/Monday, November 7, 2022
As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory. (Psalm 48:10)
Let’s take a moment to remember.
In my city there are hundreds of little wooden crosses placed downtown along the river each year in November representing local women and men who went and died fighting in numerous wars.
Today, I’m remembering soldiers of the cross who, in obedience to God’s call, went to the ends of the earth bringing good news of Jesus; God’s strong right hand is consequently filled with victory in many nations of the world.
Soldiers of the Cross
1. This month I read a history of Christianity in Tibet. The stories are heart wrenching as soldiers of the cross over the past hundred years have travelled on horseback, by foot, and by cart to cross the mountains of what is called by some ‘the roof of the world’. Through the decades, women and men went to China and crossed into Tibet. They learned languages, scriptures were translated and distributed. Christ’s soldiers obeyed the call, went, suffered and many were buried. I took this photo in June 2019 showing "God's Acre" where a dozen or so unmarked graves exist of soldiers of the cross (including some children) who died over the decades in that land.
2. Patrick knew the Irish clan system. He strategically sought to convert the chiefs first, who would then lead their clans to faith in Christ. His influence on the laws and culture of Ireland was enormous as he championed the causes of women, the poor, and slaves while conferring with kings and nobles – we remember St. Patrick.
3. Raymund Lull was born in the Kingdom of Majorca, which had been liberated from Muslim control by the Spanish. Raymond’s father had been involved in driving the Muslims out by the sword. Raymond, philosopher, theologian, poet, missionary and Christian apologist, believed that rather than wielding arms, people should be won "by love, prayers, and the shedding of tears and blood." He travelled throughout Europe to meet with popes, kings, and princes, trying to establish special colleges to prepare future missionaries to go to the Muslim world. He wrote an astounding 321 books, many of which responded to Muslim challenges to Christianity. He learned Arabic and went to North Africa, engaging Muslim philosophers on the premise that Christianity was rational. He was not well received; he was stoned, imprisoned, and banished twice – another cross in North African soil.
4. The Moravians adopted the tentmaking strategy of Apostle Paul. Working in the community and teaching locals new trades both lifted a community’s standard of living and gave the Moravians natural relationships in which to share the gospel – their crosses are broadly spread.
5. One notable Moravian was Rebecca Protten, a woman of African-European heritage. Some say Rebecca was born as a slave. Others say she was kidnapped from her home in Antigua. But when her master died and the family freed her, she met the Moravians from Europe and found a place where she could raise her voice for her God and her people. She helped establish one of the earliest African Protestant churches in the Caribbean in the 1730s, bringing hundreds of slaves into the church in St Thomas.
6. Lilias Trotter was a gifted artist with a rare talent, which if she had pursued it, could have made her one of England’s greatest female artists. Instead, after agonizing deliberation, she followed God’s call to North Africa to bring the light and love of Jesus to the unreached Arab peoples. She brought fresh ideas for how a single woman could work in a Muslim culture, traveling along the North African Coast and deep into the Sahara, places where a European woman had never been before. She took a more contextualized approach to evangelism, choosing a café-style approach to ministry including North African-style poetic readings of Scripture, and is considered to have been one hundred years ahead of her time.
7. Mary Slessor, now noted as one of Africa’s foremost missionaries, grew up the daughter of an abusive alcoholic father, and worked in a mill from age 11 to help support the family. Inspired by stories of David Livingston, she taught herself to read, and determined that she would take his place in Africa. She arrived in Nigeria from Scotland in 1876. An itinerant evangelist, she travelled through jungles and on rivers among cannibalistic tribes where the gospel had not yet reached, mastering local languages and culture. Teaching in the local language helped her gain the people’s acceptance. She spoke against the evil local practice of killing newborn twins, rescuing many twins and abandoned infants. Winning the trust of both the High Commissioner and local chiefs, she sat as magistrate in the local courts until her death. Today many schools, orphanages, hospitals, and churches exist as a result of her work.
8. William Carey, a little educated and very poor shoemaker, was impacted by the missionary passion of the Moravians. Teaching himself Greek, Hebrew and Latin, he argued that Jesus’ Great Commission call applied to all Christians of all times. He challenged the Church to "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!" In 1796 he left for India, where his preaching and humanitarian work was influential in bringing an end to the practice of widow burning and female infanticide. Over the course of his life, he translated the complete Bible into the seven major languages of India. He is now celebrated as the father of modern-day missions as his vision inspired the worldwide missionary movement of the 19th century.
9. Hudson Taylor, a British missionary who spent 51 years in China, founded the China Inland Mission. His work eventually brought more than 800 missionaries to the country, winning some 18,000 new followers to Christ, founding schools and mission stations. Taylor was known for his sensitivity to Chinese culture and zeal for evangelism. He wore native Chinese clothing, rare among missionaries of that time.
10. Bakht Singh first experienced the love and presence of Jesus when a Canadian Christian family took in an international student. Even though previously he had torn up the Bible and was strongly opposed to Christianity, he became a disciple of Jesus. Upon returning home, after completing his studies at the University of Winnipeg, he became India's foremost evangelist, preacher, and indigenous church planter, starting a movement that grew to more than 10,000 local churches building on the work of hundreds of missionaries who initially brought the gospel to this mosaic of cultures.
11. Pandita Ramabai was the daughter of a high caste Brahman scholar in India, who believed his wife and daughter should have the same educational opportunities men had. Orphaned at age sixteen, and widowed at age twenty-two, she supported herself by lecturing on Hindu sacred writings. Discovering that women had no rights and no means of salvation within Hinduism, she travelled to England for further education and met Jesus. Returning to India, she fought for women’s rights, including education and the abolition of Sati, the custom of widow burning, carrying on the transforming work William Carey had begun. She founded Ramabai Mukti Mission, a girls’ school, orphanage, and rescue home for “fallen girls” and child widows that continues to this day.
12. In her early twenties, Hulda Schroeder was working behind the barn of her southern Saskatchewan farm, when she audibly heard the word ‘Africa’ repeated three times. She took that as God’s call to her and after Bible School she made her way into Central Africa. For several years, this strong-willed Mennonite woman ran a boys’ school. Then a romantic relationship developed with another soldier of the cross, Aubrey Brown, my father.
Ron Brown was born in the Belgian Congo (today the DRC); he later returned with his wife to work in Africa as a missionary with the C&MA where they raised their two daughters, one of whom currently lives and works in North Africa with her family. (And yes, that is him, as a baby, with his mother Hulda!) Ron is a Senior Associate with Simply Mobilizing Canada and lives in Calgary.
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