This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library Image from the history picture library

Subject: ‘Missionaries’

All of these articles and images are available for licensing: click on an image to see further details and licensing options; contact us about licensing textual content.

Ai-weh-deh led her young Chinese charges to safety

Posted in Historical articles, History, Missionaries, Religion, War on Wednesday, 22 January 2014

This edited article about Gladys Aylward first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 522 published on 15 January 1972.

Aylward the missionary, picture, image, illustration
Gladys Aylward, a missionary in China, leads over 100 children to safety during the China-Japan war by Andrew Howat

Shortly after sunrise, the band of orphan and refugee children started out on their long march to safety. Singing hymns at the top of their young voices, they left the only real home most of them had known, heading towards the mountains and the walled city of Sian, in North China.

They knew they might not reach Sian alive, but despite this they showed few signs of fear. To many of them the journey was a wonderful adventure. And they all had faith in Ai-weh-deh, the small Englishwoman who was their friend and leader.

Ai-weh-deh would guide them and protect them from the Japanese soldiers who were devastating the nearby towns and villages. In Chinese, her name meant “The Virtuous One,” and the mission children knew her only as this. They watched her lovingly as she marched along with them, making sure that the stragglers and younger ones weren’t left behind, and keeping the more daring boys in check with strong blasts on her whistle.

Soon they had left Yangcheng behind them. The mission there – the beautifully-named Inn of the Sixth Happiness – was a bomb-shattered ruin. The children would never sleep in it again, and Ai-weh-deh had somehow to provide for a hundred boisterous youngsters, aged between four and fifteen, who had no money, and nothing to eat but a basketful of millet.

On the first of the twelve nights of their march, they sheltered in a Buddhist temple which was presided over by a single priest. The millet was quickly eaten and, as the children fell contentedly asleep, Ai-weh-deh wondered who would befriend them next. She couldn’t help wondering, too, whether she would ever see England and her home in London again.

Eleven years previously, in 1930, Ai-weh-deh had been Gladys Aylward, a young London parlourmaid who dreamed of becoming a missionary in China, and who had saved every penny of her meagre wages to pay her fare out there.

It took her months of hard work to raise enough money, and when she eventually arrived in the Chinese town of Yangcheng, she was practically penniless. Not only that. She spoke no Chinese, and she was greeted by the people she hoped to help with great hostility. The children called her a “foreign devil,” laughing when their mothers jeered at her, and throwing dried mud after her in the street.

But neither mud nor insults could dissuade Gladys Aylward from her purpose. She cared little for ordinary life, and felt she owed it to God to live selflessly. She became friendly with another missionary in Yangcheng, a frail Scottish woman called Jannie Lawson, who had spent more than fifty years teaching the Gospel in the rough, mountainous country north of the Yellow River. Together they decided to turn Mrs. Lawson’s house into an inn. The town was a recognized stopping place for mule caravans, and they could cater for the hardy muleteers, who led their teams all over north China. If the men were well looked after, fed tasty meals and given comfortable beds, they would tell everyone they met that the “foreign devils” were not so fearsome after all. And if they could be induced to listen to sermons while they ate, then the Inn of the Sixth Happiness would really be a place of God.

Read the rest of this article »

Dr Pennell’s mission became a multi-faith school on the edge of the Himalayas

Posted in Historical articles, History, Medicine, Missionaries, Religion on Thursday, 9 January 2014

This edited article about medical missionaries first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 505 published on 18 September 1971.

In the Himalayas, picture, image, illustration
Dr Pennell took his pupils camping in the foothills of the Himalayas

Everyone who knew him expected Dr. Theodore Pennell to have a brilliant career in London. He was urged by his friends to set-up practice in Harley Street, where he would make both a reputation and a fortune. But his choice of a “living” surprised and dismayed his admirers.

As soon as he completed his medical studies at London University he volunteered for service with the Church Missionary Society. “London already has enough good doctors,” he said. “I want to work somewhere where I am really needed. I would like to help sick children who have no proper doctors to attend them.”

