It happened July 11, 1924

800px-Olympic_flagNinety years ago in Paris, France, God rewarded Olympiad Eric Liddell for following his Christian conscience. The Scottish runner risked the ire of his countyrmen by choosing not to run in the qualifying heats on Sunday.

Because Eric took a stand for Sunday, God arranged for him to qualify on a different day. In the actual race, Eric set a new record for the 400 meters race while winning a gold medal on Friday, July 11.

I celebrate Eric’s win in the remainder of this post with three things. I’ve included  someone’s written description of his finish, a YouTube link showing original film footage of Eric winning his medal, and a link to short a bio of the Christian athlete who went on to become a missionary.

  1. In her book, The Flying Scotsman, Sally Magnusson captures the dramatic conclusion of Eric’s medal-winning race: “Eric Liddell somehow summoned up hidden reserves of strength and stamina. Head back, chin forward, mouth open, knees jumping, arms waving, he put on a spurt and started to increase his lead over Fitch. At the tape he was all of five metres ahead, and had won the Olympic title in a world record time of 47.6.” (page 53)
  2. Watch Eric’s actual win at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYNUxdoIacA.
  3. You can read more about Eric’s faith and his running skill in this biographical post.


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Born JULY 9, 1896

 “The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is   never considered a foreigner.”

William Cameron Townsend. [PD-USA]

William Cameron Townsend. [PD-USA]

Those words became the motto of the man behind Wycliffe Bible Translators,  without a doubt the 20th century’s greatest Bible translating organization. William Cameron Townsend, like missionary James Hudson Taylor,  is often not known by his first name. He became “Cameron” to many and simply “Cam” to others.

Both his general and spiritual education began in his hometown of Downey, California. As a teenager, he joined the Presbyterian church his family attended.


To further his education, Cameron entered the Presbyterian-owned Occidental College in Los Angeles. In his junior year, he heard guest speaker John Mott of the Student Volunteer Movement. Mott challenged students to commit their lives to missionary service. His passion captured Cameron’s attention. He personally met with John and signed up to go to those who had never heard the gospel.

At that time, America’s involvement in World War I seemed inevitable. Cameron enlisted in the National Guard.  When America entered the war, a missionary pressed upon him to seek a deferment so he could instead serve God in the fight for souls. His captain accepted Cam’s request, telling him, “Go. You’ll do a lot more good selling Bibles in Central America than you would shooting Germans in France.” So instead of Europe, Cameron headed for Latin America to hold services and sell Bibles in Guatemala.

A Guatemalan marketplace. [Photo by Chensiyuan]

A Guataemalan marketplace. [Photo by Chensiyuan]

His breakthrough came toward the end of his first year in the villages of the Cakchiquel Indians. On that day Cameron walked into a beer garden to distribute the gospel. He offered a tract to a native sitting at one of the tables, drinking. The man said, “Sorry senor, but I cannot read.” However, when Cameron left, the man followed him, saying, “Amigo, I have a friend who reads. If you will sell me the little book, por favor?” Cameron gave the native the tract and invited him to a Sunday service. The man showed up and responded at the close of the service to become a Christian.


Nearly a year of travelling through other Latin American countries increased Cam’s desire to take the gospel to that part of the world. The extended assignment led to another aspect of his future: He met a young female missionary who felt the same call. Cameron and Elvira married in July of 1919. Together, they started a mission school.

Cameron and Elvira Townsend in Guatemala. [PD-1923]

Cameron and Elvira Townsend in Guatemala. [PD-1923]

Cameron wanted to create a written language for the Cakchiquel Indians. He developed a method for gradually introducing the language in written form, writing primers to aid both children and adult students.

His biggest dream (up to then) was to translate the entire New Testament into the Cakchiquel language. Cameron tackled his vision with fervor. However, there were delays. Among other setbacks, Cameron contracted tuberculosis. He returned to California to recover, eventually completing the Bible in 1929, after ten full years.


