(Some outstanding Christian leaders who’ve made a difference in helping the helpless)

Compassion ministries have always been a hallmark of Christianity. Jesus told His initial followers to feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, and visit those who were imprisoned and those who were ill (Matthew 25:34-40). Successive generations of Christians have built upon the foundation of our Lord’s words and His example of selfless service.

This post highlights five stories of ministry leaders who championed individual causes for the needy. They became voices for the abolishment of the slave trade, for prison reform, for rescuing drug addicts, and for providing for the poor. There was a day in each of their lives when they crossed a line of no return in their commitment to compassion.


Human beings taken against their will.          [PD-1923]

Human beings taken against their will.

William had a privileged upbringing, after which he pursued politics and, at age 21, won a seat in
Parliament. Following his spiritual conversion he visited former slave trader turned Christian pastor, John Newton. Mr. Newton helped the young politician see his position as a role God could use.

Further prayer led William to establish a mission statement for his life. He followed that course, committed to using his status for causes that honored Jesus Christ. While crusading for improvements in society, William gave a quarter of his yearly income to the causes he espoused.

His greatest campaign was a lifelong fight to abolish England’s slave trade. Annually, William proposed anti-slavery bills to Parliament. His hard-fought, decades-long battle ended in the passing of the Emancipation Act a week before his death.

Read more about William’s Christian compassion for society’s needs at https://lights4god.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/william-wilberforce/.

ELIZABETH FRY (1780-1845)

West view of Newgate Prison by George Shepherd-         1784-18621.

West view of Newgate Prison by George Shepherd-

Prisoners didn’t always have rights. The day Elizabeth Fry–who often visited England’s slums to lend Christian aid–stopped at Newgate Prison, she was appalled. The squalid conditions, especially for women prisoners, needed changed.

What drove Elizabeth? Right after her conversion at age 17, she exchanged her bright, fancy clothes for simpler tones and fashion. She forsook her pursuits of pleasure to reach out to the less fortunate.

Elizabeth enlisted a team of Christian women to help her at Newgate. While a volunteer read the Bible to prisoners, Elizabeth taught them social skills, including knitting and sewing. Elizabeth’s acts of service transformed the women. Prison officials took note. They initiated further improvements. Other countries invited Elizabeth to address the need for prison reform within their borders.

You can learn more about Elizabeth’s Christian service at https://lights4god.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/elizabeth-fry/.

WILLIAM & CATHERINE BOOTH (1829-1912) (1829-1890)

Image courtesy of Salvation Army USA. http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf.

Image courtesy of Salvation Army USA.

Unlike William Wilberforce, William Booth was born into poverty. He eventually met Catherine Mumford and they married in 1855. Ten years later, the Booths moved to East London to serve the poor. Together, they raised up an army of Christians who compassionately reached the needy.

They initially met resistance both outside and inside the church. But they prayed and persisted. With a Biblical military theme, William and Catherine’s work made great advances.

The Salvation Army combined preaching changed lives through Jesus Christ and meeting people’s practical needs. They opened soup kitchens and hostels. They provided job skill training and campaigned against social ills like teenage prostitution. Their vision which has grown to meet other social needs thrives today.

To read a fuller account of the Salvation Army, visit https://lights4god.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/william-booth/.


In the late 1950s, a story in Life magazine about gang violence moved a young pastor to travel to New York. What David Wilkerson saw and experienced there gripped his heart. Prayer led him to resign his church and move to The Big City. He began a ministry to the young men and women controlled by drug addiction. David opened a center in Brooklyn under the title Teen Challenge.

Successes led to churches wanting to support the work. Centers opened in other states. In the early 1970s, the headquarters moved to Texas. Then, during a ministry visit to New York in 1986, David saw the need to return to relocate to New York. He opened Times Square Church in Manhattan, reaching out to those on the street and discipling converts.

David didn’t feel compelled to go to New York just because of a magazine article. It was during one of his prayer times he’d set aside to call on God for guidance. His real turning point was when he instituted those times of prayer in place of time he felt he’d been wasting sitting in front of the television.

Find further details about David Wilkerson and Teen Challenge here: https://lights4god.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/david-wilkerson/.

MILLARD FULLER (1935-2009)

Habitat for Humanity at Fremont Fair 2207.           Photo by Jmabel.

