Feature

A Startling Proposition

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In 1868 A. B. Simpson’s editorial “Woman’s Commission” stated that while women were doing “a noble work” in supporting world missions, “God wants more of them abroad.” By 1887, while organizing the Evangelical Missionary Alliance, he became explicit, offering a startling proposal: “the foreign mission needs 100,000 women! . . . Are you ready to go?” Many women apparently were! Throughout the 1890s two thirds of Alliance missionaries were women, and the first of its missionaries to establish a viable Alliance presence was a woman!

When The Alliance was organized, two candidates were chosen to go abroad: William Cassidy and Helen Dawley. Cassidy, wanting to glimpse his expected environment by sailing steerage among Chinese laborers, caught smallpox and never reached China. So Helen Dawley, in India, became the first Alliance missionary!

While The Alliance channeled the funds, each missionary was required to “pray in” his or her financial support. No problem for Dawley! A woman of strong faith, she checked her luggage to Bombay although she had only enough money to get herself to England. Two contributors were soon competing for the privilege of supporting her.

Some argue that the first “Alliance” missionaries were eight young men from Simpson’s training school who, in 1884, attempted to evangelize in the Congo. The Alliance, however, was not yet organized, and, with the young men culturally unprepared, the survivors returned to New York. Perhaps this disappointment is why Alliance leaders arranged for Dawley to work in India with experienced missionaries Marcus and Jennie Fuller. (Jenny Fuller, one of the most educated and articulate missionaries of the time, would gain acclaim as writer of The Wrongs of Indian Womanhood.) This association paid rich dividends for The Alliance. Soon 16 new missionaries were enthusiastically recruited. By the following year, there were 47 Alliance missionaries in India! The Alliance had not only gained outstanding leadership for its India mission but validation as a missionary force.

Simpson did not plan to form another denomination but rather an evangelical Alliance gathering together all “consecrated persons of both sexes—lay as well as clerical—without regard of denominational preferences.” He wrote the “Woman’s Commission” editorial near the end of two years of publishing the encyclopedic magazine The Gospel In All Lands. Hours of research had left him with an overwhelming burden for “the field”—some billion people, being evangelized by a paltry group of “reapers,” mostly restricted to seminary graduates. Was his plea for 100,000 women witnesses so startling? Simpson’s challenge was that “not only ministers, but all humble and devoted believers” “go” and “witness.”

Are you startled by a proposition that today’s mission field of 6.8 billion people will require the mobilization of every fully devoted disciple to go wherever God leads as a witness to His redeeming love through Jesus Christ?

Past Alliance Life Issues

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