It was a warm, windy afternoon on the east coast of China. A
breeze rippled the blue waters of the China Sea into little
waves that lapped against the muddy shore.
Here and there, boats bobbed on the waves. There were tiny
letter-boats, which darted swiftly along, paddled by two
There were sampans, houseboats where whole families lived and
worked and slept in small cabins under the sail. There were
little fishing boats, full of dark-winged cormorants with rings
around their necks, trained to catch fish for their masters.
Down a little farther along the coastline was a larger fishing
boat, where half a dozen men worked with their net. Biggest of
all, though, was the hong-boat, a Chinese passenger junk.
As the brawny boat man stood at his tiller, guiding the ship,
his passengers sat comfortably under the shelter of the awnings
drinking tea and chatting with one another.
At first glance, all of the passengers appeared to be Chinese,
too. But a closer look showed that two of the men, though
dressed in Chinese clothing and speaking Chinese, were
certainly white men. Hudson Taylor, one of the two missionaries,
was talking earnestly with the Chinese gentleman beside him.
“You say you have heard the story of Jesus, and you think it
sounds like a good teaching,” said Hudson Taylor. “But it is not
enough to think on Jesus in your mind! You need Jesus in your
heart, my friend.”
Tears stood in the eyes of the Chinese man. “I must have more
time to think of these things,” he murmured. “I am not yet ready
to decide. I will listen to you preach when we arrive at
“I can see Sungkiang up ahead!” called John Jones, the other
missionary. Several of the passengers stood up to look.
Sungkiang was a large city and there were crowds of people to be
seen on the shore, streaming toward its gates.
“I’m going down into the cabin, to get our tracts and books
ready,” Hudson told his fellow missionary. “We will soon have a
chance to preach for many people!”
Hudson Taylor was just opening the boxes of Gospel tracts which
he carried, when suddenly he heard a tremendous splash and a
scream. Dashing out of the cabin, he sprang back onto the main
deck. “What happened?” he asked.
“That man fell overboard!” the other missionary cried. “The man
you were just witnessing to! I don’t think he can swim; most of
these people can’t.”
The other Chinese on the boat stood looking helplessly over the
edge. Would no one even try to save the drowning man?
“Stop the boat!” exclaimed Hudson. He struck down the sail, and
leaped overboard into the deep water. The Chinese man had sunk
from sight, and the missionary was not sure where to find him.
Diving repeatedly below the surface, he searched frantically for
the man in the murky water.
“I must find him!” Hudson gasped as he came up for air. “He was
not ready to believe in Jesus, so he isn’t ready to die!”
Shaking away the water that streamed into his eyes, Hudson saw
the hulk of the large fishing boat approaching. That net! he
thought. The net would find him!
“Hey!” he shouted, beckoning to the men on the fishing boat.
“Come quickly and let down your net over this spot! There is a
man drowning here!”
The Chinese fishermen stared at him. “It’s not convenient,” one
“Don’t talk of convenience!” cried Hudson, horrified. “A man
is drowning, I tell you!”
“We are busy fishing,” another man told him with a scowl. “We
cannot come, we would lose a lot of time!”
“Never mind your fishing!” Hudson called desperately. “I will
give you more money than many days’ fishing would bring. Only
“How much money will you give us?” a fisherman asked, interested
“I will give you five dollars,” promised Hudson, knowing that
the fishermen seldom saw such a large sum in those days. “Only
come, before it is too late!”
“We won’t do it for that,” responded the fishermen. “Give us
twenty dollars, and we will drag with our net.”
“I don’t have that much!” cried Hudson in agony. “I only have
about fourteen dollars, but I will give you all of it! Please
come at once!”
Finally the fishermen paddled their boat over, and the net was
let down. In less than a minute the body of the missing man was
brought up and dropped upon the deck of the hong-boat. He lay
very still. Was it too late?
“Give us our money!” “Pay us what you promised!” clamored the
fishermen, but Hudson knelt first over the body of the man he
had tried to save. Vainly he tried to resuscitate the drowned
man, but it was no use. Life had already fled.
Rising to his feet, the dripping wet missionary looked sternly
at the fishermen. “Here is your money,” he said. His voice was
sad. “I will pay you as I promised. But if only you had come at
once when I called! This man’s life could probably have been
After changing into dry clothes, the weary missionary lay
shivering with the strain and shock of what he had just seen.
Those fishermen were guilty of a man’s death, he thought. All
because they were too busy fishing! They would not leave their
fishing even to save a life!
In the stillness, a new thought came to Hudson Taylor. Those
Chinese fishermen were cruel and heartless. But how many
Christians are no better? How many Christians have no time to go
tell others about Jesus? They will not try to save dying souls,
because they are too busy with their own lives . . . too busy
Hudson bowed his head. “Lord, help me,” he prayed. “Help me to
bring the Gospel to as many Chinese people as I can, since You
have called me to this country. I pray that You will speak to
other Christians everywhere, that they must obey Your command to
bring the Gospel to all!”
James Hudson Taylor was born in England in 1832. His
parents, before his birth, promised the Lord that their son
should be a missionary for China. As a young man, Hudson
studied to be a doctor, then sailed to China at the age of
21. For the next fifty years he was active in mission work,
mostly in China.
Hudson Taylor has been called “the father
of modern missions”. Full of the Holy Spirit and faith, he
was a man of great self-denial and dedication. Hundreds of
thousands of Chinese people found the Lord through his
witness. Hudson Taylor was the founder of the China Inland
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