With the missionaries evangelizing the known and unknown world, the Gospel spread to many countries. Gaining popularity in many corners of the globe, churches were erected to worship God and to serve as a place to pray. Church builders gathered resources and financing to fund the creation of these churches and some of them can take the viewer’s breath away by the sheer power of their beauty and architecture. Here are some famous churches from around the world:
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain: Designed by Antoni Gaudiˊ, the construction for the large Roman Catholic Church began in 1882. Construction halted in a926, when the Architect Director, Gaudi’ passed away. The Spanish Civil war also had an impact on the construction of the basilica, stalling the work done on it. A combination of Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture, this Church, although incomplete, is deemed a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Notre Dame de Paris, France: The cathedral is one of the most well known churches in the world with tourists pouring in from every corner of the globe to view its magnificent structure. Regarded as one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe, the impressive towers, stained glass windows, and spire loom over the heart of Paris and took an impressive 100 years to complete.
Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow: This Russian Orthodox Church was commissioned by the orders of Ivan the Terrible and took 6 years to complete. Located in Moscow’s Red Square, this church marks the geometrical center of Moscow and has been deemed a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Peter’s Basilica, Rome: One of the most famous churches in the world and the center of the Roman Catholic Church, the Basilica was constructed during 1506 and 1615. The dome was designed by Michelangelo himself and rises to a height of 136.57 meters from floor to top making it the largest dome in the world.
Paul’s Cathedral, London: The seat of the Bishop of London and a CoE cathedral, this church is dedicated to Paul the Apostle. Situated on the top of a hill in the highest point in London, the original church can be dated back to 604 AD and the current church, bearing the same name as its predecessor is from the late 17th century.
Westminster Abbey, London: A famous London icon, this large gothic designed church is located to the west of Westminster Palace. Built in the 10th century, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has witnessed many a coronation and royal wedding.
Church of Nativity, Bethlehem: Originally commissioned by Constantine in 327 AD, this basilica is considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is traditionally considered to be situated over the cave that marks the birthplace of Jesus.
Mark’s Basilica, Venice: One of Venice’s most famous churches, it is also one of the most well known examples of Byzantine architecture. Many tourists flock to the Basilica which is one of Venice’s iconic churches and was constructed in 1650.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul: this building has gone through many stages of use. Serving as an Orthodox Cathedral and the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, then being converted to an imperial mosque, it now stands as a museum. It briefly was converted to a Roman Catholic Church for 57 years in the 1200’s. It was converted into a museum in 1935.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem: Also known as the Church of the Resurrection, it is situated in the Christian quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. This has been the main pilgrimage site for many Christians around the world even before the 4th Century AD because this church is located on Calvary Hill, the place where Jesus is believed to have been crucified. It is also believed that the Sepulchre (the place where Jesus was buried) is contained within.
Looking at the above list of churches, it is easy to imagine the reach of the Christian empire around the world, and the efforts it took for people to display the strength of the Church.
The Great Depression had left its mark on the world, and the effects were still prevalent when the Second World War broke out. Germany was expanding his borders under the guidance of Adolf Hitler and Japan was spreading her territories in search of raw materials and new markets for her industries. WW2 had a significant impact on the Church and its members.
The Church had a lot of success in the Eastern provinces of Germany during the 1920s. However, after the National Socialists or Nazis as they were known, came to power, the Church members had to exert caution. The church members were frequently questioned by the Gestapo on their doctrines, practices and beliefs to ascertain that they were not a threat to the political party in power. Many popular doctrinal works were confiscated and hymns ripped out of books due to the Gospel teachings about Israel which was in conflict with the Nazi’s anti-Semitic policies.
Many people stopped attending services and even left the country as they felt uneasy about the events that were unfolding. The rise of Nazi Germany affected the Church’s activities in other parts of the world where a large number of German immigrants were present. Many copies of the Scripture were burnt in bonfires from pressure from the governments who were scared of Nazi sympathizers. In face of such activities, many missionaries turned their attention from the German immigrants they had been exclusively working with to the Portuguese speaking minority, thus laying a foundation for later years.
