John Clough was called to the harvest field while working in one. He had grown up without religious inclinations, and in college seemed resistant to evangelistic efforts by friends. His roommate tried to read the Bible and pray with him each evening, but John, growing exasperated, drew a chalk line down the middle of the room, forbidding prayer or Scripture on his side of the line.

But the Holy Spirit worked on his heart, and one evening, unable to study and overwhelmed with his need, he crossed the line and knelt by his roommate. Shortly after, hearing a missionary sermon, John wondered if God would have him overseas, and he applied. He was atop a four-horse reaper breaking off grain when a farmhand approached him with a letter from Boston. Clough wiped away his sweat and tore open the news from the Baptist Foreign Mission Board. “What do you know!” he shouted. “They want me to go to India as a missionary!”

Missions officials wanted to send him to “Forlorn Hope”—Telugu, India—where 17 years of painful, plodding effort had produced no apparent results. On November 30, 1864 Clough and his wife sailed from Boston on a tiny ship, hardly seaworthy, called the James Guthrie. It rolled and pitched its way across the ocean, finally limping into India the following April. John, leaping into service, was immediately confronted with a dilemma. The higher caste of Indians refused to attend church with the lower caste and outcasts. Praying for wisdom, Clough randomly opened his Bible and read in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 of God choosing the lowly. Across the room at the same moment, his wife randomly opened her Bible to the same place. Clough, amazed, took it as divine guidance. He announced that all were welcome in his church, that he would not accept a segregated congregation.

He started preaching, and conversions multiplied. Fifteen months later two Indian preachers stood in a river and began baptizing the converts. When they grew weary, other preachers relieved them. By five o’clock 2,222 had been baptized, and the baptisms continued for two more days.

My friends, if you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, you won’t treat some people better than others. … God has given a lot of faith to the poor people in this world. He has also promised them a share in his kingdom that he will give to everyone who loves him. (James 2:1,5)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Nov. 30.

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