There are some amazing and inspiring stories of Christians who followed God and went around the world to spread the Gospel. There are so many missionaries that we could highlight to show you a glimpse of how God has been working, but below are a list of just 7 to give you an idea of the work these men and women do around the world, and to inspire you on your own walk with God.
What are Christian missionaries? Christian missionaries are people who bring the good news of the gospel around the world. Missionaries move from their home to a new place where they will begin ministry. Many missionaries will open schools, orphanages, support hospitals, or help local businesses.
We can look at the lives of these missionaries and see the way that God has worked through his people to reach those who have never heard, and those hurting. God calls us all to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, and these people and many others said yes and gone to those who don’t know the gospel to share their faith.
Here are some of the most important missionaries that have helped shape missions today:
- The Apostle Paul
- Ramon Llull
- William Carey
- Adoniram and Ann Judson
- Hudson Taylor
- Amy Carmichael
- Jim and Elisabeth Elliot
1. The Apostle Paul
Paul the Apostle is known by many Christians as he wrote many of the letters or epistles that make up the New Testament. Much of Paul’s later life is also recounted in the book of Acts.
Paul started his ministry later in life, he was a Jew and originally was persecuting Christians. This was until God met him on the road to Damascus, he then became a Christian.
Paul then meet with Jesus’ disciples and grew in his faith, he was an example of the life change that happens when following Christ. He then became an apostle and helped teach and lead others to Christ.
In Acts 13, we read how Paul is called by the Holy Spirit while in Antioch and were blessed by the Church there and sent off. From there they Paul took a total of four missionary journeys before he was beheaded in Rome.
Paul’s first missionary took Paul and Barnabas through Cyprus, Lycia, and Galatia. This trip was not easy, they spread the gospel while in Cyprus even the proconsul of the area believed.
Coming to Galatia was not as easy, there the Jews became very jealous of the influence that Paul and Barnabas were gaining especially as they were inviting Gentiles to believe. Because of this, they faced much persecution.
Paul was even stoned and thought to be dead. They continued to spread the gospel and even returned to many of the towns that persecuted them to strengthen the Churches there.
Paul’s second missionary journey was through Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia. He took Silas with him and meet Timothy in Galatia and also brought him along.
They were yet again meet with much persecution by Jews but Paul was also able to spread the gospel through situations like being imprisoned.
Paul’s third missionary journey took him through Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia. Paul visited many of the Churches he previously established and continued to preach the word. During this trip, he spent much time in Asia and Scripture says,
This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.Acts 19:10
Paul accomplished much and was persecuted much. On his fourth and final missionary journey, Paul traveled through Crete, Asia, Macedonia, Achaia, and maybe Spain. Paul’s missionary journey ended when he was arrested and sent to Rome.
Even while imprisoned he continued to write to encourage the Churches he had helped establish. Paul was eventually beheaded for his faith. but he left a big impact on missions for centuries to come.
We can look at what Paul did and the encouragement he left for the Churches, and today be inspired to show God’s love despite the circumstances and hardships.
We live in a very different time than Paul but can still look at his story in Acts and his writing in the epistles of the New Testament and be encouraged as we spread God’s word today.
2. Ramon Llull
Ramon Llull was a missionary to the Muslims and helped encourage others to join missions work as well.
Llull had no interest in following God at first, he was living a sinful life and enjoying it. One day he was interrupted and God called him out of his sinful life to follow him, Llull said yes.
Llull lived on an island in Spain he knew that they were predominantly Muslim before the crusade. He saw the Christian’s previous attempts to dominate the Muslims and felt the call from God to reach those following Islam.
He started by learning Arabic, which was not easy since none wanted to teach him for the point of evangelizing. After learning the language he dove into what they currently believed, their different philosophies and beliefs.
Llull wanted the message of the gospel to be available to all and wrote theological books in many languages. He continued in writing and teaching wanting many to know about the message of the gospel.
When speaking he often encouraged others to go to those who needed the gospel, but very few if any were willing and ready to reach the Muslims.
The chance came for Llull and he booked a trip to go to North Africa. When he went to go, he became afraid and did not get on his boat, but then the following day overcome by guilt and conviction he got on another boat.
It took three attempts to get on a boat before he sailed to Tunis.
When Llull finally arrived in Tunis he debated and talked with scholars of the Muslim faith, and in response, he was persecuted and almost out to death. Some became Christians and although he was no longer allowed in many places including Tunis he continued to help those who converted.
Llull as was very convinced that more missionaries were needed to go to the Muslim people so e continued to ask missionaries to be sent.
Llull returned to Africa two more times and wrote many more books and other literature. Though there were few at the time that appreciated what he did or his drive to reach the
He created a path for other missionaries to reach those of the Islamic faith in the future. Llull was eventually stoned, being the first martyred missionary to the Muslim.
