On the night Rowland Bingham dined with a quiet little Scotch woman whose son had gone off to the mission field, he heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” That night Bingham replied, “Here am I, send me” and he knew God was calling him to Sudan.
In 1893 Sudan stretched across twenty-five hundred miles in Africa and was occupied by 60-90 million people without one missionary working among them. Missionaries had made it to the coast of Africa, but not the interior.
When Rowland Bingham heard God’s call to go he announced to his farming community that in two weeks he was going to sail to London and then on to Africa. This was huge faith for a twenty-one year-old who didn’t even have ten dollars to his name.
But God began to provide. At first it was one farmer who gave five dollars and then another. After a week Bingham had sixty dollars, not enough to get to London. Finally, a man came along who said, “I will give you all I have in the bank, and then I shall borrow more, if need be.”
This man’s generosity was enough to get Bingham and his three partners to Lagos, West Africa, but not enough to get them into the interior to reach the people of Sudan. Besides, when they arrived in Africa all the other missionaries urged them not to go to the interior of Africa. They said it was an impossible mission. They said it couldn’t be done.
Bingham and his two partners decided to pray for a whole week. They had no missions organization behind them, no team of supporters back home. And if they trekked into Africa's interior, receiving additional supplies would be extremely difficult.
So these men prayed and began selling their possessions that were considered non-essentials, like their watches. Each man strongly believed, “I will open up Central Africa to the Gospel, or I will die in the attempt.”
In God’s providence, during that week of prayer a letter arrived in the mail from a simple housekeeper named Mary Jones. Mary had heard of this mission to Sudan and soon after received an inheritance of $300, the equivalent of at least $12,000 today. Mary felt led by the Lord to give all $300 to Sudan Interior Mission and to rally a few others to give an additional $200 as well.
Years later Rowland Bingham would remember Mary's sacrificial gift and write, “The gift of this servant girl came just at the moment of our greatest need and made possible that first journey up into the Sudan. Out of that gift of fifty years ago, in a very real sense, has come the great harvest of hundreds of converts every year, which we are seeing today.”
Today SIM has 4,000 missionaries working in 70 nations. Mary Jones could never have imagined the flame that would be lit through her early stage generosity.