Lilias Trotter: A Woman Yielded to God's Will

the beginnings of a sacrificed life

Isabella Lilias Trotter grew up in London in the mid-nineteenth century. Her family was well-to-do, and she received a good education. From a young age, it was clear that she was a highly gifted artist, and the renowned art critic John Ruskin took great interest in her success as a painter. Though she loved painting, Lilias’ heart was occupied in other endeavors. After becoming a Christian, Lilias became involved in various ministries in and around London, including helping with the Moody revivals and working with women on the streets. During this time, she became convinced that she would not be able to fulfill Ruskin’s dreams for her art at the same time as being fully devoted to the work of ministry the Lord had called her to. Though it pained her for the rest of her life, Lilias gave up pursuing professional art.

“For the highest aim of ministry is to bring His immediate presence into contact with others—so to bring Him and them face to face that He can act on them directly, while we stand aside, like John the Baptist, rejoicing greatly.”
— Lilias Trotter

CALLed to go

Eventually, Lilias felt certain that God was calling her to North Africa. Because her health issues prevented her from being sent by a missions agency, she and a few other single women simply moved to Algiers, supporting themselves at first through their families’ money. Though their first few years of life and ministry were fraught with difficulties and a steep learning curve, the women persevered. They learned the language, became acquainted with the culture, and earned the trust of the people. During this time the group became officially known as the Algiers Mission Band (AMB).

 After the initial difficulties beginning their mission, Lilias and her coworkers saw several years of ministry growth in both numbers and geography. The AMB ministered through both evangelism and Bible study as well as community development, literature translation and distribution, and more. In many ways, the AMB was ahead of their time in areas like contextualization and encouraging single women to serve as missionaries. Lilias believed that the way to bring Christ into North Africa was through the women and mothers, and she encouraged women in England to come and be a part of reaching them with the gospel.

a Lasting Influence

Lilias herself translated the New Testament into colloquial Algerian Arabic and wrote several works, including parables for sharing the gospel and apologetics for Sufi mystics. Besides all these, she kept a diary every day for the forty years she ministered in North Africa, and she used her artistic gifts to illustrate many of her works with beautiful desert scenes or intricate flowers. When she was homebound towards the end of her life, one of Lilias’ last great efforts was to pen a book about North African people groups for English-speaking Christians to help them to understand and to encourage them to come join the work. In reading her works, one will see that Lilias had a heart in love with the Lord, his Word, and his world. She writes eloquently of the work of Christ and its transformative effects on believers and continually emphasizes that Christ alone is the one who has the power to save, the one on whom she relies.

Image Source

Lilias remained single throughout her life. She broke many stereotypes of her time period, rejecting a successful career path, brilliantly organizing a new mission group initially made up entirely of women, recruiting single women to join her team, traveling throughout potentially dangerous lands, and engaging in debate with Muslim mystics.

embodying a broken spirit

Lilias Trotter left the world a stunning example of a woman completely yielded to God’s will. She lives on in her extensive writings, beautiful paintings, and the continuing work in North Africa that was started by the Algiers Mission Band. She and her team embodied missiological and theological principles which still apply to cross-cultural work today, and her passionate love for the Lord and the lost inspire anyone who reads her works. Trotter embodied the principles from her own pen: “it is a broken spirit that we need--a spirit keeping no rights before God or man, longing to go down, down, anywhere, if other souls may be blessed.”[2][3]

Rebecca Hankins is a photographer at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and holds an MA in Intercultural Studies from SEBTS. She enjoys serving on the leadership team for the Society for Women in Scholarship at SEBTS and is a member of the Summit Church. After completing further study, she hopes to serve the church by doing cross-cultural ministry, teaching, and writing.

[1] I. Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Christ-life

[2] Trotter, Parables of the Christ-life

[3] This article is adapted from an unpublished paper by the author  

Passing the Baton: The Missional Legacy of Dr. George Braswell

The eternal value of faithful saints who have gone before us is difficult to put into words. It’s one thing to read about the missionaries of old — the pioneers who heralded the gospel years before we were even a thought. It’s another thing altogether to have the privilege to know and hear from such pioneers.

