“Willie, we can’t send you to school next year,” said Mr. Carey. “We have your four brothers and sisters to take care of. And since you’re the oldest, you’ll have to find a job and go to work. We need the money you can earn.”
Now, you may think it would be fun not to have to go to school. But Willie loved school. He loved to study and learn new things. He looked up into his father’s face and knew that he had heard right. He would not be able to go back to school the next year! He knew his father wouldn’t change his mind.
Willie glanced down at his shoes. He kicked the dust along the path as he and his father walked along. He pretended to be looking for something over by the edge of the trees along the path. He wanted to hide his tears of disappointment. He was so unhappy he couldn’t think of anything to say.
“You’ll be fourteen years old next week,” Father went on. “I think I can get you a job with the shoemaker in town. You can learn to cut leather and make shoes.”
“I guess I could study in the evenings,” Willie managed to say at last. “There are so many things I want to know! I can borrow books and read and learn things even if I can’t go to school.”
So, Willie went to work for the town shoemaker, a man named Clarke Nichols, in the town of Hackleton. As soon as he walked into the shoe shop on the very first day, Willie knew that he was going to like his new job. He saw a few books on a shelf in one corner of the shop. Willie could hardly wait to read the titles to see what they were about. He didn’t have time to look at them all morning, but when lunchtime came and he could stop work for a few minutes, he quickly began to look at the books.
One of the books looked especially interesting. It was about the Bible. It had a lot of strange words in Greek that Willie didn’t understand. But they were exciting anyway. They were like a mysterious puzzle just waiting to be solved.
Willie carefully copied the Greek words on a piece of paper. He put the paper in his pocket. At the end of the week, when he went home, he took the paper with him. Then he took the paper with the strange Greek words to a friend who could read Greek. With the help of his friend, Willie slowly learned what each word meant. Then he found some Latin words in the book, and he copied these words, as well. He did the same with some Hebrew words. Willie loved to study, and after a few months, he could read Greek, Latin, and Hebrew!
Willie also enjoyed studying his Bible, and he liked to pray. One day he decided he wanted to be a Christian and give his heart to Jesus. Afterward, he was so happy that he began to tell everyone about Jesus. He wanted to be a preacher, but he had to keep on working making shoes to earn money for food and clothes and to help his family.
One day Willie found a book written by a famous explorer, Captain James Cook, who had traveled to many faraway places around the world. In this book, Willie learned about people who lived in other parts of the world. Then he had an idea.
Willie came to work a few days later carrying a roll of paper under his arm. He got some tacks and a hammer and carefully unrolled the paper. The other workers in the shoe shop came over to see what Willie was doing with the tacks and the roll of paper.
Willie held up the paper so they could see. It was covered with different colored shapes. “This is a map of the world,” he told them. “Now we can see what countries Captain Cook visited during his travels.”
One of the workmen helped Willie hold up the map against the wall. Willie tacked it in place so all the workers could see it. Then he got a black pencil and began marking the map. He marked each place Captain Cook had been to. He also wrote down things he had learned about each country—things he had learned from books he had read. But while he was writing, he got another idea. He wondered if the people in these faraway places knew anything about Jesus.
“We should send someone across the ocean to teach these people about Jesus,” Willie said to his pastor.
“When God wants them to know about Jesus and the Bible, He will take care of it,” the pastor told Willie.
But the pastor didn’t forget what Willie had said. He talked to other pastors. A few years later there was a movement to send someone to India. “I’ll go,” Willie offered. “The people in India may not be happy to see me, and my friends here at home may forget about me, but God will be with me.” So, Willie sailed for India.
For more than a year after he left for India, no one heard from Willie at all. Finally, a letter arrived. It was from Willie to the pastors who had sent him to India. They read it and passed it around to many other people to read. The letter said that Willie was building a church. He needed help. All his friends began collecting money, which they sent to him to help him build the church in that distant land.
Meanwhile, in India, Willie was having trouble. He didn’t know how to speak the Bengali language, so he couldn’t talk to the people there. But Willie had always enjoyed learning new things. He decided to get a job so he could have some money to pay someone to teach him Bengali. Willie got a job in a factory making indigo. Indigo is a blue dye that is used to make ink.
As soon as he got a job and began earning some money, Willie hired a teacher. He was a good student, and before long he could speak and understand Bengali. Once he knew the language, Willie started to translate the Bible into Bengali. He knew the people in India would want to read the Bible in their own language. But many of the people couldn’t read—even in Bengali. So, Willie held classes to teach them to read. It took a long time, but as the people learned to read and as they began reading the Bible, they wanted to learn more about God.
Willie built a church and a school. He helped many, many people in India to love God and have a better life. From the time he was a boy, Willie had worked hard. He worked hard in the shoemaker’s shop. And he worked hard in India as a missionary for God. Today, William Carey is known as the “Father of Modern Christian Missions.”
Storytime, Character-building Stories for Children, 86–89.