“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” – Exodus 3: 11-12
One of the things that define an amazing adventure is one’s sense of a future that is overflowing with endless possibilities. It is having a sense of curiosity over places yet to be seen, flavors yet to be tasted, languages yet to be spoken, and friendships yet to be made.
There is an even greater sense of adventure for those who are traveling away from his homeland for the first time. In fact, when one finally comes into contact with cultures that are exotic and foreign relative one’s own cultural mores, the sense of alienation, wonder, and excitement exponentially grows! It’s like seeing everything for the first time!
Going into a faraway land and leaving everything behind with no possibility of returning to one’s homeland may be exciting at the onset but when one finally comes to terms with the reality of never being able to go back to one’s comfort zone, that is when reality begins to bite. THERE IS NO TURNING BACK! Just imagine the last bridge that links you to your past and finally burning it once you have crossed it! Paraphrasing the popular saying, “Forever and never are such long words.”
Such is the story of William Carey. We know him by his famous words, “Attempt great things for God, expect great things for God because we serve a great God!” but there is much more to him than just his famous words. He left his homeland, never to return, for the greatest adventure of his life. He had lived through several deaths among his family and closest friends, his life’s work was burnt to the ground, his financial resources depleted, and his aging and weakening body even got severely injured. Talk about being faced by a perfect storm in a strange foreign land.
Geoff and Janet Benge wrote about the series of hardships that met William Carey since he migrated to India:
“Charlotte Carey had never been strong. Since being seriously burned at age fifteen, she had not been expected to live a long life. Even after she and William had married, most people thought she would live for only a year or two at best. But her love for William had given her new reason to live, and during their years of marriage, she enjoyed reasonably good health.
William loved Charlotte, and the two of them spent as much time together as they could. Like him, she was gifted in languages and read through all his translations, offering helpful suggestions.
The turbulence in his life as a missionary in India did not end with the series of deaths of his most beloved family and friends. William was a man who continuously weathered literal and figurative storms as he endured the worst of personal tragedies while discharging his calling as a missionary in India.
Perhaps one of his most noteworthy achievements is the abolition of the brutal and murderous ritual called Sati, the burning of Indian widows in their dead husbands’ funeral pyre. Millions of Indian widows’ lives were saved because of William Carey. The struggles that he overcame strangely disappear in the light of the Lord’s accomplished purposes through his life.
As William Carey advanced in age, his popularity grew among aspiring missionaries in India. A man by the name of Alexander Duff, who hoped to set up a Christian college in India, had a fascinating encounter with William Carey.
Geoff and Janet Benge beautifully wrote about the final years of his life as well as his greatest contributions in Indian society:
One of the last people to visit William was Alexander Duff. He had come to discuss his own plans to establish a Christian college in India, and William encouraged him. Alexander Duff was deeply impressed with William’s years of missionary service in India and talked to him about them also. But since William tired easily, he did not want to stay too long. As he started to walk toward the door, though, William sat up in bed and called him back. “Mr. Duff,” he said in a feeble voice, “you have been speaking about William Carey. When I am gone, say nothing about William Carey—speak only about William Carey’s Savior.”
In the early hours of June 9, 1834, William Carey died quietly in his bed. He was seventy-two years old. In his will, he asked to be buried next to his second wife, Charlotte. He directed that a simple headstone was to be placed on his grave. The headstone was to give his name and age, under which was to be inscribed, “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm. On Thy kind arms I fall.
William Carey may have seen himself as poor and wretched, but people saw him as something quite different. As his body was carried through the streets of Serampore, the flags at the Danish Government House were lowered to half staff. And the streets were lined with silent crowds of Hindus, Moslems, and Christians, all wanting one last look at the man who had become a well-loved legend in the Bengal region.
William Carey, the man who began life as the son of a poor weaver, had taught himself Latin, Hebrew, and Greek as he worked as a cordwainer. When he became convinced that England should be sending out missionaries to newly opened up countries, he helped found the first English missionary society. He then felt obliged to go to India as its first missionary. When difficult circumstances surrounded him—he watched his children die and wife go insane—he never lost faith. He always endured, always pressed ahead. In the process, he founded the most prestigious college of its time in India. He translated the Bible into many Indian and Asian languages. He helped start numerous churches and schools around India. He spoke out against inhuman practices, and he never once wavered in his calling to share the gospel message with Indian people wherever he found them.
One of the greatest missionaries in the history of India died a humble servant of Jesus. He was seen as a great trailblazer in missions, education, literature, and banking yet he saw himself as a worm before our Almighty God. His passion for the things of the kingdom and his love for the people of India made him a force of life. A man who was once a cobbler, who decided to traverse the great oceans of the world to reach a foreign land, became an adventurer of a different sort–he became a generation-builder and the “father of modern missions,” a true example of a man who had carried his cross and followed his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” – Luke 9:23-24