Cameron’s dream expanded. Why shouldn’t other tribes without written languages have translations in their native tongue? So in 1934, he initiated the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) on a farm in Arkansas to train workers to translate. SIL grew year after year.

John Wycliffe. [PD-1923]

John Wycliffe. [PD-1923]

He named the location Camp Wycliffe, after John Wycliffe, the 14th century translator of the English Bible. In 1942, Cameron incorporated his missionary work as Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Lazaro Cardenas, the president of Mexico, invited Cameron in 1936 to bring a team to help those of his country who had no written language. Cam agreed.

After World War II, the ministry grew even further.  One boost in interest and support came in 1956 after the violent deaths of SIL graduate Jim Elliot and his fellow martyrs. Their deaths at the hands of the Ecuadorian Indians that they were trying to help inspired others to willingly commit to the cause of spreading the gospel to those who had never heard it.


In 1942, the year Cameron incorporated Wycliffe Bible Translators, American universities began requesting classes teaching the SIL linguistics method. The following year Elvira died, adding sorrow to the joy of those years of progress and expansion.

A JAARS King Air in the Hangar. [PD-USA]

A JAARS King Air in the Hangar. [PD-USA]

Cameron formed the final arm of his ministry in 1948: Jungle Aviation and Radio Service. He started JAARS to pilot and keep in contact with missionaries in the jungle.

During the 1960s, Wycliffe gained a presence in Africa and Asia.

When Cameron died from leukemia on April 23, 1982, he’d given over 60 years of his life to helping groups of people around the world receive God’s word in their native language. By the year 2000, Wycliffe Bible Translators had made the New Testament accessible in nearly 500 languages.

LET ME KNOW: How has Cameron’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.





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Born June 10, 1920

Ruth Bell Graham. Coourtesy of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-http://billygraham.org/.

Ruth Bell Graham. Courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-http://billygraham.org/.


Seventeen-year-old Ruth Bell had to flee her birth country of China. When the Japanese invaded in 1937, it was no longer safe for her to remain. Her missionary parents secured her passage to the United States. The adventure she’d lived so far wouldn’t compare to the unexpected life that awaited her as the future wife of evangelist Billy Graham. Here are five phases in the unique life of one of Christianity’s most effective  ambassadors, although she  often worked behind the scenes.

                                                                                                            ROOTS IN THE ORIENT

China's Kiangsu province around the time of Ruth's birth. [PD-USA]

China’s Kiangsu province around the time of Ruth’s birth. [PD-USA]

Nelson Bell served as superintendent of Tsingkiang General Hospital  in the Kiangsu province. He treated the Chinese for various conditions from tuberculosis to malaria, always addressing their spiritual needs as well. On June 10, 1920, he responded to a call to his own home where he delivered his second child, Ruth. She brought great joy to her father, her mother  Virginia, and her older sister, RosaThe Nelson girls attended school in North Korea. One day Ruth realized that she couldn’t simply rely on her parent’s faith for salvation. She asked Rosa what to do. Taking her sister’s advice, Ruth read a favorite Bible verse with her name inserted into it.

She read Isaiah 53:5 as, “He was wounded for Ruth’s transgressions, He was bruised for Ruth’s iniquities: the chastisement of Ruth’s peace was upon Him; and with His stripes Ruth is healed.” Her personal faith grew ever stronger from that moment on.


Wheaton College [PD-USA]

Wheaton College [PD-USA]

Ruth’s journey to the United States led her to Wheaton College in Illinois. At Wheaton, she would fall deeper in love with God and fall into love with a lanky young man from North Carolina.

Before Ruth met Billy, he’d attended college in Florida, gained experience holding evangelistic services, and had been serious enough about a young lady to propose to her. She had turned him down. The reason: she preferred to marry a man who would amount to something.

From the beginning, Ruth Bell believed Billy Graham would amount to something. Meet-ing him caused her to drop her life’s goal to become a missionary spinster in Tibet. After their first date she prayed, “God, if you let me serve you with that man I’d consider it the greatest privilege in my life.”

