On this day in 1888, Theodore L. Byington, missionary to Turkey, died in Philadelphia.

Thirty years earlier, after finishing a study of law at Princeton University and missionary training at Union Theological Seminary, Theodore and his wife set sail to begin missionary work in Turkey under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.  Upon arriving in Turkey,  Theodore excitedly writes his first report back to the board:

We are learning to love this people, and we become more and more deeply interested in their spiritual welfare. Their remarkable ‘love for the word of God must draw out the sympathy and love of all Christian hearts. If I may judge from the case of our teacher, they do not give of their hard-earned money to buy Bibles to become mere dust-catchers, but to study. I have been surprised at his acquaintance with the Scriptures. I never refer to a passage in the Old or New Testament with which he does not seem familiar.

And there is another characteristic of the people, equally hopeful — their reverence for God’s word. Our teacher holds, equally with us, that the Bible is the only and infallible rule of faith and practice.  If it is asked why the truth has not brought forth fruit, the answer is plain — the Greek priests have so perverted its meaning that it has been robbed of its power. Our work then will be simple and delightful — to preach the Word, in all its simplicity and fullness; and our teacher says that many will come to hear us, that they love not the Greek priests,and that all they do is for money. And it does appear to us that a more inviting field was never opened.

They worked in Turkey until 1867, seeing a great work done and several churches started.  Due to health reasons, they were forced to return to the states for several years, where Theodore served as a pastor in New Jersey,  In 1874, they returned to Turkey and remained their until 1885.  A dear friend wrote of his death:

 By the death of Dr Byington a great loss has been sustained not only by Bulgaria but by all evangelical missions in the East. Three years since he was compelled by ill health brought on by protracted labors to leave the European Turkey Mission and his station Constantinople and return to the United States. Here he has borne patiently his prolonged physical prostration until death came suddenly and set him free. Not only is an affectionate husband and father laid low but the voice of a preacher of rare ability and impressive earnestness in the inculcation of gospel truth and duty is to be heard no more.

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