Habitat for Humanity at Fremont Fair 2207.
Photo by Jmabel.

Millard experienced the thrill of becoming a millionaire by age 30. But his wealth meant nothing  when his wife, Linda, threatened to leave him. Millard returned to faith and they reconciled. When he told Linda he thought they should give their wealth away, she agreed.

In 1976, they started a ministry to provide affordable housing that they called Habitat for Humanity. The organization set a goal: Build one million homes for the needy. It met that goal in 2005. After leading Habitat for Humanity for 29 years, Millard resigned to form a new ministry. He headed the Fuller Center for Housing until his death in 2009.

Millard learned that life is not about gaining wealth, that an important part of a Jesus-minded life includes using the resources God gives you to represent Jesus to those in need.

To learn more about Millard’s life and ministry philosophy, connect here: https://lights4god.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/millard-fuller-2/.


Posted in Social change agent, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Born MARCH 31, 1874

Thoro Harris. [PD-1923]

Thoro Harris. [PD-1923]

He wrote hundreds of Christian songs. He published hundreds of other songs he didn’t write. Thoro Harris was one of the most prolific African-American hymn writers of the early 2oth century. Since the 1930s his compositions have been consistently selected for publication in hymnals of various denominations.

Thoro was born in Washington D.C. to a father who was a black doctor and a mother who was white. He attended col­lege in Bat­tle Creek, Mi­chi­gan. Afterwards, Thoro moved to Bos­ton, Mass­a­chusetts where, in 1902, he produced the first of many hymnals. Since not many episodes from his life are available, this post will give more attention to the content of some of Thoro’s most enduring songs.


The first song below represents Thoro’s most repeated theme: our relationship with Jesus. The second one is an outstanding example of his recurring theme of Jesus’ second coming. For variations on those and other themes, check the links I’ve provided.


For a person hearing this song for the first time, the final verse introduces the way into the life that Jesus said He came to give “more abundantly” (John 10:10): “Come to Him believing, Hearken to His call; All from Him receiving, Yield to Him your all; Jesus will accept you When to Him you flee; He will grant His blessing more abundantly.”

The first verse asks the listener very directly if they’re actually living the abundant life. It tells how to be certain as a believer to live life to the fullest. It says, “Are you trusting Jesus, All along the way? Does He grow more precious To your heart each day? Are you His disciple? Test His Word and see, He will give the Spirit more abundantly.”


Queen Liliuokalani [PD-1923]

Queen Liliuokalani [PD-1923]

For this song Thoro borrowed the Hawaiian tune “Aloha Oe,” written by Queen Liliuokalani. The Pacific island flavor especially helps the chorus that’s coupled with Jesus’ words (Mark 13:33-15) to remind us of our destination to a land that surpasses anything here on earth: “He’s coming soon, He’s coming soon; With joy we welcome His returning; It may be morn, it may be night or noon— We know He’s coming soon.”

The final verse echoes I Thessalonians 4:18: “This hope we cherish not in vain, But we comfort one another by this word.”


Other hymn writers have penned lyrics to songs for children. Not many have three that have survived as strongly as the following songs by Thoro.


There are two versions of this song. The first, written shortly before 1900, includes lyrics by C. H. Woolston and a tune by George F. Root. That version begins with the words “Jesus calls the children dear.” Its chorus is today’s most familiar one: “Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Red, and yellow, black and white, They are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”


Thoro must have felt inspired to write his own version. He and C. H. Woolston are both credited in hymnals in which the songs begins with the line “In the lands beyond the sea Countless million children be.” The chorus also differs by stating “Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Little ones are His delight, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”


The chorus concludes with, “Close by His side, I will abide. I love Him better every day.” I’ve always heard it sung by spelling out the last word of each line in the chorus, so that the entire chorus says, “I love Him better every d-a-y. I love Him better every d-a-y.  Close by His s-i-d-e, I will a-b-i-d-e. I love Him better every d-a-y. ” Thoro wrote the verses and Major Sydney Cox of the Salvation Army added the refrain.

“GRUMBLERS” (1929)

This third song from the 1920s bearing Thoro’s name addresses, in a very disarming way, a topic that got the children of Israel into trouble.

Verse one says, “In country town or city, Some people can be found, Who spend their lives in grumbling at everything around. Oh yes, they always grumble, No matter what you say, For these are chronic grumblers, And they grumble night and day.”