After making careful enquiries, he decided that he would be of most use in the hills of Northern India, where the sick were tended to only by travelling hakims, or doctors, whose methods of healing were primitive and painful.

Having made his choice, Dr. Pennell then began to learn the local languages, Persian, Pushtu and Panjabi. To someone completely unaccustomed to the strange and difficult tongues it was an arduous task. But the doctor was used to overcoming obstacles, however long it took.

He was born at Clifton, a suburb of Bristol, in 1867. His father was a doctor, and the young Theodore proved to be a sickly, ailing child. Until he was thirteen he could not play games or join in the boisterous fun of his schoolmates.

Then, after years of struggling against bad health, he suddenly became fit and strong. By the time he was twenty he was over six feet tall, and as sturdy as any man he knew. But his long period of illness had left its mark, and he resolved to spend his life helping children as weakly as he himself had once been.

Read the rest of this article »

Christian missionaries were murdered by the Aucas Indians of Ecuador

Posted in Anthropology, Historical articles, Missionaries on Wednesday, 11 December 2013

This edited article about missionaries first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 488 published on 22 May 1971.

Ecuador, picture, image, illustration
The highest peaks of the Andes are found in Ecuador

It was Friday, 6th January, 1956. On a strip of sand by the Curaray River, which they called Palm Beach, five men in T-shirts and jeans worked busily. Anxiously, they looked at intervals towards the deep jungle of Ecuador.

Nate Saint, the pilot, fiddled with his yellow Piper Cruiser; Peter Fleming was cooking. Roger Youderian, Jim Elliot and Ed. McCullay shouted into the dense foliage, phrases of friendship and reassurance in an obscure Indian tongue.

Suddenly their calls were answered and three Indians stepped out on to the strand – a man, a woman and a girl. They were Aucas, members of a ferocious tribe of primitive Indians, who had slain the few white men bold enough to violate their territory. Now, at last, the five Americans from a missionary organisation had succeeded in overcoming the Aucas’ suspicion and resentment.

The Americans had worked slowly and systematically to make their missionary enterprise a success and had begun to fly regularly over the Aucan country. They discovered the Indians’ settlements and, dubbing one Terminal City, they began to drop gifts there. Kettles, knives and gaily-coloured clothing were trailed at the end of a long wire to entice the Indians into the open. One day, the villagers of Terminal City caught the line to which gifts had been attached and tied to it a present of their own – an elaborate head-dress.

Once this break-through had been achieved, the missionaries waited eagerly for their first visit from the Aucas and they were overjoyed when the three natives stepped out of the jungle on to Palm Beach. After a friendly meeting, the Aucas departed. The missionaries had hinted broadly that they would like an invitation to visit the Aucan village and they hoped that their visitors would be able to arrange it. For a time nothing more was heard. The missionaries began to wonder if they had been over-confident. At last Nate Saint took his plane up to find out what was happening. Circling over Terminal City, he noticed that the village was largely deserted. Then, on the flight back, he noticed a group of about ten Aucas, apparently unarmed, making their way towards Palm Beach. “This is it, guys,” he told the others when he landed, “They are on their way.” And that night, over the radio he told his wife: “Looks like they’ll be here for the early afternoon service. Will contact you next at 4.30.”

Read the rest of this article »

The Jesuit missionaries who gave their lives to convert Canadian Indians

Posted in Historical articles, History, Missionaries, Religion on Wednesday, 27 November 2013

This edited article about Canada first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 465 published on 12 December 1970.

Indian attack, picture, image, illustration
At the gates of St. Ignace the Indians formed two rows; the missionaries were driven between them and brutally clubbed

It was Spring, 1649. The monks saw the charred stumps of the pallisade in the distance and behind them, stark against the fresh-fallen snow, the blackened remains of the cabins of St. Ignace. Regnaut, the lay-brother in charge, halted his party. He sent two Hurons ahead as scouts; they re-appeared soon afterwards, as noiselessly as they had left, and reported that the Iroquois had gone. Regnaut led his men forward into the village; they stopped in the open central area. The two bodies lay there, some distance apart and barely recognisable. Regnaut, holding himself tightly in control, ordered them to be buried, then turned to the Huron villagers, women and children most of them, who had come forward gradually from their hiding-places. For two hours he listened to their eye-witness accounts, accounts in which horror was piled on horror. Then he led his party back to the mission headquarters at Ste. Marie, taking with him the bodies of Father Jean de Brebeuf and Father Gabriel Lalement – Jesuits, missionaries, martyrs and, later, saints.

