Won Over By God
God did not use a spiritual giant to found New Tribes Mission. He used Paul Fleming.
Born in California, Paul was an average guy who loved sports and hanging out with his friends. Paul trusted Christ as a young boy, but during his growing up years, he neglected the Lord. His godly mother’s concern for him grew as the older he got, the more taken with the world he seemed to be. But God had big plans for Paul. At the age of twenty-five, Paul humbled himself and dedicated his life to his Savior.
He was greatly affected by evangelist preacher Paul Radar. After hearing his teaching, Paul wrote, “I realized that, now that I belonged to Christ, it was my business to follow Him.”
The Lord had won Paul over, and put a desire to serve Him in Paul’s heart.
But still, Paul did not yet know that he was going to be involved with missions.
Paul moved to Indiana, sought discipleship from Paul Radar, and involved himself in ministry there. After a couple of years, Paul returned home to California; settling down to take the menial and regular job of working at a food company. The idea of dedicating his life to missions had briefly entered his mind in the past few years, but he had no concrete plans to pursue it.
One evening, late at night, Paul was on a work shift with an elderly man who was known for being a rather shady person. He had the reputation of being no-good and not doing much with his life. As he observed the man, reality hit Paul. He realized that he could end up like this old man, living a life that would seemingly come to nothing.
Conviction and determination seized Paul. He could not allow his life to be poured down the drain. That very night he promised the Lord and himself that he would dedicate his life to missions and to the preaching of the gospel to a needy world.
From that night on, Paul was convinced that he would spend his life as a missionary. He and his fiancé began making plans to head overseas as soon as they wed. God directed them to British Malaya, where many people had never heard the gospel. Partnering with fellow missionary Dr. Robert Jaffray, the Flemings began their evangelistic efforts.
Paul was encouraged as over time people came to Christ and began to grow in Him. Yet he still desired to go into the interior of the Malay Peninsula, specifically to an unreached people group called the Arang-Asli.
Paul did make his way to the Arang-Asli, but he was not there for long.
He and his teammates decided to make a trip to one of the distant Arang-Asli settlements, and the journey took a severe toll on his body. By the time they made it to the settlement, dozens of leeches had fastened themselves to him. He was extremely exhausted and weak. Paul had already suffered malaria several times over the past few years, and this trip brought on another fierce bout of the sickness. After resting for several days, he was somehow able to make the return journey to the mission base, but it was clear that he needed serious medical attention.
In a government hospital bed, Paul struggled against discouragement. His body had always been sturdy and able, but after the past few years, he could no longer depend on his physical strength.
His sickness had brought him to the point where it seemed he would have to go home. He felt as though his dreams for reaching people groups that had no knowledge of Christ were dying.
He could not understand what God was doing. But had he foreseen what the next few years were to bring, Paul may have been less disheartened.
He had no idea that God was going to do great things for the unreached by taking him back to the United States.
New Tribes Mission is Born
Once back on U.S. soil, Paul made it his chief aim to speak to believers everywhere about the need for the gospel in unreached people groups.
Paul traveled to churches all over the States, seeking to raise awareness and challenging people to consider their part in the Great Commission.
It was during this time that Paul formed a crucial friendship with a man who was also extremely zealous for world evangelization: Cecil A. Dye.
The two men bonded quickly. They both had the same focus and passion in life-to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to every living soul.
In 1942, the two men felt led to form a committee that would call out and equip able-bodied men and women to go to the mission field. God provided men to join their team, and in the spring of the same year, New Tribes Mission was founded.
Paul said this about the birth of the new mission,
We had no funds, no organization behind us; we were just a group of fellows who desired honestly to give our lives for Jesus Christ. We learned, all too soon, that no one is interested in a new movement. But it seemed that the Lord had pushed us into something, and we were confident that no man started New Tribes Mission; the Lord brought it into existence in spite of us.
Paul Fleming was not a larger than life man.
He battled physical sickness, exhaustion, doubts, and the sadness of crushed dreams.
Both he and the men who came to form the first committee of New Tribes Mission were common, ordinary men, who caught the extraordinary vision of God.
New Tribes Mission’s birth was not due to the great feats of mankind, but to the faithfulness and ability of a great God.
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Anna Wishart is a graduate of Ethnos360 Bible Institute, and continues to seek ways to be involved with missions through writing. She currently lives in Winchester, Virginia, and enjoys biking, art, friends, the mountain views, and serving at Fellowship Bible Church.