This Is A Story About The Man Who Trusted God
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 4:34.
Among the British, Yorkshiremen are known to be tough. They are a “no-nonsense” breed of individuals known for common sense, thrift, and hard work. Understanding J. Hudson Taylor’s background may explain why this man quietly impacted China as no other foreigner has ever done. Yet of all the men whose lives have impressed me—spiritual mentors who have been benchmarks for my personal growth and goals—none is any harder to figure out than Hudson Taylor—which may be precisely why he is so important.
Striving to answer the question, “What made him tick?” is difficult. In many respects, he was very ordinary—a quiet, soft-spoken, compassionate, yet tough individual without dynamic leadership skills or outstanding physical charisma. Yet, he was a man great in faith and prayer, great in commitment, and indefatigable when it came to impacting the country he adopted and loved.
Before he was born in 1832, his parents had prayed, “Dear God, if You should give us a son, grant that he may work for you in China.” [i] Some 12 years later, a discussion ensued in the Taylor home involving his father, a chemist by trade and lay-preacher by avocation, who complained about the fact that there were only a half dozen Protestants working in all of China. Listening to the diatribe, the young Hudson immediately said, “When I am a man I mean to be a missionary and go to China!” Biographer J. C. Pollock says that in spite of the fact he had prayed for his son to go to China, he thought it amusing that a boy as sickly as Hudson had been would ever go abroad.
It was that Yorkshire stubbornness which God used to do what others with greater education, culture, refinements, and social standing never accomplished. Converted at the age of 17, Taylor immediately began his preparation for missionary service. Finally going to China, he labored for six years in Shanghai and Ningpo with little success. For one thing, Taylor just didn’t fit the mold. He was appalled at the way most missionaries lived, sequestered in an international compound where life wasn’t much different than it would have been in Britain or America with servants and afternoon tea.
Recognizing that the culture was a barrier, Taylor cut off his hair and wove a braid into the remaining locks, then dyed his scalp—something very painful since the container of lye he was using exploded leaving facial burns—and began dressing in Chinese fashion.[ii]
Feeling unaccepted, Taylor returned to Britain and established his own mission—The China Inland Mission—and returned in 1866 with his first group of missionaries, who were committed to reaching China no matter what the cost. And Taylor paid plenty when it came to cost. He wrote, “If I had 1,000 pounds, China should have it. If I had 1,000 lives, China should have them. No! Not China but Christ!” Then he asked, “Can we do too much for Him?”[iii]
In June, 1899, an imperial decree from Peking ordered the death of all foreigners in a grim chapter of Chinese history resulting in the deaths of 153 missionaries and 53 children, the majority of whom were connected with Taylor’s mission. He never fully recovered from this great loss, yet he planted the Gospel firmly in Chinese fashion which not only survived the Boxer rebellion but the assault of Communism a half-century later.
He said, “God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” And he lived it, as well.
Resource reading: John 4:31-38.
[i] J. C. Pollock, Hudson Taylor and Maria, (McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1962), pp. 15,16.
[ii] Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1983), p. 176.
[iii] “James Hudson Taylor III, “Pioneers with Commitment,” East Asia Millions, Summer, 1990, p. 355.