They were married August 13, 1943, in North Carolina, at the Montreat Presbyterian Church.


Billy pastored a church in Illinois for a while. When God opened doors for him to evangelize fulltime, Ruth traveled with him at first. As their family grew, she found that traveling didn’t fit who she was.

Ruth and Billy with Anne, Bunny, Gigi, and Franklin. Courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-http://billygraham.org/.

Ruth and Billy with Anne, Bunny, Gigi, and Franklin. Courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-http://billygraham.org/.

The more Billy’s ministry expanded, especially internationally, Ruth came to accept his long absences by fulfilling her service to God while he fulfilled his. She summed up her feelings with the words, “Mine has been the task of staying home and raising the family. No higher calling could have ever been given me.”

Their children eventually numbered five: Virginia (GiGi), Anne, Ruth (Bunny), Franklin, and Ned. Raising her brood brought plenty of challenges. The Graham children were normal, not always understanding the Bible’s teachings.

For example, one day Ruth heard a loud cry from the kitchen. She ran in to find Anne and her younger sister. Anne admitted to her mother, “I’m teaching Bunny about the Bible. I’m slapping her on one cheek and teaching her to turn the other one so I can slap it too.”


As Billy’s popularity grew, tourists began dropping by, hoping to get their pictures taken with the Graham family. To gain more privacy, Billy and Ruth purchased land further up the mountain. Ruth personally oversaw the construction of a log cabin. She named the place Little Piney Cove. The home provided protection her young family needed from well-meaning yet intrusive tourists.

Ruth was also a resourceful Christian. She touched hundreds of lives one-on-one. She addressed various needs with Christian faith, from helping a poverty-stricken family on the mountain to visiting a convicted criminal in prison, to talking anonymously to people about their need for God while at her husband’s crusades.

To further share her faith, Ruth wrote 14 books. Her writings include memories of hard to forget experiences, journal entries, and poems she penned. Ruth infused many lessons from her life with scriptural insights.

One of her quotable observations is, “It takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe in God.” Another is, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”


Ruth and Billy at home. Courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-http://billygraham.org/.

Ruth and Billy at home. Courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-http://billygraham.org/.

With time, the Graham children grew into adults, married, and started their own families. The Graham boys, Franklin and Ned, survived rebellious teen years to surrender their lives to God. Both eventually became leaders of large ministry organizations.

Ruth’s world changed further when her parents died. Her father passed away in 1973, a year before her mother. For years, they’d lived in Montreat, not far from Ruth and her family.

The same year her mother died, Ruth had a serious accident while playing with her grandchildren. She fell fifteen feet out of a tree, hitting her head on the ground. She lay in the hospital for a week, unconscious. When she came to, Ruth couldn’t recall any of the Bible verses she’d committed to memory over the years. She prayed, “Lord, you can have anything I’ve got, but please give me back my Bible verses.” Instantly, scriptures started popping into her mind.

Two of the happiest weeks of Ruth’s life unfolded in 1980. She and her siblings returned to China, the land of their roots. Much had changed, but the most important thing hadn’t. A nurse who use to work with her father told her, “We are still Christians.” Ruth was disappointed that so much of the neighborhood of her younger years was either torn down or run down. But she concluded, “God’s work is not in buildings, but in transformed lives.”

Billy and Ruth Graham's Congressional Gold Medal.   [PD-USA]

Billy and Ruth Graham’s Congressional Gold Medal.

In the last few decades of her life, Ruth returned to traveling with Billy. During a nine month period in the late 1980s, she and Billy traveled around the world twice. In 1996, both were honored in Washington D. C. with a Congressional Gold Medal.

Ruth died on June 14, 2007. She’d suffered for years from spinal meningitis, which was aggregated by her fall from the tree thirty-three years earlier.


