On a balmy Saturday afternoon in August of 1806, five students from the Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, gathered in a field for a prayer meeting.
Suddenly, a fierce thunderstorm broke above them. Caught unprotected from the storm’s winds and lightning strikes, the students turned to the nearest shelter at hand—a large haystack.
There, huddled under hundreds of pounds of cattle fodder, the students carried on with their meeting. One of them, Samuel Mills, laid the groundwork for a vision to reach South Asia with the gospel. But the students did not forget their own backyard: reaching America remained in their hearts.
That gathering became known as the “Haystack Prayer Meeting.” Out of that meeting emerged the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, founded in 1810.
One of the first sending agencies in America, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, galvanized the modern missionary movement. The board sent dozens of Americans across the ocean, including Adoniram Judson, who would be called the father of Baptist missions.
Luther Rice, another of its early members, founded the college that became the prestigious George Washington University and played a pivotal role in creating the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America.
At the place where the meeting occurred, a monument stands today commemorating this historic moment. At the top of the monument is the phrase, “THE FIELD IS THE WORLD.” Underneath those words, it says, “The birthplace of American foreign missions. 1806.”
SOURCE: Christianity Today
Ronnie Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church and president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. He is the author of Living Fit: Make Your Life Count by Pursuing a Healthy You. Follow him @ronniefloyd.