By 1937, Adolf Hitler had declared to expand Germany by annexing Western Czechoslovakia and Austria. As war seemed eminent, an order was issued for the evacuation of all missionaries in the area. With Adolf now looking at Poland, church leaders ordered the evacuation of the missionaries which was no easy task. After receiving instructions to leave the countries, people were informed in amatter of hours that the Netherlands had closed its borders fearing a huge influx of refugees. Within a day, German bulletins announced that all railroads would be under German control and civilian travel would not be guaranteed.
Evacuation of the missionaries was not easy and they face problems throughout. A few went missing, a few were arrested and thrown in prison but the leaders persevered and managed to locate and evacuate all the missing missionaries. They thank the Lord for his presence in getting them out safely from the war zoneat a time where travel was restricted, passage tickets on ships were not available and space was scarce on any mode of transportation.
Evacuation of Missionaries
With the war spreading to other countries, the evacuation of missionaries in South Pacific and South Africa began. Communications were problematic and sporadic and many were left behind. However, no new missionaries were sent to the continent and the number reduced as more young men were drafted into military service. Many missionaries witnessed death and destruction in Europe as Nazi Germany spread throughout invaded countries. Those who opposed the Nazi regime and propaganda were executed.
Missionaries kept the faith and communication alive through mails that were sent to various members they had served pre-war, but this was disrupted by the war and some areas did not receive mail for at least 2 years. But in some areas, missionaries had more success in converting local populations to Christianity than they had pre-war. Sharing the Gospel was all the missionaries had when they were imprisoned in camps. Some were not reunited with their families. Their tale during the war is one of bravery, sacrifice and true devotion to the Christian faith.
St. Thomas the Apostle was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ and is also known as ‘Doubting Thomas’. Receiving this nickname due to his doubt that Jesus had really risen from the dead until he felt the wounds on Jesus’ side, he travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel. Traditionally believed to have travelled to India around 52AD, he landed on the coast of Kerala at a port where a Jewish community was located.
He baptized many people, founding what is known as the Saint Thomas Christians or the Church of the Syrian Malabar Christians, and laid the foundations for many churches of which ruins can be found to this day.
“It was to a land of dark people he was sent, to clothe them by Baptism in white robes.” ~ Hymns of St. Ephrem.
Early Christian literature and tradition speak of his arrival in Kerala, the most Christian state of India. Baptizing many of the Jewish people there, he is claimed by many to be the first Apostle to preach the Word of God there. Although there is not much known about his life, he is revered by not only many churches all over the India, but also by the Muslim and Hindus too.
He is claimed to have been a merchant and an architect, travelling on a merchant’s ship to India. By having an occupation apart from preaching the Gospel, he earned the respect of the local people. The combination of word and action gave credibility to his words as he wasn’t just travelling, living off the goodness of others. There are many stories pertaining to his life in India and some of his experiences. He converted many people, rich and poor alike and built 7 and a half churches across Kerala.
One of the legends of his experiences in India was when he was commissioned to build a magnificent palace for a king Gondaforus. After being given the necessary funds, St. Thomas spent all the money on the poor. Being confronted by the irate king, he replied that the king would see the palace in the next world. Upon hearing his answer, the king ordered that Thomas be put in prison. However, the king’s recently dead brother came to him in a dream saying how he loved the majestic heavenly palace. This dream restored faith in Thomas and he found himself in the king’s good graces. After this experience, the entire royal family and many citizens embraced the Christian faith.
He died a martyr after an angry prince ordered his death due to his convertin
g two of his wives. Speared to death while praying on a hill near Madras, now Chennai, his traditional burial place lies at the St. Thomas Mount and St. Thome’ Cathedral. The church celebrates St. Thomas by dedicating the 3rd of July to him.
St. Thomas is a great example of the change one person can bring. Post 2000 years from his life, one can see the impact his life and death had on one entire country. Having been credited with bringing Christianity to India, his legacy is one that most missionaries wish to emulate. To give you an idea, Christianity is the 3rd largest religion in India with a total of 2% of the population being Christians.
There has always been suffering, disease and war in this world no matter which century you study. Starvation, famine, homelessness has all plagued millions of people for years but nobody has brought attention to the severity of the situation this like Mother Teresa. I’m sure we’ve seen homeless people on the streets, a person begging for food or money. I’m sure we’ve all keep our distance with people who are sick or diseased. Not Mother Teresa.
