On this day in 1952, Samuel Zwemer, the man who did much to promote the need for mission work among the Muslim people, died at the age of 85.

While a senior at Hope College, Samuel heard a missionary plea from Robert Wilder, a speaker with the Student Volunteer Movement.   As Wilder presented the needs of missions, he had a map of India on display with a metronome in front of it. It was set so that each click back and forth represented one person in the Indian subcontinent who died and had never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. This so affected Samuel that at the end of the message he rushed forward and signed the decision card, which stated: “God helping me, I purpose to be a foreign missionary!”

After completing his studies at Hope College, Samuel went on to seminary to prepare for his mission work.  Here, he met Professor John G. Lansing, a Hebrew professor at the seminary and a former missionary to Egypt.  Lansing became a close friend and adviser to Samuel as he was preparing for his missionary activity.  Lansing spoke often of the great need for muslim evangelism and challenged Samuel and his friend, James Cantine, to find a needy field and start a strong work there.  As the young men’s plans took shape, they envisaged starting a new mission in the heart of the muslim world, Arabia.

Cantine and Zwemer approached different societies about being sent to Arabia as missionaries, but none would sponsor them, stating that it was foolish for them to want to go to such a fanatical people. Samuel’s subsequent comment was, “If God calls you and no board will send you, bore a hole through the board and go anyway.” He then visited churches to help raise Cantine’s support while the latter went to other congregations helping to get funds for Zwemer’s support. Thus the Arabian Mission was born.

The remainder of Zwemer’s life saw three main areas of service: evangelism, printing, and mobilization.

During his years of laboring in Arabia, he starting four mission stations and, though never very big in number, they produced converts who were very bold in proclaiming their faith.

Zwemer was both a writer and a printer.  It is said that he produced nearly one book every year of his life once he started his missionary career.  He was also heavily involved in the work of the Nile Mission Press, a printing press located in Egypt that produced Arabic literature for distribution among the Muslim world.

Despite all his other accomplishments, it was said that Zwemer’s “greatest contribution to missions was that of stirring Christians to the need for evangelism among Muslims.”  In the later years of his life, he traveled with the Student Volunteer Movement, promoting the desperate need for work among the muslims.  At this time, many felt that this field was too difficult to work in.  One of the men he often worked with says that:

Dr. Zwemer hung a great
map of Islam before us and, with a
sweep of his hand across all those darkened
areas, said: ‘Thou Oh Christ art
all I want and Thou Oh Christ art all they
want. What Christ can do for any
man, He can do for every man.


The Legacy of Samuel Zwemer

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