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William Carey, Pioneer Missionary To India (Part 4)

    Arranged from the book, "William Carey, Missionary Pioneer and Statesman" (1761-1834) by F. Deaville Walker, published by Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois.

    Burdened by God to promote the spread of the Gospel around the world as Jesus had commissioned His followers to do, William Carey persevered amid much disinterest and opposition among fellow ministers in his area of England, until the Baptist Missionary Society was formed. What joy he must have felt when asked to accompany the first missionary appointee, the medical doctor John Thomas, to help carry the Gospel to India!

    The sum of 550 pounds had to be raised in three or four months. Carey was penniless and Thomas was in debt. Many were hesitant to give to what seemed so rash an adventure. But God was faithful, and through earnest efforts of Carey and Thomas and other friends, the funds came to hand.

    Another difficulty to face was transportation. One company controlled all passages, and they were known to be hostile to missionaries. An act of Parliament had made it a crime to reside in British possessions in India without a license from the company. Being unable to obtain permission from the company, they determined to trust the Lord and sail without, acting on the advice of John Newton that if God had something there for them to accomplish, "No power on earth can hinder you."

    Not only was there the weight upon Carey of the uncertainty that they would be received into India without the company’s permission, there was the sorrow of leaving his wife and the young children behind, as she did not feel she could accompany him on such short notice, having three young sons and another child on the way.

    "But he felt that his duty was plain – God had called him to India, and that sacred call must be obeyed. He knew that soldiers, officials, and merchants on foreign service were often obliged to leave their wives and families in the homeland, and he was prepared to make a similar sacrifice for the kingdom of God. In doing so he was buoyed up by the thought that the separation would only be a brief one: he would do the first rough pioneer work alone, and then come back to fetch his dear ones."

    It was an hour of triumph for William Carey when he and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas and daughter boarded the ship and embarked for India. But alas, they had to stop at an island off the coast and lay at anchor for several weeks. During this time the ship’s captain changed his mind about taking them without the needed permission from the company, and the two men had no choice but to disembark, Mrs. Thomas and daughter being allowed to continue on to India.

    Moved to tears by this disappointment, Carey nevertheless wrote in bright faith to friends of the Missionary Society: "All I can say in this affair is that, however mysterious the leadings of Providence are, I have no doubt but they are superintended by an infinitely wise God."

Faith Rewarded

    Carey’s faith was rewarded. During the delay his wife was persuaded to join them, now having in her arms the new son born to them. Additional funds were supplied and a Danish ship was found. On June 13, 1793, the 130-foot-long vessel sailed from England, taking William and Dorothy Carey from their homeland to which they would never return.

    The turmoil and strain of setting out on a five-month ocean voyage with four young children was eased by the exceptional kindness of the ship’s captain. Sometimes delayed by calm winds, sometimes battered by storms, they slowly made their way to India. For nearly one month they were within 200 miles of Calcutta but were hindered from landing by a "violent current." While on the voyage William Carey began the study of Bengali, as Mr. Thomas had some knowledge of the language.

    The first months in India were extremely difficult. Mr. Thomas soon had used up all the finances that the little party had brought with them. Some of the family became ill. The strangeness and lacks of India brought unhappiness for Mrs. Carey and her sister who had agreed to join them the last minute in England. The climate was hot. Mosquitoes were bad. Poisonous snakes, crocodiles, tigers and other wild animals added danger to their journeyings in search of a home. Despondency plagued Carey. But at last he was able to write:

    "The world appears little, the promises great, and God an all-sufficient portion." His courage and joy returned. He found great inspiration in re-reading the story of David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians.

    It was Carey’s desire to earn his own living in India and so he was grateful when a Christian Englishman offered him the position of managing an indigo factory. This gave him much contact with the Indian people. He learned their beliefs as well as their dialect of Bengali. One very great trial of the early months was losing their five-year-old son following an attack of fever and dysentery. Both father and mother were so ill as to be barely able to be out of bed as they stood at the little graveside, feeling deeply the cost of carrying the Gospel to the people of India.

    Within a year after arriving in India, Carey had translated several portions of Scripture into Bengali. Within two years he was able to preach with liberty in Bengali. He preached to crowds of from two to 600 people. Converts among the Hindus and Muslims came slowly. Carey was not satisfied. He wanted to "attempt great things for God." He urged the Missionary Society to send out more laborers.

    (To be continued)