Born in Albania in 1910, she found her calling at the age of 12 and went to Ireland to join the sisters of Loreto where
she would learn English as that was the language the Sisters used to teach school children in India. She was moved by the plight of the people and by the work the missionaries carried out in the Bengal area and wanted to do her bit.
Starting her novitiate in Darjeeling in 1929, she took her first religious vows as a nun by the age of 21 and took the name of Teresa. Although she enjoyed teaching, she was moved by the poverty that surrounded her. In 1948, she started replaced her habit with a simple white sari with a blue border and began living with the poor. Although she suffered through many doubts and according to her was tempted by the Devil with thoughts of warm food and shelter of the safe Loreto Convent, she stuck on to what she described as her true calling.
She received Vatican permission to start the diocesan congregation that would later be known as the Missionaries of Charity. Starting out with a meager number of members, it grew to include 4,000 sisters by 1997. ‘
“By Blood, I am Albanian. By Citizenship, I am Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic Nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
She has been known to highlight the poverty, famine and disease in the area of Bengal and Calcutta where her Charity work started. Although the Missionaries of Charity has spread to over 120 countries worldwide, she will be most remembered for her work in India. Offering free services and help to the dying, she opened the first Home for the Dying in Kalighat, Calcutta. Those who were brought to the home were given medical attention and were allowed to die with dignity, according to the rituals of their faith. She respected that each individual was different and Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Christians were administered the last rights.
She soon opened a home for those suffering from Hanson’s disease, popularly known as ‘leprosy. Most people suffering from this disease, especially in India were deemed ‘untouchables’ and made to stay apart from general society. This isolation meant that would receive no assistance from the outside world, and often it would be a life of misery. She ensured that they received care, a helping hand and food, and sought to comfort those in need.
Mother Teresa, with her traditional white, blue bordered sari has become a symbol in so many ways. Now people all over the Globe identify her with that garment, and also she has brought attention to the poor in so many ways by receiving donations, medical aid and volunteers.
Upon her death in 1997, former U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar said, “She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world.” This statement stands true to her efforts and faith in the lowest rungs of humanity, and her unwavering support and help to those in need until her dying day. She was and is truly the peace the world needed.
Missionaries have gone out into the world to do the work of Jesus and to spread the Christian faith to all. Christianity spread to different countries all over the world through unwavering dedicated and hard working missionaries. These people went forth and brought the word of God to people of all races, religions and age. A tentative timeline has been created to bear some light on the works of the missionaries and to show their accomplishments.
33 AD: Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Also, around 3000 Jews were converted to the Christian faith on Pentecost that year.
50 AD: Gentiles were admitted into the Church.
52 AD: Thomas travels to India and lands on the coast of Kerala and founds the Syrian Malabar Church.
80 AD: Christianity spreads to France and Tunisia
100 AD: First Christians are reported in Sri Lanka, Monaco and Algeria.
167 AD: 2 missionaries were sent by the Pope to Britain at the request of Lucius of Britain to convert the people to Christianity.
304 AD: Armenia adopts Christianity as its state religion. Around 10% of the world’s population now follows the Christian Faith, with the Bible being available in 10 different languages.
370 AD: The Bible is translated into Gothic by Wulfila – the first Bible translation done for missionary reasons.
432 AD: Patrick travels to Ireland for missionary purposes.
635 AD: First Christian missionaries arrive in China.
680 AD: First translation of the Gospel into Arabic.
771 AD: Charlemagne becomes ruler and decrees that all sermons to be held in the vernacular language and commissioned translations of the Bible.
912 AD: The Normans embrace Christianity.
1000 AD: Iceland’s parliament accepts Christianity through common consent.
1015 AD: Russia is mostly converted to the Orthodox faith. Upon becoming first ruler of Norway, Olaf II Haroldson organizes Norway’s final conversion and integration into the Christian faith over the next 15 years.
1200 AD: The Bible is available in 22 different languages.
1216 AD: The Dominican Order is established.
1219 AD: The Sultan of Egypt is presented with the Gospel by Francis of Assisi.
1368 AD: Ming Dynasty abolishes Christianity and the Franciscan mission collapses in China.
1382 AD: The Bible is translated from Latin into English.
1485 AD: The Bible is printed using Gutenberg’s printing press.
1517 AD: Bengal welcomes Christian missionaries with the permission of the Mughal rulers of Delhi.
1523 AD: A missionary hymn is written by Martin Luther based on Psalm 67 and is known as “the first missionary hymn of Protestantism.”
