Honoring Missionary Heroes

The J. Russell Morse Family in Southeast Asia

We are poised for the beginning of the 2022 International Conference on Missions.  It will take place downtown at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, November 3-5.  The ICOM accomplishes many things.  It has been a powerful time of recruitment for people who hear the Lord’s call to missionary service.  It is a chance to celebrate what missionaries are doing domestically and globally.  It is an opportunity to hear great missionary preachers. It is also a time to honor missionaries who have done extraordinary, even heroic, things on the mission field.

Regarding honoring the heroes, this year at ICOM there is going to be a huge display celebrating the J. Russell Morse family for their work in Tibet, Burma, Myanmar and other areas in Southeast Asia. In 1921, J. Russell Morse and his wife, Gertrude, attended a meeting held by veteran medical missionary, Dr. Albert Shelton in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Dr. Shelton made an impassioned plea for missionary workers to join him on Tibet’s border where he was involved in difficult but very important work. As they listened to his presentation, the Morses sensed God’s leading and responded to the call. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Morses boarded a steamship to Southeast Asia with Dr. Shelton on August 13, 1921. They traveled by narrow gauge train, horseback, and on foot for 80 days over unmarked mountain passages to get to the mission field. Little did they know that Dr. Shelton only had 7 months to live from their recruitment. Shortly after arriving on the mission field, Dr. Shelton was shot by bandits and died in the arms of J. Russell Morse.  At age 24, the Morses inherited the mission work. 

Together, they climbed the highest mountains, traversed ravines, crossed rivers on foot, and learned and used difficult languages. They faced bandits, diseases, and spiritual warfare. They endured hardship, heartache, discouragement, and imprisonment. J. Russell Morse was placed in solitary confinement at the hands of the communist Chinese multiple times for months at a time. 

J. Russell Morse and his sons Robert and Eugene rescued Allied pilots who went down in the treacherous terrain near them during World War II. All three of the men were awarded the Bronze Star by the United States Military for heroic service for their service to those downed pilots. 

The Morses walked mountain trails, met the needs of the sick, baptized new believers, planted churches, and trained preachers. Because of their work, there are dozens of tribes and thousands of people who have come to follow Jesus. Always remembering that it was never about him, J. Russell Morse said: 

“The missionary must be willing to empty himself in order to bring the kingdom of God to all. Through it all, we have been happy to obey his kingly commission, leaving the results in his hands.”

I certainly hope you are able to attend some or all of ICOM 2022.  And, when you do, be sure to check out the exhibit dedicated to the work of the J. Russell Morse family in Southeast Asia.

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