“Even when I am afraid,” said the psalmist, “I keep on trusting you” (Psalm 56:3). John Wesley had never been so frightened as on January 25, 1736. He was aboard a small sailing ship somewhere in the mid-Atlantic in midwinter, en route to Georgia as a missionary to the Indians, though as yet he himself had never been saved. A group of Moravian missionaries from Germany had booked passage on the same ship. The voyage was treacherous. Three storms had already battered the boat, and a fourth was brewing. Wesley scribbled in his journal, “Storm greater: afraid!” But the Moravians, showing no fear, persevered in their plans for a worship service. In the middle of their singing, a gigantic wave rose over the side of the vessel, splitting the mainsail, covering the ship, pouring water like Niagara between decks “as if the great deep had already swallowed us up.”

The English passengers screamed as the ship lurched and pitched between towering waves. Wesley clung on for dear life. But the German missionaries didn’t miss a note. Wesley, awestruck by their composure, went to the leader and asked, “Weren’t you afraid?”

“I thank God, no.”

“Were not your women and children afraid?”

“No,” replied the man. “Our women and children are not afraid.”

John Wesley’s missionary labors in Georgia failed, and he returned to England saying, “I went to America to convert the Indians, but, oh, who shall convert me?” The Moravians, that’s who. Back in London, Wesley attended a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street, May 24, 1738, and listened to someone reading from Luther’s preface to Romans. He later said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine.”

Wesley became a famous evangelist and social reformer, with the world as his parish. But he himself was won to Christ by the power of a small group whose commitment to Christ was strong enough to keep them unflappable in a storm.

Have pity, God Most High! My enemies chase me all day. Many of them are pursuing and attacking me, But even when I am afraid, I keep on trusting you. I praise your promises! I trust you and am not afraid. (Psalm 56:1-4a)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). May 24.

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