Ruth Bell Graham's Gravestone. [photo by Billy Hathorn]

Ruth Bell Graham’s Gravestone. [photo by Billy Hathorn]

LET ME KNOW: How has Ruth’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.


  • Cornwell, Patricia Daniels.  A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1983.
  • Graham, Billy. Just As I Am. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1997.
  • Graham, Ruth Bell. It’s My Turn. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1982.
  • Graham, Ruth Bell. Legacy of a Pack Rat. Nashville, Tennessee, 1989.
  • http://www.ruthbellgrahammemorial.org/RBG_biography.asp.


Websites- Check these websites for more about Ruth Bell Graham:

  • Note the final source in the bibliography for information about Ruth at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It features a number of pages worth exploring.
  • The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College features magazine articles by Ruth and audio clips of her speaking-http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/memorial/GRAHAMruth/intro.htm.
  • Here are articles by and about Ruth at Christianity Today- http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/topics/g/ruth-bell-graham/?paging=off.
  • Here’s the Ruth Bell Graham youTube page-http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ruth+bell+graham.




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David Wilkerson. Image courtesy of World Challenge- http://www.worldchallenge.org/en/node.

David Wilkerson. Image courtesy of World Challenge- http://www.worldchallenge.org/en/node.

Born MAY 19, 1931

1) God used a picture in an issue of Life magazine to draw David to New York to work with gangs.

2) David began Teen Challenge in 1958 to reach young gang members and drug addicts.

3) Many learned about David’s ministry through his very frank 1963 book, The Cross and the Switchblade. It  became a best seller.

4) In the early 1970s David relocated his ministry headquarters to Texas and renamed it World Challenge.

5)  In 1986, while visiting New York, David was struck by the sight of, not teens but children, addicted to hard drugs. Feeling God calling him back to the gritty streets of New York, two years later he founded Time Square Church in Manhattan.

6) He was a prolific writer. During his lifetime David wrote over 30 books and hundreds of devotional newsletters. He later became a blogger.

Here’s the beginning of the Lights-4-God post about David Wilkerson:

The skinny preacher stood on a sidewalk in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, holding his Bible. He’d just prayed with four young gang members to become Christians. Then, two leaders of the gang known as the Mau Maus stepped forward. One of them, Nicky Cruz, threatened to kill the preacher.                                                             Read more.


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The things they accomplished for God have become legendary. Their faithfulness to go to China transformed thousands of lives there and inspired hundreds of others to support world missions with finances and with personal commitments to missionary service.

In the 92 years between 1853 and 1945, these 5 individuals from various backgrounds, made a difference. Their stories continue touching and changing lives. Let the stories of their lives speak to you today.

Hudson Taylor      [PD-1923]

Hudson Taylor


In his book China’s Spiritual Needs and Claims, Hudson Taylor made an observation using Jesus’ parable of the shepherd with 100 sheep. He said that instead of leaving the 99 to rescue the one lost sheep, “we stay at home with the one sheep, and take no heed to the ninety and nine perishing ones!” Throughout his life Hudson carried the burden of rescuing China’s “perishing sheep.”            Read more

Charles Thomas Studd                [PD-1923]

Charles Thomas Studd


To some in England, the very thought of it was a social scandal. How could seven talented young men of wealth and influence set aside their social privilege to go to China as missionaries? Among the young men dubbed the “Cambridge Seven” was Charles Studd, England’s most celebrated cricket player. His story is about much more than what he left behind.                                        Read more


Lottie Moon   [PD-1923]

Lottie Moon


Few missionaries have inspired so many to give so much. Lottie Moon survived extreme culture shock to present the gospel to the people of China and fought for fairer treatment of those sacrificially serving on the mission field. Lottie was a petite servant of God whose bold ideas and strong spirit accomplished big things for God.       Read more


Eric Liddell

Eric Liddell


The gun went off. The runners launched forward on the track. Some-one tripped Scotland’s favorite sprinter. Eric Liddell lunged onto the grass… He caught his breath and sprang back onto the track. In nothing short of a miraculous recovery, Eric passed the other runners, breaking the finish line tape. He fell to the ground, gasping for air, but he’d won the race.                                         Read more

