Samuel Zwemer: Traveling Without GPS (Part Two)

Samuel Zwemer Traveling Without GPS (Part Two)

What would it be like to take a trip when you didn’t know where you were going and you didn’t have a map to follow to get there? When your family goes on an adventure, do you take a map? Maybe you use a GPS system to find your way. You do know where you are headed, though, right?

Samuel Zwemer, the missionary to Arabia our Sunday School teacher told us about last week, didn’t always know where he was going. When he was growing up, he lived in Michigan and Wisconsin. Then he traveled through Illinois and Ohio with his family on their way to New York. Later, he moved back to Michigan (but not to the same place he’d been born). He finished college while he was in Michigan and had a decision to make. He knew God wanted him to become a missionary, but he didn’t know where to go to seminary to learn to be a pastor. He prayed a lot and visited his father and some of his family. Finally, he decided he would go to seminary in New Jersey.

Off he went traveling again. He loved seminary in New Jersey and worked in New York City, Virginia, and other states while he was training to be a pastor. He prayed a lot about where God wanted him to go as a missionary. He finally decided that the land of Arabia was where God was sending him.

After he graduated seminary and became a pastor, he took a trip that would get him closer to his goal of reaching Arabia. His father and one of his brothers were going to travel to his father’s homeland in the Netherlands. Sam decided to join them and together, they sailed to England. They took a train to Edinburgh, Scotland, to meet with some people Sam needed to talk to about the mission work. Then it was on to the Netherlands.

Sam enjoyed getting to see the country his father had come from, but he knew he couldn’t stay there. God had called him to go to Arabia. He needed to meet one of his college friends who would be an important missionary partner. His friend had graduated from seminary a year earlier than Sam and had gone ahead to Beirut, Lebanon, to continue studying to be a missionary. So from the Netherlands, he sailed up the Rhine River to a city in Germany where he caught a train to go to Italy. From Italy he sailed to Lebanon.

In Beirut, he met with his missionary partner from college and prayed about where in Arabia to go. They visited cities in Egypt and continued to learn as much as they could that would help them be missionaries. At last, Sam knew where in Arabia God was sending him—Aden. It was a long journey through the Red Sea from Egypt to Aden, but Sam was excited and eager to go. The ship made many stops along the way, and Sam got to see the town of Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia; a port in Sudan; the new Italian colony of Eritrea; and finally, he landed in Aden.

He was twenty-three years old when he arrived in Aden, and he still didn’t know where exactly God would send him or what He would have him do. He didn’t have a map of his life in front of him, and he didn’t have a GPS to tell him if he took a wrong turn. But he knew God knew where he was going. He prayed and trusted God. He moved in the direction God led him, like Abraham heading to the Promised Land. God had told Abraham, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NIV).

Along the way, God led Sam to friends and coworkers who helped him find the next step. And God showed him that he was on the right road. I can’t wait to find out where Sam goes next!

“Dear God, sometimes adventures are fun; sometimes they can be scary. Please help us trust You to take care of us and show us where we need to be. Help us to pray and pay attention so we don’t take wrong turns. When we make mistakes, and don’t know where we are, help us to remember that You never lose sight of us even for a second. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”



Here is a printable version of today’s missionary story about Samuel Zwemer.

Samuel Zwemer: The Adventure Begins (Part One)

Samuel Zwemer The Adventure Begins

This morning in Sunday School, our teacher told us it was time to leave India and learn more about another part of the world. Today, we started learning about a boy named Samuel Zwemer, who was a missionary to the land of Arabia when he grew up. But the story didn’t start in Arabia. It started in Holland, where Sam’s parents were from.

Sam’s parents had taken the long and scary journey from Holland across the Atlantic Ocean when his mom and dad were engaged to be married. It was a dangerous trip, but God kept them safe and brought them to a new home in a new land. They lived New York, then later in Michigan, where Sam was born. The first home he remembered was his home in Wisconsin, where he lived until he was six years old.

I think Sam and I would have been friends if we’d gone to school together (which of course we couldn’t because he was born in 1867). Sam loved adventure, just like I do. He loved going to new places and meeting new people. He loved to imagine what might happen and dream about the things God might call him to do.

