On this day in 1793, the newly formed Baptist Missionary Society held their first missionary interview. William Carey, the man instrumental in founding the group, introduced John Thomas to the society. Thomas had spent five years in Bengal as a missionary and had returned to England in an attempt to raise more funds for his work. As a missionary and Christian, Thomas was a great man. He had a strong zeal and desire to preach Christ and saw several converts during his time there. He is reported to have a great love for God’s word and translated the books of Matthew and Mark. However, John Thomas, while a great missionary, was not good at the financial aspect of the field. During his time in Bengal, he faced several financial setbacks and hardships, mostly through bad stewardship and lack of organization.
During the meeting with the society, Carey preached out of the last chapter of Revelation and read several letters from men in the orient, begging for men to bring the gospel to them. One of the letters read, “Have compassion on us, and send us preachers and such as will forward translation.” When the society interviewed Thomas, they asked him about his work and also the living condition of the orient. Thomas gave glowing reports of the orient and the work being done there. The only problems were the financial reports he gave. His poor bookkeeping meant that he really had no idea how much money he spent to live. Innocently, he claimed that a missionary would need far less to live on then they really would. These reports would later cause the society to send Carey extremely under-supported and supplied, which causes Carey major problems when he arrived on the field, especially with his wife. But Thomas’ zeal was contagious and at the end of the meeting, Carey, with his heart set afire, dedicated himself to go to India and work with Thomas in his work. Carey left the meeting with a mind set for India.
On this day in 1844, Henry Aaron Stern was commissioned as a missionary to Iraq to work among the Jews there. Stern was born in the town of Unterreichenbach, Germany in 1820 to Jewish parents. At the age of nineteen, he left Germany and came to England, where he had been promised a job at a firm. But when he arrived, he found that the firm had lost all its money and closed down. Alone and lost in a strange city, Stern lived off of the meager wages he had bought with him. Soon his money was almost depleted. One night, he attended a lecture at the Palestine Place chapel. It was during this meeting that his heart was smitten and he accepted Christ as his savior. He was soon baptized. For the next two years, he attended a Jewish institution, where he learned the trade of a printer. But his heart never got over what God did for him and he decided that he would give the rest of his life reaching his own people with the gospel.
His first assignment was modern day Iraq. For eight years, Stern traveled throughout the Jewish communities in the cities of Baghdad, Babylon, and Mosul, preaching and teaching to them out of the Bible. After his time in Iraq, he worked in Turkey, Persia, Egypt and Arabia. His final stationing was in Abyssinia (Modern day Ethiopia). While he was hear, he faced sever hardship. The king of Abyssinia hoped to obtain political favor with England and sent a letter to the queen. When the letter was ignored, the king became irate and took his anger out on all the Englishmen he could find, Stern and another missionary, Rosenthal, included. They were commanded to stand before the king, where they were knocked down, beaten, and chained. The British government sent an envoy with a letter to seek the prisoners’ release. The king released stern, but a few days later changed his mind and took the entire envoy as prisoners. The British responded by sending in an army of 12,000 men to defeat the king of Abyssinia and liberate the captives. After this, Stern returned to England, where he got involved with the administration part of London’s Jew Society and wrote several books.
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