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Grace Baptist Mission CIO

12 Abbey Close, Abingdon

Oxon, OX14 3JD, UK

T: 01235 520147

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GBM began as the Strict Baptist Mission, founded in 1861 by a small group of Strict Baptist churches, mostly in London. The Indian mutiny had just been brutally suppressed, and India was very much on people’s hearts.

At first, funds raised were sent to support Anglo-Indian workers who were based in what was then Madras. The work was always done through Tamil, and Baptist churches began to be planted across Tamil Nadu.

A day of prayer on 19 November 1894, which ran from 8am to 8pm, led to the first two missionaries being sent to India. Samuel Hutchinson (as superintendent) and Ernest Booth sailed the following year, and Booth would become the first pioneer missionary in the work.

Over the early years of the 20th century, the work grew, and spread from Madras into the Salem district, and into the deep-south. Churches were planted, schools were built, medical work was a vital part of what was done, and a pioneering work was begun by Jesse and Evelyn Brand among the animistic tribes who lived on the Kolli hills. Alongside the SBM, the gloriously named Ladies Zenana Auxiliary was a women’s missionary movement that reached out as women to women in a culture where the sexes were commonly separated.

The work of the Mission went through a major transition after Indian independence. The property of the Mission was vested in Indian trustees, often a painful and difficult process. New ministries of literature and radio had their beginnings in India.

When in 1967 Mrs Gandhi announced severe limitations on missionary visas, it was clear that the work of the Mission had to change. But God was certainly in this process from the beginning.

Frank Ellis had been taken on as Assistant General Secretary with a new vision to take the work of the Mission ‘into all the world’, and events in India only served to precipitate this process.

Nellie Hawes, having served twenty years in India, came home on furlough announcing that God was calling her to Spain! Roger and Helen Cook also joined the Mission in 1966 to continue their work in Belgium.

Finally, when Colin and Carole Howells were refused visas for India, they concluded that God was calling them to serve in France.

The 1970s were therefore a time of readjustment. A new Mission Centre was built in Abingdon, with a suite of radio studios where we began to record programmes in English, and then also in French. New workers were sent to Spain, Peru and the Philippines, but for some years there were no new workers.

The 1980s was the decade of change, not least with the SBM becoming Grace Baptist Mission, a name change that expressed better our commitment to the doctrines of grace that are at the heart of our ethos. New missionaries were sent out, with Theo and Sonja Donner going to Colombia and Stuart and Dol Olyott to Switzerland, while others went to France, Kenya, and the Arab world, and a whole team of workers went to Austria.

The missionary workforce doubled to about sixty missionaries, and then in 1989 the Iron Curtain came down, opening up massive opportunities in Eastern Europe.

Today GBM is a Mission working on four continents, in more than a dozen countries, in ministries of evangelism and church planting, training leaders, Bible translation, partnering with national pastors and churches, reaching the poor through holistic gospel mission, and connecting with a much larger audience through radio and literature.

For a more in depth look at the history of GBM you can read ‘Grace to the Nations’ by John McDonald. Find out more on our book page.