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The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin missionem (nom. missio), meaning "act of sending" or mittere, meaning "to send". The word was used in light of its biblical usage; In the Latin translation of the Bible, Christ uses the word when sending the disciples to preach in his name. The term is most commonly used for Christian missions, but can be used for any creed.
- Nestorian communities evangelized much of North Africa.
- Cistercians evangelized much of Northern Europe, as well as developing most of European agriculture's classic techniques.
- Portuguese trade with Asia was profitable and as Jesuits came to India around 1540, the colonial government in Goa supported the mission with incentives for baptized Christians. * Later, Jesuits were sent to China and further countries in Asia.
- In North America, missionaries to the native Americans included Jonathan Edwards, the well known preacher of the Great Awakening
- In Spanish colonization of the Americas, the Catholic missionaries selected and learned among the languages of the Amerindians and devised writing systems for them. Then they preached to them in those languages (Quechua, Guarani, Nahuatl) instead of Spanish, to keep Indians away from "sinful" whites.
- From 1732 onwards the Moravian Church began sending out missionaries.
- Around 1780, an indigent Baptist cobbler named William Carey began reading about James Cook's Polynesian journeys. His interest grew to a furious sort of "backwards homesickness", inspiring him to obtain Baptist orders, and eventually write his famous 1792 pamphlet, "An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of Heathen." Far from a dry book of theology, Carey's work used the best available geographic and ethnographic data to map and count the number of people who had never heard the Gospel. It formed a movement that has grown with increasing speed from his day to the present.
Famous American missionaries
- Geronimo Boscana
- Anton Docher
- Antonio de Olivares
- John Stewart (missionary)
- John Wesley