Gladys Aylward

Gladys Aylward


The guard opened the gate and Gladys entered. A prisoner with an ax came running toward her. The man had already murdered two fellow prisoners. The officials had sent Gladys to face him because she’d testified that God protected her. She spoke gently to the man with the ax, persuading him to hand her the weapon. That began Gladys Aylward’s unplanned prison ministry in China.               Read more 


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William Seymour  [PD-1923]

William Seymour [PD-1923]

Born MAY 2, 1870

No matter how hard William Seymour tried, he couldn’t open the church door. The pastor had padlocked it to keep him out. She had invited William to California to preach. He answered the call, proclaiming to the Holiness congregation a spiritual experience they’d not heard preached before. The pastor who invited him didn’t like the message, so there William stood, locked out. But God would open other doors. The message would soon have an explosive effect, transforming lives as it expanded around the world.


William Seymour, the son of former slaves, grew up in Louisiana. In his mid-20s he went north. He worked in Indiana as a railroad porter and as a waiter in a restaurant. He joined a Methodist Episcopal Church where he came to faith. A few years later William moved to Ohio where he sat under the influence of Holiness preaching. He accepted sanctification as a second work of God’s grace in a person’s life.

William felt a call to preach. He resisted God drawing him that direction. When he contracted smallpox which left his face scarred and his left eye blind, William took it as God’s chastisement for his reluctance. In 1903, William moved to Houston, Texas where he began preaching as an evangelist.


His Houston pastor introduced William to Christian Bible school founder, Charles Parham. Charles invited William to attended his classes. Because William was black, Jim Crow laws forbade him to share a classroom with white students. So Charles gave William a chair in the hall outside the opened class-room door.

Charles Parham        [PD-1923]

Charles Parham

Charles taught an additional spiritual experience for those who desired it: the infilling of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues. William accepted that as a third work of God’s grace in a Christian’s life.

In 1901, Charles Parham himself had spoken in tongues along with some of his students at the Bethel Bible School he oversaw in Topeka, Kansas. Promoting the infilling of the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in an unknown language became a key feature of his Houston Bible school.

Meanwhile, Christians in California sensed a greater hunger for God. They wanted the blessings of the spiritual awakening that recently occurred in the Welsh revival  (1904-05). They prayed. They fasted. They anticipated.


When invited to preach to a Los Angeles church wanting a deeper experience, William Seymour accepted, declaring his new understanding of Acts 2:4. While some of his hearers embraced the message of the Pentecostal experience as a modern-day reality, their pastor did not. So William found himself standing outside the church building, both he and his message, rejected.

214 North Bonnie Brae Street.  [PD-1923]

214 North Bonnie Brae Street. [PD-1923]

There were other believers who were more open to the message. Some of them invited William to their prayer meetings held on Bonnie Brae street. Beginning April 6, 1906, prayer in those services led to individuals speaking in tongues and receiving healings. William himself, although he believed and preached it had not experienced glossolalia, until then.

The crowds that gathered soon outgrew the building. When too many people on the front porch caused it to give way, William and the other leadership sought a different location.


Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission             [PD-1923]

Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission

A bigger building, at 312 Azusa Street, sat in a less attractive part of town. The former warehouse and livery stable had been cleaned, but offered neither comfort nor style. Some of the pews were planks laid across nail kegs. The pulpit was cobbled together from discarded shoe crates. But worshippers gathered for a different reason: to experience God. And gather they did! In a month’s time, the building called “The Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission” filled to capacity.


For the next three years, people thronged to the mission. Word spread as visitors took stories back to their own churches in other states. Reports of physical healings and other spiritual encounters were also published in the mission’s newspaper, The Apostolic Faith. It reached as many as 50,000 subscribers.

