The year was 1885. Siblings Grace and Robert Wilder, who had grown up as missionary kids in India, were stirred in their spirits to ask God for a revival in Missions. They felt that the church in the United States had grown cold and lethargic to the cause of worldwide evangelization. Grace and Robert prayed that God would raise a thousand new missionaries!
Gripped with a growing concern, Robert took time to share his vision to some of his friends at Princeton Seminary. Subsequently, six young people joined together on Sundays week after week to pray for Missions. In 1886 D. L. Moody had arranged a Bible conference at Mt. Hermon, Massachusetts. Urged by his sister who was convinced that God was about to usher in a breakthrough, Robert attended the two week long conference. There were about 200 college students from all over United States. During the session breaks Robert began sharing about his vision and invited them to join for a special time of prayer during the afternoons. Starting with four the group soon multiplied. After stirring up the students one on one by word of mouth, Robert then met Moody and persuaded him to devote two evenings to discuss about Missions. Moody agreed to the unusual move of the Spirit. A. T. Pierson and William Ashmore challenged the conference crowd with the need for missionaries in ten countries. Those who listened were deeply impressed, and by the last day of the conference ninety-nine students had signed a paper which read: “We are willing and desirous, God permitting, to become foreign missionaries.” The morning after the closing of the conference the ninety-nine volunteers met for a farewell service, and while they prayed one more came in to join their ranks. Thus, the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) was born.
John R. Mott who later became one of the greatest missionary statesman of the era was one among those who answered the call. In his journal he wrote, “The Holy Spirit is working here with mighty power. He has brought about the greatest missionary revival the world has ever known….Here I received a far richer anointing of the Spirit than I had dared to ask for before I came.”
Grace and Robert had asked the Lord of harvests to raise one thousand new missionaries but he answered their prayers with more than what they could have imagined. By 1930, SVM had sent more than 20,000 missionaries to foreign lands!