Hudson Taylor, Missionary to China
Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was raised in a devout Christian home filled with much Bible reading and prayer. Often, missionaries would come to visit the house and share their stories. At his birth, his parents prayed that he would eventually become a missionary to China. Despite his Christian upbringing, Hudson somehow managed to wander away from the faith during his teen years. He had been working at the bank where his co-workers were a bad influence. However, a problem with his eyes forced him to return home for several months to recover. During this time, he happened to pick up a Christian gospel booklet called “It is Finished” in his father's apothecary shop. He promised himself that he would only read the interesting story at the beginning and then set it down when it got to the religious part at the end. However, he was so fascinated that he read the whole thing. The Holy Spirit worked in his heart to trust in Christ's “finished work” – his sacrifice on the cross for our salvation. Hudson didn’t know it at the time, but that very day his mother, who had been away for weeks visiting her sister, had been gripped with a desire to pray fervently for her son. After several hours of praying, a sense of peace came over her and she was certain her son had become a Christian. Some time later, Hudson mistakenly picked up his younger sister Amelia's notebook, thinking it was his own, and read that she had been praying every day for his salvation for a month prior to his conversion.
Later that year, Hudson became convinced that God was calling him to be a missionary to China. To prepare for this, he had to learn the Chinese language, get used to living simply without a lot of money or comforts, and start training to be a doctor so he could go as a medical missionary. (He didn’t finish his medical training then, because it seemed urgent for him to go to China, but he did complete them later when he was on furlough back in England.) On the way to China, his ship nearly ran aground on an island with cannibals, but Hudson prayed and a strong breeze blew them away from the shore. He arrived in China at the age of 21. During his 51 years of service there, he faced many hardships, including civil war, people who were hostile to the Christian “foreign devils”, riots, severe illness, more eye problems, the death of his first wife and four of his children, deep depression, lazy fellow missionaries, conflicts with the mission agency, difficult travel, a fire which destroyed his supplies, and the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, in which 56 CIM missionaries were killed.
However, Hudson Taylor’s work was still very fruitful. In his own lifetime, he founded the China Inland Mission, established 20 mission stations, recruited 849 missionaries to work in China, trained about 700 Chinese workers, raised $4 million by faith (instead of appealing for money), developed an evangelistic Chinese church of 125,000, and revised a Chinese translation of the New Testament. It is believed that he personally baptized about 50,000 people. To help his efforts at reaching the Chinese people, he even dressed and wore his hair like them.
Hudson Taylor’s legacy continues. After the communist (atheist) takeover of China in 1949, the China Inland Mission removed its workers from China and reassigned them to other countries. The name was changed to the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, which still serves today in many Asian countries. Even though CIM missionaries left China, there is still a strong “underground” Chinese church that grew from their efforts. John and Betty Stam, Lottie Moon, and Gladys Aylward were some other famous missionaries to China, though they weren’t with CIM. Although mission work is officially forbidden, many Christians still go to China as teachers and build personal relationships in order to share their faith.
Hudson Taylor’s work was birthed in the prayers of his family, and he became quite a prayer warrior himself. His son Howard’s book, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, is about the strength he gained from prayer. Here are few of Hudson’s quotes about prayer:
"I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done."
"Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him."
"You must GO forward on your knees."
I compiled this information for a handout to supplement the study about China in the World Geography class I teach three days a week. I wrote much of it years ago, but added to it today using information obtained on-line. Here are some resources for further study:
- J. Hudson Taylor at Christian Classics Ethereal Library - includes download of free e-books
- James Hudson Taylor at Wholesome Words - includes links to many other articles
- James Hudson Taylor at OMF
- CIM/OMF History