1622 AD: The Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith is founded by Pope Gregory VI and becomes the Papal agency to coordinate missionary work.
1638 AD: Japan officially bans Christianity and imposes death penalty to those who oppose it.
Post 1600’s, a mass conversion occurred in many countries around the world, with missionaries spreading the Gospel to tribal Indians, Africans, Asians and Europeans. Churches sprung up in many countries, with many Mission Centers also making their appearance. Now we have the Gospel teachings spread via music to attract the youth to the Church. As you can see, Christianity has come a long way since the days of Christ.
Missionaries are a huge part of Christianity and the reason why it has become so wide spread today.They are selfless people who venture forth into the world to spread the Word of God to other countries and to influence the growth of Christianity in the world. Certain missionaries have been noted for their significant contributions to the Christian faith.
William Carey: He is also known as the father of modern missions. Translating the Bible into various other languages he made sure that the Word of God was accessible to people of other countries who did not understand English or Latin. An English Baptist missionary to India, he was instrumental in encouraging other missionaries to go into the field to make a change. A self motivated learner, he taught himself Latin, Hebrew and Greek and founded the Baptist Missionary Society.
David Livingstone:A missionary born in Scotland, he was influenced by another missionary of being one of the first missionaries in Central Africa and spreading the Word. His non-threatening demeanor, coupled with the fact that he traveled light with no accompanying soldiers allowed local powerful chieftains to give him permission to travel through their villages. David helped in mapping a huge portion of Africa and has influenced many other missionaries to this day.
David Wilkerson: Not every missionary has to head to unknown lands. David had a huge influence amongst the youth of New York by working through street ministries to rescue gang members and drug addicts. He is the founder of Teen Challenge which is an evangelical Christian addiction recovery program and CURE crops.
George Müller: He is instrumental on promoting ‘faith missions’, which is when missionaries are not supported by the various denominations but by people and the churches. He believed in never asking for support but in trusting in God to provide by giving good will to people to donate to his missions. He started an orphanage in England which took care of more than 10,000 children in his lifetime alone.
Adoniram Judson: He was the first North American Baptist missionary in Burma, and was involved in translation work and plating churches. Although he started out with India, he moved to Burma due to the anti-Western feelings in India. It took him a long time to convert local people to the Christian faith. In the first 12 years as a missionary he converted only 18 people, but by the time of his death he had established over a 100 churches. ‘Judson Day’ is celebrated by Baptist churches in Myanmar to celebrate his arrival in the country.
Hudson Taylor:He respected Chinese culture and spent more than 50 years in the country. He dressed like a china man in order to be more accepted by the local people, and this worked in his favour although he was heavily criticized in his home country of England. He worked as a translator, doctor and an evangelist and influenced many missionaries to follow in his footsteps.
Amy Carmichael: An Irish missionary working in India, she never returned to her homeland in the 56 years she served in India. Working primarily with orphans, she was influenced by a talk by Hudson Taylor about the need for missionaries in China.
Jim Elliot: Preaching the Word of God to the Waodani Indians, he suffered a tragic death at their hands along with 3 other missionaries. Their deaths brought about a change to the men that killed them, and helped in opening their hearts to the Gospel. Their story emphasizes the danger missionaries face in their lives while evangelizing.
Eric Liddell: Made famous through the movie ‘Chariots of Fire’, he was a Scottish Olympian who devoted his life to teaching in China where he passed away in a prison camp at the end of the 2nd World War.
Wayman Mitchell: Founder of the Christian Fellowship Ministries, this fellowship grew to include 2100 churches in 112 countries and used early concert ministries to convert people.
There are many missionaries that come from all walks of life to come together to risk their lives to spread the Word of God. One of them that received widespread media coverage was Eric Liddell a Scotsman who was also an Olympic runner. Born in Tianjin, China in 1902 he was born to Scottish missionaries stationed in China. Although his schooling was done in Edinburgh, he returned to China to serve as a missionary like his parents did before him. This is his story.
The Flying Scotsman
Being an outstanding Sportsman, he was given the nickname, ‘The Flying Scotsman’ due to his prowess on the tracks. Studying at Eltham, he was awarded the Blackheath Cup for being the best athlete of the year and became the captain of both the cricket and rugby union teams. His reputation for being a fast runner became more known during his time in Oxford College. Media covered his exploits on the tacks and touted him to be the next Olympic winner.
