A missionary friend in this area I admire greatly (Kellee Boyd Cogdill) posted a link to this article about a missionary who served over a hundred years ago, and who felt he had failed totally in his seventeen year mission to the Congo. Seems, he was much more successful than he thought, even though he never learned of the trees that grew from the seeds that he planted. This is a good story for everyone, not just missionaries, and thanks to our fellow missionaries for keeping us in touch with ourselves. Our job when answering God’s call is not to produce numbers and fill reports with successful projects. Our job is to do what God has called us to do with what we have wherever we are. We will let God and history see what happens next. A medical missionary over a hundred years ago followed the call but thought he had failed. Here’s his story:
In 1912, medical missionary Dr. William Leslie went to live and minister to tribal people in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After seventeen years he returned to the U.S. a discouraged man – believing he failed to make an impact for Christ. He died nine years after his return.
But in 2010, a team led by Eric Ramsey with Tom Cox World Ministries made a shocking and sensational discovery. They found a network of churches hidden like glittering diamonds in the dense jungle where Dr. Leslie had been stationed.
“When we got in there, we found a network of churches throughout the jungle,” Ramsey reports. “Each village had its own gospel choir, although they wouldn’t call it that,” he notes. “They wrote their own songs and would have sing-offs from village to village.” They found a church in each of the eight villages they visited scattered across 34 miles. Ramsey and his team even found a 1000-seat stone “cathedral” in one of the villages. He learned that this church got so crowded in the 1980s – with many walking miles to attend — that a church planting movement began in the surrounding villages.
Apparently, Dr. Leslie spent each month traveling through the jungle, carried by servants in a sedan chair. “He would teach the Bible, taught the tribal children how to read and write, talked about the importance of education, and told Bible stories,” Ramsey notes. Dr. Leslie started the first organized educational system in these villages.
Born in Ontario, Canada, William H. Leslie followed his intended profession as a pharmacist until his conversion in 1888. He moved to the Chicago area, where God began to call him to become a medical missionary. Dr. Leslie initiated his Congo service in 1893 at Banza-Manteke. Two years later he developed a serious illness. A young missionary named Clara Hill took care of him until he recovered. Their budding friendship ripened into love and a marriage proposal. They were wed in 1896. They spent 17 years at Vanga, but their service ended on a rocky note. “Dr. Leslie had a relational falling out with some of the tribal leaders and was asked not to come back,” Ramsey says. “They reconciled later; there were apologies and forgiveness, but it didn’t end like he hoped.”
“His goal was to spread Christianity. He felt like he was there for 17 years and never really succeeded, but the legacy he left is huge.”
We are to plant the seeds God gives us. We won’t be around long enough to see if forests grow or not. Not our job. Our job is putting seeds in the ground, and we will do that till we die. God has something for you to do, too. The moral of the story above is that success is simply doing the tasks God assigns you. That’s all, but that’s more than enough.