On September 12, 2019, we honored the legacy and ministry of Dr. George Braswell and his wife, Joan, in the dedication of the George Braswell Missions and World Religions Library. The Braswells were the first SBC missionaries sent out to serve in Iran in 1968, and Dr. Braswell left the field to teach here at Southeastern in the ‘70s. Their passion to go to the field, tenacity in finding a way to stay there, and endurance through years of ministry is inspiring to say the least. As Southeastern President Dr. Danny Akin said, “It would not be an exaggeration to say George Braswell is like the Apostle Paul of Iran.”

During the dedication, Dr. Braswell referred to the day as “a sacred moment.” He reminisced on the great impact of SEBTS in the life of he and his bride. He spoke of dear partnerships in the Gospel. He acknowledged fellow missionaries in the room and pointed toward the Lord’s faithfulness in allowing Gospel seeds to grow and be evidenced around our campus.

It was certainly a sacred day for us, as well, as Dr. Braswell gifted us with a tangible reminder of the work God accomplishes when we entrust our lives and futures to Him. Brothers and sisters, may we walk in obedience to the Gospel of Christ and be faithful to heed so great a legacy!

Below is an in-depth interview with Dr. Braswell. We invite you to grab a cup of coffee or tea, settle in and enjoy. You won’t regret it.

To read more about the life and ministry of Dr. Braswell, you can read an interview from the Southeastern Theological Review. You can also see more photos from the day here. The library is open to all and can be found in the Jacumin-Simpson Building on Southeastern’s campus.

Discipling Children Toward Missions

I have heard a refrain consistently repeated in the stories shared by missionaries at their commissioning services: “From a young age my parents/grandparents/pastor/Sunday School teacher taught me about missions and missionaries.” There seems to be a noticeable correlation between children who receive missions education and those who later commit themselves to missionary service. Let’s look at a few steps that we can take in our churches and homes to influence the next generation of missionaries.

One of the responsibilities we have in discipling children toward missions is helping them live missionally where they are right now.
— Matthew Hirt

Expose Children To Missionary Biographies

On my shelf sits a volume entitled simply, The Book of Missionary Heroes by Basil Mathews, first published in 1922. The book was written to be read out loud to children and then, later, to be read by children as they learned to read. The book contains short biographies of missionaries from the Apostle Paul to Archibald Forder, a missionary who worked among the Bedouin tribe in the early 20th century. Along the way, a child would be introduced to figures such as Raymond Lull, David Livingstone, Mary Slessor, and Henry Martyn. Even though Mathews tended to glorify these missionaries and make them appear to be larger than life, he shared their stories in a way that children could understand. 

While we should not elevate missionaries to a super-Christian status, we also should not diminish what they do. All Christians are called to make disciples, but the call to leave your people, your homeland, and your language to proclaim the gospel cross-culturally is different. The call to missionary service should be celebrated and encouraged. For this reason, we should expose children from a young age through their teenage years to missionary biographies.

Exposure to missionary biographies can also create opportunities to discuss why missions is necessary. Why did Adoniram and Ann Judson leave their home to go live in Burma? What compelled C. T. Studd to abandon his career as a superstar athlete? If Lottie Moon really was the most educated woman in the South, why would she go to China? These questions can lead to conversations about why each person needs to hear the gospel—the truth that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Sharing the stories of missionaries around the world today and in the past creates an opportunity to share the gospel with your children or those in your children’s ministry. In fact, the story of a missionary could be the way the Lord calls a child to salvation.

For younger children, The Book of Missionary Heroes may be a good option, or there are other individual children’s books on missionaries like Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, and Adoniram and Ann Judson. Older children could benefit from individual volumes of The Christian Heroes series while teenagers and adults have the opportunity to dive deeper with Danny Akin’s 10 Who Changed the World or Ruth Tucker’s From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya. Women’s Missionary Union also continues to publish quality missionary education curricula for children.

Help Children to Think Missionally

Indeed, exposure and instruction are necessary for discipleship but do not constitute the whole of discipleship. Parents and ministry leaders can begin helping children to think practically about their role in missions. My wife, Heather, was teaching a group of three and four-year-old boys and girls about missions on Wednesday nights. She taught them all a simplified version of Matthew 28:19. One little girl in the class knew that her daycare teacher did not go to church, so the little girl asked her mom if she could bring her coloring page to daycare the next day to share the memory verse with her teacher and invite her to church. The teacher had been hesitant to accept invitations from the mom, but it is difficult to turn down the invitation of a three-year-old girl. The invitation and explanation that the little girl issued was not sophisticated or complicated, but it was effective because the teacher showed up at church the next week.

