December 1

Today’s history note once again deals with Missouri, but this time only in the eastern part of the state and somewhat earlier.
John Mason Peck was born – and born again – in Connecticut, but the Lord laid the spiritual needs of the West, upon his heart. On this day (December 1) in 1817, he and his family arrived in St. Louis, after more than four months of travel by foot, wagon, and boat. On the day of his arrival, he was so sick with a fever that he had to be carried to his bed on a stretcher. But soon he recovered and began an illustrious ministry.
First, he established a school and began to evangelize the local black population, then he started riding out into the country-side, preaching Christ in homes and farming communities. Looking ahead, he established a station where the thousands of settlers traveling through St. Louis could be refreshed in body and soul, providing them with the scriptures and the gospel to carry to their new homes. He planted some of the earliest Baptist churches west of the Mississippi, and despite his own limited education founded the first college in the West. He was called “God’s Ambassador to the Mississippi Valley” and because he seemed so busy he also earned the nickname “the man with twenty hands.”
Illustrating his expanding his ministry, a 1823 note in his journal stated: “I have been absent from home 53 days; have traveled through 18 counties in Illinois and 9 in Indiana; rode 926 miles, pleached regular sermons 31 times, besides delivering several speeches, address and lectures.”
For his service he received support from churches in the east averaging about $5.00 a month, so he added to his income by teaching, publishing a paper and occasionally doing manual labor.
There is an oft-asked question at today’s ordinations: “Could you do anything other than preach the gospel?” John Peck would have answered, “Yes!” It was necessary to further the work of the Lord in the West, and he was willing to pay the price.