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I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

posted Jan 25, 2017, 8:52 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jan 25, 2017, 8:54 AM ]
A great revival in the mid-19
th century caused many missionaries from Wales to travel to northeast India to spread the Gospel. This region, called Assam, was comprised of hundreds of aggressive tribes of head-hunters, who believed this demonstrated a man’s strength and ability to provide for his family.

Naturally, the missionaries were not welcomed, in fact, dozens of them were martyred. Yet they joined with native Indian evangelists and finally succeeded in converting a man, his wife and two children. This enraged the village chief, who demanded they renounce their faith in public or face execution. But instead the convert declared, "I have decided to follow Jesus and there is no turning back." As his children were executed he continued, "Though no one joins me, still I will follow." His wife was killed, and still refusing to recant, he was executed while affirming, "The cross before me, the world behind me." Yet this display of faith is reported to have led to the conversion of the chief and the entire village.

The formation of these words into a hymn is attributed to the Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh, who had converted to Christianity as a teenager. The accounts of the martyred family in Assam and conversion of the tribe were so widely circulated that most Indian believers were familiar with it. So Singh took the martyr’s last words, and set them to traditional Indian music in order to make one of the first uniquely Indian Christian hymns.

An American hymn editor, William Jensen Reynolds, wrote an arrangement which became a regular feature of Billy Graham's evangelistic meetings, spreading its popularity here in America.