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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
George and Minnie Lacy
How does a couple survive the loss of five children in just 15 days?
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.
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.
In the 1900s, the gospel spread throughout Italy through the work of Baptist evangelists in multiple towns and cities. Dozens were baptized each year despite the opposition of parish priests.Wikimedia Commons
Only a handful of families, including John McCollum and family in Fukuoka and Ernest Walne and family in Nagasaki, served as missionaries in Japan in the early 1900s.IMB Photo
Successful Southern Baptist missionary efforts in Japan inspired adherents of Buddhism and Shintoism to adopt similar tactics to spread their religion: organizing young people, sending out missionaries, and opening schools, hospitals and preaching points.IMB Photo
Calder and Bessie Willingham served in Japan from 1902 (the year they married) to 1907. Calder, the son of third FMB executive leader R.J. Willingham, resigned after Bessie's death in 1907, but he was reappointed to Japan with his second wife in 1911. He died of the Spanish flu in 1918.IMB Photo
Missionaries R.E. Chambers and John Lake embark on a journey to "Hakka country" in China. In 1899, a Chinese pastor reported 257 baptisms and 400 to 500 church members among the Hakka people.IMB Photo
William Sears and his children Mary and George (pictured here), lost their wife and mother, Effie, when she died of scarlet fever in P’ingtu, China, in 1904. More than 700 Chinese attended her funeral. William, the first pastor of P’ingtu Baptist Church, remained in China until his death in 1922. His daughter, Mary, continued the Sears’ legacy as a missionary with her husband, Frank Connely, in China from 1916 to 1951, when they were forced to leave. They served in Japan until Frank died in 1956 and Mary returned to the U.S.IMB Photo
David Herring and his second wife Alice, who was from Australia, served in China with their six children from 1907 to 1929. Their two youngest children, Alex and Mary, became FMB missionaries in China themselves. David also served in China with his first wife and their four children; sadly, Maggie and three of the children died. For a time, David resigned from the FMB to join the Gospel Mission Movement.IMB Photo
James Chastain and his wife Lillian, appointed in 1888, served in Mexico for 30 years. They remained there throughout most of the Mexican Revolution. In 1918 they transferred to Cuba, where James edited a newspaper for Cuban Baptists.IMB Photo
Lottie Moon taught English at a Japanese commercial school from July 1900 to April 1901 when she left China during the Boxer Rebellion.IMB Photo