10 Christian Missionaries Every Christian Should Know
Christian missionary stories have made a huge impact on our culture’s generation today.
Through prayer and introducing Biblical principles, Christian missionaries have influenced education systems, belief practices, lifestyle behaviors, and economic structures. Their faithfulness to God and His Word is a testimony of cultural history, as well as traditional rituals, having been challenged and developed because of their devotedness to the One who is worthy to receive all the glory.
These people were by no means perfect, fully prepared, or fully equipped for the life they would live. Their faith was tested and tried countless times through endurance and suffering, and many were on the verge of giving up. Yet because of their obedience to God, their stories continue to motivate us today.
While we believe that the foundation for missions is based upon scripture, we also recognize that pioneer Christian missionaries have been the first to carry out the Great Commission. Through the impact of their stories, God is raising up another generation who has a burning desire in their hearts for His love to be known by every person on earth.
In this blog, we are introducing 10 pioneer Christian missionary stories that have inspired thousands of people for centuries. Over the course of the next few blogs, we will look at the life of each missionary and the legacy that is still being carried out to this day.
1. David Brainerd: Pioneering a Legacy in Missions
Born in 1718, David Brainerd was one of the first missionaries to translate and carry the good news of Jesus to the Native Americans of New Jersey in their own language until the day of his death in 1747. His faith and passionate pursuit of God’s holiness has inspired countless missionaries such as William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and Jim Elliot. His story is still being told today to rekindle the beating heart of missions that every Christian should have: That the love of God would be made known to every lost soul on earth.
2. William Carey: Pioneer to India and Father of Modern Missions
William Carey was born in 1761 and is often called the father of the modern missions movement because of his forty-one years of service on the mission field until he passed away in 1834. He was the first missionary to India and the first Baptist preacher to believe that the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 was a binding command on every generation of Christians. He is known for translating the entire Bible into Bengali and transforming culture through business and education.
3. Adoniram and Ann Judson: Pioneers of Overseas Missions
Adoniram and Ann Judson were the first American missionaries who were sent overseas to serve on the mission field in both India and Burma—now known as Myanmar. Both Adoniram and Ann worked on translating the Bible into Burmese until Adoniram was thrown into prison when accused of being a spy during the first Anglo-Burmese War. Ann, known as the mother of modern missions, fought to get her husband out of prison by going to every government court of law, raising awareness, and writing books on being a missionary in a foreign country. Their stories reflect that it is God who plants the seed and makes it grow.
4. David Livingstone: Missionary, Abolitionist, and Explorer to Africa
David Livingstone was a Scottish missionary, slave abolitionist, and physician during the mid-19th century. He is best known for his explorations of the continent of Africa, his revulsion for the African slave trade, his belief in the dignity of Africans, and position towards commercial enterprises with Biblical foundations.
5. John G. Paton: Working Among the Cannibals
Born in Scotland in 1824, John G. Paton was a Christian missionary to the cannibals on the New Hebrides Islands of the South Pacific until he died in 1907. His life was filled with trials, as his first wife and their child soon died after his arrival on the island, and many times he had to flee for his life from the natives. However, Paton’s faith withstood testing and he continued to work and preach for several years while also raising support for missionary work. Today, the impact of his life can be seen in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. Read the full story about John G. Paton.
6. Hudson Taylor: Founder of the China Inland Mission
James Hudson Taylor was the first Christian missionary to China and spent fifty-one years working to bring the gospel to those who had never heard the name of Jesus in their own language. In 1865, Hudson founded the China Inland Mission (CIM) because he knew that there were millions of people who needed to hear the message of Jesus Christ. His legacy has inspired countless Christian missionaries to go to the hardest and darkest places on earth.
7. Mary Slessor: Pioneer Missionary to Nigeria
Mary Slessor was born in 1848 and was a Scottish missionary to the Efik people of Nigeria. After learning the language and gaining the trust and acceptance of the people, she began to teach the locals the Bible and was able to promote women’s right and protect native children. She is most famously known for stopping the common practice of infanticide of twins among the Ibibio people.
8. Amy Carmichael: Mother to India
Born in 1867, Amy Carmichael was an Irish missionary to India. She is known for opening an orphanage after rescuing children from being trafficked in the Hindu temples. She served in India for fifty-five years without a furlough, and in the last twenty years of her life she remained bedridden and wrote several books about the missionary work to be done there. Her dedication to serving God has inspired many Christians to become missionaries and to remain steadfast in their faith. Read Amy Carmichael’s full story.
9. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot: Undivided Devotion to God and the Unreached
Jim and Elisabeth Elliot met as students at Wheaton College in Illinois. Jim was a young man whose heart was on fire for God to be known among the unreached, who was inspired by several missionaries such as David Brainerd, William Carey, and Amy Carmichael. He convinced his four friends to join him as missionaries in reaching the Auca Indians along the Curray River in Ecuador. In 1956, all five missionaries were martyred by the tribe. Later, Elisabeth Elliot went to go live among the tribe that killed her husband and share the gospel with them. Their lives continue to impact countless Christians all over the globe to this day.
10. Brother Andrew: God’s Smuggler
Brother Andrew is a Christian missionary known for smuggling Bibles into communist countries during the height of the Cold War, which earned him the nickname “God’s smuggler.” He is known for praying “Lord, make seeing eyes blind.” He continues to speak to Christians all over the world and has stirred up dissatisfaction in the hearts of those who have never considered preaching the good news, to go to the unreached and bring the gospel to where it is not.
These missionaries knew that the cost of traveling overseas could take away everything they held dear on this earth. Parents, loved ones, children, safety, and health. While they found peace and security in God, they knew that there would be little comfort out in the wild Amazon jungle, traveling by crowded train in India, or preaching the gospel in a rural village in Burma.
Still, these pioneer missionaries endured through their trials and sufferings because of their love for God and their desire for Him to be known among the nations. They willingly gave their lives to Christ and dedicated all their days to living for Him. If need be, they were willing to die for Him. Their lives are seeds that went into the ground, multiplying and bearing much fruit. Their commitment to loving Him above all else encourages us to do the same and to follow in their footsteps.
Featured image courtesy of Beck Link via Pinterest. Source: Pinterest.com/link2brazil.
Kenneth E. Ortiz (M.Div.) is a church planting resident at The Grove Church and Ph.D. student at Midwestern Seminary. He has 15+ years of vocational ministry experience. He’s also been a professor at Bethlehem College and adjunct faculty at Spurgeon College. Kenneth lives in Minneola, FL with his wife Malaina, they have two kids.