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At the dawn of the new century, work expanded through schools, seminaries, hospitals and publishing houses. In Asia, community centers helped missionaries form natural relationships that led to witnessing opportunities.

1900s Overview

At the beginning of the 20th century — almost 60 years into its history — the Foreign Mission Board was still overwhelmingly a China missions agency. Although personnel served in Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Japan, roughly 50 percent of Southern Baptist missionaries were in China. In 1903 the FMB enlarged by appointing its first missionaries to Argentina.

Ministry in the 1900s also expanded through institutions such as schools, seminaries and publishing houses. Doctor T.W. Ayers established the first Southern Baptist mission hospital, Warren Memorial Hospital, in China in 1903. The FMB also began regularly appointing nurses, including Jessie Pettigrew, the first FMB nurse. Other medical personnel served at a thriving mission station in Nigeria.

Women educated at the Woman’s Missionary Union Training Center in Kentucky started community centers throughout China, Japan and other nations. As women and children attended tutoring programs, exercise gyms and parenting classes, female missionaries developed deep relationships that allowed them to naturally share the gospel.

The first around-the-world trip by an FMB leader occurred in 1907 and 1908. As Robert J. Willingham sailed around the globe, his visits to multiple countries increased his fervency for getting the gospel to millions of people living without the hope of Christ.

IMB Milestones

Significant Ministry Events

First Southern Baptist Mission Hospital Opened

The first Southern Baptist mission hospital, Warren Memorial Hospital, opened in Hwanghsien, China. The building was financed by First Baptist Church of Macon, Georgia, and named after their former pastor, Dr. Ebenezer W. Warren.

Warren Memorial Hospital, China

Executive Leader Embarked on First World Tour

Robert J. Willingham began the first around-the-world tour by a Foreign Mission Board leader. His visits to multiple mission stations broadened his passion for missions as he experienced firsthand the vast lostness and the stark realities of missionary life.

Willingham World Tour

Missions in Context

Major World Events

Boxer Rebellion Opposed Foreign Influence in China 

In opposition to increasing foreign influence in China, a secret society called Boxers began attacking outsiders, including Christian missionaries, eventually with the support of the Qing Dynasty. More than 200 missionaries from various groups and over 32,000 Chinese Christians were killed during the uprising. Many Foreign Mission Board missionaries were evacuated during this period, including Lottie Moon, who moved to Japan from July 1900 to April 1901.


Ford Motor Company Incorporated 

The Ford Motor Company was founded by Henry Ford. Ford’s Model T debuted in 1908, and to make the car more affordable to the public, Ford developed the assembly line, effectively dropping the price from $850 to under $300 in 1925. George Green, innovative missionary to Nigeria, bought a 1920 Model T (along with petrol, spare parts and an extra wheel) to use in Ogbomosho. The money for these purchases was raised by First Baptist Church of Petersburg, Virginia, and First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia.

Ford Motor Company

Wright Brothers Accomplished First Airplane Flight 

Wilbur Wright made the first successful airplane flight on the beaches of North Carolina. This invention by Wilbur and his brother Orville, bicycle shop owners from Ohio, changed the way people traveled around the world. John Lake was the first documented FMB missionary to fly in an airplane, when he flew from Macau in 1920 looking for a place to establish a leper colony.

1903 - Wright Brothers #1 (Wikimedia commons)

U.S. Completed Construction of Panama Canal 

A new canal, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, significantly shortened travel time by ship. Before its construction, ships had to sail around the southern tip of South America to reach the other ocean.

Panama Canal

Missionary Profiles

Honoring Faithful Service

Dr. George Green and Lydia Green

Best friends and newlyweds, George and Lydia walked across the threshold of their first mission house, dripping.

circa 1910

George and Minnie Lacy

How does a couple survive the loss of five children in just 15 days?

George and Minnie Lacy

Dr. T.W. Ayers

At 42, T.W. Ayers was already a successful businessman and doctor, a prolific journalist, and father of seven. He was involved in his church and state convention, but he couldn’t forget his call to foreign missions at 24.

Dr. Thomas Wilburn Ayers

God at Work

Stories From The Field

Interactive Map: Journey to the Orient

In September 1907, Foreign Mission Board executive leader Robert J. Willingham embarked with his wife on a seven-month journey across the world to visit Southern Baptist mission stations. Though initially reluctant to undertake such an extended absence, Robert eventually considered the trip a blessing and returned with a renewed enthusiasm and burden for evangelism and missions.


Timid Church-Goer Leads Daughter to Christ in Italy

Signor X. is one of the members of our Rome church, who has been connected with it almost from the beginning, and he has disappointed us in the pleasantest way; for he was so timid and cold in his manners, and had married into such a bigoted family that he did not seem to feel that his soul was his own, so that we scarcely dared to hope that he would remain true to his profession. ...



Journey Around the World

R.J. Willingham's journey around the world set the precedent for future presidents to travel overseas to encourage missionaries.

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