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Samuel Zwemer was challenged to give his life in service to Christ and the nations while a student at Hope College in his hometown of Holland, Michigan. And Zwemer set his compass for one of the hardest, most neglected places on the planet: Arabia, the epicenter of Islam, a hostile place both physically and spiritually.
After language study in Beirut, Zwemer reached the Arabian Peninsula in 1890. Maps and demographic information were sketchy, but Zwemer was aided by the help of Major General F. T. Haig, whose expeditions into the interior and love for missions gave him special insight into the situation on the ground.
Zwemer - Amy - Elizabeth - Wilkes - Nurse
In 1896 Zwemer married the equally intrepid Amy Elizabeth Wilkes, an English nurse serving in Baghdad. The two made Bahrain, an island on the eastern shores of Arabia, their mission base and home. Together they were a gospel force: speaking of Christ at every opportunity, distributing Bibles, starting the first school for girls, providing orphan care, and, with a growing team, opening the island’s first hospital. They also co-authored a book written especially for children; it’s an extensive pictorial introduction to Arabia’s geography, culture, and gospel needs. It was remarkable for the times and, I believe, a reflection of their partnership in the work that their names are side by side on the cover of Topsy-Turvy World: Arabia Pictured for Children.
But Bahrain was also where Samuel and Amy suffered the deepest loss of their lives. In July 1904, dysentery swept through the community. In the space of a week, they buried their firstborn, a 7-year-old daughter named Amy, and their youngest daughter, 3-year-old Ruth. Years later Zwemer pulled back the curtain on their grief, and in doing so, showed the depths of their sorrow and their worship as they buried their precious ones. Zwemer said his wife...
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