The chorus follows with “Oh, they grumble on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Grumble on
Thursday too Grumble on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Grumble the whole week through.” The remaining verses describe where people grumble, to whom, and about what.


"Gospel Quintet Songs" by Thoro Harris

“Gospel Quintet Songs” by Thoro Harris

A Christian musician named Peter Bilhorn invited Thoro to Chi­ca­go, Il­li­nois. In the windy city, Thoro took a job as an editor at the Glad Tidings Publishing Company, promoting the songs of many other hymn writers through the songbooks he edited. One of his collaborations was adding music to L. B. Tolbert’s words for “Hide Thou Me.”

“HIDE THOU ME” (1926)

The song’s slow, moving tempo sounds more like African-American songs of the 1920s and 1930s, like those of Thomas  Dorsey and others.

Thoro’s music fits the lyrics. Vrese one: “Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my life in vain. I’m tempted then to murmur, and of my lot complain; But when I think of Jesus, and all He’s done for me, Then I cry, O Rock of Ages, hide Thou me.”

From the early 1930s until his death in 1955, Thoro lived in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. He became known for his friendliness and for serving as a church organist. He eventually purchased and operated a boarding house known as the Piedmont House. Here’s his most well-known song from that period.


This hymn has survived with strength beyond any of Thoro’s other songs. The chorus boldly proclaims “All that thrills my soul is Jesus; He is more than life to me. And the fairest of ten thousand, In my blessed Lord I see.”

The verses mention reasons for living a Christ-centered life. Key phrases are “Who can cheer the heart like Jesus, By His presence all divine?,” “Love of Christ so freely given, Grace of God beyond degree,” and “Ev’ry need His hand supplying.”

Thoro passed away in Eureka Springs on March 27, 1955 at age 80.

LET ME KNOW:  How has Thoro’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
Links to sources used for this article—————————————————————-

Thoro’s songs on Youtube- (Be aware that YouTube sometimes features different songs with the same title. Here are pages that give you the songs mentioned in this article.)


Posted in Hymn writer | Leave a comment


Born MARCH 3, 1870

Lettie Cowman   [PD-1923]

Lettie Cowman [PD-1923]

For more than 100 years, Lettie Cowman has encouraged millions of people needing God’s help. As a missionary with her husband Charles, she spread the gospel in the Orient. Later as a widow and best selling-devotional author, Lettie inspired readers around the world. Her book Streams in the Desert (1925) continues to sell extremely well.


She was born Lettie Burd, in the town of Afton, Iowa. In 1889, she and telegraph operator Charles Cowman married in the town of Afton. They eventually moved to Chicago. There, they both developed a personal faith in Jesus Christ and grew as believers.

Moody Bible Institute                [PD-USA]

Moody Bible Institute

In 1894, Charles and Lettie attended a missions convention at the Moody Church in Chicago. The keynote speaker, A. B. Simpson (founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church), gave a strong appeal for new missionaries. The Cowmans stood as a couple willing to serve God on a foreign field. Charles enrolled in classes at Moody Bible Institute.

Following their training, the young couple arrived in Japan in February of 1901. They teamed with Japanese minister Juji Nakada to open a mission where they held nightly services and they started a Bible institute. When Ernest Kilbourne, a fellow telegraph operator from Chicago, arrived from the United States, he and the Cowmans formed the Oriental Missionary Society. Their greatest work may have been the Every Creature Crusade, which from 1912-1918, placed a written presentation of the gospel into every one of Japan’s 10,320,000 households.


Charles and Lettie Cowman   [PD-1923]

Charles and Lettie Cowman

 Lettie watched her husband give all he had to reach souls in their mission field. Holding ten years of nightly services, overseeing the Bible institute, and contacting every home in Japan, plus leading preaching tours into Korea and China, took its toll on Charles’ health. He suffered physical exhaustion. His doctor described his condition as “worn out.”

So Charles could regain his health, he and Lettie returned to the United States. In California, Charles had a heart attack, then his condition faltered further. Lettie attended to her husband for the next six years. She also read voraciously. Culling their library, she collected book excerpts and poems to read aloud to Charles. That helped him endure his physical pain and to find strength in his emotional and spiritual battles.

However, after a long struggle, Charles died in September of 1924.


