On this day in 1883, James Gilmour, missionary to Mongolia and China, spoke at the London Missionary Society’s annual meeting at Exeter Hall, London.

A bold and powerful speaker, Gilmour was the keynote speaker for the meeting and placed last on the roaster of speakers.  His topic was mission work in China.  For two and a half hours, the people waited in anxious anticipation.  When Gilmour finally rose to speak, a hush fell over the audience:

In Peking, we have three chapels. A chapel there is merely a Chinese shop put into decent repair and a signboard stuck over the top. The Chinese are very fond of giving themselves very high names. You will come to a man sitting in a little box scarcely big enough for himself to turn round in and, if you read his sign, it is some flowing name, like the Hall of Continual Virtue or something of that kind or the Hall of the Five Happinesses. So our title above our chapel just runs in the native idiomatic style and it is the Gospel Hall. Inside there is not very much to see. The counter has been cleared away and the shelves and in place of the mud a brick floor has been put down and then there are forms arranged for the sitters and there is a low platform for the speaker. I do not know how it happens but it does happen that up in the left hand corner of the chapel and it is always the left hand corner, there is a table and two chairs and on that table there is a teapot and a set of cups because in China everything is done with tea. You must always begin in that way.

These chapels are open six days in the week in the afternoon. Now supposing you come in at the door the natural thing for the missionary seems to be just to walk up to this table and sit down and then the next thing is to get a congregation. Sometimes there is no difficulty about getting it if it happens to be a fair day or there is a crowd in the streets. They simply pour in but the tide goes different ways sometimes and does not pour in always like that. I want to give you just a fair square honest idea of what the thing is. Sometimes the congregation will not come in and sometimes, after a little while, one man looks in at the door and sees a foreigner and he is off. He has seen quite enough and does not want to see any more and if you were to ask him what he had seen, he would not say he had seen a foreigner no he would say he had seen a foreign devil.  And friends, you would not be very much astonished that some of those ignorant men coming from the country are alarmed when they see a foreigner if you could only imagine the terrible lies that they circulate about us there about how we take out people’s hearts for the purposes of magic and steal people’s eyes to make photographic chemicals and administer medicines to bewitch them. Generally I say that if the first man who comes to a chapel on an afternoon is a man who has heard these things you cannot be astonished that all you see of that man is his back and his pigtail as he goes away…

Read the full speech here

On this day in 1845, the Board of Foreign Missions was founded in Richmond, Virginia.

Hundreds and thousands of small Southern Baptist churches dotted the landscape throughout the United States in the mid-19th century. The churches recognized that they could accomplish a lot more for foreign missions if they stood united.  So delegates from different regions gathered at Richmond to discuss the idea of creating a mission agency for the churches to use.  Out of this meeting the Board of Foreign Missions was born.

The Board chose China as it’s first field of focus and in September, Samuel C. Clopton was assigned as the Board’s first missionary to China.  Soon, a magazine, known as the Commission, was being sent out by the Board to keep the churches in touch with the work the board was doing.

Today, there are over 5,000 missionaries serving with the Board.  They are working with over 900 different people groups.