3. William Carey
William Carey is credited by many as the Father of Modern Missions. He wanted to go to the people who had never heard the gospel before and when first proposing the idea to his Church, it was quickly struck down.
Carey was able to start a missions organization and preach to those who had never heard the Gospel.
Carey grew up in a small town and was the oldest child. He became a shoemaker and a teacher as he got older. He often considered those who had not heard the gospel and had a desire to reach them with the good news.
He drew a rough map of the world and would plot out points where there were people who had not heard the gospel and prayed for workers to be sent out into the harvest.
While bringing up the need for Christians to go overseas to spread the gospel he was met with opposition, some even thought that he was interfering with God’s work.
This did not stop him from his desire to reach those who had not heard the good news. Soon Carey with eleven others founded the Baptist Missionary Society.
By the end of their first year, they had £800 and started to plan their first missionary journey.
Carey joined John Thomas in India, and it was not easy for them. They soon ran out of money, but this drove Carey to a village where he worked at a factory to earn some money and had his first convert.
They continued to grow soon spreading the gospel to more places and learning to live on very little. Even when their funds expanded, Carey led a minimalist lifestyle giving almost all he earned to the mission.
Carey also became a social activist in India helping abolish inhumane practices. They established many stations in Hindustan where they were established and shared the good news of Christ to many other towns near as well.
Carey spent 41 years in India without furlough. Looking at the numbers of converts that occurred during Carey’s time in India may not be many, but similar to many characters in the Bible, they did not see all the fruits of their work, and they were not working for themselves but for God, to grow his kingdom.
4. Adoniram and Ann Judson
Adoniram and Ann Judson were some of the first missionaries sent from America overseas.
Adoniram became a Christian after one of his friends dies and he wanted to know the truth about God. He then went to Andover Seminary, and within a few months, he was a Christian and felt the calling to preach the gospel.
At this time he was not the only one who felt this calling, Adoniram and some of his classmates decided to start the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
February of 1812 Adoniram and Ann got married and the couple was commissioned and sent to India. On their way, the couple read up on baptism as they hoped to convince William Carey who they would meet in India of their views, but instead, they both became Baptists and upon arrival in India were baptized.
The couple now decided to reach those who had never heard the gospel by going to Burma (now called Myanmar). They worked to translate the Bible into their language.
When war broke out between England and Burma, Adoniram was arrested and while many prisoners died, Ann was persistent and helped her husband in prison.
A year after he was released though, Ann died, but she accomplished much including being the first person to translate any of the Bible into Thai.
Following Ann’s death, Adoniram fell into a dark place, he lived in seclusion for forty days, and many people did not think he would survive in the Jungle. But coming out of this time alone he had a new vigor to reach the people of Burma.
He soon moved to Moulmein there he builds a school and continued on his work of translating the Bible. Through the remainder of his life and his ministry, he married again and even returned to the United States once.
Adoniram died in 1850 having left a big impact on both the people of Burma and aspiring missionaries.
We see in Adoniram and Ann’s life as well as many other missionaries’ lives that there are many trials faced on the missions field, but we also get to see the amazing way God works through these trials.
5. Hudson Taylor
Hudson Taylor was a missionary in China and the founder of China Inland Missions (CIM). He worked in China for 51 years and even worked on translating the Bible and growing his missions organization.
Hudson had grown up with Believing parents but did not come to faith himself until he was 17. After becoming a believer Taylor had a desire to go to China to be a missionary.
He had always been fascinated with China when he was younger, so he started to prepare himself. He studied medicine and mandarin so he would be ready to preach in China.
When Taylor was 21 years old he sailed to China. Arriving he started to preach the word but would run into crowds that would not pay attention to what he had to say because of his English clothes. This is when Taylor decided to wear what many Chinese men wore and grow a ponytail as many men did.
This change of the gospel being presented by someone foreign but dressed natively was profound. Taylor was greatly criticized at the time for this, many lived the English lifestyle while in China preaching and did not want to give it up.
Taylor saw the spread of the gospel as foremost important even over comfort.
Taylor eventually broke away from the missions organization that he originally came with and was an independent missionary relying on God for many of his needs. At this time he also met his wife Maria Dyer.
In 1861 Taylor became ill and returned to England and he used that time to grow the missionary population in China. During this time he created China Inland Mission.
He saw a great need for missionaries in the interior of China where many were unreached people groups. He soon returned to China with twenty-one other men and women working under him.
Much like what he did while previously in China, Hudson Taylor had all of the missionaries working under him dress like those native to the area, and not raise funds but instead trust God to provide.
There was much tension between England and China at the time, and there were also some working under Taylor that felt like he was too controlling.
Because of these situations, some left their work with China Inland Missions.
Taylor continued to work and pray, and in 1887 his missions organization accepted 102 to service with CIM.
Taylor died in 1905 on his eleventh trip to China, he had accomplished much in his lifetime from growing the presence of the Christian faith in China to changing the mindset of those going to other cultures for missions.
