Through the Archives: Sharing the faith through the ages

As we mark our 140th year of ministry, it’s amazing to look back and see how the gospel has been shared in many different ways, in many different places, and at many different times.

We have been hugely encouraged by the lives of the servant-hearted people we read about in our archives. Through their diaries and letters, we see that these pioneering missionaries often shared the gospel with a passion and dedication that is striking. We want to share a couple of their stories with you!

No ordinary woman

Emma Herdman was, as her obituary noted in 1899, ‘no ordinary woman’. She was born near Belfast, educated in Germany and England, and travelled around southern Europe with her mother. This was undoubtedly good preparation for cross-cultural mission. Amazingly, she learnt six modern languages, as well as Latin, Greek and biblical Hebrew!

Emma worked in a few cities in Morocco and ended up in Fez, leading a small group of ladies. Like some of our workers today, they ran a medical clinic, taught English, and visited local families. Emma was also able to train new believers, encouraging them to evangelise others and distribute Christian literature. Writing in Arabic, she also sent letters to encourage others in the faith. In a place with very little Christian witness, this was vital work to build a fledgling church.

A scene in modern-day Fez.

Persevering despite his critics

Before marrying a member of Emma Herdman’s mission team, William Summers served as a single man in Morocco. The accounts of his journeys read like something out of the book of Acts, with stories of sleeping in animal sheds, preaching in town squares, and being chased by mobs! Having an excellent grasp of Arabic, William travelled widely, going into places that were inaccessible to others, and worked alongside local believers.

On one memorable occasion, William found himself facing intense opposition from scholars who were brought in to challenge the missionaries. Each time he was able to successfully answer them, drawing on his knowledge of the Qur’an and Islam. Clearly this made an impression, because they were eventually asked to leave, leaving copies of Scripture as they went!

This is my first ‘Mars Hill’* experience in Morocco, and I felt wonderfully helped and upheld. I was able to say things I never knew before, and now, on verifying them, I find I was quite correct. How real was the fulfilment of the promise ‘Take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak’…

…We were very much amused at the astonishment of our man who accompanied us. He described the whole occurrence as most dramatic, and declared that when he got home again to Morocco city he would sit up with his friends and my friends for thirty nights rehearsing to them the scene.

Courage and faithfulness

When we read stories like these, it can be easy to feel discouraged that we aren’t able to live up to their amazing example. However, although they may well have been remarkable people, their strength was not in themselves, but in having faith in the God who uses weakness.

Is God calling you to minister among Arab Muslims? We’d love to support you as you start your journey in missions. Get in touch!

Want to know more? Come and celebrate with us, at our 140th anniversary celebration on Zoom on November 19th! For more information, email Chris. If you would like to hear more about the history of AWM Pioneers, check out our story or read more from the archive

*Mars Hill alludes to the place that Paul had a significant opportunity to witness to the biblical story and critique the ideas of intellectuals from very different worldviews. Some scoffed at his presentation while some responded in faith (Acts 17 16-34).

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