April in global missions history: It happened today!
On this date in world evangelism outreach
"Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses
. . ." -- Hebrews 12:1
Going to "the regions beyond" Significant events, locations, people and
movements in world evangelism
- April 1, 1999 -- The number of religious groups and institutions required by Russian law to
re-register with government authorities by December 31, 1999 was about 17,000. However, on
this day, a prominent Russian expert revealed at a briefing for American diplomats, religious
leaders, and Russian officials that, between 1997 and February of 1999, only 300 (or less than 2%
of the total) have completed their paperwork. Characterizing the re-registration as "a logistical
nightmare" for the bureaucracy, the expert predicted that the task will not be completed and that
most of the religious groups will be left in legal limbo.
- April 2, 2003 -- The Russian Evangelical Alliance, which had been inactive for a
century, was re-established at a meeting near Moscow by representatives of various churches,
organizations, associations, missions, and local alliances. The delegates agreed to designate an
annual prayer week, organize joint Bible conferences and evangelistic
campaigns and establish various social and political programs.
- April 3, 1988 -- A Wesleyan-Holiness denomination of 39 churches which had sprung up in
the 1940s in Nigeria formally united with the international Church of the
Nazarene. The Nigerian group had already adopted the name Church of the Nazarene
having based its doctrinal statements on a Manual of the
international Church of the Nazarene.
- April 4, 1923 -- Missionary scholar William Smalley was born. As a
missionary in the hills of Laos, Smalley helped develop a way to write the Hmong
language using the Roman alphabet. It's still the standard way to write Hmong.
- April 5, 1885 -- On this Easter Sunday, Methodist missionary Henry
G. Appenzeller, and Presbyterian missionary H.G. Underwood arrived in Korea in order
to "bring the Korean people to the light and liberty of God's children". One month later, another
American Methodist missionary, W. B. Scranton, arrived in Korea with his mother, Mrs.
- April 6, 1947 -- The Lutheran Hour began broadcasting in Brazil.
- April 7, 1541 -- On his thirty-fifth birthday, Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Society of
Jesus (Jesuits), set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, for Goa, India. The first Roman Catholic
missionary there, he also traveled to Japan, Sri Lanka, and other Asian countries. It is hard to say
how many would eventually be converted under Xavier's preaching. While reports go as high as
1 million, modern scholars peg the actual number at around 30,000.
- April 8, 1901 -- After nearly 30 years of church planting in New
Guinea, Presbyterian missionary James Chalmers
(accompanied by missionary Oliver Tomkins, who had just arrived in the field) set out to explore
a new part of the islands. No one ever saw the two again. A rescue party learned the men had
been clubbed to death and eaten by cannibals. When London preacher Joseph Parker heard the
news, he exclaimed, "I do not want to believe it! Such a mystery of Providence makes it
hard for our strained faith to recover. Yet, Jesus was murdered. Paul was murdered . . . I cannot
but feel that our honored and noble-minded friend has joined a great assembly."
- April 9, 1934 -- Louisa Lee became the first missionary assigned under the
Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Although she had already served in India
for more than two decades under the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the
USA, Lee severed her connections with that Board as a protest against its modernism. Louisa Lee
would eventually give 59 total years of missionary service to India.
- April 10, 1912 -- Annie Funk, 37, veteran Mennonite missionary to India, sailed out of
England headed for the U.S. on the Titanic. A telegram had called Annie Funk
home from India to visit her seriously ill mother. When the Titanic went down on
April 15, Annie Funk was among 1500 passengers who lost their lives. She had a seat in
a lifeboat but chose to give it up for another passenger. Her name appears on the missionary
plaque in Sage Chapel on the Northfield Mount Hermon school campus where she attended. The
school she founded in Janjgir was renamed the Annie C. Funk Memorial School.
- April 11, 1933 -- J. Gresham Mecham formally asked the Presbyterian Board of Foreign
Missions to allow only those who held to historic Christian doctrine to serve on its board or to
be sent as missionaries, and to avoid doctrinally compromising partnership enterprises. In the
days of debate that followed, Mecham's position was rejected, and, as a result, American
- April 12, 1850 -- Adoniram Judson, pioneer Baptist missionary to India and Burma, died
during a sea voyage. He and his wife, Ann, were the foremost American missionary heroes of
- April 14, 1775 -- The birth of John Philip, Scots Congregationalist, who went to South
Africa in 1819 to direct the work of the London Missionary Society. Even though 150 years
would pass before the apartheid system would be dismantled, Philip declared that the
discrimination it represented was contrary to God's Word. Philip's burden was
for the African church to be truly African.
- April 15, 1889 -- Belgian Roman Catholic priest Joseph Damien, a missionary to lepers on
Molokai, Hawaii, died from the disease.
- April 16, 1944 -- Dorothy Ahleman felt a call to missions at an evening missions service on
the campus of Olivet Nazarene College. She went to Argentina and served 37 years.
- April 17, 1937 -- With Mussolini's troops
occupying Ethiopia, Sudan Interior Mission missionaries who had started a small church among
the Wallamo tribe were forced to leave the country on this day. "We knew God was
faithful," one missionary wrote, "but we wondered if we ever come back, what will
we find?" When the missionaries were able to return six years later (July 1943) they found
that, despite persecution by Italian soldiers, the Christian community had grown from 48
members to 18,000.
- April 18, 1942 -- Sixteen B-25 bombers took off from the USS Hornet, the first fully
loaded bombers ever to take off from an aircraft carrier. The daring bombing run over Japan was
to be the United States' answer to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier. After
dropping their explosives on Japan, most of the bombers crash-landed in China after running out
of fuel, some in Japanese-held areas. Jacob D. DeShazer, a bombardier on one of those planes,
spent three and a half years in a Japanese POW camp. After the war, he returned to Asia and
served as a Christian missionary for 30 years in Japan and China.
