On this day in 1890, Samuel Zwemer sailed from his homeland in the United States on a Dutch liner called the Obdam. He stopped briefly in Europe to contact the only evangelical missionary group then working among Muslims. Then by train and boat, he headed for Beirut.
He lived, breathed and thought of one thing alone: "cracking open the Muslim world for the Gospel of Christ." He set up presses, under British protection in Cairo. These poured out a continual stream of books to educate Westerners about the need of Islam as well as Arabic language books to share Christ with the Arabs. He authored or co-authored at least 48 books in English, titles such as Arabia, The Cradle of Islam; Childhood in the Moslem World; and The Moslem Doctrine of God.
He often noted that in Islam the tender fatherhood of God was altogether unknown. Printed Christian prayers from his presses were prized by many of the Islamic people he served--it seems that they found them to have more "meat" than their own.
Though Zwemer was able to penetrate the cultural armor of Islam with remarkable grace, the great work he began remained unfulfilled at his death--as it does to this day.
Interestingly, while he was in London at the very beginning of his great life adventure, he bought a copy of Arabia Deserta. Many years later he sold it to T. E. Lawrence. Zwemer's exploits have none of the popular renown of Lawrence of Arabia's, but were, nonetheless, of greater boldness, vision, purpose, and effect.