Although Pentecostal worship and practice emphasize glossolalia, William declared that the meetings were not a single-note revival. He told worshippers, “Don’t go out of here talking about tongues; talk about Jesus.” He also preached that displaying the gifts of the Spirit and bearing the fruit of the Spirit go hand-in-hand.

At the Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission, a person’s race didn’t matter. One observer noted, “The ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood.” Stories of the Azusa Street revival kept spreading. Worshippers of various nationalities visited from other countries, including China.


As events, spiritual revivals last for only a few years. Their influence, however, can make a difference at the moment and for many generations to follow. The lasting impact of William Seymour’s meetings at Azusa Street was a worldwide spread of Pentecostalism. Right away within the United States, new church groups sprang up.

A few of the organizations tracing their doctrine and practice to Azusa Street include The Church of God of Cleveland, Tennessee ( which officially became Pentecostal in 1908),  the Apostolic Faith Church, and The Assemblies of God (organized in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1914). By then, thousands of former Holiness churches wore the Pentecostal label. When William Seymour died in 1922, dozens of church groups existed as children of Azusa Street. The 1960s would begin a new wave of Pentecostalism when the charismatic movement tapped people in centuries-old mainline churches. 

The racially mixed leadership of the Apostolic Faith Gospel  Mission. [PD-1923]

The racially mixed leadership of the Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission. [PD-1923]

According to historian Vinson Synan, today as much as a quarter of Christians worldwide identify themselves as  Pentecostal or charismatic.

The Azusa Street model also set the tone for more racially integrated, classless congreg-ations. Sadly, racial discrimination would continue to thrive for decades in churches throughout the United States.


William Seymour was a humble man. During the height of his meetings, other congregations sprang up in Los Angeles, offering the same message. Each new work usually took a few of his sheep. More than once, William advertised the other meetings.

William  and Jennie Seymour. [PD-1923]

William and Jennie Seymour. [PD-1923]

He eventually married Jennie Evans Moore. Afterwards, disapproval from         Clara Lum, the editor of  The Apostolic Faith, led her to leave town with most of the mailing list. That diminished William’s influence among people in other states.

William traveled and preached. He ministered throughout the Midwest and the South. He remained the pastor of the Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission until his death.

William left this life on September 28, 1922, following a heart attack. His wife, Jennie, led the Azusa Street congregation until her death in 1936.


  • Burgess, Stanley, ed. The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Grand Rapins, MI: Zondervan, 2002.
  • Larsen, Timothy, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
  • Rabey, Steve and Onte Unger. Milestones: 50 Events of the 2oth Century that Shaped Evangelicals in America. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002.
  • Synan, Vinson. “William Seymour.” Christian History 65, (2000): 17-19.


  • Books about William Seymour and the Azusa Street Gospel Mission can be here at Christian Book Distributors- http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=william+seymour+azusa+street&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCG&nav_search=1&cms=1&search=.
  • The books at Amazon.com begin on this page- http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=a9_sc_1?rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Awilliam+seymour+azusa+street&keywords=william+seymour+azusa+street&ie=UTF8&qid=1398893957.


  • Here’s a link to the William Seymour YouTube channel- http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=william+seymour+azusa+street+revival.


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Born April 21, 1856

Johnson Oatman Jr. [PD-1923]

Johnson Oatman Jr. [PD-1923]

Johnson Oatman Jr. of New Jersey followed the foot-steps of his father, Johnson Oatman Sr., in many ways. He accepted his father’s faith, making it his own. They worked side by side in the family mercantile business, Johnson Oatman and Son. Although the son sang, his father outshined him with his incredible voice, known not only in the local Methodist Episcopal Church, but throughout the area. Johnson Oatman Jr. would soon find his own niche within Christianity.

When he was nineteen, the younger Johnson became an ordained minister. He served where needed, but never pastored his own church. At age thirty-six, he tried his hand at hymn-writing. He went on to write at least 5,000 hymns in his lifetime.

Here are some of his songs people are still singing.

