On this day in 1812, the first five American foreign missionaries were ordained and commissioned for service. The men were Samuel Nott, Adoniram Judson, Samuel Newell, Gordon Hall, and Luther Rice, all graduates of Andover Theological Seminary.
Over 1,500 people gathered at Tabernacle Congregational Church in Salem, Massachusetts for this special service of ordination. Many parents bought their children, wanting them to participate in the monumental meeting. Minsters from all over the state gathered to send these young men out and to participate in the ceremonies.
Edward D. Griffin, pastor of the Park Street Church in Boston, offered the opening prayer. Professor Leonard Woods of Andover Seminary gave the sermon. To the young men, he charged:
“You have chosen the noblest and most honorable work on earth. But it is also arduous and perilous… I hope you will never forget that, without Christ, you can do nothing. Without his help you can no more advance his kingdom among idolaters, than you can scatter the darkness of midnight by a word…. But if you go forth in the strength of Christ, you will be burning and shining lights in regions of death.”
At the end, the five young men went forward and knelt before the congregation. The ministers gathered around them and placed their hands on them. Dr. Jedidiah Morse’s prayer of consecration, full of words of farewell, left many weeping in their seats. Dr. Spring described the work they were about to do as so important that every former effort of the American church “retired like stars before the rising sun.” Samuel Worcester charged them to “go carry to the poor heathen the good news of pardon, peace and eternal life. Tell them of the God whom we adore; of the Savior in whom we trust; of the glorious immortality for which we hope…”.
The service lasted all morning and late into the afternoon. But that day, amid the tears, prayers, and bitterly cold wind outside, the soft words of this hymn could be heard from the crowded church building:
Go, ye heralds of salvation;
Go, and preach in heathen lands;
Publish loud to every nation,
What the Lord of life commands,
Soothe their cares, and wipe their tears,
Angels shall in bright battalions
Guard your steps and guard your fears.
At the age of twelve, young Ludwig was involved in a tragic farming accident, when a horse rolled over on him, crushing both of his legs. For the next three years, the young boy was bedridden, not able to walk or move on his own. But during this time, he was able to do a lot of reading and reflecting on his life. While he was lying in his bed, surrounded by doctors and friends who said he would never walk, this young boy cried out to God that if He would make him able, he would give the rest of his life to the Lord and his work. When Ludwig recovered, he never forgot his promise to God.
At the age of 23, Ludwig entered the seminary of the Rhenish Missionary Society, the largest mission group in Germany. After four years of training, he was sent to the island of Sumatra, near to Indonesia. He moved inward and lived among the Bataks people, who have yet had no contact with any form of Christianity or Islam, which had swept so many other islands in the area.
From the start, Ludwig took great care to ensure that everything he did was in keeping with the islands culture, not a European one. He created an order of worship based on the culture of the people and, at the very beginning, built a school to train young men to be ministers. He translated the entire New Testament and several passages from the Old Testament. By the time of his death, Ludwig had seen thousands of the Bataks come to Christ. But more importantly, he had seen a strong, indigenous church created.
Barely twenty years after his death, the effects of World World Two struck the island. All of the missionaries either fled or were imprisoned. But without missing a beat, the trained Batak leaders took over the management of all the of the churches, which had memberships of over half a million and the churches were able to continue to flourish. Though they were not many, great missionaries like Ludwig realized the importance of training young men. Do we?
Christianity, disruptive in nature, has nonetheless integrating powers for the individual in the culture, though both he and it may expect revolution.
Journal of Jim Elliot
Check out Bcwe.org