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Akin: Martyred missionary died gainfully

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–William Wallace had a lot in common with the Apostle Paul, President Daniel Akin said during a chapel service at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 30.

Wallace dedicated his life to freeing people he loved and gave his life for something he believed in, becoming a national hero. Just like Paul, Wallace died a martyr’s death for his cause, Akin said, knowingly putting himself in harm’s way.

However, Akin was not comparing Paul to William Wallace of Scotland and of “Braveheart” fame, but to William “Bill” Wallace, medical missionary to China in the first half the 20th century, who gave his life in service to the Chinese people for 16 years.

Reading from Philippians 1:19-21, Akin addressed the topic of mighty missionaries in his third address this semester on the topic of famous evangelical missionaries. Previously, Akin preached about the lives of William Carey and Adoniram Judson.

Akin is preaching the series on missions because he wants all Southeastern students and potential students to know that Southeastern is a “dangerous” place for those who seek a life of comfort and familiarity.

“Here, we don’t ask the question, ‘Why should I go [to the foreign mission field]?'” Akin said. “We ask the question, ‘Why should I stay?'”

“When I think of Bill Wallace of China, immediately Philippians 1:21 comes to mind,” Akin noted. “It’s my life’s verse…. No verse captures better the life of this man by the name of Bill Wallace.”

The passage, which says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” was carved on Wallace’s headstone after his death at the hands of Chinese communists in 1961. The man became a missionary immediately after finishing his schooling and medical training in Tennessee, at which time he was sent, as an answer to prayer, to serve as a much-needed surgeon in the hospital in Wuchow, China.

“Bill Wallace was a Jesus-intoxicated man. For Bill Wallace, to live was Christ, both in word and in deed,” Akin said. Akin said Wallace proclaimed the Gospel throughout his life. “He did it quietly, he did it without much fanfare, but he did it very, very effectively.”

Wallace dedicated himself to God as a medical missionary at age 17.

“He never looked back, and he never wavered from that commitment,” Akin said. During his time in China, Akin said Wallace gave himself so deeply to the Chinese people they were amazed at his life.

Akin said one letter about Wallace, written by a Chinese person, said, “We know the missionaries love us, but there was always a difference. They lived their way and we lived ours. Dr. Wallace didn’t know about the difference, he was one of us. He accepted our portion -– all of it.”

Wallace’s total integration into the lives of the Chinese was what ultimately led to his death, as he refused to leave China when communism gained control of the country.

Akin said Wallace once stated, “I’m the one to stay. I’m just one piece of man without other responsibilities.”

The term “one piece of man” was a term of self-deprecation, Akin explained. “By it, Bill meant his life was the only one at stake… He was the one to stay on in the face of the unknown to give the Stout Memorial Hospital and the Baptist witness every chance to continue … once the ‘red blight’ arrived.”

Communists eventually captured Wallace, tortured him and killed him, when he would not willingly say he was acting as an American spy. When his death was discovered, Akin said the communists had tried to cover up the murder, hanging him in his jail cell to make it look as if he had taken his own life.

“Bill Wallace was dead at 43…. Our nation was outraged, and God’s people wept all over the world,” Akin said. However, Wallace’s legacy did not die with him, as his name has been given to hospitals and buildings.

“Brothers and sisters, the real tribute to Bill Wallace is not found in buildings, but it is found in those who have followed in his footsteps as missionaries,” Akin said. “The remains of William Lindsay Wallace are scattered today into the uttermost parts of the earth, where missionaries give witness that Jesus Christ is Lord.

“Brothers and sisters, here is a life worth living,” Akin said. “Here is a death worth having.”
Lauren Crane is a writer with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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