I mourn the passing of so many of the great names—names like Temple Gairdner. Who names their kid “Temple” anymore? Or Pliny Fisk. Any takers on “Pliny” for those of you who are young and soon to bring forth a male child into the world?
Pliny Fisk was initially a mobilizer for the “Palestinian” mission (1818-1819). In 1919, he sailed with Levi Parsons (Another great option, anyone up for “Temple Parsons”?) for the Middle East. They started in Turkey and then to Egypt where Parsons died. Fisk moved on to Palestine and settled in Beirut. There he worked with Isaac Bird for the next few years with little outward success.
Fisk lived to see only one convert who was soon martyred. He did manage to nearly complete an Arab-English dictionary. Contracting a fever, the missionary wrote in one of his last letters: “The history of my life has been a history of mercies, and—of sins! My only hope is in the unmerited mercy of Christ.”
Pliny Fisk died in October 1925, at just 33 years of age. Local consulates lowered their flags to half-mast. One Arab remarked, “Who will now preach the gospel to us? I have heard no one explain the word of God like Mr. Fisk.”
Whatever our names, or the names of our children, I hope that those who hear us go on to name us among those who were clear gospel explainers. Let us mobilize faithfully. Let us be men and women who learn language well. Let us be men and women who lean on the unmerited mercy of Christ. Let us be men and women who clearly explain the Word of God.
One day—soon!—we are going to see church planting movements break out across all the unreached peoples among whom our Live Dead teams work. When that day happens, we will lift our hands in thanks to God for the legacy of men and women like Pliny Fisk—our forerunners with strange names, loyal hearts, one martyred disciple, and great faith for what God would one day surely do.
Often these days, before I ascend the stairs to a platform, I think back through the roll. I think of Sue Beaman, Calvin Olson, Samuel Zwemer, Bishop French, John McKay, Henry Martyn, and Francis preaching in Egypt to the Sultan. I think of Raymond Lull going down for the count in Algeria. I fix my eyes on each step up to the public stage and for every step I think of someone who ran ahead of us—many of them unknown and uncelebrated but faithful all the same.
May we be faithful as they were. What a privilege that we are next in line to glorify Jesus! May we be careful to make sure that all we do is “ever, always, all for Him.”