Tabernacle was closely associated with George Whitefield’s ministry. The visiting preacher that Sunday night in January 1814 preached: “What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16: 26)That night John Williams realised what a bad bargain he was making and a woman’s persistence and prayer gained reward beyond measure.
Robert Morrison was born January 1782 in Northumberland of a Scottish father and English mother who were both active members of the Church of Scotland.
Although raised in a God fearing home by devout Christian parents, schooled in the Westminster Catechism and memorising the Psalms Robert Morrison, the youngest of eight children, was converted from a purposeless life of drunkenness at age 15. He immediately came to love the Bible so much that people always found him with a Bible at hand, and he began to teach himself Latin, Greek and Hebrew. His love for books so consumed him that he read into the early hours of the morning.