Streams in the Desert

After Charles’ death, Lettie personalized the words of the Apostle Paul, who spoke of comforting others with the comfort God has given us          (I Corinthians 1:4). She titled her compilation of poems and quotes from Christian authors like Andrew Murray, Charles Finney, George Mueller, and Charles Spurgeon Streams in the Desert. It touched a need in enough readers that a second printing soon followed.

Here are a couple of Letties’ own comments from her hope-inspiring devotional.

“The answer to our prayer may be coming, although we may not discern its approach. A seed that is underground during winter, although hidden and seemingly dead and lost, is nevertheless taking root for a later spring and harvest.”  (Streams in the Desert)

Referring to Jesus sleeping in the back of the boat during the storm while the disciples feared, she said, “Our boat may be tossed by the waves while he continues to sleep, but He will awake before it sinks.” (Streams in the Desert)

For 90 years now Streams in the Desert has never been out of print. It has sold over six million copies in multiple languages.


Lettie then penned a biography of her husband— Charles Cowman: Missionary Warrior (1928). She later wrote a second devotional titled Springs in the Valley. Lettie wrote all of her books as Mrs. Charles Cowman.

Here are two quotes from Lettie from Springs in the Valley.

“We are safer with Him in the dark than without Him in the sunshine.” (Springs in the Valley)

“The hour is desperately dark; your flame is needed.” (Springs in the Valley)

In 1928, the year Charles’ biography was published, Lettie assumed the leadership of the Oriental Missions Society (now One Mission Society). She gladly traveled to other continents speaking on behalf of the organization. Lettie would remain at the helm of OMS until 1949. She died on April 17, 1960. It was Easter Sunday.


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


  • Cowman, Lettie. Charles E. Cowman: Missionary Warrior. Los Angeles, CA.: Oriental Missionary Society-1928. http://raskb.com/udenlibrary/disk1/44.pdf
  • Cowman, Lettie. Springs in the Valley.
  • Cowman, Lettie. Streams in the Desert.
  • Petersen, William and Randy Petersen. 100 Christian Books That Changed the World. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2000.
  • Reese, Edward, editor. Reese Chronological Encyclopedia of Christian Biographies.
  • Sahttp://www.bu.edu/missiology/missionary-biography/c-d/cowman-charles-elmer-1864-1924-and-lettie-burd-1870-1960/.
  • Sanders, Fred. “Today is Lettie Cowman’s Birthday (1870)”, In The Scriptorium, March 3, 2009, http://scriptoriumdaily.com/today-is-lettie-cowmans-birthday-1870/.



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ALFRED ACKLEY        Born January 21, 1887

“Why are you shouting so early in the morning?”

1930's radio. Image by Joe Haupt.

1930’s radio. Image by Joe Haupt.

Alfred’s wife asked him a fair question. What had  angered him that Easter morning was a radio preacher. Alfred had heard the man say, “You know folks, it really doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ is risen or not.”

Hearing a fellow minister blatantly misrepresent the centerpiece of the Christian faith caused Rev. Alfred Ackley to shout at the radio: “It’s a lie!”

That experience came a few days after an incident following a sermon Alfred had preached. A Jewish student had asked him, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?” Alfred had answered, “He lives! I tell you, He is not dead, but lives here and now!” He had gone on to say, “I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands.”

Hymn-Writing Brothers

Alfred Henry Ackley was born in Spring Hill, Pennsylvania, in 1887. He loved music, as did his older brother, Bentley, who was 15 years his senior. Both went on to attend the Royal Academy of Music in London, England.

While Bentley devoted his life to playing and writing music, Alfred entered the preaching ministry. He attended Westminster Theological Seminary. In 1914, he was ordained into the Presbyterian Church. By then, Bentley was serving as pianist for Billy Sunday’s evangelist crusades.

Hymnal [PD-USA]

Hymnal [PD-USA]

Both brothers were prolific in contributing to gospel hymnody. Bentley is credited with adding music to at least 3,000 songs. Alfred wrote the words to over 1,000 hymns. Decades after their deaths, it’s Alfred’s gut-felt response to the young Jewish man and the liberal radio preacher that is most remembered today.

He Lives Or We Die

Alfred dedicated his life to preaching the gospel message. He pastored churches in Pennsylvania and California. Alfred believed and proclaimed the Apostle Paul’s declaration, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (I Corinthians 15:17).

