A New Missionary Biography: A Modest But Crucial Hero

by | Jul 5, 2023 | Blog

I have written a missionary biography of my great-great-uncle, the Reverend George E. Stone. His oldest brother, Frederick Stone, was my great-grandfather (d. 1921). Their other two brothers, Ernest and Harry, died in 1968 and 1970, respectively. I met them in the 1960s when my knowledge of and interest in George was non-existent. I did not ask these aged great-great-uncles about their memories of George.

I read the tribute to George in The History of the Arabian Mission in my parents’ library in the early 1970s.[i] My relatively new faith in Jesus Christ gave me an interest in missions and as I read the tribute, even though brief, my heart was enthralled.

George Erwin Stone (September 1, 1873—June 26, 1899) was a twenty-five-year-old missionary with the Arabian Mission in Manama, Bahrain and Muscat, Oman. He joined thousands of young men and women who became Student Volunteers who offered to serve in other countries to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and to establish or strengthen Christ’s Church in them. He received his appointment in early 1898 before graduating from Auburn Theological Seminary in Auburn, New York. He died in Birka, north of Muscat, and was buried in the English Cove Cemetery in Muscat.

A great-nephew of George, Douglas Courtright, learned of my interest in our common ancestor. He gave me his family’s scrapbook in 1984 that contained the printed excerpts of George’s missionary letters to his parents. I wrote to the Bahrain Consulate in Washington, DC in October 1984 to inquire about visiting the island country where George began Arabic language training.

As a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1975-78, I studied under missions professor Dr. J. Christy Wilson, Jr. He had a personal and professional interest in Dr. Samuel Zwemer, a cofounder of the Arabian Mission. Dr. Wilson’s father wrote Apostle to Islam: A Biography of Samuel M. Zwemer.[ii] Around 1990, I shared the family scrapbook with Dr. Wilson, Jr. and talked to him about George and Samuel Zwemer.

I renewed my research about George in 2014-16 when I wrote a biography about my father.[iii] I included information about George as part of our family’s heritage. Before I retired in March 2018, I wrote a note to myself that I wanted visit his grave. I discovered a picture of his grave online, and began to plan the trip for early 2020. I also connected with a Tennessee artist, Carol Berning, whose husband is a descendant of George’s aunt (and a distant cousin to me). Carol sent me photos of their family scrapbook that includes George’s travel letters. The scrapbook is almost identical to the one I received from Douglas Courtright and dates from the same period. I learned that George’s letters were accessible on the New York Historical Newspaper website. I immediately began to study them.

The Mexico, New York Independent newspaper became my primary source about George. The owner and editor of the paper, Mr. Henry Humphries, was a close friend of the Stone family and attended the Presbyterian Church with them. He served as the Superintendent of the Sunday School during George’s youth. He mentored George in the Christian faith directly and indirectly. Humphries served as one of the best advocates for his missionary calling and short period of service by printing excerpts of his letters. If there had not been a Mr. Humphries, we would know little about George and his family.

My two brothers and I visited George’s grave in Muscat on Saturday, January 25, 2020. Gratitude to God filled my heart when my dream to visit the grave became a reality. Besides visiting George’s grave, we attended the Anglican worship service at the Protestant Church in Muscat, visited a married couple doing business as mission, and learned that George’s legacy lives on to this day.

I talked to them about writing a biography and asked them to pray for the project. Research began in earnest after we returned home. The coronavirus pandemic closed many facilities that contained pertinent material about George’s affiliation with the Arabian Mission. The research I did do revealed that he is mentioned in many studies about the Arabian Mission, studies that have been conducted into the 2000s.

My objective in writing a biography of George is to honor this modest but crucial hero. His story gathers together background information about this brave young man who chose to serve near the birthplace of Islam in the attempt to reach Arabia with the good news of Jesus Christ. He was convinced that Islam’s portrayal and admiration of Jesus of Nazareth as a prophet and the Messiah failed to embrace his full identity as the Son of God and the Savior of the world through his death and resurrection.

The book is divided into six parts. Part One introduces the reader to George and his family, education, and volunteering. Part Two traces his journey to the mission field through his letters sent home during the trip. Part Three covers George’s brief Arabic language studies in Bahrain. Part Four describes his service and death in Oman. Part Five reports on the Stone family’s response to his death. Part Six examines his legacy in literature from 1900 to the present.

September 1 is the 150th anniversary of George’s birth. The modern world is very different from the one George grew up in. Some readers will love and respect him for his courage, theological convictions, and assessments of Islam. Others will loathe him for his Western civilization arrogance, evangelical faith, and opinions of Islam. I have tried to let him speak for himself through his words from his letters. If all goes as planned, A Modest But Crucial Hero will be published in September. Message me if you are interested in receiving information about its release.


[i] Mason, Rev. Alfred DeWitt and Barny, Rev. Frederick J., MA. The History of the Arabian Mission. New York, NY: The Board of Foreign Missions Reformed Church of America, 1926.

[ii] Wilson, J. Christy, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1952.

[iii] A Last Chapter of the Greatest Generation: The Life and Family of Colonel Frederic A. Stone, M.D.—Aviator, Doctor, Missionary, and Friend to Humanity. Lake Placid, NY: Aviva Publishing,  2016.





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