Our teacher only told us part of Sam’s story this morning. She said she’ll tell us more about him next week. So far, the thing I like the most about Sam is the way he knew God always had a plan. Some of the surprises that happened in his life were fun—like when he was six years old and he and his family got on a train in Wisconsin and moved all the way to Albany, New York. Some weren’t as much fun—like the months spent working with a threshing crew who threshed grain on farm after farm, all through the long, hot summer. Some were sad, like when his mother died when he was nineteen.

But Sam knew that God was always in control, even when things were scary or hard or sad. He remembered what Jesus said in Luke 12. Jesus said God doesn’t forget about a single bird, He won’t forget about us. We’re worth more than lots of birds! God even knows how many hairs we have on our heads. If He cares about such a tiny detail, won’t He also care about the big and important things that happen in our lives?  I’m going to pray and ask God to help me remember not to worry because He cares about everything that is happening in my life.

“Dear God, thank You for caring about me so much that You even know how many hairs are on my head right now. Help me trust You to make things always work out, whether things are fun like taking an adventure, or tough like a hard job, or even sad. Help me tell other people about Your love for them. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

Here is a printable version of today’s missionary story about Samuel Zwemer.

All Around India: Zamral

All Around India-Zamral

This morning, our Sunday School teacher told us this is our last day to explore India. We’re going to be learning about people in lots of other countries in the weeks coming up. So today, we visited the state of Madhya Pradesh. If you look at a map of India, you’ll find Madhya Pradesh right about in the middle of the country.

There are only a few thousand Zamral people living in India, and most of them live in Madhya Pradesh. Most of them do labor for others or move from place to place while they are looking for jobs. Some of them also make bamboo baskets to sell in the market.

Most of them cannot read. I would be sad if I couldn’t read, wouldn’t you? Can you imagine what it would be like to not be able to read your own name or write down a list of groceries? What would it be like to never read a single Bible verse?

I’m going to pray for the Zamral people. Will you pray with me?

“Dear God, one of the ways You show us who You are and teach us how to live is the Bible. But so many people, including the Zamral, can’t read it for themselves. Please help them hear about You and find out how much You love them. Help them understand that Jesus died to pay for the mistakes that every person on earth has ever made. Please help them learn that He is stronger than death and is alive forever and ever. Send them what they need in order to learn about You and to learn to read Your Word, the Bible. Please bless all the people of India and help each of them to trust You as Savior. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

All Around India: Yadav

All Around India-Yadav

Do you remember a few months ago when our Sunday School teacher told us all about life in the state of Bihar, India? She told us a little bit about the Yadav people then, because many of them live in Bihar. But today, she told us more about how they live and who they are.

The Yadav live in many of the states in India. In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, some are doctors and leaders among the people. But many of the Yadav have never heard of Jesus—not even once! Can you imagine what life would be like in a place where no one knows who Jesus is? When the people are sick, they try to make spirits happy and hope that one of them will help. When they are afraid, they have no one to trust and pray to. When they are sad, they don’t know that God is always in control and will one day make even the sad things fade away and make everything new and alive the way it was always meant to be.

I’m going to pray that every Yadav boy and girl, and all of their parents and families, hear about Jesus and learn to trust in Him. Will you pray with me?

“Dear God, I know that You love the Yadav people of India. I know that You care when they are sick, or sad, or afraid. Help them hear about You. Send people to tell them, and help the Yadav believe in You and trust You forever. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

All Around India: X Marks the Spot

All Around India-X Marks the Spot

If you found a treasure map with a big X on it, you would know what that X means–buried treasure! Today in Sunday School, our teacher showed us a map of the world with a big X on the land of India. She said that it was like looking at a treasure map. What kind of treasure can we find in India? I made a list of just some of what we can find there:

  • More than 2,500 different people groups
  • More than one billion people
  • More than 400 languages
  • Approximately 17,000 types of flowering plants
  • More than 1,200 different species of birds
  • Thousands of years of history

God loves every single person in India. To Him, each one is like a treasure, something to be worked hard for and found. He doesn’t want the people to try to hide from Him (even though you can never really hide from God–He always knows right where you are). He wants every one of them to search for and find Him. In the Bible, Jesus compared the kingdom of Heaven to a treasure in a field. When someone finds it, they will give up everything they have to get it.

