10 Inspiring Christian Missionaries You Need to Know

10 Inspiring Christian Missionaries You Need to Know

There are no other books that have captivated me, inspired me, and helped me form a philosophy of life and ministry than that of missionary biographies – the true life accounts of men and women who have given their all for the sake of the gospel. My prayer is that God will give me a heart that, in some way, mirrors the hearts of these brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let me introduce you to a few of these missionaries!

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  • 1. Elisabeth Elliot

    1. Elisabeth Elliot

    I have one desire now - to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” - Elisabeth Elliot

    Elisabeth Elliot was married to missionary/martyr, Jim Elliot, who was killed while attempting to make missionary contact with the Auca Indians in Ecuador.

    After her husband’s death, she spent two years as a missionary to the very tribe who killed her husband.  She then returned to the United States after many years in South America and traveled the country sharing about all that God had done in her missionary experiences. She also wrote numerous books that inspired women in holy living and Biblical womanhood.

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  • 2. Jim Elliot

    2. Jim Elliot

    Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” - Jim Elliot

    Jim Elliot moved to Ecuador with the purpose of sharing the gospel with the unreached tribe called the Quechua. After he and four fellow missionaries made contact with these Indians, they were approached by a group of warriors who killed Jim Elliot and his four companions. Their bodies were eventually found downstream.

    He believed that the work he had been called to was more important than his own life.

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  • 3. John and Betty Stam

    3. John and Betty Stam

    When we consecrate ourselves to God, we think we are making a great sacrifice, and doing lots for Him, when really we are only letting go some little trinkets we have been grabbing, and when our hands are empty, He fills them full of His treasures.” - Betty Stam

    John and Betty Stam were missionaries to China during the Chinese Civil War. The Communists overran the city where they lived and arrested John. They later came back and took Betty and 3-month-old daughter, Helen. They were then forced to march down the street to meet their deaths. A Chinese shopkeeper tried to persuade them not to kill the Stams. The soldiers ordered the man back into the crowd, and then invaded his house where they found a Chinese copy of the Bible and a hymnbook. He was led alongside the Stams and, along with the Stams, was beheaded for being a Christian in 1934. 

    In a note that had been hidden in baby Helen’s clothes, John explained how he and his wife had been captured, then wrote, "Philippians 1:20: 'May Christ be glorified whether by life or death.'"

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  • 4. Amy Carmichael

    4. Amy Carmichael

    We profess to be strangers and pilgrims, seeking after a country of our own, yet we settle down in the most un-stranger-like fashion, exactly as if we were quite at home and meant to stay as long as we could.” - Amy Carmichael

    Amy Carmichael was a missionary who served in India for 55 years with no furlough.

    Amy worked with girls and young women who were saved from forced prostitution in the Hindu temple. Temple children were dedicated to gods to earn money for the priests. Eventually, a home was added for young boys, many born to the former temple prostitutes.

    Amy was known for dressing in Indian clothes, dying her skin, and traveling long distances to save just one child.  While serving in India, Amy received a letter from a young lady who asked, "What is missionary life like?" Amy’s answer was the following, "Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”

    Her example inspired others, including Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, to pursue the missionary life.

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  • 5. Isabel Kuhn

    5. Isabel Kuhn

    “I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelize all the yet unreached tribes of the earth. It is not God who does not call. It is man who will not respond!” - Isobel Kuhn

    Isobel Kuhn, along with her husband, John, served for 24 years as missionaries to China and Northern Thailand. They worked as Bible translators, church planters, Bible teachers, and evangelists. Isobel wrote nine books about their experiences. 

    In 1950, the communist revolution in China forced them to leave the country and to put their missionary life on hold for two years. The Kuhns then continued their ministry among another people group, this time in northern Thailand.

    Isobel held classes during the country’s agricultural down-time, not only to share the gospel, but also to teach the Lisu the basics of the Christian faith. From these classes, countless men became evangelists and pastors, and carried the gospel throughout China.

