July 21: Rev. Justin Perkins

The Apostle of Persia (Iran)
by Rev. David T. Myers

The great adversary of the church, Satan himself, did not want the Rev. Justin Perkins to go and minister in ancient Persia, which is modern Iran.  Yet that was where he had been called to work as the first American to live and minister in this Moslem country. And that was where this Presbyterian missionary was sent in 1837 by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Justin Perkins had been born in Massachusetts in 1805.  He spent his early years on his father’s farm. Having a religious experience when he was 18 years of age, he attended Amherst College, graduating with honors. His theological studies were at Andover Theological Seminary, and  ordained  a Presbyterian minister in 1833.

It was on July 21, 1833 that he married Charlotte Bass, of Middlebury, Vermont. Their life together would be spent in Persia with incredible hardship and sorrow, as they lost to disease six of their seven children.

Justin Perkins was so ill on the scheduled day of their departure that he  had to be carried on board ship on a litter. Then departing from the port, they encountered terrible storms, which lengthened the ocean trip. Arriving  on the coast of the region of Persia, they ran into opposition from local tribes and national governments. Only an appeal to the diplomatic corps brought them relief from their hardships.

When they arrived finally in their chosen place of labor, Justin Perkins began to preach to the people of the  Assyrian Church of the East in Northwest Persia. Despite being poor and ignorant people, Perkins set up boys and girls schools, translated their Syriac language into Scripture, and printed in their language, books by John Bunyan and Richard Baxter. Even the Moslem rulers were impressed by his ministry, and schools were set up for them.

But with the hardships and death of their family, Charlotte Perkins was emotionally and physically weakened, and went back to America in 1841. To everyone’s surprise, she improved and lived until she was ninety years of age. Her husband died in 1869 in Massachusetts. He was the first American, and American missionary to live and work in Iran.

Words to Live By: 
It was the great apostle Paul to acknowledge that in the midst of his great and effective door opened to him in first century Ephesus, a great many adversaries to the gospel were also present. (1 Corinthians 16:9)  Justin Perkins would understand that all too well.  We must all remember that Satan is alive and though the defeated one, is still active on Planet Earth.  Our life and ministry as Christians will not be easy.  Let us put on the armor of God and go forth to battle.

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