“You can easily adapt this same study to any
missionary or famous person of interest.”
What did Captain James Cook and William Carey have in common? Carey, noted
linguist and missionary, was highly interested in plant, animal, and insect
life, as was the famous adventurer, Cook. Carey was an avid reader. A book that
greatly influenced him as a youth was The Voyages of Captain Cook. One of young
William’s joys was to collect and categorize plants and insects. He crowded his
room with specimens of both. The natural world intrigued him, and he later
became a botanist of considerable reputation.
As a young man he continued to pore over Cook’s travels, as well as the
best-selling book, Guthrie’s Geographical Grammar (pub. 1770), and the Bible.
He drew a crude map of the world, noting places where the gospel had not yet
been preached. He prayed that the Lord would send His laborers to the many
untouched parts of the world. It’s exciting to see how God used Carey’s early interests
and gifts in such powerful ways!
Perhaps you’re wondering, “What does this have to do with geography?” Well,
check out this partial definition of geography from The Living Webster
Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language.
Geography is “The science which treats the surface of the earth, dealing
especially with such aspects as topology, climate, the ocean, plant and animal
life . . .”
Knowing more about a missionary’s world helps us to appreciate their ministry
better – so let’s dive into Carey’s world! Using Diana Waring’s article on
William Carey and reference materials (or the Internet), answer the following
questions. (Pick and choose questions based on students’ ages and interests).
A. What is the
climate like in England?
B. What is the
climate like in Calcutta (now called Kolkata), India? (Serampore,
where Carey spent much of his time in India,
is approximately 14 miles north of Calcutta.)
C. What is the
temperature today in London?
What is it in Calcutta, India?
D. Do you think it
would have been hard for William Carey and his family to adjust to the weather
Why or why not?
A. Look at a world
map. Find London and Calcutta. How did Carey travel to India? What
might have been some of the difficulties? How long do you think it took to get
B. How would you
travel to India
today? How long would it take you?
3. Using the
outline map of India
(and surrounding countries) and an atlas, label the following:
A. Countries: India, Pakistan,
Nepal, Sri Lanka, China,
Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma,
B. Cities: New Delhi, Calcutta (now
called Kolkata), Bombay (now called Mumbai), Bangalore.
C. Bodies of water:
Arabian Sea, Gulf of Mannar, Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean, Indus
River, Ganges River.
4. Flora and Fauna
A. What types of
plants, animals, and insects might Carey have found in his native England?
B. What are some
types that can be found in India?
C. Compare and
contrast these two different environments.
D. Draw one plant or
animal that would live in each place. Have you ever seen these before? Where?
A. What is the
predominant language in England?
B. What are some of
the languages spoken in India?
C. How are these
languages the same or different?
D. Why is it important
for a missionary to learn the local language?
A. We don’t know the population of the tiny town of Paulerspury of Carey’s time, but a survey in the mid-18th
century showed that the much bigger town of nearby Northampton had a population of about 5,000
during that time-period had a population of approximately 100,000.
B. What is the
approximate population of Calcutta
C. How does Calcutta’s population
today compare to your hometown?
D. Do you think it’s
easier being a missionary in a small town or in a large city? Why?
7. Place in Time
A. Draw a simple
timeline beginning with 1750 and ending with 1834.
B. Add the following
to your timeline: William Carey, James Cook, Carl Linnaeus, Mozart, American War
of Independence, Pitt’s India Act, Shaka—King of the Zulus.
C. If you have access
to a historical map, check out the world during the time of Carey. This was certainly
an age of revolutions! How do you think this might have affected his ministry?
A. What was the
predominant religion in England
during Carey’s lifetime?
B. What are the
predominant religions of India?
C. Make a chart
comparing/contrasting Christianity, Hindu, and Islam.
A. Do you or your
church support missionaries?
B. Who are they and
where do they serve?
C. What does the
Bible tell us about being missionaries?
D. What has the Lord
taught you during this study of William Carey?
It’s natural to tie geography into almost any
subject. When we recognize that geography is about both God’s people and His
world, it’s easy to make the connections. Pull out your maps, your Bible, and
your reference materials and make Missionary Geography a part of your life.
Maggie S. Hogan is the author of Hands-On
Geography, co-author of The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide and Gifted
Children at Home. She and her husband Bob live in Delaware where they began homeschooling
their two sons in 1991. Their oldest, JB, serves in the US Army and
their youngest son, Tyler, created the map within this piece. Contact Maggie at
for comments on this piece or to learn more about Maggie Hogan.
Originally appeared in Fall 2003. Used with permission.
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.