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.”
SCRIPTURE TAKEN FROM THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®, COPYRIGHT ©1973, 1978, 1984 BY INTERNATIONAL BIBLE SOCIETY. USED BY PERMISSION OF ZONDERVAN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Here is a printable version of today’s missionary story about Samuel Zwemer.