Three Knocks in the Night

One of the most famous and effective missionary stories of all time is called “Three Knocks in the Night.” I shared it in my message last week at The Donelson Fellowship; but in case you missed it there, I’ll cut and paste it below:

Ida Scudder came from a long line of missionaries – some 43 members of her family had given over 1,100 years to missionary service – but Ida herself had no interest in being a missionary. She’d seen firsthand the pressure and poverty of missionary work in India, and she wanted a higher standard of living without the prolonged, painful separations she had suffered. As a child, she’d been left alone in America while her parents were abroad. Despite intense loneliness, she worked her way through school, graduating from college with every intention of setting down and pursuing a career.

All that changed when Ida made a trip to India to visit her parents. One night while sitting by a lamp writing letters, three men knocked on the door of the missions house, one after another. The first was a Brahmin, begging someone to help his wife who was having severe problems in childbirth. The second was a high-cast Hindu whose wife was also in crisis during childbirth. The third was a Muslim seeking medical help. His wife was also having trouble delivering her baby.

Ida’s mother couldn’t go because she was ill. Her father couldn’t go because the local culture wouldn’t accept such contact with the opposite sex. Nor did Ida go as she had no training.

She later wrote, “I could not sleep that night—it was too terrible. Within the very touch of my hand there were three young girls dying because no woman would help them. I spent much of the night in anguish and prayer. I did not want to spend my life in India. My friends were begging me to return to the joyous opportunities of a young girl in America. I went to bed in the early morning after praying much for guidance. I think that was the first time I ever met God face to face, and all the time it seemed that He was calling me into this work. Early in the morning I heard the “tom-tom” beating in the village and it struck terror in my heart, for it was a death message. I sent out my servant, and he came back saying that all of them had died during the night. I shut myself in my room and thought very seriously about the condition of the Indian women and after much thought and prayer, I went to my father and mother and told them I must go home and study medicine, and come back to India to help such women.”

Ida did so, and in time she established the Vellore medical complex offering critical medical services to Indian women, along with strong doses of evangelism and Gospel witness. Today the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, is still offering help, hope, and healing — over 100 years later.[i]

The world is knocking on our door. And the greatest thing we can do is to open it and point them to the Lord Jesus Christ.


[i] Ida Scudder’s story is told by Ruth A. Tucker in Guardians of the Great Commission (Zondervan, Grand Rapids: 1988), 155-157.

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