That Easter day that Alfred shouted at the radio became a red-letter day for him to proclaim the faith. At church that day in both morning and evening services, Alfred expounded on the power of Jesus’ victory over the grave. That evening, he sat down and wrote a song declaring its certainty.

The hymn, “He Lives” has survived while Alfred’s thousand other songs are not as well-remembered. For the rest of his life, Alfred preached the message of salvation through Jesus’ vicarious death and resurrection. He passed away in Wittier, California, in 1960.

Why “He Lives” Lives on

Jesus' empty tomb. Photo by upyernoz.

Jesus’ empty tomb. Photo by upyernoz.

Since 1933, when “He Lives” first appeared in a hymnal, no one has doubted Alfred’s belief that it’s true. The hymn restates what Alfred told the Jewish student: “I can prove it by my own experience, as well as the testimony of countless thousands.”

He begins with his own experience. In the first two verses, Alfred speaks eight times in the first person, using, “I see,” I hear,” I need,” “I know.” Verse one concludes with “Just the time I need Him, He’s always near.”

Alfred adds evidences he can see in the lives of others. Tapping into biblical themes that reverberate throughout scripture, he says, “I see His hand of mercy” and “In all the world around me, I see His loving care.”

Whenever Christians the world over sing “He Lives,” they testify that Alfred’s personal declarations are their own. The chorus concludes with worshipers rejoicing as they  sing, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.”


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


  • Osbeck, Kenneth. 101 More Hymn Stories. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1985.
  • Morgan, Robert J. Then Sings My Soul. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2003.
  • Petersen, William J. and Ardyth Petersen. The Complete Book of Hymns. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.



JULIA JOHNSTON       Born January 21, 1849

Julia Johnston understood two important things. She understood God’s faithfulness to the humans He created, which she wrote about. She also understood how she could faithfully serve God. Her service took the form of using her leadership skills and desire to write to draw others closer to the Heavenly Father.

Will It Play in Peoria?

First Presbyterian Church, Peoria, Illinois.           [PD-1923]

First Presbyterian Church, Peoria, Illinois.

In 1855, the year Julia turned six, her family moved from her birth-state of Ohio to Peoria, Illinois. Her father became the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. Julia would live in Peoria the rest of her life.

After she gained a personal faith, Julia started teaching Sunday school. She eventually became the director of the church’s Sunday school department. She retained that leadership position for 40-plus years. Along the way, Julia took to writing Sunday school curriculum for primary age children for the David C. Cook Publishing Company.

Julia became enthused about missions. She rose to the role of President of the Presbyterian Missionary Society of Peoria. She served that post for 20 years. She wrote a book titled, Fifty Missionary Heroes Every Boy and Girl Should Know which was published in 1913.

Describing God’s Grace

Julia had a passion to explain God’s grace to children and to promote His grace to adults. Her lyrics in the hymn “Grace Greater than Our Sin” (with music by Daniel Towner) were first sung in 1911. The song contrasts our desperate need and God’s great provision.

Daniel Towner.       [PD-1923]

Daniel Towner.

Verse two begins, “Sin and despair like the sea waves cold, Threaten the soul with infinite loss.” After mentioning sin’s high price, Julia describes guilt from sin verse three: “Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.” As bad as the bad news is, the good news is better. In verse one she says God offers “Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.” But how?

The first three (of four) verses connect our hope to Jesus’ blood shed on the cross for our sins. In verse one, Julia speaks of Calvary, “where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.” The second verse contrasts our sinful condition with  grace that “Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.” In verse three Julia asks if anything can wash away the stain of sin. She answers with “Look! there is flowing a crimson tide; Whiter than snow you may be today.”


Five years after the most well-known of Julia’s 500 hymns was published, her second best-known song appeared in hymnals. “He Ransomed Me” taps into the scriptural truth Jesus described (speaking in the second person) as His purpose for coming to earth: “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).

Again Julia establishes every person’s slavery to sin with the phrases “sin and misery,” “sin and sadness,” and “sin and woe.” But His love for mankind caused Jesus to come “from glory just to rescue.” The chorus praises our Savior for being able to “take a poor lost sinner, Lift him from the miry clay and set him free.”

