“Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.” This was the statement heard at a late 1700’s church conference where a young minister named William Carey stood to ask a question as to why the church did not make more of an effort to share the Gospel in foreign lands. To me, this mentality is completely unthinkable; however, at the time, it was thought that the “Great Commission” applied only to the 11 disciples of Jesus. Mr. Carey went on to challenge this idea and became one of the pioneers of the modern missionary movement. His ideas laid the foundation for many others to follow in his footsteps to take the Gospel to many other places.
William Carey’s accomplishments were incredible; over the 41 years he lived in India, he and his pundits translated the entire Bible into India’s major languages: Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit and parts of 209 other languages and dialects. Wow! Just remember this was all done without any modern technology! He also campaigned for other social issues such as the abolition of infanticide, widow burning, and assisted suicide.
His accomplishments intrigued me; how could 1 man effect such widespread furtherance of the Gospel? I personally imagined this incredible man moving about the Indian culture with ease and translating the scriptures tirelessly. He would have a happy family surrounding him and encouraging him… If you happen to be familiar with William Carey’s story, this couldn’t be further from the truth. His life was filled with hardship. He barely convinced his wife to leave England with 3 children and 1 on the way and to travel to the “ends of the earth.” After arriving in India, his 5-year-old son died from dysentery, Carey contracted malaria, his ministry partner (Thomas) abandoned him, and his wife Dorothy descended into mental illness and attacked William with a knife. She was kept in a locked room to prevent her from harming Carey or herself. The depths of frustration were undoubtedly great for the Carey family; there certainly are parts of his story that make me uncomfortable. Did he not care for the well-being of those closest to him?
After reading William Carey’s story, I found myself pondering what I should do with the “messiness” that surrounds my life. We all have our messes (that Jesus wants to address) that need addressed. There certainly was no excuse for how Carey disregarded the welfare of his family; however, God used this poor cobbler to take the Gospel to millions of people in the coastlands of India.
Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.–William Carey The Life of William Carey
How about you? What is God calling you to do? Perhaps He wants you to learn to know the neighbor next door or to translate the scripture into a previously unwritten language. I am quick to point out that I am not “worthy” to do things like that because I have “too many issues,” or I am inadequately prepared. Carey’s life reminds me that accomplishments are the work of God, not human effort. To what page is your Bible opened? And to where is your map opened?