Missionary Member Care and William Carey

I will be teaching a two-week module on “Missionary Member Care” starting next week. So I decided to provide an excerpt from “William Carey: Missionary Pioneer and Statesman” by F. Deaville Walker pg. 125-129.

William Carey DD, Professor of Sanskrit, Marat...
William Carey DD, Professor of Sanskrit, Marathi and Bengali in Calcutta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It is a fairly old book, published in 1925. This passage describes some of the many challenges, externally and internally, that William Carey was going through. Issues include problem with financial support, colleagues, physical health, family, culture shock, doubts and depression. Problems with local government here was only briefly alluded to. It is hard to decide what opinion to have after reading this. Does one emphasize the resolute faith and determination of William Carey? Does one emphasize the faithfulness of God who brought him through the fire and to ultimate success? Does one emphasize the failure of the system (mission support system) to make the path straight for him (and family and partners)?

To a man of less resolute mold and of less faith in God than Carey, the whole position must have seemed almost hopeless. Separated thus from the colleague he sincerely loved, he was left to his own devices. Trials began to thicken around him. It was evident that he would not be allowed to live in Calcutta as a missionary– even if he could afford it, which he could not. Yet he could not find another place to go to, and money was dwindling rapidly: “For two months I have seen nothing but a continual moving to and fro,” he wrote in his journal. The climate, the unaccustomed food, and the conditions of life in the tropics were evidently affecting his wife’s health. The long strain of the voyage, followed by their unsettled life in Bengal, had told upon her nerves, and both she and her sister were, not unnaturally, inclined to complain. It is not surprising that curry and rice did not agree with them, and they found Indian chapatis a poor substitute for bread; they complained that they had “to live without many of the necessaries of life.” There can be no doubt that their privations were real, for, left to himself, Carey naturally sought to reduce his family expenditure to the narrowest limits and live within his income. Doubtless the old experiences of Moulton were repeated, which would be all the harder for Dorothy and Katherine after the– to them– comparative luxury of the ship’s table. Dorothy and the two older boys were ill for a month with dysentery. Felix, indeed, so seriously that his life was in danger. Probably, too, they all suffered from homesickness and yearned for their simple cottage in the dear homeland. Enfeebled in body and spirits, they were not inclined to give William the sympathy he sorely needed. “My wife, and sister too, who do not see the importance of the mission as I do, are continually exclaiming against me,” he wrote in his journal; and again, “If my family were but hearty in the work, I should find a great burden removed.”

Nor had Carey real friendship of spirit with his colleague. To Sutcliff he wote:

“Mr. ‘T.’ is a very good man, but only fit to live at sea, where his daily business is before him, and daily provision made for him. I own I fear his present undertaking will be hurtful rather than useful to him; the fickleness of his mind makes him very unfit for such an undertaking. I love him, and we live in greatest harmony; but I confess that Ram Ram Boshu is more a man after my heart.”

Poor Carey had enough trouble in his own little family, in addition to the burden of the work he longed to do; and the financial entanglements in which Thomas was constantly involved must have been almost the last straw. Early in January (1794), within two months of their landing in Bengal, it was discovered that one of the doctor’s creditors in England had sent his bond out to India, and they were not sure that other creditors had not done the same. Carey knew that his colleague was hourly in danger of arrest. “In his state of perplexity, we know not what to do,” he wrote.

Twelve days later, Carey got an offer of a piece of land at a place called Deharta, some three days’ journey from Calcutta. It was to be rent-free for three years. So he went at once to consult Thomas and get from him the money necessary for the journey. Tho his dismay Thomas told him that the money was entirely exhausted– the whole year’s allowance gone in less than ten weeks! Indeed it was even worse that that, they had actually overspent, and Thomas had incurred a new debt to a moneylender.

This may have been a staggering blow, and on reaching his temporary home Carey wrote in his journal:

“Jan. 15, 16 (1794). I am much dejected…. I am in a strange land, alone, no Christian friends, a large family, and nothing to supply their wants. I blame Mr. T. For leading me into such expense at first, and I blame myself for being led … I am dejected, not for my own sake, but for my family’s and his, for whom I tremble.”

Subsequent entries in the journal bear witness to the almost crushing burden Carey bore that dark week:

“Jan. 17 …..Very much dejected all day. Have no relish for anything of the world, yet am swallowed up in its cares. Towards evening had a pleasant view of the all-sufficiency of God, and the stability of His promises, which much relieved my mind; and as I walked home in the night, was enabled to roll my soul and all my cares in some measure on God. … What a mercy is to have a God!”

January 19 was Sunday; to our lonely harassed missionary it was indeed a “day of rest and gladness.” Triumphing over worry and uncertainty, he went out into the country to get among the village people. Aided by his faithful munshi, who acted as his interpreter, he visited the Manicktulla bazaar, and, while the usual business was carried on as on other days, preached to a large congregation consisting principally of Mohammedans.