During the 17th century the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus was the target of much criticism. It was said to meddle overmuch in politics and to be greedy for riches. But no-one could deny the courage and sincerity of its missionaries, least of all, the fathers who served among the Indians of North America. One of the most fearsome provinces of their work was Huronia, the land of the Huron Indians around Georgian Bay in the south-west corner of Quebec. Yet there was rivalry amongst the fathers for the honour of serving there. The danger came not merely from the Hurons themselves but from the persistent attacks of the Iroquois, armed with muskets, who robbed the Hurons of the goods which they had obtained from the French.

There were mission stations at four villages in Huronia. Ste. Marie, the mission headquarters, was the most northerly; to the south-east was St. Louis; further in the same direction was St. Ignace; and due south, nearest to Iroquois country, was St. Joseph. With the exception of Ste. Marie, the villages were simple encampments of bark cabins behind wooden pallisades with sometimes a watch-tower for added security. Life in them was squalid. The Jesuits shared the sparse Indian diet of porridge made from Indian corn and sprinkled with powdered dried fish. Living among the Indians in this way the fathers gradually made progress.

The mission station of St. Louis was manned by Brebeuf and Lalement. Jean de Brebeuf came from a noble family in Normandy and had been in Canada since 1625. He had written treatises about the Hurons and a Huron grammar and catechism. He was a big, strong man, the very opposite of his companion. Lalement, the elder of the two, was a scholar, a shy, retiring man and physically very frail. He had only been in Huronia for a short time. By spring 1649, they must both have been aware that their position was threatened. In July of the previous year the Iroquois had attacked and burned St. Joseph killing the missionary there and towards the end of that year it was clear from the fear and despondency of the Hurons that more trouble could be expected.

Read the rest of this article »

Father Damien resurrected virtue and self-respect in his leper colony at Molokai

Posted in Historical articles, History, Missionaries, Religion, Saints on Monday, 16 September 2013

This edited article about missionaries originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 401 published on 20 September 1969.

Father Damien, picture, image, illustration
Father Damien

It was a day of misery and heartache when, in the summer of 1870, police officials toured the Pacific islands of Hawaii, posting a sombre notice in each village centre: ALL LEPERS ARE REQUIRED TO REPORT THEMSELVES TO THE GOVERNMENT HEALTH AUTHORITIES . . . FOR INSPECTION AND FINAL BANISHMENT TO MOLOKAI ISLAND.

This order meant that many families would be split up, for sometimes only one person, the father or mother, had contracted the disease. One man, on learning that his wife would be taken from him, fled with her to a coastal stronghold, where he kept the police away with a rifle.

For a time no one dared approach the maddened husband, who shot at anyone on sight. Then a missionary priest called Father Damien went to reason with the couple. He persuaded the native to surrender his gun, and agreed that the man and wife should be allowed to go together to Molokai, to live and to die there.

But Damien was not satisfied with helping just the one stricken family. He wanted to comfort all the lepers, and so gained permission to go and live among the outcasts as their resident priest. He joined the leper colony on Molokai that summer, and immediately found that “vice reigned instead of virtue.”

Bereft of all human dignity, the doomed lepers lived in “defiance of divine as well as human laws.” A lesser man than Damien might have despaired of ever bringing the natives back to the ways of decency. But the priest, who was born in the Belgian village of Tremeloo in 1840, was a man of exceptional courage and humanity.

His first object on Molokai was to show the lepers that, unlike almost everyone else they met, he did not despise or fear them. He mixed freely with them, eating from their dishes and smoking tobacco from their pipes. Apart from putting an end to drunkenness and theft, he acted as the islanders’ doctor, grave-digger, coffin-maker, and funeral official.

