There is much fascinating history behind missionaries in India including Mother Teresa, Huldah and Mark Buntain, Sadhu Sungar Singh, and the father of modern missions, William Carey. These missionaries have faced much opposition but have remained faithful servants of the work that the Lord had called them to. Here is the fascinating history behind each of them.
Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu, most commonly known as Mother Teresa, felt the call to missions when she was 12 years old. At the age of 18, she left her home in Skopje and joined an Irish community of nuns called the Sisters of Loreto in India. After training in Dublin for a few months, she was sent to India in May of 1931. She taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta, but she shortly became burdened for the slums of Calcutta and left her position as a teacher to work among the poorest of the poor.
In 1946, she felt the call to begin an organization called “The Missionaries of Charity” in response to Christ’s command to make Him known to the poorest of the poor. The organization began with one other person in March of 1949, and grew to 12 members which allowed it to become established in October of 1950. Missionaries of Charity was active in 133 countries in 2012. It manages homes for people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis. It also runs soup kitchens, dispensaries, mobile clinics, children’s and family counseling programs, as well as orphanages and schools.
Mother Teresa She was known for being a humanitarian and an advocate for the poor and helpless. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971, and the Nehru Prize for Promotion of International Peace and Understanding in 1972. She also won the Balzan Prize in 1978 and India’s highest award called the Bharat Ratna in 1980.
Where did Mother Teresa find the strength and perseverance to place herself completely at the service of others? She found it in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, his Holy Face, his Sacred Heart.Pope John Paul II
Huldah & Mark Buntain
In 1954, Huldah and Mark Buntain felt the call to serve in Calcutta for a year. After the year ended, they couldn’t bring themselves to leave. Together, they established a holistic inner-city outreach consisting of over 100 schools, over 700 churches, a daily feeding program for 25,000 people, and a full general hospital that has treated more than two million people and has provided free care to nearly a million.
They founded Calcutta Mercy Ministries in 2005, which is a non-profit organization on a mission to feed, educate, and medically assist the poor of Calcutta.
As Mercy Ministries says, “Huldah celebrated 60 years in Calcutta in 2014. She continues to feed, educate, and medically assist the poor of the city. Under her leadership, the projects have grown to include over 100 primary and secondary schools, Bible and vocational schools, children’s homes, a daily feeding program for 10,000 people, rural clinics, and a 173-bed hospital serving 100,000 patients each year and providing 40% with free care.”
Huldah still lives in the same apartment and runs Calcutta Mercy Ministries. From its humble beginnings, the ministry has grown to include more than 800 churches, an entire educational system, several Bible colleges, a hospital, a teacher’s college, and a nursing training center which will soon become a college. To this day, she oversees and visits them all. She spends a few months a year in her apartment in Calcutta and the rest of her time is spent traveling throughout India and the world.
Sadhu Sundar Singh
Sundar Sundar Singh was an Indian Christian missionary. He was born on September 3rd, 1889 and is believed to have died in the foothills of the Himalayas in 1929. His mother sent him to Ewing Christian High School in Ludhiana to learn English. His mother died when he was fourteen, and in anger, he burned a Bible page by page while his friends watched.
Sundar felt that the questioning of Christian priests and his religious pursuits left his life without meaning. He said that if the true God didn’t appear before him, he would kill himself by throwing himself on a railroad track. That very night, Jesus appeared to him in a vision and he decided to convert to Christianity.
After this, he told his father and brother of his conversion. Since Christianity was not . a welcome religion in India, his father ejected him, his brother attempted to poison him, and people of that area threw snakes in his house. He was eventually rescued from mistreatment with the help of a nearby British Christian.
In October of 1906, he set out on his journey as a new Christian to share the Good News with India.
I am not worthy to follow in the steps of my Lord, but, like Him, I want no home, no possessions. Like Him I will belong to the road, sharing the suffering of my people, eating with those who will give me shelter, and telling all men of the love of God.Sadhu Sundar Singh
He went to a town called Rasar and was thrown into a dry well full of bones and rotting flesh, left there to die but was rescued three days later. During his twenties, his missionary work widened greatl and his name and face were familiar all over the Christian world. Many people said about him “He not only looks like Jesus, but He talks like Jesus must have talked.” due to the amount of time he spent in scripture, specifically the Gospels. Singh is revered by many as the towering figure in the missionary conversions of the Christian church in India.
Known as the father of modern missions, William Carey, along with his pregnant wife and daughter set sail in 1793 to Calcutta from London. He was the first missionary to India who served for forty-one years in India.
During their first year in Calcutta, they began to learn the Bengali language to communicate with others. Carey moved north to Midnapore to be a manager of an indigo plant and during the six years that he managed it, he established a missions base with a printing press and published his first translation of the New Testament in Bengali. He and his team also translated the Bible into 44 local languages.
Carey was deeply upset by an Indian practice called Sati which was a traditional funeral custom where if a man died, his body would be burned and his wife, or wives, would throw themselves onto the burning pyre in order to kill themselves. Sati was practiced for thousands of years because women were considered to have no value apart from their husbands. They believed that they had to go to the spirit land to continue serving their husbands after death. If a woman did not want to take part in this ceremony, she was forced onto the burning pyre to die. He fought against this practice for more than 35 years until December 1829 when Sati was banned in the entire British Empire, including India.
Carey’s greatest focus was translating the Bible into local languages and helping people become literate so they could read God’s Word. But throughout his ministry in India, he faced much opposition. Several of his children died from various diseases at a young age, and his first wife became mentally unstable until she died in 1807 from the first death of her child. In 1812, a fire broke out at the mission printing shop which destroyed thousands of manuscripts of Bible translations. He lost 15 years of his life’s work. Some of it was re-attempted for seven years, but most of it wasn’t.
Carey was a missionary in India for forty-one years. When he died, there were over thirty missionaries throughout India, forty native teachers, and around six hundred church members. If it weren’t for him and his work in India, it is uncertain whether or not there would have been missionaries such as Adoniram and Ann Judson, Lottie Moon, or Bill Wallace. He passed away peacefully on June 9th, 1834 in Serampore, India.
During his last illness, he said to a friend,
You have been saying much about Dr. Carey and his work. After I am gone, please speak not of Dr. Carey, but rather of my wonderful Savior.
Read more about William Carey and his work in India here.