Even today the CIM is at work, now under the name of Overseas Missionary Fellowship (International).
6. Amy Carmichael
Amy Carmichael grew up in a well off family in Ireland, but at a young age realized that not everyone else was as well off as she was and a deep desire to help those in need.
Amy started where she lived, she would pass out tracts and food to the poor in her area. She even lived with the shawlies, those too poor to afford a hat and prayed earnestly for a Church.
Her work with the shawlies was fruitful as she was able to receive funding and land to build a building on for the shawlies and others less fortunate to worship and have community.
She soon realized that she was called to missions overseas. She first went to Japan and similar to Hudson Taylor felt the need to fit into the culture as to not impede the gospel in any way.
Amy was there for just over a year but saw many become Christians. She eventually had to leave because of the impact the climate had on her neuralgia.
Although her need to leave Japan was discouraging, the Lord had even more planned for Amy’s life. She soon arrived in India where she traveled around sharing the gospel after learning the language Tamil.
One day a young girl named Preena came to her, she was a slave at the Hindu temple and had heard what Amy was telling some women and Amy would be a good person to come to.
Amy then invited her in and continued to rescue other girls who were sold by their parents to the Hindu temple.
When she started to let children in she was saving the children but endangering herself, she knew she could be thrown in prison.
She then realized that although she was not married or had any kids of her own, she was to love these children who were not loved. She founded the Dohnavur Fellowship and continued to take in temple children.
The Hindu priests were very upset when they found out what she was doing, and surprisingly even some in the Christian community did not think her work was worth-while.
Amy continued, she wanted to know more about the Indian practices and found she could get an up-close look and help rescue more children by dying her skin with tea, and wearing what was typically worn by the lower class.
Growing up she never liked her brown eyes, but now they were a blessing as they helped disguise her and enabled her to get into the temples to rescue children.
Amy continued to help temple children even after hurting her leg and being bed-ridden. She helped direct the Dohnavur Fellowship from her room and wrote many books.
Three years before she died she got to witness the outlawing of temple prostitution.
Amy Carmichael was a mother to many and inspired many also to go into missions.
Her tireless work in India freed many temple children, and today the Dohnavur Fellowship is still around helping those in dangerous situations.
7. Jim and Elizabeth Elliot
Jim Elliot is a more recent missionary who made the ultimate sacrifice for the gospel. He was born in 1927 and died when he was 28 in an attempt to share the gospel with a tribe in Ecuador.
Both Jim and Elisabeth both felt a calling on their life to share the gospel with those in Ecuador. Many Christians have been and are inspired by his life and his efforts to share the gospel with every tribe and tongue.
Elliot grew up in a Christian home and from a young age had a desire for sharing the word with other people, and had a heart for missions.
As he grew older he decided to pursue that, he went to college and it was in college he met his future wife Elisabeth. Elisabeth also wanted to go on the missions field but they had different callings for their life at the time and stayed merely friends.
Following college, Jim Elliot studied linguistics. It was while studying linguistics Elliot heard about the many tribes in Ecuador who had not heard the gospel. He then planned to go to Ecuador to preach the gospel.
He left on February 2, 1952, with his missions partner Pete Fleming, they stayed in the capital Quito where they learned Spanish and soon moved to the Shandia village where they continued their missions work.
Elisabeth Elliot originally wanted to go to Africa to be a missionary but she soon felt calling her to go to Ecuador, and it was in Ecuador that Jim and Elisabeth reconnected and eventually got married.
Jim Elliot had previously heard of a specific tribe called the Aucas (now the Waranori), this group had killed anyone who had tried to connect with them in the past. When Jim heard of this tribe he had the desire to reach these people with the good news of the gospel.
Now he was in Ecuador, him and four other friends, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian. They all wanted to share the gospel with the Aucas.
These five men worked faithfully to build a trusting relationship with the Aucas, and they even had some friendly encounters. Finally, on January 8, 1956, they arrived on the beach planning to connect with the Aucas, they were excited to share the good news of the gospel with these people and confidant in their Savior.
All five were killed that day, but God continued to work through the tragedy.
Following the death of Jim Elliot and the other four missionaries, God worked in amazing ways. Elisabeth Elliot along with their daughter Valerie and Nate Saint’s sister Rachel Saint were able to live with the Aucas and brought the good news to them, and many became Christians.
Elisabeth Elliot wrote many books throughout her life including a couple on her and Jim’s life and work in Ecuador.
Many have heard their story and have been inspired. We see the repercussions of the life of Jim and Elisabeth’s life today. Many have gone into missions because of their story and have been encouraged to live for Christ and share the gospel all over the world.
Today, we have the same responsibility to share the gospel.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:19-20
God used these people in amazing ways, God calls us to the same thing. We can see throughout time, from after Jesus’ death until even now, the example of those who share the gospel with people who live without hope. These men and women helped pave the way for missions today and inspire us to share the gospel near and far.