Realizing that help must also come from outside, he went round Hawaii raising money for medical supplies, proper sanitation, lumber and building materials. Before his arrival on Molokai the lepers had lived in flimsy huts which were blown away by the winds which swept the island.

With new homes and a supply of running water, the lepers at last began to take an interest in themselves. They knew they could not be cured, but at least they could treat each other as human beings, and try to make their community as happy as circumstances allowed.

Encouraged by Father Damien, they accepted their fate more stoically than before. The priest was never too busy to spare a word of advice or sympathy. His sermons were always well-attended, and one Sunday in 1885 he shocked his congregation by addressing them not as “My brethren,” but as “We lepers.”

At the age of 45, after spending 15 years on Molokai, Damien himself had caught the disease. He knew that his days were numbered, and told his assistants: “I would like to be put by the side of my stout old tree where I rested so many nights before I had any other shelter.”

Four years later, in April, 1889, his request was sorrowfully complied with.

Saint Andrew is the patron saint of missionaries and of Scotland

Posted in Bible, Missionaries, Religion, Saints, Scotland on Tuesday, 6 August 2013

This edited article about Saint Andrew originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 360 published on 7 December 1968.

Crucifixion of St Andrew, picture, image, illustration
Crucifixion of St Andrew from a C14 French painting

Saint Andrew has been regarded as the patron of Christian missions since very early times. The reason for this is not hard to understand; it arises from what happened when Jesus invited Andrew to become one of His chosen followers, the twelve apostles.

Andrew was the first of the several fishermen of Galilee whom Jesus chose as His closest companions.

It was during a talk between Jesus and himself on the seashore that Andrew had an idea which marked him out from all the others. Instead of accepting the invitation to visit Jesus at His home, Andrew decided that this meeting was too good to keep to himself. He wanted to share the new friend he had made, so he slipped quietly away and found his brother, Simon Peter.

This pleased Jesus very much, for Peter was one of the fishermen whom Jesus most wanted as one of His followers, and he was eventually to become one of His three closest friends.

Although Andrew never became as important a leader as his brother, he is remembered especially for the example he set of what a Christian ought to do.

Instead of keeping his meeting with Jesus a secret, he did the very thing which eventually made Christianity into a world religion: he went and found someone else to join the band of disciples. As the Gospel of St. John tells us (Chapter 1, verse 41) “He first findeth his own brother, Simon.”

Andrew is mentioned several times in other parts of the story of Jesus. Once a great crowd followed Jesus into the desert, and there He fed them in a marvellous way, by sharing a small boy’s picnic among all the hungry people (St. John’s Gospel, chapter 6, verses 5-14). It was Andrew who discovered this boy with the “five barley loaves and two small fishes” which Jesus shared among the crowd.

It would appear that Andrew was always ready to bring people to Jesus and to be then content to leave Him to say or do what He thought best for them. On another occasion, Andrew introduced some enquiring Greeks to Jesus (St. John’s Gospel, chapter 12, verse 22). In fact, he was the ideal missionary, and that is why he was chosen by the Church as the patron saint of all missionary work.

It is much more difficult to understand how or why St. Andrew was adopted as the patron saint of Scotland. All that can be said is that the Scots recognised him as such no later than A.D. 750.

Traditions of the 3rd century connect Andrew with missionary work in Turkey and Russia, and the diagonal cross known as the cross of St. Andrew is said to be in the shape of that on which Andrew was martyred in A.D. 70 at the Greek city of Patras, to which he had also taken the Christian faith.

“St. Andrew’s Tide”, on and around 30th November, is observed all over the world as a time of special prayer for the missionary work of the Church, inspired by the memory of this first follower of Jesus who had the gift of bringing others to Him.

The Canadian missionaries who were saved by their boots

Posted in Adventure, Bravery, Historical articles, History, Missionaries, Religion on Monday, 5 August 2013

This edited article about Canadian missionaries originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 357 published on 16 November 1968.