- April 19, 1997 -- Betty Greene died. Betty was a Women's Air Force Service pilot during
World War II. Although many felt women did not belong in the military, women were admitted to
the Air Force because of staffing shortages. After proving herself as a military pilot, Betty
founded the Christian Airmen's Missionary Fellowship in 1945. Then, she was asked by the
Wycliffe Bible Translators to help with their Mexico jungle
camp program. This was the start of 15 years of service in places like Peru, East Africa, and
Sudan. When Betty retired from flying, she settled in Fullerton, California to represent the
mission, recruit new pilots and work as prayer secretary.
- April 20, 2001 -- A Peruvian Air Force aircraft shot down a private airplane carrying an
American missionary family and their American pilot in northern Peru near the Colombian
border. The plane was heading to the Peruvian town of Iquitos, having earlier departed from the
town of Leticia in Colombia. It was mistaken for an airplane transporting contraband drugs. Of
the four family members, the mother and infant daughter were killed. The father and son were
not injured, while the pilot was wounded in the leg.
- April 21, 1783 -- Samuel John Mills, missionary and founder of the American Bible Society,
was born in Torringford, Connecticut (d. 1818). He was the father of the foreign missionary
movement in America and made a number of exploratory tours in the south and central west
parts of the United States as well as working in Sierra Leone (Africa) and exploring the country
for the Liberia Colony (in 1818).
- April 22, 1951 -- John L. Peters was the guest speaker at St. Luke's United Methodist
congregation in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. When he got up to preach, he began by saying that
he had decided not to preach the sermon he had prepared. Instead, in an impromptu,
God-inspired message, Peters challenged the congregation to answer the worldwide needs of the
"disinherited, the exploited, the poverty-stricken of soul and body." Peters
suggested a program of self-help, one "humbly administered, recognizing that what men
need and want are not always what we think they need and want. This must be a cooperative
enterprise -- a sharing rather than a giving." After that powerful sermon, several church
members stayed around and offered funds to create just such an organization. In 1952, World
Neighbors would be launched as a non-profit organization. Programs would begin first in India
and then wind up touching more than 45 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Those
World Neighbors programs became a planning model for grassroots community self-help
- April 23, 1858 -- Horace Newton Allen, missionary to China and Korea, was born in
Delaware, Ohio (d. 1932). He was a diplomat and served as a Presbyterian medical missionary.
He was educated at Ohio Wesleyan University (Delaware, Ohio) and Miami Medical College
(Miami, Ohio) before becoming a missionary in 1884. He saved the life of a prince and others in
a revolution. He then served as the medical officer to the Korean Court and is considered the
pioneer Protestant missionary to Korea. He held various government positions and is the author
of a number of books on Korea.
- April 24, 1982 -- William Cameron ("Uncle Cam") Townsend died. He was the founder of
one of the world's largest privately funded mission agencies, the 4,500-member Wycliffe Bible
Translators. Born in 1896, Townsend was a missionary linguist for 65 years, beginning in 1917
when he started as a 21-year-old Bible salesman. Wycliffe Bible Translators works among nearly
750 minority language groups.
"A dream of young William Cameron Townsend turned into one of the most effective
evangelization resources ever created. . . . Townsend's faithfulness and passion for God and for
humanity produced great fruit in and for the Kingdom of God." -- Jeremy Wooley, Northwest
Nazarene University student
- April 25, 1799 -- Ephraim Weston Clark, missionary to Hawaii and Micronesia, was born in
Haverhill, New Hampshire (d. 16 July 1878). Clark, a graduate of Dartmouth College and
Andover Theological Seminary, was sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign
Missions to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), arriving in March of 1828. Among his missionary
endeavors was work on Bible revisions and translation of a Bible dictionary. In 1852, he also
helped initiate mission work in Micronesia.
- April 26, 1832 -- Just five weeks after arriving in Ghana, Dr. Christian Frederich Henize died
of malaria. Ironically, he had been caring for the medical needs of two other missionaries in
whose company he had arrived. These three men were the second group of missionaries sent to
Ghana by the Basel Missionary Society. The deaths of both groups of missionaries before they
had a single convert led the Basel Missionary Society to withdraw temporarily from Ghana.
- April 27, 1775 -- Moravian minister and missionary Peter Boehler died. He had met John
Wesley in 1737 in the aftermath of Wesley's unfruitful time in Georgia as a missionary to the
Indians. Boehler's assurance of faith and belief in joyous, instantaneous conversion left a
permanent mark on Wesley. At the time of his death, Boehler was on his way to Georgia and
Carolina as a missionary to the blacks and Indians.
- April 28, 1841 -- Warriors entered the hut of French Catholic missionary Peter Chanel on
Futuna in what is now Vanuatu (South Pacific islands). Clubbing the missionary to death, they
cut up his body with hatchets. This happened because of a pagan chief's anger over his son asking
to e baptized. Peter's violent death sparked conversions across the island.
- April 29, 1819 -- Eduard Raimund Baierlein was born in Sierakowski, Posen, Poland. He
was a missionary to the Chippewa (Ojibwa) Indians in Michigan from 1847 to 1853. Then he
went to India as a missionary for the Leipzig Evangelical Lutheran Mission, arriving in Madras on
December 17, 1853.
- April 30, 1595 -- The death of Abraham George, the first of eight Roman Catholic Jesuit
martyrs in Ethiopia.
-- compiled by Howard Culbertson,
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