Heroes of the Faith: 2021 marks 200th birthday of missionary William Taylor

William Taylor (1821­–1902) was an American missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church for 47 years.

This year is the 200th anniversary of his birth.

He was born to Stuart and Martha Taylor on May 2, 1821, in Rockbridge County, Virginia.

His conversion occurred at a Methodist Episcopal camp meeting in 1841. His first pastorates were in Georgetown, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

In 1846, he married Ann Kimberlin. She accompanied him on his early travels but later stayed in America to care for their five children.

The couple traveled to California in 1849. Taylor was a volunteer missionary to Native Americans and Chinese immigrants. He founded several Methodist churches in the state.

He began his career as a world evangelist/missionary in 1856. He ministered on six continents, which included North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Thousands of conversions

Beginning in 1856, he worked for five years in eastern and western states and also in Canada. He traveled to Australia and South Africa from 1863–1866.

In 1867, his family traveled to England, Scotland, Barbados and British Guinea in South America. He journeyed again to Australia and in 1870 reached Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where he witnessed thousands of conversions.

His revivals in Bombay, Madras, Calcutta and Bangalore, India, led to countless converts. He initiated two annual Methodist Episcopal conferences.

Spending nine years in South America, he traveled 1500 miles up the Amazon River and then labored in Peru and Chile. He recruited missionaries, eventually reaching 43 self-supporting ones on the continent. One
of them, Ira H. La Fetra, helped found Santiago College.

Modesty and faith

Elected Missionary Bishop of Africa in 1884, Taylor served there for 12 years and started numerous missions. He retired in 1896.

Believing missionaries should be self-sufficient, he paid for his travel and expenses with money from the 17 books he wrote.

His remarkable physique equipped him for his strenuous labors. As a young man, he swam 14 miles across San Francisco Bay to Alameda. He could easily carry loads of books which weighed up to 500 pounds. When he was 75, he walked over 400 miles into the interior of Africa. He worked with his missionaries digging wells and building homes. He possessed a great wit and was an unmatched storyteller. Modesty and faith, though, were his prominent character traits.

An extraordinary servant of the Lord, Taylor died peacefully on May 18, 1902, in Palo Alto, California.

Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, is named for him.

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