Stringer and Johnson, picture, image, illustration
Dr Isaac Stringer and his missionary companion C. F. Johnson, trekked across the Yukon and faced freezing conditions and starvation to get to Dawson City by Graham Coton

Dr. Isaac Stringer, who was the Bishop of Selkirk, the Yukon diocese in Canada’s frozen north, was no ordinary bishop. Apart from his university qualifications, he had other qualities. His wrestler’s build gave him a bull-like strength which made him the equal of any of the tough, brawling and often murderous inhabitants of his 200,000-square-mile diocese.

In fact the two-fisted prelate of Selkirk proved himself even tougher than the sinewy, hard-bitten children of the ice, the Eskimos themselves. On a journey from Fort McPherson to Dawson City, when others would have laid down and died, he proved himself a match for the merciless country itself – even though he had to eat his boots to do it!

The bishop and a missionary companion, C. F. Johnston, left Fort McPherson by canoe with four Indians. Their destination was Dawson City, and they had to get there before the winter ice-up. They knew that, once the snow fell and the waterfalls froze solid, it would be almost certain death for anyone who tried to make that 300-mile journey.

Within a few days of starting, one of the four Indians paddling the canoe south was taken seriously ill, and precious time was wasted in a detour to the nearest settlement. This delay was to prove nearly fatal. The party was planning to canoe down a tributary of the big Mackenzie River, carry the boat over the mountains, then continue down the fast-flowing Porcupine River to a point where they would be able to make for home in reasonable comfort. But when they set off once more, there were ominous signs of an early freeze-up on their small tributary.

Read the rest of this article »

Festivals in Florida celebrate the coming of Christianity to the New World

Posted in America, Anniversary, Customs, Historical articles, History, Missionaries on Tuesday, 9 July 2013

This edited article about festivals in Florida originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 322 published on 16 March 1968.

DeSoto Society, picture, image, illustration
Members of the DeSoto Historical Society re-enact the landing of their Spanish hero in Florida in 1539 every year

History was made on the 12th October, 1492, when Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. He became famous and rich, took the title of “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” (as the Pacific was then known) and inspired other intrepid adventurers to follow his course to the new land.

In fact, the New World had been ‘discovered’ hundreds of years earlier by such people as Leif Ericson, the Norse adventurer, in about A.D. 1000, and by Chinese merchants and Norwegians, as well as by Basque and Breton fishermen.

Although evidence of these visitors has been found, they left no record of their voyages. Columbus’s expedition, therefore, marked the first official discovery of the New World. (The irony of it was that Columbus believed he had found India!)

When Columbus reported his discovery to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, other Spaniards were eager to set out to seek their fortunes in the distant land. By 1580, Spain had laid claim to all the lands we now know as the southern United States and the Panamanian peninsula (all of which they called “New Spain”) plus the greater part of South America.

Following the landing of Hernando Cortez in Mexico in 1519, and the Spanish conquest of the great Aztec empire, many other explorers were lured to America by the prospect of plundered gold and treasure which would make them rich and give them power at home.

Read the rest of this article »

The fighting Booths and their Salvation Army

Posted in Historical articles, History, Institutions, London, Missionaries, Philanthropy, Religion on Tuesday, 9 July 2013

This edited article about the Salvation Army originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 322 published on 16 March 1968.

Salvation Army, picture, image, illustration
The Salvation Army in the 1960s in a London street by Peter Jackson

As soon as he finished his work in the evenings, the fifteen-year-old pawnbroker’s apprentice took a chair into the slum streets of Nottingham, and, mounting it, began to preach to the passers-by.

The apprentice, William Booth, was sickened by the poverty which he came across daily in his shop. Week after week he saw the same people pawning and redeeming their most precious possessions. Although they were paid each Friday, their wages were so low that by Monday mornings they were penniless again.

The workers had no ally in their struggle against want, and William Booth, who was born in Nottingham in 1820, resolved to do all he could to alleviate their hardship.

His own father had once been a successful builder, but he died a poor man, and William was left to support his widowed mother and family. Surrounded by “desperation and despair”, he had little time for the usual boyhood pastimes of cricket and football.

Despite working hard from seven in the morning until seven at night, William managed to walk miles to villages where his words brought comfort to the sick. He was by no means a strong boy and, when he was seventeen, a doctor told him that, unless he gave up his “wandering preacher’s life”, he would be dead within a year.