Children have opportunities that parents and ministry leaders do not have. They have relationships in their school. They know people through community groups and sports. Children of all ages have their own network of contacts. If an adult can enter that world at all, it is extremely challenging to connect in a meaningful way. A better method is to disciple our children in our homes and in our churches to see the missional opportunities around them. Isn’t this what we would do on the mission field? We train and equip national believers to engage their own networks and to utilize the natural connections they have at home, at work, and in everyday life. One of the responsibilities we have in discipling children toward missions is helping them live missionally where they are right now.

Include Children in Your Missionary Outreach

One of the worst things we can say to children as we disciple them is, “You can do that when you get older.” There are very few things I would refuse to let a child do in church. A parent or adult may need to help them, but we can certainly involve children in every aspect of the church. If we want them to grow up and serve as future missionaries, whether church planting in urban centers or proclaiming the gospel among an unreached people group, then we should include them in our missionary outreach today.

Simple is often better. Whatever outreach you or your church is already doing, take your children along with you. Some of the most effective discipleship is done just by taking someone with you. Mark reminds us in his gospel that Jesus, “appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, to send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). First and foremost, Jesus called the apostles to be with him. The apostles learned a lot just by being with Jesus. As we disciple children toward missions, we must take them with us when we go on a visitation, when we engage the community during our church’s “Trick or Treat” outreach, or when we invite families to Vacation Bible School. As we live our lives missionally, may we choose to involve our children in what we’re doing instead of leaving them at home.

How Church Planting Changed My Family

My family is above average. No, we are not a family of amazing athletes, and we are not going to solve all the world’s humanitarian crises; but we are a family of six, which puts us above the average size of an American family. If you were to meet me, my wife Page, any of our four daughters, our dog, or our cat, you may think we are similar to any other family in your neighborhood.  Our home needs some repairs, our girls squabble, and we cannot seem to return library books on time. So how are we different?   

In 2003, Page and I, along with our 18 month-old daughter, moved to the Middle East as IMB church planters. While we did our due diligence praying, studying, and preparing to move overseas and start this new venture, we were not prepared for the lifelong impact it would have on us. Church planting changed our family in significant ways, and the following lessons are some that continue to shape us. 

Lessons from the field

1. Ministry is a whole family endeavor. 

There are times when ministering in any context, especially with your family, can be difficult if not overwhelming. However, from the beginning we made a commitment to minister as a family and not separate our home life from ministry life. From day one, we wanted to communicate to our girls that this is our family’s ministry, not just mom’s or dad’s. Any type of ministry, even church planting, is a family endeavor. To be clear, there may be seasons of life that require more or less involvement from certain family members.

2. Flexibility in family life.  

Since ministry is more about people than schedules or comfort, we built flexibility into our family routines. In our specific context, that meant going to the park at 10:00 pm at night if that’s what other families were doing, which was, in fact, a regular occurrence due to the extreme desert heat where we lived. Now, we were sensitive to our children’s needs, but we wanted to be able to minister in a variety of seasons which required flexibility in our daily, weekly, and monthly family routines. 

3. Parenting out of trust and not fear.  

From the early days of our marriage, we determined to make it a priority to trust God. That might seem trivial, but sometimes when it comes to our family, it can be hard to fully entrust them to God. Even now, having two daughters in high school, one in middle school, and the other one in elementary school, our trust muscle is stretched on a regular basis. Living overseas as church planters, we continuously asked the Lord to help us not shrink back from engagement in our community just because it involved trusting Him with our girls in difficult or uncertain places. 

**A word of caution here about family life and ministry. No matter how ‘bought in’ your children are to your ministry, no matter how good of a kid you have, they definitely will not understand all of the sacrifices that ministry requires. However, they should never have to understand a lack of care and love within the home due to ministry busyness. Make sure to spend time as a family enjoying each other, celebrating milestones, discussing real life, and constantly communicating why you are ministering as a family. 

4. An unwavering commitment to prayer and a family life focused on evangelism.  

The dinner table is central in our home. It is our hub for family meals as well as a hub for all kinds of conversation. Page and I talk openly about people we are sharing with and gospel conversations we’ve had with neighbors. We have our girls share prayer requests for their friends, and we challenge them to share their faith regularly and encourage those friends that are believers.  

