On this day in 1836, Narcissa Whitman, in a letter, wrote, “It seems to me now that we are on the very borders of civilization. I have not one feeling of regret at the step which I have taken, but count it a privilege to go forth in the name of my Master, cheerfully bearing the toil and privation that we expect to encounter.”
Why was Narcissa writing this? That day, she and her husband, Marcus, were preparing to depart from St. Louis, Missouri to work as the first missionaries among the Native Americans of Oregon. St. Louis was the last major city Aside from Eliza Spalding, the wife of a fellow missionary going out with them, Narcissa would be the first white woman to every settle in the Oregon region. One can imagine the fear and uncertainty that laid ahead for these two brave missionary women. Many others would have shrunk from such a task and responsibility. But Narcissa gladly accepted the task she could fulfill for her Lord.
Too often, we forget how difficult it is for missionaries to leave the familiarities of their home and to adjust to an entirely different culture and atmosphere. This is especially difficult for the wives of missionaries. Today, just take a moment to pray for the wives of missionaries as they learn to live within a culture that is totally new to them.
By reason of bodily indisposition, I was detained from public worship this forenoon. Undisturbed by noise or company, I tried to give myself to God, and think I had an increasing desire, and an increasing evidence that it was my duty to become a missionary. My heart seemed to leap for joy, as my evidence increased, and I longed to go forth and preach the gospel. But on a sudden, the pangs of separation from every beloved object in America seized my mind, and distorted it with anguish unutterable. What! must I bid adieu to my dear, very dear parents, brothers and sisters, and friends? Must I die before the time? For what is it less than death to be separated from them, probably to see them no more on earth?
But at length it occurred to me, that it was Jesus, the dearest of all my friends, who called me to go; then I said, Welcome separations and farewells, welcome tears and cries, welcome last sad embraces, welcome pangs and griefs, only let me go where my Saviour calls and welcome toils, disappointments, fatigues and sorrows, welcome an early grave, if I may only preach to the heathen ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ.’ I feel that I shall go, Precious Saviour, go with me, that I be not alone.
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