Missions History: Samuel Zwemer


“The history of missions is the history of answered prayer. It is the key to the whole mission problem. All human means are secondary.” 

-Samuel Marinus Zwemer

In 1867, a Reformed Church pastor and his wife welcomed their thirteenth child. It was a son, and they named him Samuel. Just like the Biblical Samuel, his mother dedicated his life to the Lord’s work. As she placed tiny Samuel into his cradle, the mother whispered a prayer that he might someday become a missionary. Twenty-three years later, her prayers were answered when Samuel sailed for a foreign mission field. 

Here is the inspiring story of Samuel Marinus Zwemer.

Call to Missions

After accepting Christ as Saviour at a young age, Samuel felt God’s call to ministry. He attended Hope College, and, in his senior year, Robert Wilder of the Student Volunteer Movement visited his campus. Silhouetted in front of a map of India, Wilder preached about the great need for evangelization. He set up a metronome in front of the map, and each tick represented the death of someone in India who had never heard of Christ. 

Overwhelmed with a desire to go, Samuel rushed up to the front of the classroom. He quickly signed the decision card, which read, “God helping me, I purpose to be a foreign missionary.” God would fulfil this desire, but He would lead young Samuel to a far different field than India. At our Baptist church in Cape Breton, we believe that missions are essential to God’s plan, and we support several missionaries.

The Arabian Mission

After graduating from Hope College, Samuel enrolled in New Brunswick Seminary. In his spare time, he served in evangelism and learned all he could about medicine. He also preached his first sermon to a black congregation in New Brunswick, New Jersey. 

One memorable moment occurred when he was assisting the missionary doctor William Wanless. Samuel liked to attach Scripture verses to each vial of medicine they gave out. However, one patient returned to the clinic in a state of great agitation. The verse on his medicine bottle had read, “Prepare to meet thy God!” (Amos 4:12)

During his first year, Samuel and James Cantine, a fellow student, began to discuss their plans for the future. Samuel said, “You know, we must get something definite under way. I propose that you and I offer ourselves to go to some needy field and possibly start a new work.” Soon, these eager young men began planning. They selected the field of Arabia as the most challenging one they could think of. They claimed the prayer of Abraham in Genesis 17:18, “Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee.”

However, they could find no missions board willing to send them. Determined, Samuel said, “If God calls you and no board will send you, bore a hole through the board and go anyway.” The two friends separated and travelled the opposite coasts of the USA, raising support for each other. And thus they founded the Arabian Mission.

Foreign Ministry

In June 1890, Samuel sailed for the mission field. He landed in Beirut and immediately began studying Arabic. Within the year, he and his friend James were involved in full-time ministry. They sold Bibles, shared the gospel with locals, and preached wherever they could. By 1894, the Reformed Church got on board and decided to back their ministry.

In 1896, the young missionaries welcomed two new recruits….one of whom would become Samuel’s wife. Amy Wilkes was a missionary nurse from the Church Missionary Society. They were married on May 18, 1896. 

For the next nine years, Samuel and his wife would face severe trials. They would welcome three daughters and a son…and lose two of the daughters to dysentery. They struggled to adapt to the tropical climate, counter Muslim persecution, and persevere in the face of spiritual attack.

By 1905, it was time for a much-needed furlough.

Missions Conventions

When Samuel, Amy, and their family returned to the States, he was asked to be field secretary for the Reformed Board of Foreign Missions. And he was also offered the position of travelling representative for the Student Volunteer Movement. Unable to choose, he accepted both!

Next, Samuel threw himself into promoting world missions, especially missions to Muslim nations. He helped found the first General Conference of Missionaries to the World of Islam in April 1906. He was instrumental in motivating thousands of young men and women to enlist in missions.

After returning to the field, Samuel and his family moved to Cairo. He continued to preach the gospel and give out tracts there, despite the menace of the Egyptian government. He also made missionary journeys back to Bahrain, as well as Iran, India, and China. 

In addition to his missionary work, Zwemer was a prolific writer. He wrote 29 books, coauthored 19 more, and edited the journal The Moslem World. His favourite of all the books was The Glory of the Cross (1928). 

Faithful to the End

In 1929, Samuel returned to his homeland to chair the History of Religion and Christian Missions department at Princeton. However, he continued to travel the nation and challenge young people to accept the call. On January 25, 1937, he lost his beloved wife, Amy. The next year, he “retired” from Princeton to continue in ministry.

In his seventies, Samuel kept an active schedule of speaking, teaching college classes on missions, and writing. He remarried in 1940, to a woman named Margaret Clarke. A trained secretary, she was a great help in his writing work. 

In 1949, the veteran missionary took his final trip to the Middle East. Samuel and his wife attended the 60th anniversary of the Arabian Mission he had helped found. While there, they visited the missionary graves in Bahrain, where he exclaimed, “If we should hold our peace, these very stones would cry out for the evangelization of Arabia!” 

Three years later, after suffering a heart attack, Samuel Zwemer went to his reward. 

