March 25th in World Evangelism History

On this day in 1783, Luther Rice, the man who did so much to motivate the American Baptist in the cause of World Evangelism, was born in Northborough, Massachusetts.

The youngest of nine children, Luther grew up on a farm, where his father taught him the value of hard work.  However, as a boy, Luther’s father always looked down on him and was extremely harsh to him.  Often drunk, his father always seemed to take out his anger and frustration out on his youngest son.  Realizing that his father’s actions were not those of a true Christian, he began to seek out how to truly know God.  But when he approached the pastor of the church he attended with his family, his own pastor didn’t even know how to help the young man find the truth.  His only suggestion was for Luther to join the church.  “Tell God,” encouraged the pastor, “I’ve done my part, God, now you do yours.”So Luther Rice joined the church, no more a believer than before he came.

Luther still continued to seek the truth.  He began to study the Bible and the writings John Newton, Richard Baxter, and others.  Finally, he realized that salvation came thru grace, no works of his own.  At the age of 22, Luther gave his life to the Lord.  He recorded in his journal, “I would be willing to give Deity a blank and let Him fill up my future destiny as He should please!”

After his conversion, he went on to William’s College, to further his education.  Here, he became good friends with Samuel Mills, who fascinated Luther with his fervor for God and a calling to foreign missions.  Mills saw in Rice potential for mission work and they spent many hours in prayer and discussion about the subject. It wasn’t long before Luther was writing his older brother, Asaph, “I have deliberately made up my mind to preach the gospel to the heathen.”

Luther Rice and Samuel Mills later joined Adoniram Judson and two other men to be sent out as the first American foreign missionaries.  But on their way to India, Luther Rice and Adoniram Judson, by studying the scriptural teachings of baptism, both became baptist (Amazingly, the men were on different ships and came to this scriptural conviction separately, but at the same time).  But this met that both men would have to leave behind the Congregationalist mission board that they were being sent out and paid by.  Luther Rice, though he desired more than anything to stay on the mission field, realized that in order for the Judsons to remain in Asia to work as Baptist, the Baptist churches would have to come together to support them and future missionary work.

When Luther returned to New York harbor just a year after he had left for the first time, the future was extremely uncertain.  But he kept looking to Christ to bring him through.  He once wrote, “My feelings often vary, and vary much, but not my hope.”  After formally withdrawing from the congregationalist board and repaying the money that had been given to the Judsons and himself, he began to travel the country, visiting the baptist churches and raising support and awareness for the work of missionaries.  A natural speaker and communicator, Rice was warmly accepted by the baptist churches.  The rest of his life would be given to this awesome task of awaking the churches to their role in reaching reaching the world for Christ!


Luther Rice

On this day in 1951, Wilda Mathews attended an Easter church service in China, though she and her husband were virtually prisioners of the communist soldiers that had taken over the country.

Earlier that year, the communist forces swarmed into China, taking most of the country by storm.  Arther and Wilda Mathews were just one of the dozens of missionary couples with the China Inland Mission who had not been evacuated before the takeover.  Now, they were prisoners within the country they had given their lives to reach with the gospel.

Daily, the communist would come to the home of the Mathews and drag Arther to their headquarters.  They would spend hours interrogating and torturing him, hoping to convince him to turn on the other missionaries and work for the communist.  At night, they would drag him back home.  Throughout the day, Wilda would pray constantly for her husband’s safety.  Gunshots could be heard through her window, as the communist executed dozens every day.  But every night, her beloved husband was returned to her.  For months, this brave missionary family lived in this state of fear.

On Easter Sunday of that year, Arther was dragged off for his daily interrogation.  Wilda, though forbidden by the communist, sneaked out to one of their native churches to attend the services.  But she was completely overtaken by fear.  When she opened her mouth to sing, “He lives”, not a word came out.  She fled home and fell upon her face before the Lord.  She poured out her heart before the Lord and took the only comfort into her hand that she had: his word!  While she was reading it, her eyes fell on 2 Chronicles 20:17, “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.”

That day, the Lord helped Wilda realize that her life was in His hands.  She wrote, “The conflict has been terrible, but peace and quiet reign now.”  For two years, Wilda had to remain under the control of the communist.  But God, who has all things in his hands, brought her and her husband out safely.  All of the CIM missionaries trapped by the communist, all of them made it out of the country alive.


Christian History by Robert Morgan

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