While we were working on this issue, our art director Rai Whitlock showed me a catalog that had what catalogs normally do not have: an editor's note. Silly catalog! I told the glossy pages. Editor's notes are for real magazines. And don't you know that no one ever reads the editor's note anyway? Then I saw the photograph of the person who wrote it: Robert Redford. Okay, I take it back. If you're Robert Redford, you can write an editor's note for a grocery list, if it pleases you. Now that I think back, I don't remember the company's name or what they were selling, but I do remember Robert Redford's smile and his lyrical utterances about the coming of spring.

We are a culture enamored with celebrity. A movie star endorses a product on TV, and suddenly millions of viewers realize they need bath soap. A pop icon writes a children's book, and suddenly normally sane parents are rushing to buy the maternal masterpieces of Madonna. As any charitable organization knows, the way to garner popular support for your cause is to feature a famous spokesperson.

Adoniram and Ann Judson were movie stars before there was cinema. They were pro athletes when the "Super Bowl" was a family-size serving dish on a 19th-century kitchen table. As Ruth Tucker writes, they were the first "American Idols." These two attractive young people from small-town New England became the poster children of a cause that soon swept through the nation: the cause of missions. It's hard for us to imagine today that missionaries could have such an effect. But, as William Hutchison argued in his book Errand to the World, the fact was that these pioneers symbolized something vital to America's identity since the days of the Puritans—a new beginning, an adventure in the wilderness, a calling to be a light to the world. The whole earth, not just the Great Plains or the Rocky Mountains, has always been America's frontier.

We who have the privilege of hindsight know how often this sense of America's destiny has become entangled with foreign policy or has transported American culture along with American Christianity. Trained as we are in cross-cultural sensitivity, 19th-century language about the "heathen" hurts our ears today, as one CH&B staffer put it. But to listen to these early missionaries is to hear the slowly maturing awareness of a world beyond home, needs beyond self, and the Christian's obligation to respond. The decision to become a missionary involved a profound level of personal sacrifice—sacrifice of material security, family, friends, even one's own life. The courage of these pioneers reveals a commitment to the truth of Christianity, a concern for the peril of those outside the church, and a deep sense of Christ's call to be witnesses to the ends of the earth—a vision transcending the seemingly limitless scope of the American dream.

In this issue we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the "haystack prayer meeting," when a group of college students in a thunderstorm pledged themselves to the cause of foreign missions and sparked an evangelistic explosion. We also celebrate a member of the CH&B team who is himself, in a sense, a product of the Judson legacy. Rai Whitlock grew up in Italy as the son of a missionary couple, and his father at 83 years old is still serving as a missions pastor in Colorado. Rai worked for the Greater Europe Mission and Tyndale Publishers before devoting his unique creative gifts to designing the "look" of Christian History and its sister publication, Leadership.

For the past six months, Rai has been battling cancer. It has been with great joy, mixed with many prayers, that we have been able to work with him again on this issue as he has art directed from home in between chemotherapy treatments. This issue of CH&B—on a topic near and dear to his heart—is dedicated to Rai in honor of his 12 (and counting) years of service to the magazine. We continue to pray for him and his family and to trust, as Adoniram Judson famously said in the midst of his many sufferings, that "the future is as bright as the promises of God."