The ransomed sinner known as Julia Johnston continued her prolific writing and strong Christian influence until March 6, 1919. She died in Peoria and was buried in the family plot in Springdale Cemetery.


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


  • Morgan, Robert J. Then Sings My Soul. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2003.
  • Petersen, William J. and Ardyth Petersen. The Complete Book of Hymns. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.

Julia’s book Fifty Missionary Heroes Every Boy and Girl Should Know–

  • Six of the first ten missionary biographies on this page are from her book-http://www.wholesomewords.org/children/misscc.html.
  • Find the complete text of the book here-https://archive.org/stream/fiftymissionaryh00john#page/n5/mode/2up.



Posted in Hymn writer | 2 Comments


By the end of 2014, Lights-4-God had received almost twice as many views as in 2013.         I averaged a new post almost every other week (23). There were anniversary posts (listed below), theme posts (listed below) and biographies of Christian authors, missionaries, hymn writers, and ministry leaders (see the 5 most viewed below). Feel free to share the links to any of the L4G posts with others.  

The Top Post Viewed in 2014

noteIra Stanphill (1914-1993). Although the post originally appeared in 2012, the hymn writer had his best year in 2014. That’s due in large part to the 100th anniversary of Ira’s birthday on February 14. Leading up to that date, I invited viewers to vote for their favorite song he wrote, then posted the results. Another plus for Ira’s post was someone linking to it in the Wikipedia article about him.

Other Anniversary Posts

  • Bob Pierce’s 100th Birthday. I offer 6 facts about the man who started both World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse.
  • Catherine Marshall’s 100th Birthday. Here are 10 statements about the beloved Christian author.
  • Oswald Chamber’s 140th Birthday. Most people don’t know these 5 facts about the man who wrote My Utmost for His Highest.
  • 90 Years Ago: Eric Liddell Won Gold. I celebrate the Olympic athlete God rewarded for following his convictions with a description of his finish and a link to a video of Eric winning the actual race.

Top 5 New Posts in 2014

  1. Johnson Oatman Jr. (1856-1925). Learn about the man who wrote “Count Your Blessings” and the lyrics of 5 of his hymns we still sing today.
    Johnson Oatman Jr. [PD-1923]

    Johnson Oatman Jr. [PD-1923]

  2. William Cameron Townsend (1896-1982). The story of the man who founded Wycliffe Bible Translators.
  3. Ruth Bell Graham (1920-2007). She was much more than the wife of evangelist, Billy Graham. Here are the essential facts about Ruth.
  4. William Seymour (1870-1922). Find out how William started the Azusa Street Mission, his struggles, and the mission’s lasting results.
  5. Lew Wallace (1827-1905). Here’s the story of the Civil War general who wrote Ben Hur and how he came to write a Christian-themed tale that eventually won 11 Academy Awards.

Top 6 Theme Posts in 2014

  1. 40 Favorite Quotes. These are 40 usable quotes from L4G bios of 2012 and
    James Hudson Taylor in 1865. [PD-1923]

    James Hudson Taylor in 1865. [PD-1923]

    2013, including Charles Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael, and Billy Sunday.
  2. 5 Missionary Heroes Who Served China. The list begins with J. Hudson Taylor and concludes with Gladys Aylward.
  3. The British Invasion of the Christian Faith. Here’s a sampler of how the United Kingdom has contributed to America’s Christian faith.
  4. Lights for God in World War II. Introductions to 5 Christian leaders who served God during the war and what the 3 who survived did after the war.
  5. 8 Wonderful Salvation Stories  (pt. II). The second half of a list of eight unique conversion experiences of well-known Christian leaders.
  6. 8 Wonderful Salvation Stories (Pt. I). Here’s the first half of the list of quick descriptions of 8 unique salvation experiences.
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Born DECEMBER 2, 1848

Mary Slessor. [PD-1923]

Mary Slessor. [PD-1923]

Mary heard someone in the village screaming. She knew it came from the center of the nearby crowd. She ran to the gathering, pushing her way to the front. To Mary’s horror, a woman lay on the ground, tied to stakes, a man standing above her about to pour scalding oil over her. Mary threw herself between the man and the help-less female. The man danced angrily around Mary with the hot oil in hand. Her bravery eventually rescued the woman from the inhumane ritual, winning Scotland native, missionary Mary Slessor, a voice among Africa’s Okoyong people.


