While a young officer in the Royal Artillery, Hoste attended a revival service held by D.L Moody and here, he heard the Gospel and was converted. A year later, he was given a tract entitled “China’s Spiritual Need and Claims”, written by Hudson Taylor. This tract turned his interest to the work going on in China with the China Inland Mission. At this point, he had achieved the rank of lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and was fast on his way to climb higher in the ranks. But a desire was slowly forming in his heart. A desire to take the Gospel to the thousands of lost souls of China. After much prayer, he resigned his post with the military and joined the China Inland Mission. He was the first of the Cambridge Seven to apply to the CIM.
Once in China, Hoste set to work learning the Chinese language and culture. He began to work closely with a successful Chinese pastor, Hsi Shengmo, in the city of Shansi. For ten years, Hoste worked in this region, starting churches, preaching in villages, and training young Chinese men to be pastors like Hsi. He exhibited wise leadership in the sensitivity that he showed in being a peacemaker among both his missionary associates and his Chinese colleagues and he soon became an unofficial leader in the work around Shansi.
Hudson Taylor recognized the potential for leadership this young man displayed and had him appointed as the CIM superintendent of the entire Henan providence. During this period, Taylor took special care to spend time with Hoste and to mold him into a strong leader. After five years as a superintendent, Hudson approached Hoste and asked him to become the Director of the entire CIM operations. By this time, Taylor was old and wished to retire. Hoste agreed to the task.
Taylor had left a large work and big shoes to fill. Most people claimed that once Taylor left, the entire Mission would fall apart and the missionaries would go home or join other mission agencies. But Hoste did not allow the criticism to get him down. For one year, he served as acting directing with Taylor, so he could learn the ropes. But when he was on his own, he took off running. He quickly earned the trust of the other missionaries and Chinese pastors and the work grew. But the pressure of leadership, and the loneliness that leadership brings, were hard to handle. At the time of his appointment, he wrote: “And now I have no one, no one but God!” And after years of leadership, he said:
The pressure! It goes on from stage to stage, it changes in every period of your life.… Hudson Taylor said how in his younger days, things came so clearly, so quickly to him. “But,” he said, “now as I have gone on, and God has used me more and more, I seem often to be like a man going along in a fog. I do not know what to do.”
But Hoste faithfully worked on. For forty years, he helped the CIM to become a powerful organization for the cause of Christ. In 1941, at nearly the age of Eighty, he was taken captive by the Japanese during WW2 and was imprisioned for four years. These four years broke the health of this strong warrior and, after the war, he returned to England and died a year later.
Ion had been born into the home of an English Earl and had been given the best education and training money could provide. He attended Cambridge University and, while there, became a famous, successful Cyclist. He won several biking events and was considered the World Bicycle Champion. But to this young man, the gospel work he did in the slums of Cambridge, known as Barnwell, was far more important than any athletic or academic accomplishment.
While in College, Ion taught himself Hebrew and other Semitic languages. The study of these languages gave him an immense interest in the Arab world and he was soon reading anything he could find on this area. The opportunity came up for him to travel to some of these places on Business trips. The poor, lost condition of many of these places broke Ion’s heart and gave him a resolve to take the gospel to these lands.
In 1886, Ion and his wife settled in the Aden, to begin a mission. They began to read Arabic hours every day and a teacher of Arabic would spend hours helping them learn the language. But after less than a year on the field, malaria struck Ion. No cure had been found yet for this dreaded disease and it attacked Ion full force. In the midst of the pain, Ion moaned: “I never felt so utterly miserable in all my life”. For twelve weeks, the malaria came and went and Ion was forced to stay in his bed. But the malaria rose to strike a final time and on May 11th, Ion died.
It was almost exactly six months after the young missionary, full of keen hopes and joyous anticipations, had left England for the East, that the telegram told the unlooked-for news of his death and his burial amid the scene of his labours… That warm, loving heart, that keen, active brain, were, for this world, at rest.
A teacher at Ion’s old school, Cambridge, said the following of his death:
A career of exceptional promise was early closed in the death of Ion Keith-Falconer. The beauty of his character, his ardent missionary zeal, his great learning, form a combination rarely equalled… How noble a life his was, how unselfish, how worthy to be loved, those who knew him know well; how hard it is to adequately set forth, on the one hand, its harmonious beauty, on the other, the rich variety of its aspects, I am very fully conscious
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