This past week I began a series of talks on the Life and Lessons of Hudson Taylor, a famous pioneer missionary to China in the 1800’s. In her book, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Ruth Tucker writes:
“No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor. His sights were set on reaching the whole of China, all four hundred million people, and it was to that end he labored, though not single-handedly.”[i]
Missiologists have called Taylor the “Father of the Faith Missions Movement.” Taylor labored in China for 51 years and during his lifetime helped organize the recruitment of 800 missionaries who established 300 missions stations, 125 schools and recorded approximately 18,000 conversions to Christ.[ii] Unmistakably, Hudson Taylor is a man who models for us our theme, “Beholding to Become!”
Nevertheless, while in one sense I want our students to focus on the habits of mind and heart wrought by the Holy Spirit in Hudson’s life as he yielded himself to God for His purposes, in another sense I want parents and teachers to focus on what was happening behind the scenes and often hidden from view in terms of his spiritual formation. There is a quote from Hudson’s autobiography that struck me deeply as I read:
“Many circumstances connected with my own early life and service presented this aspect of work vividly to me; and as I think of some of them, I am reminded of how much the cause of missions is indebted to many who are never themselves permitted to see the mission field—many, it may be, who are unable to give of their substance, and who will not be surprised in the Great Day to see how much the work has been advanced by their love, their sympathy, and their prayers….that is the unspeakable debt I owe to my parents…the influence of their lives will never pass away” [iii]
Hudson Taylor was keenly aware of the profound influence of the prayers and life example of his godly parents. From before he was born and throughout his years, we see evidence in Taylor’s mother’s journal of both parents’ devotion to pray for their son. Hudson first became strongly aware of the power of prayer and selfless devotion of his parents after he came to Christ at 17 years old. You will need to read or ask your children the story about that!
In my own life, I have thought a lot about the quiet influence and selfless sacrifices of my parents towards my spiritual formation. I think of my late mother, who went to college later in life to become a teacher, so that she could work at a Christian school and get the needed tuition discount for my brother and I to be able to attend. I am reminded of my Dad- watching his care for others and marveling at his persevering faith through many trials and tribulations. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents praying over my brother and I and hearing my Mom sing praise songs on the way to school in the morning. My parents never went on the mission field, but God worked through their faithful prayers and influence to help shape in my brother and I a love for Him, His Word, and people made in His image. The people who have been touched by God’s grace at work through me are an eternal reward and fruit of the hidden influence of my parents.
I recognize that not all of you had godly parental influence. But all of you have come to Christ and been used of Him due to the godly influence and selfless love of someone. Additionally, all of you now have the opportunity to be that godly influence for your children and students. I have no doubt that is the main reason why you have chosen Oak Grove-either as a parent, staff member, or both. You are likely tempted at times to doubt the power or significance of your influence. You may “feel” that your prayers are weak and wonder about their effect. I am sure Hudson Taylor’s parents struggled with the same- especially after years of spiritual investment and seeing him drift during his teen years leading up to a dramatic repentance at 17 years old. It is clear from Hudson’s account that at times he felt his father was overbearing and strict (and his father wrestled through that, I’m sure!).
Don’t be deceived! The Lord works through the prayers of broken, imperfect, redeemed people- not one prayer or selfless act is lost to Him (cf. Psalm 56:8 and others). Here is a Scripture and quote to close, I hope they encourage you:
“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.” William Cowper
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28, ESV)
[i] Tucker, Ruth (1983). From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan Publishing House. pp. 173
[ii]Christian Literature Society for China (1911). The China Mission Year Book (PDF). Shanghai: Christian Literature Society for China. Pp. 281-82
[iii] Taylor, J. Hudson (2010). J Hudson Taylor: An Autobiography. Pp. 4