Canadian Baptist of Western Canada

William Carey like you’ve never seen him before.

William Carey like you’ve never seen him before.

Deanna Storfie stars in a one-woman play about the legendary missionary, William Carey.

“His story is tragedy. It’s hardship. But it’s also a story of how the gospel can change lives and transform cultures,” Deanna says of William Carey’s mission in India. The play has grown out of her extensive research, and was commissioned by The Gathering’s organizing committee for this year’s meeting.

“It wasn’t an easy road to hold. There were entrenched superstitions and teachings that oppressed the people of India, especially women. So to come in with the Gospel with an understanding that God loves creation and people, no matter what our skin colour or gender, because we’re made in the image of God… was revolutionary.”

Bringing this gospel message of freedom didn’t come free for Carey’s family. The first number of years, Carey worked in isolation from other Christians. Even the British community in India isolated them, fearing the economic implications of his work against the caste system.

“That was detrimental to his wife,” Deanna says. “No support, being in a foreign country, having child after child. She really suffered from depression, and mental illness completely. Imagine how hard it would be, going on a mission like that, when it’s your husband that feels called, and you’re going to support, but don’t feel called.”

Carey saw very little fruit in the early years. He worked hard, preached to hundreds, but had no converts. “He often wondered, did he really hear God’s call? Should he be there?” Deanna says.

“His wife is going slowly insane, and his boys are running around with no parental supervision because he’s busy doing missionary work.” It wasn’t until another group of missionaries came to join him that things started to take off. 

Ironically, given the personal cost his wife faced, women’s rights was a seminal accomplishment for Carey and his team, in partnership with Indian allies. At that time, the custom was for widows to burn alive on their husband’s funeral pyres, a practice known as Sati. Carey et al campaigned hard to make this practice illegal, and to convince women to reach out for help if their husband’s died.

“Husband is god. If your husband is sad you are sad, if your husband is happy you are happy. If your husband is dead, you must die,” Deanna says of the belief at the time. In her research for the play, she that learned it probably had more to do with economic burden than anything. In-laws had already paid the dowry, and didn’t want to pay more. This noble sacrifice for a husband’s honour was just a guise.

“To tell of Jesus who sacrificed himself for them, was so poignant,” she says.

Whose perspective will Deanna use to tell the story in her one-woman play? You’ll have to come to The Gathering to find out!