Kenneth L. Pike (1912–2000)

My Pilgrimage in Mission*

Kenneth L. Pike


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A Mission Disappointment

At Gordon I studied New Testament Greek for four years, with Prof. Merrill Tenney (who later went to Wheaton College). At some point during those years, I read a book from the nonmedical shelves of my Dad that captured my attention: a biography of Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission. Later, Taylor's daughter and son-in-law spoke to us at chapel at Gordon. I decided that God wanted me to be a missionary to China's millions. So in December 1932, at the age of twenty, I applied to the mission for membership. During the following summer I went to their headquarters to see if they would accept me. I was totally convinced that they would. For several years I had been relying on inner feelings for guidance by the Holy Spirit, in matters large or small. So I was confident that there would be no problem here.

But there was—the CIM rejected me! Later, I could see several factors that explained my surprise and showed the mission's wisdom. First, I had thought that the decision to go to China or not was mine, to be based on my feeling as to the Lord's guidance to go there, not anywhere else. But my youthful ignorance kept me from seeing that the final decision as to God's guidance was rightly the mission's, not mine. Second, I had not given sufficient attention to the problem of possible inherited physical weakness from my father's side or to the thought that the mission ought carefully to consider that. Third, my youthfulness kept me from noticing social factors, such as my nervousness, that could have affected my service abroad. A fourth item impressed my sister later, when I told her about it. I was taking a class on Mandarin Chinese for a couple of weeks or so, and the teacher once said to me: "Pike, the only trouble with you is that you cannot hear the aspirates." That is, I could not distinguish sounds that differed only in having or lacking a puff of breath.

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*International Bulletin of Missionary Research, October 1997, used by permission.