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  • 6. Helen Roseveare

    6. Helen Roseveare

    If you think you have come to the mission field because you are a little better than others, or as the cream of your church, or because of your medical degree, or for the service you can render, or even for the souls you may see saved, you will fail. Remember, the Lord has only one purpose ultimately for each one of us, to make us more like Jesus. He is interested in your relationship with Himself. Let Him take you and mold you as He will; all the rest will take its rightful place.” - Helen Roseveare

    Helen Roseveare was a missionary and doctor. She worked within the Congo, from 1953 to 1973. She practiced and taught medicine.  In 1953, she went to the Congo, where she built a combination hospital and training center. She then relocated to live in an old leprosy camp, where she built another hospital. While in the Congo, rebel forces captured her and held her prisoner for 5 months. During that time she endured beatings and rapes.

    She left the Congo after her release but returned to help establish a new medical school and hospital, as the hospitals she had built years beforehand had been destroyed.

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  • 7. Hudson Taylor

    7. Hudson Taylor

    There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” - Hudson Taylor

    Hudson Taylor was a missionary who spent 51 years in China. He was the founder of the China Inland Mission, now OMF International. He was known for his sensitivity to Chinese culture and zeal for spreading the gospel. He has been referred to as one of the most significant Europeans to visit China in the 19th century. His mission was responsible for bringing over 800 missionaries to the country. These Missionaries began 125 schools that directly resulted in 18,000 Christian conversions.

    Ruth Tucker, a biographical historian, said this about Hudson Taylor: “No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.”

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  • 8. George Müller

    8. George Müller

    Money is really worth no more than as it can be used to accomplish the Lord's work. Life is worth as much as it is spent for the Lord's service.” - George Muller 

    George Muller cared for 10,024 orphans during his lifetime and provided them with educational opportunities. He established 117 schools which offered Christian education to more than 120,000. His work with orphans began when he and his wife prepared their own home to accommodate 30 girls. Not long after, they prepared 3 more houses for boys and younger children, eventually increasing the capacity for caring for children to 130.

    As this ministry continued to grow, it was decided that a separate building designed to house 300 children was necessary. Eventually the children were being accommodated in 5 homes.

    George Müller is known for being a man who never asked for financial support and did not go into debt.  He prayed daily that God would move in the hearts of people who would be willing to help provide for the orphans. He relied solely on God for all of his needs. He spent hours in daily prayer and Bible reading, and it was his practice in later years to read through the entire Bible four times a year.

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  • 9. Mary Slessor

    9. Mary Slessor

    Prayer is the greatest power God has put into our hands for service. Praying is harder than doing, at least I find it so, but the dynamic lies that way to advance the Kingdom.” - Mary Slessor

    Mary Slessor was a missionary to Nigeria, where she learned and taught the local language. Due to her understanding of the language and her bold personality, she was trusted and accepted by the locals and was able to spread Christianity while promoting women's rights and protecting native children.

    She is most famous for having stopped the common practice of infanticide of in southeastern Nigeria. The birth of twins was considered to be an evil curse, so people often abandoned babies. She saved hundreds of twins out of the bush, where they had been left either to starve to death or be eaten by animals. Mary adopted every child she found abandoned and made sure they were protected and cared for at the Mission House. She once saved a pair of twins, but the boy did not survive, so she adopted the girl as her daughter.

    Mary Slessor went to many tribes, spreading the gospel. 

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  • 10. William Carey

    10. William Carey

    I feel that it is good to commit my Soul, my Body, and my all into the Hands of God, Then the World appears little, the Promises great; and God an all sufficient Portion.” - William Carey

    William Carey was a missionary, minister, translator, social reformer and cultural anthropologist. He spent 41 years in India without a furlough. He has been referred to as the "father of modern missions” and as "India's first cultural anthropologist."  He translated the Bible into several different languages, and his teaching, translations, writings, educational establishments, and influence in social reform are said to have “marked the turning point of Indian culture from a downward to an upward trend.” (The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of a Culture by Vishal Mangalwadi, Ruth Mangalwadi)

    William Carey saw the country of India not as a foreign country to be exploited, but as his heavenly Father’s land to be loved and saved.

    May the lives of these men and women inspire you as they have me, and may we live our lives in the same sacrificial way that they have modeled for us, that God might use us in our daily mission field.

    "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." (C.T. Studd)

    Gina Smith and her husband have served on a Christian college campus as the on-campus parents for over 20 years. They have lived on the campus where they homeschooled and raised both of their children. In her spare time she loves to write and recently authored her first book, “Grace Gifts: Practical Ways To Help Your Children Understand God's Grace." She also writes at her personal blog: ginalsmith.com.

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