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On 13th June 1793, Carey, Thomas and their families boarded a Danish ship for the five-month voyage to India. Carey was finally “on his way to a people he already loved because of their need, and to a work that was dearer to him than life itself” (Finnie Kellsye M, William Carey by trade a cobbler). The missionary parties arrived in Calcutta, India, on 11th November 1793.


o Early days in India

Carey’s early days in India were beset by sore trials. Unaccustomed to the food, climate and tropical life, Dorothy and the two older sons fell ill with dysentery.

To add to their woes, they soon ran out of money as both Thomas and Carey had grossly underestimated the high cost of living in India. Feeling dejected and alone, Carey wrote: “I am in a strange land, with no Christian friend, a large family, and nothing to supply their wants.” But Carey pressed on: “Well, I have God, and his word is sure.” (

When the family was at its lowest ebb financially, unexpected help came through a friend of Thomas, Mr Udny who needed managers for his two indigo plantations. Carey and Thomas gratefully took up his job offer. The generous annual salary of £250 would enable Carey not only to support his family, but also to provide for the publication of the Scriptures. Besides the good income, there was an added bonus – Mr Udny assured his new employee that he would have time for mission work in addition to his studies. This concession enabled Carey to preach on Sundays as well as during the off-seasons of the indigo crop. During this time, he also began work on his first New Testament translation into Bengali.

o Life in Midnapore

To manage the indigo plantation, Carey moved north with his family to Midnapore on 23rd May 1794. For the next five years, the family settled in a comfortable two-storey house there. Life was smooth-sailing when the young family was called upon to endure a most grievous trial. Carey contracted malaria and his five-year old son, Peter, succumbed to dysentery and died. This tragic loss, coupled with other hardships, overwhelmed his wife, Dorothy. She lost touch with reality and became mentally deranged. Because of the violent nature of her mental illness, she was confined in a locked room for the last twelve years of her life.

Carey himself fought sickness, loneliness and depression. For two years, no word came from England. When the mail finally arrived, the mission society had only sharp words for its two missionaries, reprimanding them for their involvement in secular work. Homesick, weary and despondent, Carey wrote in his journal: “This is, indeed, the Valley of the Shadow of Death to me.” Despite the many setbacks, Carey persevered: “But I rejoice that I am here notwithstanding; and God is here.”

o Serampore Mission

In 1799, more missionaries sent by the Baptist Mission Society, arrived in India. They settled in the Danish colony of Serampore as the British East India Company had forbidden the setup of any mission work in British-controlled territories.

Among them were William Ward, an editor and printer, and Joshua Marshman, a school teacher. On 10th January 1800, Carey who had received notice of the closure of the indigo plantation, joined the new mission team in Serampore.

Labouring together, the three missionaries – collectively known as “the Serampore Trio” – worked hard to translate and print the Bible. Ward set up a printing shop with a second-hand press. Marshman and his wife opened boarding schools. The income from these two sources helped to support the mission.

In 1798, Carey was appointed Professor of Bengali at the newly-opened College of Fort William in Calcutta – a position he held for twenty years. With his generous income, Carey also contributed significantly to the mission finances.

Financially independent, the Serampore mission was able to “accomplish one of their main goals, providing the Bible to Indians in their own languages. The mission completed the Bengali Bible in 1809, and printed at least portions of the Bible in more than forty languages by 1837. Carey singularly translated the entire Bible into Sanskrit, Marathi, Oraya, Hindi, and Assamese. Carey also went on to write a Sanskrit grammar. The missionaries opened over 120 schools, serving 10,000 students, the first opening in 1798. In 1819, Carey founded the Serampore College as a training college for local pastors and a liberal arts college for other students” (//
(… to be concluded)

– Pastor