On this day in 1844, Asahel Grant, missionary to Persia, died.

As a young man, Grant received his training as a physician and began to work in a successful practice.   When his young wife died, Grant, filled with grief and left to care for two small children, left his home and practice and moved to Utica, New York, to be near his family.

Here, seeking strength and comfort during this terrible loss, he began to attend a small church there and soon became extremely involved  in it.  The pastor of the Church began to refer to Grant as “my eyes and hands.”  But Grant’s heart was slowly being turned to the exciting new mission movement that was shaking the American Churches.  Many of his friends tried to persuade him to stay at his church in New York.  They told him how important he was for them and how much the church would miss him if he was gone.  But Grant’s reply back to them was this: “The foreign field needed no man who would not be missed at home.”1  Grant was determined to serve as a missionary.

At about the same time Grant was preparing to be a missionary, a group of “missionary explorers” were spreading the call to American Churches to reach out to the area of Peria with the Gospel.  These men had just returned from exploring the area, where they had found remnants of the old Nestorian churches struggling to survive.  These churches, founded in antiquity, had lost nearly all their former glory.  Their leaders could barely read.  Their doctrine was polluted and misleading.  Immorality and  drunkenness plagued the people.  But these explorers felt that if properly taught and worked with, the Persians, whether Muslim or Nestorian “Christian”, would come to Christ and strong churches could once again shine in the mountains of Persia.

When Grant applied to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, they felt that he would be a very qualified candidate for a mission among the Persians.  His medical training would allow him to help the poverty stricken people and would open a mutual ground upon which to work with both the Muslims and the Nestorians, who hated each other and were often fighting.  Grant gladly accepted the assignment and, along with new wife, Judith, and two children, set sail for the unreached plains of Persia.  He would be the second medical missionary ever sent out by the ABCFM.

When he arrived in Persia, Grant started his first work in a large plain where hundreds of villages, both Nestorian and Muslim, were scattered and thousands of people lived.  It wasn’t long before the  people of the area heard of Gran (his family were the only foreign people in the entire area) and the medical help he could give them.  Soon, Muslims and Christians together were coming to see Grant.  Once he had a group at his mission, he took time to preach to them the gospel.

Soon, he had a faithful group of Christians gathering at the mission every week and he was able to form a Church.  His wife opened schools and helped teach the Persians how to read.  Many of the Nestorian Church leaders began to look to Grant as a leader and some came to him asking him to teach them the Bible.  Other missionaries began to arrive from America to re-enforce the work in Persia.

Throughout his life, Grant slowly knocked down the prejudices the Persians had against him, each other, and Jesus Christ.  By the time of his death, the mission in Persia was flourishing.  Less than ten years after his death, an account was taken of the Persian Mission.  It was recorded that there were 29 churches that held weekly worship services and 13 villages that held church services at least once or twice a month.  70 schools were being run in the villages.  Two Bible translations had been made for the people, one in ancient Syriac and one in Modern Syriac.  Twenty years earlier, when Grant arrived, the language wasn’t even a written one.  Persian evangelist, formerly Muslims or Nestorian, traveled to villages in the mountains and plains, preaching the Gospel.

In a letter to the Board in regard to the death of their veteran missionary, the following was written by the missionaries who had carried on the work:

While Dr. Grant was watching over the sick, and the survivors were slowly recovering, little did he think that he was doing his last work for the people that he loved ; yes, Loved. Seldom has missionary been so attached to the people for whom he labored. Many felt and acknowledged that he cared for them more than they did for themselves or for one another, and few sorrowed more over their personal bereavements than he did over the miseries of a strange people, who had conferred on him but one favor, and that the opportunity of doing them good. 2


1 Great Missionaries: A series of Biographies by Andrew Thompson

2 Memoirs of Asahel Grant

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