The son of a congregationalist minister, Mills grew up among the strict religious life of the New England churches. His mother, having a heart for the Lord and a desire to see her son serve Him, began to pray for Samuel at an early age that he would become a foreign missionary. At this time, there were no foreign mission agencies in the United States and no foreign missionaries from there. But his mother had a dream that God would use her son to change that.
At the age of 17, Samuel accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. Eight years later, he went to Williams College to study to be in the ministry. While attending the college, Mills began to attend a prayer meeting with other students on the banks of the Hoosack River every Saturday and Wednesday afternoon. One Saturday afternoon, as they were returning from their praying meeting, a massive rainstorm overtook them. The men found shelter under a haystack and waited there until the storm passed. As they sat under this haystack, the five young men continued praying that the Lord would send out missionaries from their college and other colleges in the area to Asia. Mills, the leader of the group, asked if the other four men to commit themselves to missionary service, which he saw as the primary duty of all Christians. Mills then famously said, “We can do this if we will.” 1
The influence Mills had that day in promoting the cause of missions was only the beginning in his great life. He later helped pave the way for the creation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the first foreign missionary society in America. While many of his friends from the Haystack and college went on to serve as foreign missionaries, Mills stayed behind to help promote the cause and get the churches behind the missionaries.
As he traveled the United States, Mills became increasingly concerned about the lack of Bibles in the hands of the people. At many place he went, he found few people with Bible and even fewer places for them to get some. He estimated that 70-80 thousand families in the Southern United States didn’t have Bibles. So Mills set about to create the American Bible Society, an organization that printed Bibles and distributed them among people who had no access to the word of God. He was also instrumental in founding the The United Foreign Missionary Society and The American Baptist Missionary Union.
Because of the works of Mills, thousands went out to serve as foreign missionaries. By the time of his death, Mills was being called “the Father of foreign mission work in Christian America” 1. Did his mother ever imagine such great things coming from that small boy when she would humbly beg God to use her son as a foreign missionary? Did she have the faith to see that God would hear and answer her prayers? What dreams are you instilling in your children? What prayers do you make for their future? That they will be rich and famous? Or that they would serve God and love Him, regardless of the job they have or the area they work in? Do you pray for your spiritual children, the ones you are training and discipling, that their lives would shine brightly for Christ? That their lives would make a difference for the Lord Jesus? Oh that we would have the faith to pray that God would use our children, both spiritually and physically, to bring Him great glory and praise!
A young, ambitious Moody arrived in the big city of Boston eager to work his way up in the world to great fame and wealth. Desperate for a job, he soon agreed to work in his Uncle’s shoe shop as a salesman. The only condition was that Moody had to attend church with his uncle every week. Moody had grown up in a Unitarian church and had no knowledge of the Bible. But desperate for a job, he agreed to the terms.
After a few Sundays of attending the services of the Church, Moody was assigned to attend the Sunday School class of Edward D. Kimball. When Moody walked into the room for the first time, Mr. Kimball smiled at him, handed him a Bible, and told him the lesson was in John. Moody sat down and nervously began to leaf through the Bible. The other boys began to chuckle, realizing that Moody had no idea where John was. But Mr. Kimball gave them one stern look to silent them, and then handed Moody his Bible open to the passage. This was the first meeting of these two men whose lives would be so important to each other.
The following was written about Mr. Kimball in the book, The Life and works of D.L. Moody:
This Sunday school teacher was not one of the ordinary type. Mere literal instruction on Sunday did not satisfy his ideal of the teachers duty. He knew his boys, and, if he knew them, it was because be studied them, because he became acquainted with their occupations and aims, visiting them during the week. It was his custom, moreover, to find opportunity to give to his boys an opportunity to use his experience in seeking the better things of the Spirit. The day came when he resolved to speak to young Moody about Christ, and about his soul. 2
That meeting would literally change the course of history! An event so important deserves to be told by the very men who were there. Below is Mr. Kimball’s recollection of the meeting:
I started down town to Holton’s shoe store. When I was nearly there, I began to wonder whether I ought to go just then, during business hours. And I thought maybe my mission might embarrass the boy, that when I went away the other clerks might ask who I was, and when they learned might taunt Moody and ask if I was trying to make a good boy out. of him. While I was pondering over it all, I passed the store without noticing it. Then when I found I had gone by the door, I determined to make a dash for it and have it over at once.
I found Moody in the back part of the store wrapping up shoes in paper and putting them on shelves. I went up to him and put my hand on his shoulder, and as I leaned over I placed my foot upon a shoe box. Then I made my plea, and I feel that it was really a very weak one. I don’t know just what words I used, nor could Mr. Moody tell. I simply told him of Christ’s love for him and the love Christ wanted in return. That was all there was of it. I think Mr. Moody said afterward that there were tears in my eyes. It seemed that the young man was just ready for the light that then broke upon him, for there at once in the back of that shoe store in Boston the future great evangelist gave himself and his life to Christ.” 2
Years later, Mr. Moody recounted this day:
When I was in Boston, I used to attend a Sunday school class, and one day I recollect my teacher came around behind the counter of the shop I was at work in, and put his hand upon my shoulder, and talked to me about Christ and my soul. I had not felt that I had a soul till then. I said to myself ‘This is a very strange thing. Here is a man who never saw me till lately, and he is weeping over my sins, and I never shed a tear about them.’ But I understand it now, and know what it is to have a passion for men’s souls and weep over their sins. I don’t remember what he said, but I can feel the power of that man’s hand on my shoulder to-night. It was not long after that I was brought into the Kingdom of God.”2
It would have been very easy for Mr. Kimball to overlook this young man, like we so often do. He could have just been satisfied to teach him week after week and never went out of his way to ensure his salvation. In the lives of others, sometimes it is that simple “out-of-the way” moment that could change their lives. How far are we willing to go to bring one soul to Jesus Christ?
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