Though he did not see many converts, Samuel was faithful to the end. He was unashamed of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16). He obeyed God’s call on his life, and only eternity will tell what an incredible impact he made on the souls of men. At our Baptist church in Cape Breton, we want to be faithful, too.


Will you faithfully share the gospel as Samuel Zwemer did? Join the friendly church family of Northside Baptist Church on Sundays at 11:00 am. 

For more information, call 902-304-4707 or email northside1178@gmail.com  
Claudine Broussard is a Cape Breton based musician, the social media director of ForwardMarketing.ca, and coauthor of Seeking Jesus: Stepping Into a Life of Bold Surrender, Freedom, and Deep Joy.

What Ruth Teaches Us About Love


In honour of Valentine’s Day, I want to draw your attention to one of the most romantic stories in the Word of God…the story of Ruth and Boaz. It’s a Cinderella story of a Moabite girl who had nothing but a servant’s heart. Yet, by God’s matchmaking grace, she became one of a handful of honoured women mentioned in the genealogy of Christ. 

Here’s what Ruth teaches us about love.


Love does not seek its own.

After Ruth’s husband died, her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, encouraged her to remarry. She told her, “Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.” (Ruth 1:8) Now that the famine had ended, Naomi was planning to return to Israel.

Yet Ruth knew that Naomi would need an able young person to help her. It was no easy task to make the long journey and to find food and shelter. Ruth made up her mind to return to Israel with Naomi, and nothing could discourage her. In one of the most memorable speeches in the Bible, Ruth said,

“Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

With these words, Ruth not only declared her loyalty to Naomi, but she also expressed her faith in Naomi’s God. Even though she was a Moabitess, she had embraced the God of Israel as her own. No wonder she had such remarkably selfless love! Her devotion to Naomi motivated her to give up her own future to serve her mother-in-law.

Like Ruth, we ought to seek the good of others first.


Love serves.

When Naomi and Ruth reached Bethlehem, barley harvest was just beginning. According to Jewish custom, impoverished people could gather the leftover grain after the reapers had collected most of it. This provided food for those who could not afford it. 

Because she and Naomi needed food, Ruth began to glean in the field of Boaz. She worked tirelessly from sunup to sundown. On her shoulders rested the burden of providing for herself and her mother-in-law. Yet the Bible never records her complaining or doubting God. Instead, she faithfully served Naomi with a sweet spirit.

Like Ruth, we ought to serve others unselfishly.


Love is kind.

Although the Bible doesn’t come right out and say it, the story of Ruth looks very much like love at first sight. When Boaz noticed Ruth in his field, he asked the supervisor, “Whose damsel is this?” (Ruth 2:5) 

After learning her identity, he approached Ruth and showered her with unexpected kindness. He told her to keep gleaning in his field and offered her protection. He shared his food and water with her at mealtime and even ordered his servants to drop extra handfuls for her on purpose. 

For a wealthy landowner, this was highly unusual behaviour. However, Boaz recognized her integrity and courage. He told her, “It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband…The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” (Ruth 2:11-12) At our Baptist church in Cape Breton, we want to keep trusting God, too.

Like Boaz, we ought to show kindness to others.


God rewards true love.

After finishing the harvest, Ruth went back to live with her mother-in-law. Perhaps she lay awake at night, wondering what her future held. Yet, God had a wonderful surprise in store for her.

In Ruth chapter 3, Naomi advised Ruth to go to Boaz and reveal her true identity. According to Jewish law, the closest relative of Ruth’s husband could marry her and take over her husband’s property. Because he was a near kinsman, he could have that right. However, he might not want to marry Ruth. What if he had other plans?

Ruth followed Naomi’s counsel and approached Boaz humbly. Surprised, he told her, “Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter…And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.” (Ruth 3:10-11) 

After ensuring that he was the closest willing relative, Boaz took Ruth to be his wife. Soon after, God blessed them with a son, whom they called Obed. This son would someday be the father of Jesse and the grandfather of King David.

Like Ruth and Boaz, we need to love others even if it looks like we’re on the losing end. True love is not looking for a reward. Instead, it’s seeking to be a blessing to others. Jesus told His disciples,

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:38)

At our Baptist church in Cape Breton, we want to give to others without expecting anything in return. That’s what Jesus did for us!


Will you love others as Ruth did? Join the friendly church family of Northside Baptist Church on Sundays at 11:00 am. 

For more information, call 902-304-4707 or email northside1178@gmail.com  
Claudine Broussard is a Cape Breton based musician, the social media director of ForwardMarketing.ca, and coauthor of Seeking Jesus: Stepping Into a Life of Bold Surrender, Freedom, and Deep Joy.

What You Need to Know About God’s Immutability


Have you ever felt frustrated because life changes so fast? When you finally get used to new things, they change again! People, circumstances, possessions, culture, and more continue to change at a rapid rate. However, God never changes. Today, we’re going to learn why (and what it means for you and I). 

Here’s what you need to know about God’s immutability. Read more…