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The Mission Press

By White Unto Harvest

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Narrator :  Dear Pastor, you asked me about the importance of printed literature and evangelism and I am writing to tell you about the effects literature has had in missions and evangelism down through the ages. In 1800, English missionary William Carey, along with Joshua Marshman and William Ward, established a printing press in Serampore, India. The ultimate vision of this mission was to translate, print and distribute the Bible to every person in India in their own language.

The result of this mission had far more widespread effect than these men could have ever dreamed. The press was an essential part of the work of the early missionaries. As soon as literature was written and translated, it was printed.

In a letter written home, William Ward described the Serampore press.

“I am in a small room, reading and writing and looking over the office, which is more than 170 feet long. There, you will find Indians translating the scriptures into different tongues or correcting the proof sheets.”

“You observe, laid out in cases, types in Arabic, Persian, Nagari, Telugu, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Chinese, Araya, Burmese, Greek, Hebrew and English.”

“Beyond the office, are the very type castors, besides a group of men making ink and, in a spacious, open‑walled round place, are paper mills, for we manufacture our own paper.”

In the early days of the mission press, the Gospel and many other materials were printed in over 40 languages. Including in this literature is the entire Bible in six languages, the New Testament in 22 and scripture portions in many others.

The mission press was of vital importance to this young poor mission. Before new missionaries were even able to preach in the various languages, the mission press was printing and preaching the Gospel through the printed page.

The renowned American missionary Adoniram Judson, saw the results of the mission press and was so greatly influenced that he established a press in Rangoon, Burma. He patterned much of his work after the Serampore mission.

Like Carey, Ward and Marshman, Judson knew the importance of literature and considered the printing press to be a first importance to the mission work. The first two tracks printed in the Burmese language were instrumental in the salvation of the first convent in Burma.

Judson once told a friend, “It can almost be said that the mission press is evangelizing Burma by machinery.” Some of the tracks were so effective in reaching the lost of the Gospel, they were kept in the print for 100 years.

They’re timeless messages for the people of Burma, but sadly much of this material is no longer printed and used today.

The mission presses were at the cutting edge of technology in their time. Both the governments of India and Burma, as well as private enterprises, looked to the missionary presses for innovation.

The presses were the first in their countries to utilize the most modern equipment and, oftentimes, they actually developed the equipment and font type. Most of the presses have passed from the scene.

In their place are the Bible societies and, of greater interest to Baptists, are a significant number of printing ministries established by independent Baptist churches in the United States, Australia and several countries across the globe.

These ministries have seen the far‑reaching effects that literature has had around the world.

I hope this has helped you to understand the importance of printed literature. It carries a timeless message and is desperately needed today.

Let me urge you to find one of these ministries and help them as they help us to reach the world with the Word, for souls still waiting.

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