William Carey, who lived from 1761-1834, has been called “The father of the modern missions movement.” Daniel Akin, in his book Ten Who Changed the World begins the opening chapter on Carey with this sentence: “William Carey may have been the greatest missionary since the time of the apostles.”
Much of Carey’s impact becomes apparent when we realize that the world he was birthed into looked far different than the one we live in today. The idea of being a “foreign missionary,” spending your life working in a nation you weren’t born in, among a people you do not know, and through a language you didn’t grow up speaking, was basically unknown. When Carey was wrestling with the call he felt to leave England to evangelize the people of India he was even rebuked by a respected minister. John Ryland Sr. told him, “Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do without your aid or mine.”
Carey was undeterred. His understanding of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) would not let him quit. He was so passionate about foreign missions that his encouragement to other Christians was not to question whether they were called, but whether they were not called. He would say, “I question whether all are justified in staying here, while so many are perishing without means of grace in other lands.” Akin agrees, “Do you need a reason to go? No! You need a reason to stay! More than 1.6 billion people have yet to hear the name of Jesus.”
Carey’s heart was fully devoted to the mission of Jesus. His journal entry from March 29, 1794 said “O what is there in all this world worth living for but the presence and service of God–I feel a burning desire that all the world may know this God and serve Him.” On his deathbed, some of his final words were “When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey. Speak about Dr. Carey’s Savior.”
Like the great missionary apostle Paul, Carey would face continual adversity. In a letter to his father he said,
“I see more and more of my own insufficiency for the great work I am called to. The truths of God are amazingly profound, the souls of men infinitely precious, my own ignorance very great and all that I do is for God who knows my motive and my ends, my diligence or negligence. When I (in short) compare myself with my work, I sink into a point, a mere despicable nothing.”
Daniel Akin comments on Carey’s struggles:
He would bury two wives, with his first, Dorothy, sorrowfully, going insane. He would bury three children, and certain others disappointed him. He lost most of his hair due to illness in his early twenties, served in India for forty-one years, never taking a furlough, fought back dysentery and malaria, and did not baptize his first Indian convert, Krisha Pal, until his seventh year on the field! What kept him going? What promise of God did he claim again and again? “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20).
Carey was buried on June 9, 1834 in Serampore, India. The stone slab that marked his grave was inscribed with these words, “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, on thy kind arms I fall.”
The beautiful feet of this great missionary, who had only a grammar school education, but who pioneered the modern missions movement while translating the Bible into dozens of Indian languages and dialects, reminds me of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
 I have taken many of the quotes in this blog straight from Akin’s text.