Beyond the dinner table, we spend time in our neighborhood and community. We know that we have to be around lost people in order to impact them with the Gospel. In all of this we pray. Our family prays for little things, big things, and future things. We want our family to see that prayer changes hearts and opens doors. 

5. Curiosity about other cultures.  

We want our daughters to be exposed to different cultures, places, and peoples. Now, some of this is simply for fun, but beyond that we build expectations for our children to take part in an overseas mission trip once they turn 12. We hope that other simple things like engaging our servers at ethnic restaurants or inviting internationals and missionaries into our home will encourage our girls to go live and minister among the nations one day. We want to provide our family with a missional lens through which to see the world.

6. A posture of listening and learning.  

We lived as minorities in a majority culture for a number of years. While there, we had to learn the basics of a new lifestyle, a new language, and a new culture. All of these things instilled in us an understanding of the need to constantly be listening and learning. Page and I have tried to teach our family to ask questions and listen to peoples’ stories so that they might connect with others and ultimately, have opportunities to build bridges to the Gospel. 

STILL MUCH to learn

Sometimes when we tell people that we lived overseas as church planters they think we must have deep wells of wisdom or that we have mastered the art of marriage, family life, and ministry. Honestly, though , we often feel just the opposite. We still have so much to learn. The impact of our time overseas continues to this day as we continue trying to live in light of these lessons. 

Finally, I hope you will see that the things God drove deeply into our family DNA are no different than what He wants for you and your family. Our time living cross-culturally allowed us an extended season to begin learning these family lessons, but you do not necessarily need to spend years somewhere else as church planters to learn what we have. No matter where you live or what stage of family life you currently find yourself in, God desires to use your family to impact your neighbors and the nations for Christ, too.

Feature image by IMB.

Marriage vs. Missions

“Should I marry or should I devote my life to missions?”

In serving a local church in a college town, I hear this question asked a lot. As students are being saved, experiencing growth, and processing their futures, specific passages of Scriptures can be very gripping. 1 Corinthians 7 is one such passage that presents a host of marriage-related issues to its readers.  Specifically, 1 Corinthians 7:25-35 often causes young Christians to consider Paul’s wisdom that the married person is “anxious over worldly things” instead of “things of the Lord”—a gut check for the one desiring marriage. I’ve seen engaged couples begin walking through premarital counseling come across this passage and think, “oh no!” and question everything about their upcoming nuptials. 

This brings us to the question at hand for the person feeling guilty about his or her desire for marriage — “Should I marry or should I devote my life to missions?”

The Apostle Paul seems to answer, “ . . . yes, maybe.”


If we consult Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, we see less of a prohibition against marriage and more of a universal promotion of Great Commission activity. Verses 25-35 read: 

“Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Where do we start?

First, we know Paul was certainly an advocate for marriage. He is, after all, the biblical author most quoted at  Christian weddings. When we think of classic passages concerning roles in marriage, we go to Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3—both authored by the Apostle. Paul especially shows a high regard for marriage in the way he illustrates Jesus’ relationship with his bride—the church. Seemingly, however, Paul speaks harsh words about holy matrimony in this particular passage. 

But upon a closer look, we find that Paul is not making a theological statement when he “speaks against marriage” in 1 Corinthians 7, as Paul’s theology of marriage is founded on the celebration of marriage in Genesis 2. Instead, he is making a contextually practical one.

Let’s dive in.

The Oxymoron of a Married Bachelor

We first notice a potential contradiction in Paul’s argument when he says “it is good for a person to remain as he is” in verse 26 (i.e. to stay married or stay single). However, he says later, “let those who have wives live as though they had none” in verse 29.  Stay married but live like a bachelor . . . ?

I think verse 28 brings helpful clarity to see there is no contradiction at all: 

“But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.”

It would seem that when Paul identifies the need to “live as though they had [no wife]” in verse 29, he assumes an audience that was typified by distracted marriages. See also his words in verses 32-35 in which Paul speaks to the way many married persons are “anxious about worldly things” within their marriage and are “divided from their devotion unto the Lord.” That is to say, throughout Paul’s journeys, he had likely witnessed more marriages that were all-consumingly-inward rather than Great-Commissionly-outward. Therefore, this present encouragement—to live as a married bachelor—is presented with a bit of hyperbolic flare.

