About this time there was a quiet but far-reaching movement of the Spirit of God on this side of the Atlantic. The call to preach the gospel to all nations came to Samuel J. Mills while he was following the plow on his farm in Connecticut one day in 1802.
Four years later, in obedience to the heavenly vision, he entered Williams College at Williamstown, Massachusetts, to prepare for the Christian ministry. There he kindled a fire whose sparks were destined to be carried to the ends of the earth.
A group of kindred spirits—James Richards, Francis Robbins, Harvey Loomis, Gordon Hall, and Luther Rice, known as the Society of the Brethren—met frequently in a grove of maples near the campus for prayer and discussion. One day on their way to prayer they were caught in a sudden thunderstorm.
Taking refuge in the lee of a nearby haystack they had their usual time of prayer for the heathen world, following which they stood to their feet and said, “We can do it if we will.” They thereupon resolved to become America’s first foreign missionaries and signed a pledge to that effect. Henceforth they were known as “the Haystack Group.”
J. Herbert Kane, Understanding Christian Missions