Should I stay or should I go?

[photopress:keithfalconer.jpg,thumb,right]I was challenged tonight by these words of Ion Keith-Falconer given as he left Scotland to serve as a missionary to Muslims in 1886.

There must be some who will read these words, or who, having the cause of Christ at heart, have ample independent means, and are not fettered by genuine home ties. Perhaps you are content with giving annual subscriptions and occasional donations, and taking a weekly class ? Why not give yourselves, money, time and all, to the foreign field ? Our own country is bad enough, but comparatively many must, and do, remain to work at home, while very few are in a position to go abroad. Yet how vast is the Foreign Mission field! The field is the world. Ought you not to consider seriously what your duty is ? The heathen are in darkness, and we are asleep.

Perhaps you try to think that you are meant to remain at home, and induce others to go. By subscribing money, sitting on committees, speaking at meetings, and praying for missions, you will be doing the most you can to spread the Gospel abroad. Not so. By going yourself, you will produce a tenfold more powerful effect… We have a great and imposing war-office, but a very small army. You have wealth snugly vested in the funds, you are strong and healthy, you are at liberty to live where you like, and occupy yourself as you like. While vast continents are shrouded in almost utter darkness, and hundreds of millions suffer the horrors of heathenism or of Islam, the burden of proof lies upon you to shew that the circumstances in which God has placed you were meant by Him to keep you out of the foreign mission-field.

Ion spoke those words in November 1886, just before setting off for Arabia. Six months later, on 10th May 1887 he died in Aden. He was 30 years old. His biographer wrote:

All the zeal and self-sacrificing earnestness, all the carefully planned and patiently worked-out schemes, all the efforts, all the prayers, seemingly in vain. Yet, God be thanked, it is indeed but in seeming. Who will venture to think, as he looks back on the fair, noble record of Ion Keith-Falconer’s life and on his sacrifice of what the world holds dear, that such love and faith can remain permanently effectless? In that noble young Christian hero’s life and death a seed has assuredly been sown, the ultimate harvest of which no man may foresee.

You can download Ion Keith-Falconer’s memoirs and read them for yourself.


  1. Interesting. John Piper says that the reason he has not gone overseas is because he believes that he contributes more to the cause of world mission where he is.

  2. Alan, to be fair to Ion K-F, he says we must “consider carefully” and that the “burden of proof lies with those who stay.

    admittedly, he says we’d have more effect by going than by staying, which for most of us is probably true. But for some (like Piper) it is clear that they are doing more for the evangelisation of the millions across the nations, by staying than by going; and we praise God for them! :o)

    But it seems that Ion thought his audience were more in danger of staying because its comfortable, rather than going or staying to be a world-mission-mobiliser at home (like Piper).

  3. Boyce Keith Smith says

    Hello Ion Keith Falconer was my Great Great Great Grandmother’s Countess Isabella Catherine Keith-Falconer Nefew her brother Francis Alexander Keith-Falconer 8th Earl Of Kintore 10th Lord Falconer of Halkerton was Ion Keith-Falconer’s father. Ion Keith-Falconer was drawn to the lord at a very young age he allways wanted to help others who had nothing and no hope his life would make a great movie what he started in Aden during those last 6 months of his life grew to a 45 bed hospital by 1967 when Aden won it’s independence what a triump of the human spirt as he spoke above by going there he spaked a change in how things were and how they are know and helped untold thousands who would not have had any hope with finding medical help If it was not for Ion Keith-Falconer God bless