I have several family members and church members on the mission field in several different continents of the world. I often hear from from them that there is sometimes pressure felt within, or from without, to produce an abundant amount of conversions on the field.
Not all missionaries are in this type of pressure environment to produce "results," and I am confident that within the IMB, the Richmond administrative leadership diligently works keep that kind of pressure out of the field, but because of our Southern Baptist culture in general, or maybe even our American desire for instant success, this post is intended as an encouragement to missionaries not to fall into the trap of desiring instant results and to not question your calling to missions if conversions are difficult in your region.
William Carey spent seven years on the field, faithfully preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ without even so much as a hint of ONE conversion. According to George Smith, the biographer of Carey, for seven years Carey had faithfully and daily preached Christ in Bengali without a convert. He had produced the first edition of the New Testament. He had reduced the language to literary form. He had laid the foundations in the darkness of the pit of Hindooism, while the Northamptonshire pastors, by prayer and self-sacrifice, held the ropes.
An even greater disappointment than seven unfruitful years of gospel teaching came on 25th November 1800, when "the first Hindoo" catechumen (one whom Carey had personally instructed in the faith with the use of a catechism), a man by the name Fakeer, offered himself for baptism, but returned to the distant home of his childhood prior to his baptism, only to never return, probably "detained by force."
However, on the last Sunday of that same year (1800) Krishna Pal was baptised in the Hoogli and his whole family soon followed him. He was thirty-five years of age. Not only was he the first native Christian of North India of whom we have a reliable account, but he became himself the first missionary to Calcutta and Assam, and the first Bengali hymn-writer.
Carey's first Hindoo convert, Krishna Pal, was three years younger than himself, or about thirty-six, at baptism. Born in the neighbouring French settlement of Chandernagore, had settled in the suburbs of Serampore, where he worked as a carpenter. Sore sickness and a sense of sin led him to join the Ghospara sect of Buddhism.
He recovered from sickness, but could not shake off the sense of the burden of sin, when this message came to him, and, to his surprise, through the Europeans--"Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners."
At the same time he happened to dislocate his right arm by falling down the slippery side of his tank when about to bathe. He sent two of the children to the Mission House for Thomas, Carey's aide, who immediately left the breakfast table at which the brethren had just sat down, and soon reduced the luxation, while the sufferer again heard the good news that Christ was waiting to heal his soul. Krishna Pal and his neighbour Gokool received a Bengali tract.
He himself thus told the story:--"In this paper I read that he who confesseth and forsaketh his sins, and trusteth in the righteousness of Christ, obtains salvation. The next morning Mr. Carey came to see me, and after inquiring how I was, told me to come to his house, that he would give me some medicine, by which, through the blessing of God, the pain in my arm would be removed. I went and obtained the medicine, and through the mercy of God my arm was cured. From this time I made a practice of calling at the mission house, where Mr. Ward and Mr. Felix Carey used to read and expound the Holy Bible to me. One day Dr. Thomas asked me whether I understood what I heard from Mr. Ward and Mr. Carey. I said I understood that the Lord Jesus Christ gave his life up for the salvation of sinners, and that I believed it, and so did my friend Gokool. Dr. T. said, 'Then I call you brother--come and let us eat together in love.' At this time the table was set for luncheon, and all the missionaries and their wives, and I and Gokool, sat down and ate together."
The servants spread the news, most horrible to the people, that the two Hindoos had "become Europeans," and they were assaulted on their way home. Just thirty years after, in Calcutta, the first public breach of caste by the young Brahman students of Duff raised a still greater commotion, and resulted in the first converts there.
Krishna Pal and his wife, his wife's sister and his four daughters; Gokool, his wife, and a widow of forty who lived beside them, formed the first group of Christian Hindoos of caste in India north of Madras. Two years after Krishna Pal sent to the Society this confession of his faith. Literally translated, it is a record of belief such as Paul himself might have written, illustrated by an apostolic life of twenty-two years. The carpenter's confession and dedication has, in the original, an exquisite tenderness, reflected also in the hymn11 which he wrote for family worship:--
"SERAMPORE, 12th Oct. 1802.
"To the brethren of the church of our Saviour Jesus Christ, our souls' beloved, my affectionately embracing representation. The love of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, was made known by holy brother Thomas. In that day our minds were filled with joy. Then judging, we understood that we were dwelling in darkness. Through the door of manifestation we came to know that, sin confessing, sin forsaking, Christ's righteousness embracing, salvation would be obtained. By light springing up in the heart, we knew that sinners becoming repentant, through the sufferings of Christ, obtain salvation. In this rejoicing, and in Christ's love believing, I obtained mercy. Now it is in my mind continually to dwell in the love of Christ: this is the desire of my soul. Do you, holy people, pour down love upon us, that as the chatookee we may be satisfied.12 I was the vilest of sinners: He hath saved me. Now this word I will tell to the world. Going forth, I will proclaim the love of Christ with rejoicing. To sinners I will say this word: Here sinner, brother! Without Christ there is no help. Christ, the world to save, gave his own soul! Such love was never heard: for enemies Christ gave his own soul! Such compassion, where shall we get? For the sake of saving sinners he forsook the happiness of heaven. I will constantly stay near him. Being awakened by this news, I will constantly dwell in the town of joy. In the Holy Spirit I will live: yet in Christ's sorrow I will be sorrowful. I will dwell along with happiness, continually meditating on this;--Christ will save the world! In Christ not taking refuge, there is no other way of life. I was indeed a sinner, praise not knowing.--This is the representation of Christ's servant,
Seven years. One convert.
But what a convert he was.
In His Grace,