Past & Present
John, born in Glasgow, Scotland, was converted to a personal knowledge of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, when he was 21. When 29, he strongly sensed the Lord of the harvest calling him to be a missionary to the Paraguayan Indians. He had training under Dr. H. Gratton Guinness, and then he and wife Margaret were ready to sail for inland South America.
For ten years they worked with the South American Missionary Society. However, their ‘burden’ for the hundreds of thousands of indigenous people was not lightened, rather it increased. The Indians were not being reached as had been hoped. As John and Margaret prayed, they sensed that God was leading and encouraging them to start a new work, to found a new mission.
The first worker to come out was Scottish: John Richmond Craig; the second one, an Irishman: Daniel Courtenay. Then followed: T. Webster Smith, H. Whittington, James Hannon and his wife, and J. Marshall. They were true pioneers of the first hour, the love of Christ making them willing for any sacrifice. Their example was “contagious” and many more offered their lives for Gospel service in far off South American lands.
It proved impossible to limit the work to the Indians. Many of mixed blood and descendants of white settlers also heard the Gospel and experienced the life transforming power of it. They in turn would pass on the Good News to friends and relatives, sometimes traveling long distances. At times the missionaries could hardly keep up the pace.
The Way On:
New missionaries continued to arrive from the UK, but then also from the USA and Canada, and later still from other European countries. What is more, native workers had begun to join them.
Alexander R. Hay, the eldest of John and Margaret’s children, was born in Paraguay. After completing studies in Scotland, he felt definitely guided to work along with his parents as a member of the band of missionaries.
‘Alex’, as we may conveniently call him, began to realize though, that the work, carried on along “conventional” lines, was very different in its principles and methods to that carried out by the workers of New Testament times. He would think of the apostle Paul and his companions, but also of what is revealed of our Lord’s way of working in the Gospels. Church history was studied in great detail. All the notes he took through a number of years finally crystallized into his well-known book: “The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary” (look for it on the page: A SPECIAL BOOK – other books from him are also mentioned there).
The New Beginning:
In 1932 ‘Alex’ took over the leadership from his father and it was then the name NEW TESTAMENT MISSIONARY UNION was adopted. The deep conviction that Biblical principles and methods of working should take preference over conventional ones, at least in this particular group of Gospel workers, would henceforth be reflected in the name.
One very noticeable change was that the workers were not going to appeal for money anymore. They had been “living by faith” in a real sense, yet hadn’t thought that finances could and should come under that heading too. But from now on their financial needs were going to be mentioned to their Sender/Keeper alone. And HE never let them down. (Look for Alex. Hay’s 1933 article: “Faith’s Simplicity”.)
The NTMU has not been spared trials and dire tests of faith, yet the work has gone on. Home bases, as they are conventionally called, are now few and far between, “western” workers greatly depleted, however, through it all, God has been preparing and supplying Latin American and African men and women for the task. Prayer persists for the Lord of the harvest to thrust out more workers, i.e. workers who have profoundly grasped the meaning of John 12:24-26, willing workers (not shirkers) who are ready to be sown as grains of wheat, so that fruit might be born.
Apart from representatives in the USA and the UK, the NTMU works in seven Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and Uruguay, and, furthermore, in Nigeria, Spain and Holland. However, the vision and the willingness to go anywhere in the world, wherever the “Macedonian Call” might sound, are real!
Among the indigenous tribes, where the ISAMU/NTMU first blazed the trail, others stepped in and continued the work.