Missionaries have been sent out since Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission after his resurrection. There are numerous examples of missionaries throughout the centuries, and their stories can encourage us as we see the Gospel being spread in the world.
What are some examples of missionaries? Five missionaries you should know are David Brainerd, David Livingstone, James Hudson Taylor, Brother Andrew, and Mother Teresa. Each one of them surrendered their own comfort to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ wherever they went in the world.
I hope a look into these five missionaries’ lives will encourage you, starting with the missionary David Brainerd.
One of the first missionary to bring the Gospel to the Native Americans. He brought the Gospel to them in their own language. He was appointed to be a missionary to New Jersey in 1742.
The next year, he lived among Housatonic Indians near Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He had to preach with a translator He started a school for the child there and even tried to learn the language to translate some of the Bible. He did not see people come to the know Gospel during this time.
In 1745, he was relocated to New Jersey. He saw spiritual growth with these Indians. Over 100 accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. He saw tribes weeping and repenting while he was preaching. God was moving among the Indian people in a powerful way.
He was only a missionary for four years before he died, but he still had a lasting impact on the Indian people during those years. The Indians who gave their lives to Christ will now have eternal life. They have a relationship with Jesus. There is nothing more valuable than this. It is priceless. Many of these Indians would have never heard the Gospel and surrendered their life to Jesus if it weren’t for David Brainerd.
His last diary entry written seven days before his death in October 1747 reads:
My soul was this day, at turns, sweetly set on God: I longed to be with him, that I might behold his glory. I felt sweetly disposed to commit all to him, even my dearest friends, my dearest flock, my absent brother, and all my concerns for time and eternity. Oh that his kingdom might come in the world; that they might all love and glorify him, for what he is in himself; and that the blessed Redeemer might see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied! Oh come, Lord Jesus, come quickly! Amen.David Brainerd
David Livingstone was a pioneer missionary to Africa. He mapped much of Africa and showed the world that Africans are not “less” then people and deserve to be treated with respect, not as slaves. People did not know what was in Africa before Livingstone. What he did changed the world.
During the 1840s, he set out on his first missionary journey to Cape Town, Africa. The journey was over 2,000 miles from his home.
His heart was to see an end to slavery in Africa, but he could not see how this could be possible when there were no maps of Africa. This started his adventure in mapping Africa.
During the 1880s, he set out to walk the width of Africa. While he was on this journey, he saw slavery up-close. He still kept going. He preached and treated people medially along the way, he had his medical degree.
In the end, he traveled over 2,00 miles over three years of walking. He returned back home after 16 years of living and traveling in Africa.
The English people were stunned by his bravery and he received many awards and honors. When he went back to Africa in 1858, he wrote letters to the British about the slave trade.
Livingstone was the person who stirred the abolishment of slavery in Africa. He had a deep love for the people in Africa and shared the gospel with them, even when trials came his way, he still praised the name of Jesus and brought others to Salvation. Because of him, people around the world became aware of the slavery that was taking place in Africa.
“I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of Christ. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time and eternity.”David Livingstone
James Hudson Taylor
James Hudson Taylor served as a missionary in China for over 51 years. His dedication to reaching people with the Gospel is admirable.
He went to London and was trained in medicine at the London Hospital. He abruptly left his studies and went to China after he had heard of the Taiping Rebellion. His heart was stirred to share the Gospel with the Chinese. He left on September 19th, 1853. He made it to Shanghai, China in March. He was the only missionary in this part of China.
Taylor worked hard to learn the language along with passages of Scripture. He adapted their culture and way of dressing. Unlike other missionaries in China at the time, he became like one of the Chinese. He did not live in fancy houses, like other missionaries, but lived a humble life in China.
In 1856, he moved to Ningbo where he found his wife. Due to illness, he went back to England. While in England, he prayed that God would bring him twenty-four workers to go back with him to China. He felt lead to make the China Inland Mission (CIM). The purpose of CIM was to bring missionaries to China. By the end of the year, God had miraculously provided twenty-four volunteers to spread the Gospel.
