Part 13: American Board Organized
This is a reprint of The Haystack Prayer Meeting. It was written by Edward Warren Capen, PH.D. president of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, now Global Ministries, and published as one of the 1906 Envelope Series. Subscribers paid 10 cents per year for the series.
PLEASE NOTE: This piece was written in 1906 and therefore reflects the language of that time.
The next task was that of arousing the churches to support a new forward movement. To this end The Brethren reprinted and circulated missionary sermons and books, spent their vacations with clergymen whom they might interest in their projects, and in every way called the attention of ministers and laymen to the needs of the field. While they had kept their organization secret because of modesty and the fear of exciting opposition by their proposals, they soon found that there were those already impressed with the need of action, though perhaps somewhat slow to take the initiative. Judson, in his impatience at delay, had written to the London Missionary Society to inquire if they would send out several young men from America; yet it was in accordance with the advice of such men as Rev. Samuel Worcester of Salem, Rev. Samuel Spring of Newburyport, and Jeremiah Evarts, Esq., of Charlestown, that on Thursday afternoon, June 28, 1810, four young men, Judson, Nott, Mills, and Newell, appeared before the Massachusetts General Association in session at Bradford and presented their statement and inquiries. Providential it was that seven years before the conservative and missionary ministers of Massachusetts had formed this organization, and that to it were sent that year some of those who had long been desirous of seeing the American churches support representatives across the seas. The appeal of the young men met with a ready response, and on the following day the association appointed nine commissioners to constitute the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and to devise measures by which the four applicants might be supported in foreign lands. A little less than two years later, three of the four applicants, with two others, actually sailed for the East, while Mills devoted the few remaining years of his life to exploring possible mission fields, arousing Christians to their responsibilities, and inspiring the organization of various missionary and benevolent societies. He died in 1818 while returning from Africa whither he had gone to secure a location for a Christian settlement for American Negroes.
Thus the whole history of the Congregational churches prepared the way for the answering of the prayers around the haystack; the young men there gathered and their friends were used of God to arouse into activity the dormant, though real, foreign missionary spirit of the church; and history has justified the sublime faith of the young man who declared to his college mates in an obscure college, in a remote New England town, “We can do it if we will.” The modern missionary movement in America may truthfully be said to have had its birth upon the spot where was held: THE HAYSTACK PRAYER MEETING.