A Passion for the Impossible:
The Continuing Story of the Mission Hudson Taylor Began
By Leslie T. Lyall.
Newington Green: London, OMF books, 1976.
ISBN 0 85363 115 8. 227 pp.
In a turbulent world spinning through rapid change, this fact-filled and heart- stirring account of God’s redemptive work in an earlier era marked by upheavals of unimaginable proportions is a timely read. Lyall, a veteran CIMer with a solid grasp of the historical and socio-political background of China and the West, tells a dramatic story against the backdrop of important contextual details. After a helpful overview of religious movements in China up to 1865, he recounts the founding of the China Inland Mission and its work until Hudson Taylor’s death in 1905.
Acknowledging predictions that the CIM would not survive its founder’s death, Lyall traces the story of the mission’s growth despite formidable barriers and near-impossible situations as a testimony that this was not one man’s dream but the work of the true Founder who calls the nations to himself. Lyall recalls that one of the greatest barriers—the reluctant exodus of all missionaries from China in 1952—prompted CIM leaders to seek God to discern whether the work was to close and how God responded with a resounding “No” and led them to new fields of ministry under the aptly renamed banner of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF). The 1976 edition of the book adds four chapters to the 1965 centennial edition to tell the unfolding story of God’s leading OMF into wider contexts.
This book will benefit a new generation of missionaries and candidates preparing to join God’s mission and other believers seeking to be challenged by his redemptive work and incredible faithfulness.
Like jigsaw pieces falling into place to reveal a majestic picture, readers will see God’s hand at work to bring salvation through the courageous men and women who followed him against all odds. Along the way critical faith lessons naturally emerge. One spectacular example is the way God continually met the financial needs of a growing mission that never solicits funds, particularly as it faced various crises, including the enforced withdrawal of personnel in 1927 and 1944 due to banditry and war and the reluctant exodus that started in 1951. Other formidable barriers were overcome when God stirred the mission to pray for reinforcements: the Eighteen (1875), the Seventy (1881), the Hundred (1886), the Two Hundred (1929), and a new call for “men of spiritual freshness and power … fired with a passion for the humanly impossible” (1947). Despite political turmoil, desperate economic situations, natural calamities, crushing losses, and fiery trials, mission could continue only because God was at work. And though they faced intense suffering, believers grew in number and churches developed in faith and maturity. The book’s overriding message is how for more than a century, and in the face of seemingly-impossible situations, Hudson Taylor and those who joined him exhibited a “triumphant faith in a God with whom nothing is impossible.”
Son of an itinerant evangelist, Lyall joined the CIM in response to D. E. Hoste’s call in 1929 for 200 new workers. He arrived in a China that was riven by civil war and worked in the increasingly unstable environment for more than twenty years, most notably training students who later became pastors and elders. Lyall left a lasting contribution to the history of CIM/OMF and the Chinese church through writing ten books, including Come Wind, Come Weather (1960), Urgent Harvest (1963), and A Passion for the Impossible (1965).