Mary didn’t seem at first to be missionary material. The woman who dubbed herself “wee and thin and not very strong” was timid in many ways. But her first 28 years had prepared her for the rigors of the mission field. She survived a difficult childhood, raised in poverty with an alcoholic father. Beginning at age 11, Mary worked half of every school day in the local mill. As a young adult, she served at a local mission

Mary had become a devoted Christian in her teen years. In 1873, when she learned that David Livingstone, missionary to Africa, had died, it deeply moved her. She read that before his death, he gave a general challenge for others to “carry out the work I have begun.” Mary felt led to respond to the challenge.

Mary applied to the Foreign Mission Board. She volunteered to go to the Calabar people of Nigeria. Following five months of preparation in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mary boarded a ship for Africa


Nigeria in West Africa. Photo by Tzzzpfff.

Nigeria in West Africa. Photo by Tzzzpfff.

Mary’s work began at a mission post in Duke Town. She found herself in a strange land in West Africa where alcoholism, ritualistic torture, and witchcraft devalued human life. Shortly after her arrival, she contracted malaria. Could the petite, redheaded missionary beat the odds on the dangerous mission field?

The fever sometimes sidetracked Mary. But she always forged ahead. She relocated further up the Calabar River to a mission in Old Town. To Mary’s advantage, she  mastered the regional Efik language.

The Calabar River and the Efik language kept taking Mary to new places. She spent more and more time in the villages. She connected with the people, letting them know she cared about what mattered to them. She brought medicine for their illnesses. She let her light shine in both actions and words, gaining the title of respect “White Ma.”


After a furlough that ended in 1885, Mary left her mother and sister ill in Scotland. She returned to Nigeria where she served for a while at a mission station in Creek Town. Mary had always wanted to travel further inland. In 1886, when word came that her mother and sister had died, Mary fought back the loss and loneliness by venturing further.

The mission board reluctantly sent Mary to a people who practiced human sacrifices and cannibalism. Mary made the trip on the river with these reflections: “I am going to a new tribe up-country, a fierce, cruel people, and everyone tells me they will kill me, but I don’t fear any hurt—only to combat their savage customs will require courage and firmness on my part.”

Mary Slessor and adopted children. [PD-1923]

Mary Slessor and adopted children. [PD-1923]

One of Mary’s greatest ministries was rescuing twins from death. Superstitious belief concluded twins to be a bad omen. They were often left alone in the wild to die. Mary took some of them as her own, raising many sets of twins at one time and proving the error of the superstition.

She eventually brought a dignity to the Okoyong women and children that didn’t formerly exist.


Mary defined the self-sacrificing missionary. She ate what the natives ate and lived under the same primitive conditions they did. Mary loved the people to Jesus, providing them with medical care, schools, and churches. Another way she advanced their lives was through her involvement with the Hope Waddell Institute, which trained Africans in trades.

Both the Nigerians Mary served and the British Government trusted her while not trusting each other. The British appointed her a magistrate for the area. Mary won favor with both sides through her astute and always fair decisions. In 1913, the Government acknowledged Mary’s service; they awarded her the Maltese Cross from the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.

Mary Slessor Memorial, Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen, Scotland. © Copyright Bill Harrison. Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

Mary Slessor Memorial, Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen, Scotland. © Copyright Bill Harrison. Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

Just as meaningful were designations of honor from the Africans Mary served. Along with “white ma” the Nigerians complimented her with the title”Mother of All the Peoples.”

Mary’s health declined after 1905. Her pioneer spirit once withstood jaunts through the dangerous jungle and risky encounters with locals, but that stamina and strength were ebbing. One final struggle with fever took her to her Heavenly reward in early 1915.

Two of Mary’s many statements about her missionary service were “Christ sent me to preach the gospel and He will look after the results” and “I am ready to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”

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




Youtube videos about Mary are on this page- http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=missionary+mary+slessor.


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Unique circumstances led some of Christianity’s outstanding leaders to salvation. Here’s the second set of four such stories. Discover each person’s greatest contributions to Christianity and what God used as the decisive factor to bring them to Himself


John Newton (1725-1807)

John Newton (1725-1807)

His Role In Christianity— John’s influence went far beyond penning his spiritual testimony in song, the hymn Amazing Grace. In the late 1700s, his preaching and his mentoring of some religious leaders of his day helped set the tone for England’s improved faith, especially within the Church of England.