Being a strong follower of Christ, he was invited by one of the GSEU (Glasgow Students’ Evangelistic Union) founders to speak for them. Being a popular fellow, it was hoped that he would draw a strong crowd to hear the Gospel. He was a main speaker in evangelizing the men of Scotland. Being a keen sportsperson, he took part in many athletics during his university life. He won the AAA Championships in 100 yards in 1923, setting a record that wouldn’t be equaled for 23 years.
Chosen to take part in the Paris Olympics in 1924, he withdrew from the 100 metres race which was his best event due to the race being held on a Sunday. As the schedule had been posted much earlier, his decision to withdraw resulted in him signing up for the 400 metres race. He sprinted the entire race, breaking the existing Olympic and world record which stood unbeaten for the next 12 years. He continued to compete but refused to compete on Sunday which made him miss out of many important events.
Returning to China, he found his true passion in his missionary work which included teaching children of wealthy parents who he believed could influence China’s future and promote Christianity and its values. He also lived in Hebei province which was extremely poor and suffered through many internal civil wars and was deemed dangerous due to Japanese invasions.
By the year 1941, life in China had become very dangerous and all British nationals were advised to leave for their own safety. Although his family left, he stayed back to serve the poor and help his brother who was a doctor working there. As the rural mission station in Xiaozhang was severely short on help with exhausted missionaries helping wounded people looking for medical treatment at all hours, he stayed on.
Japanese takes over mission
As the mission was taken over by the Japanese, he was interned at Weihsien Internment Camp and became a prominent leader there. He helped the elderly, became a camp organizer, taught science and Bible Studies to those interested. Doing constant unwavering work for others, he died of malnutrition and overwork. It is rumored that there was a chance for him to leave the camp but he gave up his spot for a pregnant woman.
His life, chronicled in the 1981 movie, ‘Chariots of Fire’ showcases his journey from an athlete to missionary. His life has influenced many people to take up missionary work.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” Matthew 10:16-18
A Christian missionary is a person who reaches out to places that is not native to him/ her, and spreads the Gospel while performing a practical service. They evangelize. Traditionally missionaries have been known to travel to places far away to rescue children from poverty and give them an education, or to help countries with poor housing and build shelters for the people, or even just spread the Word and create awareness by writing articles and posting on social media that has greater reach globally.
A Christian Calling
Each person has their own calling, and can choose what path they want to walk on. History has shown us examples of many missionaries who have made a difference in the lives of others. The Bible gives us many examples like the Apostles of Christ who went and travelled to different places to spread the Gospel like Peter, Paul and John. It is not an easy life and many missionaries are killed in their service to others, especially in countries where the spread of Christianity is seen as a threat.
You may be forgiven thinking that a missionary’s work is only to work in orphanages or other social service work. In reality, there are as many different jobs in missionary work as there as in normal life. It could be translation work, special teams that help trafficking victims to recover fromtheir ordeal and pilots to name a few.
Whatever their secondary occupation may be, their primary aim is to spread the word about Jesus and his works. Missionaries go to unfamiliar territory different countries and adopt the lifestyle and become familiar with the people in that area. The process of making the locals understand the purpose of their presence and adopting the Word of God into their daily lives may take weeks, months, years or even generations. Once the locals can understand the teachings, they need to be trained to become pastor in their own communities, thereby spreading the Word onwards.
Missionaries close to home and far-off countries
Missionaries can relocate to different countries and never look back, or they can travel for just a week. We may be mistaken in thinking that all missionaries travel to far off countries like China, Africa or India and devote the rest of their lives to doing social work. But missionaries can also relocate from the suburbs to the city or work within their own hometown. The advent of the Internet has brought about a huge change in evangelization. Now you can have more reach with less effort.
A missionary’s life is not easy. They must uproot their entire family and settle in land they have no knowledge about. They have to learn the local culture, language and the local traditions to respect the ways of the local people to fit in better. They have years of training before heading out to the field, and have no savings, house or car when they return to their country of origin, praying that their work will support them and their families.
Missionaries also face danger in their new surroundings. They can face death at the hands of hostile locals. Jesus must hold more meaning for them than worldly possessions as this work requires utmost dedication to God and His Word.
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28