Faith & Life

Hudson Taylor’s Last Bag of Rice

Bag Of RiceHudson Taylor faced a lot of difficult situations during his years in China. During one incident in 1859, he was in charge of a local hospital that was caring for hundreds of patients a day, including dozens of in-patients they had to feed.

The hospital was expensive to run, but Hudson Taylor had no regular source of income to meet those costs. His mission agency, the Chinese Evangelisation Society, kept promising money and just not sending any.

As you can imagine, this put him (and the dozens of patients relying on him for food each day) in a very precarious position. They tried to make things last as long as possible, but eventually they ran out of money. It got to the point where Hudson realised they were down to their very last bag of rice, which wouldn’t last long having to feed so many people. Once it ran out, they had no way to provide for them.

A Hidden Hand

But amazingly, the very next day Hudson received a letter from England containing £50, which is the equivalent of about $10,000 today. More than enough to buy a bit more rice!

It was from a man named William Berger, who included a letter explaining that his father had died and left him an inheritance. He didn’t want to spend the extra money on himself, since he had more than enough, and wanted it to be used for kingdom purposes. So he sent through the £50, already a substantial sum, and he asked if Hudson could profitably use more!

And over the years, as his mission agency continually failed to provide for him, it was the generosity of this one man William Berger that enabled Hudson not only to survive in these early difficult years in China, but to keep doing effective gospel ministry.

William Berger
William & Mary Berger

In God’s providence Hudson had an enormous impact and ended up profoundly influencing literally millions of people in the cause of Christ. But without the hidden hand of William Berger supporting him, none of that would have been possible!

William Berger was a successful businessman who recognised that his wealth gave him a strategic opportunity to resource gospel ministry. And that’s what he did, generously supporting not only Hudson Taylor but many other missionaries as well.

Another missionary once said this about William Berger, “He was one of the finest men I ever met in my life… He was a godly, prayerful man who really walked with God and loved his Bible… At one time he gave up his business and retired, but later took it up again simply that he might support more missionary work.”

And it’s amazing when you read not just the life of Hudson Taylor but heaps of other missionaries as well, so often there’s an individual who has been unable to go as a missionary themselves, but they are gospel-minded, they are mission-minded, God has blessed them with wealth, and God has blessed them with a generous heart.

And they make possible the ministries of people like Hudson Taylor.

What About Today?

And I think that’s a huge encouragement for us. If for whatever reason we can’t be on the front lines ourselves, we can play the role of people like William Berger, and be that hidden hand behind the scenes to enable gospel ministry. To be generous with our finances and generous with our time in prayer.

The Bible describes Christians as being a body (1 Corinthians 12), with different body parts working together playing different and complementary roles. The Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20) is the responsibility of all Christians, but there are many different and complementary roles that different Christians will play.

And one of those roles is carried out by people like William Berger – and many men and women like him today – who God uses to strategically resource gospel ministry, to make it possible and to multiply its impact, so that more people will come to know Jesus.

Is that one of the ways that God might use you?

2 thoughts on “Hudson Taylor’s Last Bag of Rice

  1. Ben, helpful perspective, thank you. As one who can be regarded as someone who can (and does) resource others, my challenge is that I feel I’d like to be closer to the action, but I recognize that stopping work will reduce my “fundraising” capacity. There’s an interesting tension here, and it’s excellent food for thought.

    1. Interesting insight – that is a real tension! Sounds like that is a tricky one to navigate, though on the upside I reckon it’s the right tension to feel (i.e., if someone was happy to resource others but had no desire to be doing the work themselves, there would be a problem).

      It’s also worth noting that while William Berger was active in resourcing gospel work overseas, he was also passionate about making disciples in his own sphere. He organised Bible studies for the workers in his factories, as well as being involved in personal evangelism / discipleship. I omitted the full quote for the sake of space, but when the other missionary is speaking about William Berger [the quote in bold in the blog post], he also notes that “…He had been the means of the conversion of a number of people in the neighbourhood.” (i.e. he was also active making disciples in his own neighbourhood as well as resourcing gospel work elsewhere).

      It’s impossible to say for sure, but I wonder if he wrestled with the same tension.

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