Our success in this venture means nothing less than the opening of the country for the gospel; our failure, at most, nothing more than the death of two or three deluded fanatics. Still, even death is not failure. His purposes are accomplished. He uses deaths as well as lives in the furtherance of His cause.
Walter Gowans, 1883, a founder of SIM. On Dec. 4, 1893, Walter Gowans and Rowland Bingham of Toronto, Canada, and Thomas Kent of Buffalo, N. Y., landed at Lagos, Nigeria. Their aim was to establish a witness among the 60 million people of what was then commonly known as the Soudan, the area south of the Sahara between the Niger River and the Nile. Gowans and Kent died in the first few months. Bingham returned to Canada, formed a council, and went back to Africa in 1900. That attempt, too, was unsuccessful. In 1901 Bingham sent out a party that succeeded in establishing the Missions first base, at Patigi, 500 miles up the Niger River. When these first SIM pioneers landed in Nigeria, Gowans was 25 years old, Bingham was two weeks away from his 21st birthday, Kent was 23.
“It is the impassioned pleading of a quiet little Scottish lady that linked my life with the Soudan,” wrote Rowland Bingham (a founder of SIM). “In the quietness of her parlor she told how God had called a daughter to China, and her eldest boy (Walter Gowans) to the Soudan.
“She spread out before me the vast extent of those thousands of miles and filled in the teeming masses of people. Ere I closed the interview she had place upon me the burden of the Soudan.”
A year and a half later Bingham returned to Canada, alone. Walter and Thomas Kent lay buried in Nigerias interior.
“I visited Mrs. Gowans to take her the few personal belongings of her son,” he recalled. “She met me with extended hand. We stood there in silence. “Then she said these words: Well, Mr. Bingham, I would rather have had Walter go out to the Soudan and die there, all alone, that have him home today, disobeying his Lord.”