A graduate of Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, Hepburn received his medical degree and became a physician. In 1840, he went to China to work as a medical missionary. But when he arrived in the orient, he was unable to land in China. The Opium War between England and China closed the port to all foreigners. So for two years, he worked in Singapore.
But his time here would be the first step in a new direction for the young doctor. While he was working at his clinics, a friend gave him a translation of the book of John. Hepburn was so fascinated with the translation he spent hours studying it, until he finally sent it back to his Mission Board to see.
After five years in the Orient, Hepburn, due to medical problems with his wife, went back to the States and started a private practice. He stayed here for nearly fifteen years, but he could never get over the work being done in the Orient and that little book he had studied. When the opportunity came for Hepburns to go to Japan to work as some of the first missionaries, they jumped at it. But this time, James decided that he wanted to spend more time on translation work instead of medical work.
Hepburn threw himself into learning the language and culture of the Japanese people. His first project was to create a Japanese-English dictionary, which he finished eight years after he first arrived. After this was finished, he assembled a team to work on his greatest task: the complete Japanese Bible. For fourteen years, Hepburn and his team of Japanese and Western missionaries worked. And finally, he could present this precious treasure to the people. The Japanese Christians were thrilled and soon the Churches saw strong growth. The Bible Society recorded this of the Japaneses’ responce to the Bible:
In no nation in modern times has the gospel made more rapid progress than in Japan. The readiness of the people to have some share in the work of circulating the Scriptures among their own countrymen was exhibited when a firm of Japanese publishers asked and received permission to reprint the New Testament.
Hepburn worked in Japan as long as his health allowed. But when he had to retire, he left with the knowledge that he left behind a very great gift.
John was born in the small village of Brandenburg, Germany to Catholic parents. As he got older, he parents sent him out as an apprentice to a local locksmith. But at the age of twenty-two, he heard the gospel and accepted Christ. He left the Catholic Church and joined the Moravians.
In 1756, John and his wife, Mary, arrived in the colony of Pennsylvania to work among the Indians and colonist there. Their work slowly lead them westward across the state, until they move the work into Ohio. Roth wrote several religious works and manuscripts in the language of the Lenape people. For fifteen years, Roth and his faithful wife pioneered among the tribesin the different areas. They were some of the first settlers to live in Ohio and their son was the first white male born there.
As John got older, it became difficult for him to travel and live like he was doing. So he moved back to the western part of Pennsylvania and started a church among the colonist. He worked here until his death at the age of 65.
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