His Pre-Conversion Life— John lived as he pleased, guided by two misconceptions: that he could freely indulge in all the sins he wanted and that he could only profit from selling other human beings as slaves. Suffering from malaria— a disease that killed many slaves traders—was one incident that told him otherwise.

John’s Decisive Factor:  A violent storm at sea. He awoke one evening aboard a slave ship that was beginning to rip apart in a violent storm. The storm continued for two days. During that time, John and others worked the pumps to free the ship of water. Then John was charged to steer the ship. During that storm, he denounced his wickedness to follow Jesus. John thereafter called that date his “great turning day.”

To learn more about John’s service to God, read here.



Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

His Role In Christianity— His preaching drew listeners like a magnet. Charles’ mental prowess and sermon delivery never hinted at the fact that he had no formal training to preach. Today, volumes of his collected sermons (over 5,000 messages) and the books he wrote (at least 135) will easily fill a bookshelf. Over 120 years after his death, Charles Spurgeon remains “the prince of preachers” for those who continue reading his words.

His Pre-Conversion Life— When he was a baby, Charles’ parents faced extreme financial problems. He was sent to live with his grandparents. Since Charles’ grandfather was a pastor, Charles grew up in an environment of Bible reading and prayer.

Charles’ Decisive Factor: A snowstorm. One winter morning when he was 15, Charles walked to church. A snowstorm prevented him from reaching the one he planned to attend. So he ducked into a nearby chapel. A lay minister delivering the sermon continually emphasized Isaiah 45:22: “Look unto Me and be saved.” He accepted Jesus’ death for him that day. Walking home amid the falling flakes, Charles rejoiced that his sins were now white as snow.

To learn more about Charles’ service to God, read here.



Billy Sunday (1862-1935)

Billy Sunday (1862-1935)

His Role In Christianity— Billy became the leading evangelist of the first half of the 2oth century. His dynamic style, including what some termed “theatrics,” helped hammer home his strong message to repent and turn from sin. Billy pioneered many of the techniques used today by ministries around the world to preach to large crowds.

His Pre-Conversion Life— Billy and his older brother spent their childhood in the Civil War Soldiers’ Orphan Home. When Billy was 20, playing baseball in a local league in Marshalltown, Iowa, a professional player discovered him. Billy eventually signed a contract with the team known in 1883 as the Chicago White Stock-ings. He played with the team for seven seasons.

Billy’s Decisive Factor: hymns he recognized from his childhood. Billy and some other ball players went to a tavern one afternoon. When they returned outdoors, they sat on the curb to listen to the Christian song service being held across the street. Recognizing some of the hymns his mother use to sing made Billy cry. A Christian worker saw his reaction and crossed the street to invite him to the Pacific Garden Mission. Billy willingly went. There, he accepted Jesus as his savior.

To learn more about Billy’s service to God, read here.



Dawson Trotman (1906-1956) (Image: courtesy of the Navigators-http://www.navigators.org/us/)

Dawson Trotman (1906-1956)
(Image: courtesy of the Navigators-http://www.navigators.org/us/)

His Role In Christianity— Dawson founded the discipleship organization The Navigators. After impacting the military, Dawson wrote the materials for altar workers in Billy Graham crusades. His scripture memory program at the root of The Navigators also enhanced the work of Campus Crusade and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

His Pre-Conversion Life— As a teenager, Dawson led the life of a Christian hypocrite. His popularity as high school student body president attracted his classmates to attend church with him when he invited them. They didn’t know he was stealing money from the student body funds. After graduation, he turned to openly drinking and gambling.

Dawson’s Decisive Factor: a policeman’s warning. One night, a police officer stopped Dawson for drunk driving. Instead of a ticket, he gave Dawson a heart-to-heart talk. The young rebel began attending church. In the youth group, he excelled in a scripture memorization contest. The verses Dawson memorized eventually took root in his heart. He became a Christian and grew in his faith based on the word of God he’d memorized.

To learn more about Dawson’s service to God, read here.


You can read about the unique decisive factors that brought Adoniram Judson, D. James Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, and Lottie Moon to God in “8 Wonderful Conversion Stories (Pt. I).” 


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