“The Scandalous Missionary” by Robert Petterson, in The One Year Book of Amazing Stories, Tyndale, 2018, pages 513-514.
A clipper ship sailed from Liverpool on the winds of prayer. On board was a wild-eyed, twenty-one-year-old visionary on his way to China as a missionary. In 1853 Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) might as well have been going to the moon. Only a handful of Western missionaries had ever ventured to this land teeming with millions.
After landing in Shanghai, he was appalled to discover that locals dismissed missionaries as agents of colonial powers promoting Western, religion and culture to destroy the Chinese way of life. Most missionaries hid behind the walls of their compounds, spoke through interpreters, and were waited on by Chinese servants. When, they left, their compounds, they were often carried on litters by porters. Their sense of superiority was palpable.
So Hudson traded in his European fashions for Chinese clothes. He shaved his head and grew pigtails. Instead of spending time with English businessmen and diplomats, he lived among Chinese peasants, eating their food, observing their customs, and mastering their language. Older missionaries were scandalized by the behavior of this upstart. Fellow Europeans called him a traitor to his own kind. Hudson stubbornly replied, “China is not to be won for Christ by ease-loving men and women. In everything and at every time, even life itself must be secondary.” He set out to the interior where no white man had gone before. After four years he had a handful of converts and a bad case of hepatitis.
So he returned to England, crisscrossing the country looking for helpers. His Chinese garb and pigtails may have caused a sensation, but there was almost no interest for China in the churches. Hudson fell into one of his frequent bouts of depression. He lamented, “Can all the Christians in England sit still with folded arms white these multitudes in China are perishing?” At the end of his rope, he got a vision: he would call men and women to radical mission. They would go to China without raising support, trust in the Lord to supply their needs, be required to adopt a Chinese lifestyle, and go inland to the most difficult places. He called his audacious idea China Inland Missions. A year later, Hudson Taylor left England with his family and sixteen raw recruits.
For the next thirty years, he wore himself out. He saw as many as two hundred patients a day as a midwife, and directed more than half of all the missionaries in China. Along the way, his wife passed away at age thirty-three, and four of his eight children died before the age of ten. He battled bouts of depression and finally collapsed with a complete physical and emotional breakdown. But his scandalous vision of a radical Christian life brought thousands of missionaries to the Far East.
Were he to comeback today he would be shocked to learn that by 2030 China will have more churchgoers than America. Hudson Taylor’s amazing story reminds us of something we often forget in an age of ease-loving faith: true Christianity is counter-cultural. It is radical. It is even scandalous. To paraphrase David Platt: “Christianity isn’t about catering to, but abandoning ourselves.”
“I am so weak that I can hardly write, I cannot read my Bible, I cannot even pray, I can only lie still in God’s arms like a little child, and trust.”
Matthew 28:18-20 — Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Philippians 3:10-11 — I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Acts 20:24 — (Paul said), “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
Lord Jesus, make yourself to me
A living, bright reality.
More present to faith’s vision keen
Than any outward object seen.