#115 William Carey

“Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”

What is it with missionaries and quotes? Or maybe it’s more of a reflection on my memory than anything else. (I’m probably not alone in that).

The above sentence is the William Carey quote. I’m sure he said a bunch of other great stuff, but that’s the sentence that everyone always pulls out.

Plenty of people refer to Carey as the father of modern mission. Personally, I feel like he was also the linguist of modern mission. I believe (if I’ve counted correctly) he translated The Bible or parts of it into 35 different languages!

He was living in India and I’ve taught enough Indian students to know they’ve got a few different languages and dialects in the country (But 35!! Seriously, that is amazing.) As an educator he also translated other texts that don’t any have religious association eg. dictionaries.

And all this coming from a man who was originally a shoemaker. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a shoemaker, but his amazing polyglot achievements don’t usually get linked with the profession (I’m never going to think about a shoemaker in the same way again…).

In 1792, he founded a mission society and preached a sermon that included his famous quote, which is probably why it gets trotted out so often when his name is mentioned.

OK, stop the press… I just read up on Carey some more and at least one website claims that he translated sections of The Bible into 209 other languages and dialects. Is that a typo??

There are apparently 19,500 languages or dialects in India today, so it’s well and truly possible.

Oh. My… and I was awed by 35. My half-baked attempts at Mandarin and Year 10 level French are just embarrassing now…

Did Carey have the gift of speaking in tongues…?? (I’m only half-joking on that)

Not that I have any idea when he actually managed to do it, but when he wasn’t learning languages, translating and educating people, he used his spare time to achieve social reform. Christianity Today lists that this “included the abolition of infanticide, widow burning (sati), and assisted suicide.”

Much like Amy Carmichael, he went for 41 years without ever taking a break.

Interestingly, he only had 700 people convert to Christianity as a result of his time in India. His translation work is phenomenal (and we can’t do everything) but I’m left wondering how many more he might have converted had he spent less time learning and translating languages.

(Am I allowed to say that…??)

His work was incredible but there are millions in India.

Yet, I know the correct perspective is that even if there’s only one person who believes in the faith, then that’s cause enough to celebrate. And now I should probably open up my Duolingo app and improve my very basic Mandarin.

Yours in English,


Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

One thought on “#115 William Carey

  1. Pingback: #117 Jim & Elisabeth Elliot – bible'n'god

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