The Best and the Brightest

The students that were volunteering as foreign missionaries had the best minds and the brightest futures of their generation. Upon graduation, if they desired it, they were all but assured of high-paying jobs in the highest echelons of society and promised lives of prestige and honor. Yet, these student volunteers were captured with a different vision than the so-called American Dream. These students had been swept up into the grand vision of “the evangelization of the world in this generation” and to these student volunteers, anything less than the accomplishment of this vision would have been failure.

In fact, in his later years, John R. Mott, the missionary statesman and primary leader of the Student Volunteer Movement, was asked by President Woodrow Wilson, an earnest and early supporter of the student volunteers, to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China, a post that promised wealth and prestige. John R. Mott responded by telling Wilson that though he was profoundly honored by the offer, he had to decline. Upon further persuasion with promises from the White House, as legend goes, Mott firmly responded that the problem in accepting was not that the job was too big, but that the job was too small for him as he was already an ambassador of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Wilson later told reporters that Mott was “one of the most nobly useful men in the world.” President Taft had earlier referred to Mott as “one of the great men of this generation.”

The Holy Spirit had directed these young men and women–the cream of the crop–like the daughter of Psalm 45 to “forget your own people…and your father’s house…So the King will greatly desire your beauty.” These student volunteers were consumed not by the things of this world, but by the vision of finishing the task of world evangelization and bringing back the King.

Are there young men and women like that today?