Some time ago I ran across a re-telling of this story from Hudson Taylor on the interwebs. While searching for something simple but substantial to post here, I tracked down the original in Taylor’s own words thanks to archive.org. It’s a very compelling story about one particular man to whom he ministered physically and spiritually during his service in China.
Apparently, this fellow was a bit of a hard case. He had gangrene in his foot, and while he lived with a Christian family, he was violently hostile to any suggestion of Christianity. An attempt to bring a vicar to meet him ended with the man spitting on the vicar and yelling him out of the house. Eventually, his case was transferred to Hudson. For the first few days, Hudson reports that he concentrated solely on dressing the man’s foot properly. It was only after he had made progress and earned some gratitude from the man that he ventured to speak about Jesus. While the man didn’t react as violently as before, no doubt controlling himself because he still felt he owed something to Taylor, he wouldn’t budge either. All of Taylor’s attempts to share the gospel were met with sullen silence, as the man would literally turning his back on him at the end of each dressing session.
Thankfully, that was not the end of the story, and Taylor realized his words were indeed having an effect when he decided one day to give up, turning to go after wordlessly dressing the man’s wound. When he looked back before walking out the door, he saw the man staring at him in utter astonishment that he had broken the pattern. “He was never afterwards unwilling to be spoken to or prayed with, and within a few days he definitely accepted Christ as his Savior.” Though once convinced he would soon die, the man lived on for quite some time. In reflecting on the case, Hudson offers this meditation:
I have often thought since in connection with this case and the work of God generally of the words, ‘He that goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. Perhaps if we had more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire. Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our own feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of eternal things may be the true cause of our lack of success.
(Read the entire story in Taylor’s words from the 1911 biography In Early Years: The Growth of a Soul) here.
If I may add a closing thought, this story reminds me how much I detest it when atheists express discomfort or outright contempt for Christian doctor missionaries who preach the gospel in addition to offering medical care. They blather on about the insidiousness of preaching to “a captive audience.” Those Christian doctors, how dare they try to manipulate poor sick people at their most vulnerable!
It seems apparent that those who would voice such a sentiment are the truly poor and the truly sick. But, I’m sure that Hudson Taylor would have wept for them as well.