VOL 13:4 OCT.-DEC. 1996
J. Christy Wilson, Jr.
Cantine went on from Muscat to theisland of Bahrain and then across toBushire on the Iranian side of the PersianGulf. From there he traveled to Basra.He had not been there long before he wasconvinced that this would be an idealplace to begin their operations. He wrotefor Zwemer to come right away.Both men were made agents for theBritish and Foreign Bible Society andwere able to open a shop for the sale of Scriptures in the bazaar. It was notlong, however, before opposition devel-oped. Zwemer wrote: “The missionpassed through a period of determinedopposition and open hostility from theTurkish authorities. The Bible shop wassealed up and a guard placed at thedoor of the house occupied by the mis-sion. Fortunately, the opposition wasshort lived.” The new mission, however,was to suffer something worse thangovernment opposition. Kamil AbdulMessiah died after a short illness. Hehad been working with Muslims and mostlikely was poisoned.In 1892, Zwemer visited the island of Bahrain, halfway down the coast, andwas able to open a work there. Later inthe same year, Peter Zwemer, ayounger brother of Samuel, joined themission and opened a substation atMuscat. In 1894 the Arabian Mission wasadopted by the Reformed Church andbecame one of their regular fields.Word came from the ChurchMissionary Society (CMS) asking Cantineand Zwemer to meet two new womenrecruits coming from Australia and toassist them on their way. One of thesewas Amy Wilkes, a charming youngnurse with whom Samuel Zwemerfell in love. They were married at the Brit-ish Consulate in Baghdad on May 18,1896. The Church Missionary Society,however, did not surrender its prizeeasily. They required that Amy pay thecost of her journey to the field. It wasnecessary for Zwemer to meet this obliga-tion, so it was said that he had pur-chased his wife in accordance with trueArab custom.
The Arabian Mission
The Arabian Mission had nowacquired its first woman member.Samuel Zwemer took his wife to theisland of Bahrain. She, as a trainednurse, began at once to help Samuel in hisrudimentary medicine. The work wasdemanding, and among the hardships tobe endured were days and nights of fearful heat. When Zwemer wrote his firstbook in Bahrain, he wrapped a towelaround his hand to keep the perspirationfrom blotting the paper. The book,
Arabia: The Cradle of Islam
, wentthrough four editions from 1900 to1912. The second book he wrote in Bah-rain was
Raymond Lull, First Mis-sionary to Moslems
. This short biographyof the great missionary was translatedand published in Arabic, Spanish, Ger-man, Chinese, and Dutch. Other addi-tions to the Arabian Mission were twodoctors supported by the Universityof Michigan.In spite of better medical care,Peter Zwemer, Samuel’s brother, died of illness late in 1898. Six years later, inJuly 1904, two daughters of Samuel andAmy Zwemer succumbed to dysen-tery in Bahrain. The sorrowing parentsinscribed on the tomb that marks theirgraves on the island of Bahrain,WORTHY IS THE LAMBTO RECEIVE RICHES.They also had a son, whom theynamed Raymond after the great Spanishmissionary to North Africa, RaymondLull. Another daughter, Elizabeth, mar-ried Dr. Claude Pickens, who servedas missionaries to Muslims in China.After Samuel Zwemer and hiswife returned to the United States for afurlough in 1905, he received twocalls to ministry at about the same time.The Reformed Board of Foreign Mis-sions asked him to become their field sec-retary. The Student Volunteer Move-ment also called him to work for threeyears as traveling representative forrecruitment. Due to the fact, that evenafter much prayer, he could notdecide between the two calls, he acceptedboth!
A great part of Zwemer’s timefor the next five years was spent speakingat conventions. He was largelyresponsible for the first General Confer-ence of Missionaries to the World of Islam, held in Cairo in April 1906. Thiswas sponsored by mission boardswith work in Muslim countries. His effec-tiveness was never more evident thanat the quadrennial conferences of the Stu-dent Volunteer Movement. Robert E.Speer wrote, “Dr. Zwemer hung a greatmap of Islam before us and, with asweep of his hand across all those dark-ened areas, said: ‘Thou Oh Christ artall I want and Thou Oh Christ art all theywant. What Christ can do for anyman, He can do for every man.’”
Speerand Zwemer probably influencedmore young men and women to go intomissionary service than any two indi-viduals in all of Christian history.Zwemer was eager to get back tothe field in Arabia, but John R. Motturged him to stay over for the 1910Student Volunteer Convention in Roches-ter, New York. It was at this meetingthat Zwemer, in a telling address, used thewords that have often been quotedsince: “His kingdom is without frontiers.”In 1910 the great World MissionaryConference also was held in Edinburgh,Scotland. Zwemer was on the Orga-nizing Committee on Occupation of theField and took a leading part in theconference, which drew representativesfrom most of the world. During theconference, a committee met to lay plansfor a quarterly publication called
The Moslem World.
The magazine was bornwith the January 1911 issue, withZwemer as editor. His habit of dartingfrom the Persian Gulf to Egypt orsome other part of the world made the dif-ficulties of editing and publishing for-