“NO NOT ONE” (1895)

Not only is the hymn Christ-centric. It concentrates on the qualities of Jesus as the Christian’s constant companion. The chorus reminds, “He will guide till the day is done.”

The song begins by assuring us “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus. No, not one! No, not one!” Verse three reminds us of the Lord’s promise to never leave His followers: “There’s not an hour that He is not near us. No, not one! No, not one!” Verse four speaks of Jesus’ desire to help all who need Him: “Did ever saint find this friend forsake him? No, not one! No, not one! Or sinner find that He would not take him No, not one! No, not one!”

The hymn “No Not One” rang true for so many that a year after it was first published, 30 other hymnals included it.


This is no doubt Johnson’s most well-known song. While catching on in the United States, it gained extreme favor in England. Evangelist Rodney “Gypsy” Smith reported that “In London, the men sing it, the boys whistle it, and the women rock their babies to sleep on this hymn.”

The first three of the four verses contrast a person dwelling on their problems with the  better choice of enumerating God’s  blessings.

Painting, "Ship in a Storm" by James E. Butterworth [PD-USA]

Painting, “Ship in a Storm” by James E. Butterworth [PD-USA]

The opening verse paints the picture of a ship in a storm at sea. It says “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost…” Verse two asks the question, “Are you ever burdened with a load of care, Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?” The third verse suggests “When you look at others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold. Count your many blessings money cannot buy.”

Verse four concludes with the remedy for these three situations, and many others.

“So amid the conflict whether great or small,                                                                                Do not be discouraged, God is over all;                                                                                        Count your many blessings Angels will attend,                                                                             Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”


Charles Gabriel        [PD-1923]

Charles Gabriel

The song “Higher Ground” expresses a heart-felt desire for a stronger experience with God. After each verse, the chorus states “Lord lift me up and let me stand, By faith on Heaven’s table-land; A higher plane than I have found– Lord plant my feet on higher ground.”

Charles Gabriel provided the tune. In the first couple of decades of the 20th century, Charles reigned as the king of evangelical hymns.

Although he penned over 5,000 hymns, Johnson never saw song writing as a financial venture. Upon his request, he was paid only $1.00 for each song. Phil Kerr, Christian musician and author of books about gospel music once made the statement, “Imagine receiving only one dollar for writing “Higher Ground!”


This song compares the eternal wealth of the Christian life with the world’s poor substitutes. The author introduces himself as “Once a sinner far from Jesus,” who is now “safe in God’s pavilion.” Life is better now, “For my soul is filled with music and my heart with great delight.” The contrasts continue.

He sees beyond the world’s “dazzle and her dreams” to recognize “her vanities and pride.”  The devil has tempted him to trade down for “earth’s golden millions.” But they can’t match “His love and grace.”


This song was published only one year before Wilhelmina, his wife of thirty-one years, passed away. Johnson had another seventeen years before the last mile of his life on earth.

© Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

© Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

“If I walk in the pathway of duty,
If I work till the close of the day;
I shall see the great King in His beauty,
When I’ve gone the last mile of the way.”

Following verse one, Johnson identifies Christian service that God will reward: “If for Christ I proclaim the glad story, If I seek for His sheep gone astray,” and later, “And if here I have earnestly striven, And have tried all His will to obey.” The third verse mentions one of the benefits of Heaven as “No sickness, no sighing forever,” and the chorus covers all else our imaginations can’t begin to fathom with the phrase: “And I know there are joys that await me, When I’ve gone the last mile of the way.”

LET ME KNOW: How has Johnson’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.


  • Hall, J. H. Biography of Gospel Song and Hymn Writers. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1914.
  • Kerr, Phil. Music in Evangelism. Glendale, California:Gospel Music Publishers, 1939.
  • Morgan, Robert. Then Sings My Soul. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2003.
  • Osbeck, Kennth. 101 Hymn Stories. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1982.
  • Petersen, William J. and Ardyth Petersen. The Complete Book of Hymns. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.




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