First, I cannot imagine what being a missionary was like, oh saying during the early 1800's to early 1900's (William Carey, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, George Müller, CT Studd, and Hudson Taylor to name a few). What a vastly different experience I am having overseas than they could have ever imagined! Travel for them, a majority of them anyway, was by sailing the high seas. How long did it take Carey to get to India, Judson to Burma? For Carey it would take five months by seas, and for Judson, 4 months to India and 5 Burma. By Sea, that blows my mind! I recently traveled home for a week, in April, and I was so irritated and tired after traveling for 32 hours! They traveled - yea lived during their travels for months upon months, on the open ocean, never seeing land!
More than that as they prepared for their life aboard, they wrote with words such as,
I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left is heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteous, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair? (Anderson, To the Golden Shore, 45)."To see her no more in this world?" ... That is the most insane language I have ever read in a letter! But it was the truth. If you have access to To the Golden Shore, I highly recommend you read it! When missionaries from this era left home, they were not coming back, there was no furlough to think of - as a matter of fact, they may have even laughed at the idea! Thats my pure speculation. But I cant get over it, because I can dial a number on Skype and speak perfectly clear with my family almost whenever I desire. More so, I have video chat! I actually do get to see my family again. Also, because travel is so easy, I even was able to meet up with my folks while they were in CR for a mission trip with their church! Never could these missionaries of old imagined it!
Also consider the disease and death that wreaked havoc upon the lives of the families of these missionaries. Judson lived through the life of 2 of his three wives. He was no polygamist, his first two wives died from disease and other miseries, and he remarried as God led him into relationships. Hudson Taylor out lived his two wives (again successive marriages). He lost a number of children to disease too, while abroad!
My mind fails to comprehend what the God-given faith of these men - and women - must have been like, what stalwarts of the faith they must have been! But, they were mere men, and their lives therefore must be viewed as such, noting that anything incredible and unbelievable that happened, is the work of God Almighty, and therefore the glory is His. If I ever even mature into a man of faith a half or a quarter what these heroes of mine were, well, that would be amazing! I guess I just have to wait to see what God does in and through me. There are no presumptions here made on my part, simply just the ponderings on my mind and heart.
The second thing, is how much we - modern day Protestants - owe to our brethren of old, especially those that fall under the title of "the Reformers!" Ryle wrote a book on the subject I am reading now, and it is, to say the least - EYE OPENING! I recommend it.
The reformers he chooses to write about are five leading reformers on the English Reformation who were all burned at the stake during the reign of Mary I .. her martyr making is now known among the halls of history as the Marian Martyrs, and she herself known as "Bloody Mary." A few names of the many martyred people during her reign are Hugh Latimer, John Rogers, John Hooper, Nichola Ridley, and Thomas Cramner. The courage of these men cannot be matched, except by other martyrs who tremble not at the moment of their death, yet instead have faces shining at the thought of going to be with Jesus! Here is a brief quote from Latimer to Ridley once they were both in prisoned and facing their fiery graves! Latimer to Ridley, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."