Courage in the Cause of Mission
by Rev. David T. Myers
The young seminary graduate traveled with his bride to a two year foreign mission stint in Alberta, Canada. Settling in the apartment underneath the church sanctuary, the newly ordained minister on Reformation day in 1966 began his first pastorate to the small Canadian mission church. Sometime during the first few months, he discovered in a used book store the two volume set of John G Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides. That stirring mission account became the Lord’s Day reading for the young couple all during their stay and ministry in the capital city of the province.
Yet the author of this post in Presbyterian history did not have to worry about his physical safety, or that of his bride during our time there. Being eaten by cannibals was never on our minds and hearts. But to the Rev. John G. Paton and his wife, this was a constant danger in a society utterly depraved in word and deed. Indeed the lives of some earlier missionaries to those islands did end in that terrible way, while attempting to minister the Word of Grace to these same inhabitants. Yet still these Presbyterian missionaries in the mid-eighteen hundreds went courageously to these islands with a firm belief in the sovereignty of God and a loving desire to see the natives converted to Christ.
Paton believed in the power of the gospel. Yes, there were difficulties. His first wife and child both perished in childbirth. He was subject to threats of life and limb on a day by day basis. More than once, he had to flee for his life to a tree limb or to a ship which came providentially off the coast. But with the provision of a second wife, he was blessed with a quiver full of children. In God’s timing, he was also blessed with a quiver full of spiritual children, as the entire island of Aniwa inhabitants came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And it was on this day October 24, 1869, that he was able to offer the Sacrament of Communion, in the Presbyterian manner, as he was apt at saying in his ministrations on that island.
He would go to be with the Lord on January 28, 1907, with his wife proceeding him by two years. Both are buried in Australia.
Words to Live By:
There is a notable quotation which was given to a Scotsman who, upon hearing of John Paton’s desire to minister in the islands of the South Pacific, said to him, “Cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals.” Paton replied to the old saint, “You are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” May you and I, dear Reader, have a similar desire to go and minister for the Savior, come what may, knowing . . . knowing that our lives are sure and firm in the Savior’s plan for our lives.