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"Father of Baptist Missions"
"I hope, dear father, you may be enabled to surrender me up to the Lord for the most arduous, honorable, and important work that ever any of the sons of men were called to engage in. I have many sacrifices to make; I must part with a beloved family and a number of most affectionate friends. But I have set my hand to the plough." (From William Carey's letter to his father, telling him of his decision to go to the mission field.)
William Carey, the "Father of Baptist Missions," was born in Paulerspury, England, in 1761. He grew up in the poverty-stricken home of a weaver. Carey early distinguished himself by his love of reading. Saved at a young age, he learned Greek so that he could read the New Testament in its original language.
Carey was a shoemaker by trade, but his true love was preaching the Gospel. He preached his first sermon at age 21. A church in a neighboring village soon arranged for him to come preach every other Sunday. Carey gladly walked the six miles each way to do so.
In 1785, convinced by his study of Scripture that their position was biblical, Carey joined the Baptist church. He became pastor of the Baptist church in Moulton in 1787. Reading the books written about the voyages of Captain James Cook to the Pacific Ocean sparked in Carey's heart a desire to reach the natives Cook described with the gospel.
The Baptist churches of his day were heavily Calvinistic and not interested in foreign missions. In 1792 Carey published his Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. This pamphlet galvanized the churches into action, and the Baptist Missionary Society was formed.
In 1793 Carey made the five-month voyage to India with his wife and four small children. He founded his mission at the Dutch colony of Serampore, because the British East India Company would not allow missionaries to operate in their territory.
Already conversant in seven languages when he went to India, Carey learned Bengali and began translating the Bible into that language. He labored for seven years before baptizing his first native convert. But God greatly blessed his faithfulness. During the remaining 34 years of his life, thousands were saved and baptized, and the Bible was translated into 44 different languages and dialects under his supervision.
Carey buried his wife and two of his children on the mission field, but his devotion to the cause of Christ never wavered. He lived and died by his often quoted motto, "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God."