That Sunday brought a measure of peace and comfort to his soul. On Monday he had once more to take up his heavy burden of finance. He writes:

“Jan. 20. This has been a day of seeking money.” He evidently felt that he had no alternative but to try to borrow five hundred rupees with which to carry on– a thing he hated, but in his extremity was driven to. The journal continues:

“Jan 22. Full of perplexity about temporal things. … My wife has, within this day or two, relapsed into her affliction and is much worse than she was before, but in the mount the Lord is seen. I wish I had but more of God in my soul.

Jan. 23. … My temporal troubles remain just where they were. I have a place, but cannot remove my family to it for want of money.”

Imagine poor Carey’s grief and dismay on visiting his colleague that day, to find him

“… living at the rate of I know not how much, I suppose two hundred and fifty to three hundred rupees per month, has twelve servants, and this day is talking of keeping his coach. I remonstrated with him in vain, and I am almost afraid that he intends to throw up the mission. …My heart bleeds for him, for my family, for the Society, whose steadfastness must be shaken by this report, and for the success of the mission, which must receive a sad bow from this.”

Every word seems to have been written in blood. What unutterable loneliness Carey must have passed through this day, with no earthly firend in whom he could confide! But ere he slept he wrote:

“Bless God, I feel peace within and rejoice in having undertaken the work, and shall, I feel, if I not only labour alone, but even if I lose my life in the undertaking. I anxiously desire the time when I shall so far know the language as to preach in earnest to these poor people.”

There can be little doubt that beside his heavy cares, Carey was suffering from the depression that so often attacks newcomers in India. His own health was probably undermined, and in his condition troubles would appear blacker than they really are.

But even in his darkest moments Carey never lost sight of his greater purpose. He had burned his boats behind him and never thought of turning back. He had come to this land to do missionary work, and nothing could shake his conviction that God had called him.

With the shadows lying heavy around he threw himself with renewed earnestness into his language studies. With his munshi he worked hard to correct the Book of Genesis that Thomas had translated into Bengali; and on the following Sunday we find him and his interpreter in the villages making known the gospel of the grace of God.

On January 28 he went again to Calcutta in a fruitless effort to find a way out of his difficulties. He wrote:

“Again disappointed about money. Was much dejected and grieved. …In the evening had much relief in reading over Mr. Fuller’s charge to us at Leicester. The affection there manifested almost overcame my spirits, for I have not been accustomed to sympathy of late”

Every door seemed closed, and to him, in his spirit of depression, everyone seemed against him. He called on one of the most honest and pious of the chaplains in Calcutta and was coldly received because the good man had “got across” Dr. Thomas. Instead of getting some friendly counsel or help, poor Carey was allowed to depart without even the common courtesy of a meal, though he had “walked five miles in the heat of the sun.”

What days of depression Carey must have experienced! If faith in God means anything at all, it is at a time like that.

Missions Quote – 1928

If this same topic were written today, closing in on 90 years later, there would be a few changes… but not many. This quote is from the 1928 Jerusalem Conference of the International Missions Council.

Throughout the world there is a sense of insecurity and instability. Ancient religions are undergoing modification, and in some regions dissolution, as scientific and commercial development alter the current of men’s thought. Institutions regarded with age-long veneration are discarded and called in question, well-established standards of moral conduct are brought under criticism; and countries called Christian feel the stress as truly as peoples of Asia and Africa. On all sides doubt is expressed whether there is any absolute truth or goodness. A new relativism struggles to enthrone itself in human thought.
Along with this is found the existence of world-wide suffering and pain, which expresses itself partly in a despair of all higher values, partly in a tragically earnest quest of a new basis for life and thought, in the birthpangs of rising nationalism, in the ever-keener consciousness of race- and class-oppression.
Amid widespread indifference and immersion of material concerns we also find everywhere, now in noble forms and now in license or extravagance, a great yearning, especially among the youth of the world, for the full and untrammeled expression of personality, for spiritual leadership and authority, for reality in religion, for social justice, for human brotherhood, for international peace.
In this world, bewildered and groping for its way, Jesus Christ has drawn to Himself the attention and admiration of mankind as never before. He stands before men as plainly greater than Western civilization, greater than the Christianity that the world has come to know. Many who have not hitherto been won to His Church yet find in Him their hero and their ideal. Within His Church there is a widespread desire for unity centered in His Person.

Quote by Peter Beyerhaus

Quote by Peter Beyerhaus (b. 1929) summarizing Walter Freytag (1899-1959) view of Protestant Missions in 4 waves.

In Pietist mission the Kingdom of God was narrowed to a

Dr. Peter Beyerhaus

purely individualist-ethical outlook. They concentrated on the salvation of individuals… Second, came those who held that the goal was not so much individual converts but self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating churches. These missiologists did not teach the churches must be identical with the Kingdom of God, but acted as though they were… Third, philanthropic missions, mainly with Anglo-American background, conceived of the Kingdom in terms of bettered social conditions in the world. This view, which today is celebrating an unexpected comeback, Freytag called the idealistic and socio-ethical . contraction… Finally, the fourth wave, in sharp contrast to the former three, which held that the kingdom was already present in this world, believed that the Kingdom is yet to come. The apocalypitc evangelists, men like Frederik Franson and Grattan Guiness, believed the Kingdom to be an eschatological phenomenon and located it in the totally transcendent realm. The only object of mission, they said, is to speed up the second coming of the Lord and the consequent establishment of the apocalypitcal Kingdom.