William paid no heed to this warning. Instead, he studied to become a minister. A friend allowed him a pound a week on which to live, and William moved to London, where he felt he could do most good. He paid five shillings a week for two unfurnished rooms, and began to travel about the city conducting meetings and services.

During this period, he met and married the delicate Catherine Mumford, who began to prepare herself for the arduous task of being such a man’s wife. “I added to the number of my studies,” she said, “enlarged the scope of my reading . . . started to learn shorthand . . . and in other ways stirred up the gift that was in me to fit myself the better to serve God and my generation.”

When her husband became a minister, at Gateshead-on-Tyne, Mrs. Booth created a sensation by taking an active part in his meetings. In 1860, it was unheard of for a woman to speak from the pulpit, and she wrote afterwards: “little did I realize how much was he involved! I never imagined the life of publicity and trial it would lead to, for I was never allowed to have another quiet Sabbath when I was well enough to stand and speak.”

For the next few years, the Booths continued their joint career, but by 1878, William Booth had tired of orthodox religious preaching.

“There are enough churches,” he told his followers. “I want to make an army . . . a volunteer army . . . a salvation army.”

Read the rest of this article »

Gregory the Great elevated the Papacy to greater heights

Posted in Historical articles, History, Missionaries, Religion on Tuesday, 9 July 2013

This edited article about Gregory the Great originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 321 published on 9 March 1968.

Gregory the Great, picture, image, illustration
Told that the fair-headed slaves were Angles, Pope Gregory is said to have remarked, "Not Angles, but Angels." Picture by Pat Nicolle

Britain received her knowledge of the Christian faith from two separate sources, which did not unite for many years. The earliest missionaries came from Ireland, not later than the 5th century A.D. Their influence extended first to Scotland, then gradually into north-east England, and from there to the midlands and the south-east. Their followers accepted the teachings and calendar of the Celtic church, which differed in several ways from those of the Roman church.

Missionaries from Rome set out for Britain in the 6th century. The person chiefly responsible for this was Gregory the Great, who was so good a man during his lifetime that he was acclaimed as one of the Saints of the Church immediately after his death.

On his appointment as Bishop of Rome (Pope) in A.D. 590, Gregory became at one and the same time a politician, a church lawyer, an organiser of social welfare, and an international diplomat. In this way he set the pattern for many popes of the Middle Ages. Noted for his generosity (he had given away his great estates for the benefit of the poor), he was at heart a missionary, and the strict discipline he asked of the men in the monasteries under his care was intended to fit them to carry their faith to distant lands, and, if necessary, to die for it.

Almost everyone knows the story of how Gregory one day saw a group of prisoners, fair-haired and blue-eyed, in the slave market in Rome. On being told that they were ‘Angli’ (Angles) he is said to have answered, in Latin, ‘Non Angli sed Angeli’ (‘Not Angles but Angles’).

It has sometimes been alleged that it was the sight of these Angles, or English, people whom he found so attractive, that caused Gregory to send St. Augustine and others from Rome to preach to them in their own land. What is not generally known is that Gregory himself set off as a missionary to Britain, before becoming Pope. Pope Benedict I recalled him after he had actually started out on this mission, because the Christians of Rome were reluctant to part with so beloved a leader.

* * *

It was some years after this unfulfilled mission that Gregory chose Augustine, and sent him, with forty monks, well qualified for the work, to settle in the kingdom of Kent, and to promote Christianity there. Although the Kentish King, Ethelbert, to whom Gregory’s mission preached, was a pagan, his wife Bertha (who came from Northern England) had already become a Christian of the Celtic church before her marriage.

‘Gregory the Great’ as he is always known, was an outstanding scholar, writer, and musician. King Alfred translated some of his writings from Latin into the Saxon tongue. A style of Church music, known as the Gregorian chant, was devised by him, and is still used widely in many churches.

Gregory’s connection with the mission of his Church to England makes it especially fitting for English people to remember him on his own day in the Church Calendar, March 12th.