This was not the last time Taylor would ask God to send workers to China. Years later, he prayed asking God to send eighteen workers to reach nine unreached provinces. In 1885, they had 225 missionaries through CIM.
It was not always easy for Taylor. He has his compound was attacked and burned down. He admitted being he was depressed and having suicidal thoughts. He said his wife was the only thing keeping him from committing suicide. He had a realization: he could no longer strive for Christ. Taylor realized he could rest in the Lord. He was done relying on his own strength, he was going to rely on the strength of God.
Taylor’s impact on China was profound. The China Inland Mission he started went on to send over 700 workers to China. His legacy lives on through OMF International, formerly known as China Inland Mission. The goal of OMF International is to spread the Gospel in Asia. Taylor’s impact on China is still going over 160 years later. The Gospel is still being spread!
In April 1874, Taylor wrote to a friend saying:
We have $0.87 and all the promises of God.James Hudson Taylor
Andy van der Bijl who is known as Brother Andrew was a missionary who risked his life to share the Gospel. He lived his life bringing Bibles to people who were persecuted. He started the Open Doors ministry, which is a ministry dedicated to serving persecuted Christians.
In his early life, he was in the army. His time in the army came to an abrupt end when he took a bullet to the ankle.
In 1953, he began studies at WEC Glasgow bible college. He studied for two years there. A trip to Poland opened his eyes to missions. This stirred his heart for missions and people who needed the Gospel around the world.
He felt a call to bring Bibles to people living in communism. He brought Bibles to people living in the Iron Curtain border. He was banned once the communists found out that he was smuggling Bibles in.
Today, his ministry Open Doors is still pursuing bringing Bibles to people in different nations. They reach over 60 persecuted nations with the message of Christ and with his Word. They broadcast secretly over the radio with messages of the Gospel to Christians in North Korea and provide food for countries living in droughts. The impact Brother Andrew had on persecuted Christian’s lives on.
Lord, in my luggage I have Scripture I want to take to your children. When you were on earth, You made blind eyes see. Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind. Do not let the guards see those things You do not want them to see.Brother Andrew
Mother Teresa is one of the most well-known missionaries today. She is known for her work in India and love for people. She did not just say she loved people but showed them by her actions. She loved the unloved. She lived out the Gospel in her own life.
At the age of 18, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu went to Ireland to become a Nun. She changed her name to Teresa because of her favorite saint, Saint Teresa of Lisieux.
In 1931, she moved to Calcutta, where she had been assigned. There she taught at St. Mary’s high school. Her heart was touched by the slums surrounding this beautiful school. She learned both Bengali and Hindi fluently. Eventually, she became the school’s principal. Her goal was to lead the students to Christ.
Years later, she felt God calling her to leave her job as the school’s principal. She felt called to work in the slums. But, since she taken a vow of obedience and then assigned to St. Mary’s she could not leave without official permission.
Pope XII allowed her to serve the poor and leave her order in 1948. After medical training, she went and back to the slums with the simple goal to love the unloved.
She opened a school, an orphanage, a nursing home, a family clinic for the people in the slums. Her actions showed how much she deeply cared for the people within the slums. She did not care what they looked like, she loved and served them regardless.
She created the Missionaries of Charity two years later. It established homes all over for people who were sick and dying. Their mission was, “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” Missionaries of Charity wanted to spread love to people who were pushed away by society and show them the love of Jesus.
Her mission work was noticed all around the world. She received many awards, one of them being the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. People saw the love Mother Teresa had for the people of India.
Her impact continues today. The Missionaries of Charity she started now has over 4,000 nuns who are serving all over the world. Mother Teresa saw the beauty inside of people who were sick and in poverty. She showed them the love of Jesus by providing them with medical care.
If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.Mother Teresa
Each one of these missionaries lived out the Great Commission. These missionaries sacrificed everything to spread the Gospel, leaving their comfortable homes to ensure everyone knows the salvation of Jesus Christ.
Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!Psalm 96:3