<Quote from Mission, Humanization, and the Kingdom, 1972, p. 55. Quoted by Eun Hong Kim, “Peter Beyerhaus’s Missiological and Theological Thought”, Asia Pacific Journal of Intercultural Studies, Jan 2006, p. 35-36>

So Beyerhaus looks at Protestant mission history in terms of the view of the Kingdom of God.

Wave 1. The Kingdom of God is individual lives

Wave 2.  The Kingdom of God is The Church

Wave 3.  The Kingdom of God is Society

Wave 4.  The Kingdom of God is the future transcendant kingdom.

The first 3 waves at least make sense because they are focused on human lives. The Kingdom of God is about a recreated individual, in an  purified Church, in a transformed society. The fourth wave, to me, is a bit questionable, not because there is not some truth about it, but that the focus is wrong. Beyerhaus did believe that the last wave had value in that the coming of the Kingdom of God should “speed up” our evangelistic fervor. Personally, I think it should motivate us to faithfulness, not trying to be “quick” but I suppose that is a matter of opinion. Some in the 4th Wave believe that we can get Christ to come back sooner through evangelism (The Lausanne Covenant seems to suggest this). This appears to be a regrettable interpretation of Matthew 24.

Regardless, all four waves have problems because of their limited scope. God’s Kingdom is not simply centered on God, not simply centered in people (or groups of people), and not centered in a specific period of time.

Another Roland Allen Quote. Missionaries and Leadership

Roland Allen

“The secret of success in this work lies in beginning at the very beginning. It is the training of the first converts which sets the type for the future. If the first converts are taught to depend upon the missionary, if all work, evangelistic, educational, social is concentrated in his hands, the infant community learns to rest passively upon the man from whom they receive their first insight into the Gospel. Their faith having no sphere for its growth and development lies dormant. A tradition very rapidly grows up that nothing can be done without the authority and guidance of the missionary, the people wait for him to move, and, the longer they do so, the more incapable they become of any independent action. Thus the leader is confirmed in the habit of gathering all authority into his own hands, and of despising the powers of his people, until he makes their inactivity an excuse for denying their capacity. The fatal mistake has been made of teaching the converts to rely upon the wrong source of strength. Instead of seeking it in the working of the Holy Spirit in themselves, they seek it in the missionary. They put him in the place of Christ, they depend upon him.

In allowing them, or encouraging them, to do this, the missionary not only checks the spiritual growth of his converts and teaches them to rely upon a wrong source of strength; he actually robs them of the strength which they naturally possess and would naturally use. The more independent spirits amongst them can find no opportunity for exercising their gifts. All authority is concentrated in the hands of the missionary. If a native Christian feels any capacity for Christian work, he can only use his capacity under the direction, and in accordance with  the wishes, of that supreme authority. He can do little in his own way; that is, in the way which is natural to him. Consequently, if he is to do any spiritual work outside the Church the opportunity which is denied to him within her borders, or he must put aside the desire which God has implanted in his soul to do spiritual work for Christ, and content himself with secular employment. If he does the first, he works all his life as a cripple: if he takes either of the two other courses, the Church is robbed of his help.”

This was written by Roland Allen in 1908 (Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours, A Study of the Church in the Four Provinces, chapter 8). Even if the words are over 100 years old… not much has changed. There is still a tendency for many missionaries to hoard ecclesiastical power. Perhaps the only major change is that now we are finding that some of the the next generation of local leaders have finally assumed positions of power that they hoard with as grim determination as the missionaries before them. The missionaries did it due to pragmatics and (perhaps) bigotry. The new generation theologized it. Be it locals or foreigners, the accumulation of power stifles the use of God’s gifts in the church.

Church on a Mission (Two Quotes from David Bosch)

Church in missions:

“A community of people who,

in the face of the tribulations they encounter, keep their eyes steadfastly on the reign of God

by praying for its coming,

by being its disciples,

by proclaiming its presence,

by working for peace and justice in the midst of hatred and oppression, and

by looking and working toward God’s liberating future.”

-David Bosch in “Transforming Missions” (page 54)

“Mission takes place where the church, in its total involvement with the world, bears its testimony in the form of a servant, with reference to

unbelief,

exploitation,

discrimination andviolence,

but also with reference to

salvation,

healing,

liberation,

reconciliation and

righteousness.”
(David Bosch.  “Mission–an Attempt at a Definition,” Church Scene, April 25, 1986, p. ll.)

Quote for Thought

I am not reaping the harvest; I scarcely claim to be sowing the seed; I am hardly ploughing the soil; but I am gathering out the stones. That, too, is missionary work; let it be supported by loving sympathy and fervent prayer.” -Robert Bruce, missionary to Iranian Muslims in the late 19th century.

<Quoted by Stephen Neill in “A History of Christian Missions,” Penguin (1986), pg 311.>