Christians in the first century, whether married or not, needed continual re-centering as disciples of Jesus. Whereas they were new creations regenerated by the Spirit-empowered gospel, they remained weak vessels prone to stray from the path. Here, in 1 Corinthians 7, we see another example of Paul recalibrating Christians for the sake of kingdom advancement.

This recalibration brings us to our second observation. While Paul was undeniably an advocate for earthly marriage, he was even more so a herald for Jesus’ Second Coming.

Notice the emphasis provided in the phrases within verses 26, 29, and 31: “view of the present distress” (v. 26), “appointed time” (v. 29), “present form of this world” (v. 31). Each of these draws into mind the New Testament principle that Christians are living in the “last days” (see Acts 2:17, Heb. 1:2, 2 Tim. 3:1).  Universally, it would seem, the apostles took seriously the command to live in anticipation of Christ’s return. Jesus himself said he would come swiftly and without warning. Therefore, his disciples were not to delay in the completion of their task (Matthew 24-25).

The call is simple. Jesus is coming back, and he has called his disciples to maximally pursue the Great Commission until he does.

This is Paul’s framework for the appeals on marriage and singleness in 1 Corinthians 7.

It isn’t that Paul saw marriage as an absolute obstacle to missions. Instead, he wanted his readers to understand that marriage and singleness must be understood through the lens of Jesus’ calling first to be Great-Commission-Christians. In other words, in light of this fading present age, do whatever propels your devotion to the expansion of Christ’s kingdom. For some, this will be a green light to marry; for others, a life of singleness will best serve the Lord. Marriage and missions are not competing entities in God’s economy.

Maximally Pursue the Great Commission

So, where do you find yourself? Are you single and ready (or not ready) to mingle? Dating and considering engagement? Happily married? Widowed?

With whatever the Lord has gifted you, maximally pursue the Great Commission. Consider these warnings and perform a quick assessment of your life:

To the one presently gifted with singleness…

  • Don’t believe the lie that singles are second-rate people. It may be cliché, but two of Christianity’s heroes were single. One is responsible for the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles and the other—well, we worship him as God. Your life is not incomplete because you aren’t married—for we know our true selves will be made manifest when Jesus returns to resurrect us—as eternal singles.

  • Don’t believe the lie that your life is more expendable. It may be logical for the one with no responsibilities to care for family members to travel to the most dangerous parts of the world to share the gospel, but it isn’t because that person is “less valuable.” When we consider the cost of following Jesus (“to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” Philippians 1:21), we are reminded this applies to all Christians.

  • Don’t believe the lie that singles can only reach singles. Continue to build relationships with people from all walks of life and widely share the gospel, invest in younger believers, and participate in the mutual edification of all types of saints.

  • Don’t believe the lie that marriage is evil. You may well be called to marriage. Heed Paul’s wisdom provided in the rest of 1 Corinthians 7. Are you (appropriately and in step with Christian holiness) burning with passion? Has God presented a suitable companion with whom you can better walk with Christ? Maybe you should marry.

To the one presently gifted with marriage…

  • Don’t believe the lie that being married means you must throw up a white picket fence on Elm Street. You and your spouse can be mobilized together to virtually any place on the planet to spread the Good News.

  • Don’t believe the lie that you and your spouse must operate with two independently separate ministries. This is a big one. Indeed, one spouse may directly invest in persons the other spouse has little contact with, but being married means the two are now one. As such, a Great-Commission marriage is a joint effort. When one spouse mentors someone in the gospel, they do so as an extension of the couple’s ministry as a team.

  • Don’t believe the lie that married couples can only reach married couples. Marriage can be such a beautiful display of the gospel—namely in its rhythms of repentance, forgiveness, and mutual self-sacrifice. Invite singles into your home and be vulnerable for the sake of celebrating Christ’s love.

  • Don’t believe the lie that marriage is evil. You didn’t make a mistake when you said your “I Do’s” and to undo this covenant would be sinful. God, in His perfect providence, arranged your marriage. Congratulations! Because you are married, you successfully found the one for you and it would seem God gave you into marriage so that you would be a better missionary. Maximize your marital union for the Great Commission.

The call to give our lives for the spread of the gospel to the nations supersedes our marital status, but we shouldn’t view these as mutually exclusive. Live where the Lord has you. Give your life for His higher purposes. As Paul said, “secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

Feature image by IMB.