God isn’t hiding from us. He is always here, loving us and wanting us to find Him. But we have to do one thing–we have to be looking for Him. We can’t just sit around and wait. If someone gave you a map to find a treasure, would you sit around and wait for the treasure to come find you? Of course not! You’d follow the map and find the treasure. God’s Word, the Bible, is our map. It tells us everything we need to know about God and His plan for us. But we have to be willing to follow it. I’m going to pray that everyone will follow God’s map and find the treasure He is waiting to give them. Will you pray with me?

“Dear God, thank You for not hiding from us. Thank You for loving us even more than treasure and for giving us the map we need to find the greatest treasure of all–You! Please help me and each person in India and all around the world, to follow the map and want to find You. Help us to trust You and know how much You love us. Help everyone to know that Jesus died for them and that He is alive now and wants everyone to know Him and live with Him forever. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

Sources:, Operation World by Jason Mandryk, Encyclopedia Britannica

All Around India: Weary

All Around India-Prayer for the Weary

This morning in Sunday School, our teacher told us we were going to learn about India in a different way than we usually do. She told us to imagine we lived far away from our families because God had told us that there were people He was calling us to go tell about Jesus. So we went like He said. But when we got there, things didn’t work out the way we thought they would. The people didn’t want to hear about Jesus. Some listened quietly but they didn’t believe. Other people got mad. One person tried to hit us! How would we feel?

I thought about that. I’d feel sad. Maybe angry. And I would feel confused. Why would God tell us to go somewhere when He knew the people wouldn’t listen?

Then our teacher told us to imagine that we lived like this for months and even years. All that work. All that sadness. All that prayer. But none of it seemed to matter. We would feel weary–tired and ready to give up.

There are missionaries and Christians all over India who want nothing more than to see people believe in Jesus. They pray and they work hard. Some of them are far away from their families. Some of them are treated badly by the people they want to help. And they get tired. But Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” God knows a lot more than we do. He knows why things happen the way they do, even when we don’t understand. And He knows everything that will happen as a result of us doing what He tells us to do, even when it doesn’t work out the way we thought it would or takes a long time.

When Jesus came to show people what God is like and to tell them how much He loved them, some people didn’t believe. He worked very hard; He got tired. He even suffered and died for them! But He didn’t give up. And because He didn’t give up, but kept working and doing what God had sent Him to do, some people did believe in Him. And people today are still learning and believing in Him.

I’m going to pray for the weary workers in India today. Will you pray with me?

“Dear God, thank You for the Christians in India who are working hard to tell others about You. Please help them not to be weary or give up. Help them remember that You are so much bigger and smarter than we can imagine. Help us believe that when You tell us to do something, You have a good reason, even when things don’t make sense to us at the time. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

All Around India: Vaddar, Viswakarma, and Vakkaliga

All Around India-Vaddar, Viswakarma, and Vakkaliga

I could hardly believe what our Sunday School teacher told us this morning. Did you know there are more than 30 different people groups who live in India whose name starts with the letter V? V is a letter you don’t see every day. I mean, there are violins and victories, there are people named Victor or Victoria. But today I learned about three more words to add to that list—the Vaddar, the Viswakarma, and the Vakkaliga.

The Vaddar live in many different states of India. They work many different types of job, but all of the jobs are hard. They dig wells, cut stones, and do the jobs no one else wants to do. A lot of people don’t want to talk to the Vaddar or be around them. They treat them as untouchables.

The Viswakarma also live in lots of different states of India, but most of them live very differently from the Vaddar. Many of the Viswakarma are known for building things like temples or creating beautiful artwork by hand.

The Vakkaliga is another group that is spread out over India, but most of them live in Karnataka state. They are known for raising animals and growing things. But one thing that has been slow to grow among the Vakkaliga is the understanding of who Jesus is.

Even though they live in lots of different places and have many different jobs, there is one thing that the Vaddar, the Viswakarma, and the Vakkaliga all have in common. Very few of them know that Jesus loves them and that He died for them. I’m going to pray for all of them right now. Will you join me?

“Dear God, I just learned about many people who don’t know about You. I am glad that You already know every single one of them. You know all their names and where they live; You know what they do and what they need. Help each of them see that what they need most of all is You. Help them hear about Jesus and believe how much You love them. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

If you’d like to read more about the people groups of India, with a parent’s permission, check out Joshua Project.

Click here if you’d like to print this page about the Vaddar, the Viswakarma, and the Vakkaliga.

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