The first missionaries to reach the New Hebrides islands (Vanuatu) were John Williams and James Harris from the London Missionary Society. Both of these missionaries were killed and eaten by cannibals on the island of Erromanga on November 20, 1839, only minutes after going ashore.
What do you think would be the sensible thing to do?
The London Missionary Society sent another team to the Island of Tanna in 1842, and these missionaries were driven off within seven months. Scottish missionary John G Paton was convinced that God wanted him to preach The Main Message to the natives of the New Hebrides.
A certain Mr Dickson tried to dissuade Paton: "The cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals!"
But to this Paton responded:
Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be 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. (p. 56)
On November 5, 1858, John G Paton reached the new Hebrides with his wife and newborn son. Some of his experiences:-
Four months after arrival, both his wife and his newborn son died of fever. He wrote, "The ever-merciful Lord sustained me…But for Jesus, and the fellowship he vouchsafed to me there, I would have gone mad and died beside the lonely grave!...I looked up to the Lord for help, and struggled on in His work" (p. 80, 85)
He continued alone on the island for the next four years under incredible circumstances of constant danger until he was driven off the island in February, 1862. What do you think would be the good thing to do? Warn others of the islands? Paton tried to convince other missionaries from UK and Australia to join him!
He married again in 1864, and took his wife, Margaret, and returned to New Hebrides.
"Fever and ague had attacked me fourteen times severely" (p. 105).
"During the hurricanes, from January to April, 1873, when the Dayspring [the mission ship] was wrecked, we lost a darling child by death, my dear wife had a protracted illness, and I was brought very low with severe rheumatic fever . . . and was reported as dying" (p. 384).
What is it like to have cannibal neighbors?
"Our continuous danger caused me now oftentimes to sleep with my clothes on, that I might start at a moment's warning. May faithful dog Clutha would give a sharp bark and awake me. . . . God made them fear this precious creature, and often used her in saving our lives" (p. 178)
"A wild chief followed me around for four hours with his loaded musket, and, though often directed towards me, God restrained his hand. I spoke kindly to him, and attended to my work as if he had not been there, fully persuaded that my God had placed me there, and would protect me till my allotted task was finished." (p. 117)
"One morning at daybreak I found my house surrounded by armed men, and a chief intimated that they had assembled to take my life. Seeing that I was entirely in their hands, I knelt down and gave myself away body and soul to the Lord Jesus, for what seemed the last time on earth. Rising, I went out to them, and began calmly talking about their unkind treatment of me and contrasting it with all my conduct towards them" (p. 115)
[Once] when natives in large numbers were assembled at my house, a man furiously rushed on me with his axe but a Kaserumini Chief snatched a spade with which I had been working, and dexterously defended me from instant death. Life in such circumstances led me to cling very near to the Lord Jesus; I knew not, for one brief hour, when or how attack might be made; and yet, with my trembling hand clasped in the hand once nailed on Calvary, and now swaying the scepter of the universe, calmness and peace and resignation abode in my soul. (p. 117)
He and his wife labored there for 41 years. Even after he left, he worked for his (many) converts from his new home in Australia till his death, translating the Bible, hymns, and Biblical studies for them.
[Page numbers refer to John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides, An Autobiography Edited by His Brother (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965, orig. 1889, 1891).]
Frederick Stanley Arnot (1858-1914) was a Scottish missionary to central Africa. The following illustrates his zeal:-
A statesman-friend of Arnot described him as follows:-
"I have seen many missionaries under varied circumstances, but such an absolutely forlorn man, existing on from day to day, almost homeless, without any of the appliances that make life bearable, I have never seen. He was imbued with one desire and that was to do God's service. … And I have honored recollections of him ever since as being as near his Master as anyone I ever saw" - Sir Ralph Champneys Williams, How I Became a Governor (London: John Murray, 1913)
Jim Elliot was born right in the heart of the American dream. Extremely talented and popular, studying in some of the best schools in the US, Jim was destined for great things. But even during his youth, he felt that God wanted him to be involved in full time Christian work. Eventually, he felt God's leading to become a missionary in Ecuador. He worked among the (civilized) Quecha tribe. It was from them that he heard of the Aucas - the savages - a tribe living in the Amazon rain forest. They were known to spear strangers to death. Jim and his friends were overcome with the burden to tell the Aucas about Jesus Christ. He and four other friends managed to make contact with the Aucas, but all of them were speared to death. Two of the wives of these five missionaries actually went and stayed with the savages, managed to learn their language, invented an alphabet for it, translated the Bible into it, communicated The Main Message to the Aucas (now known as the Waorani), and even had the joy of seeing some of them becoming disciples of Jesus Christ.
What do you think motivated an American to leave his country and live in a third world country like Peru? What motivated him to make contact with naked, hostile savages? What motivated women to go with their children to live with the savages who killed their husbands? One of Jim's well known quotes supplies the answer in his own words:-
"He is not a fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose"
That is: It is wise to give up worldly, temporary pleasures (like the American dream) to gain sure heavenly rewards that will last for all eternity.
C. T. Studd was an English cricketer before he became convinced that God wanted him to become a missionary. His travels took him all the way to China. His work continued even after his death:-
“When C.T. Studd died in 1931 we were in a helpless condition. That month we had thirty-five missionaries and we had one pound a week for that month. That was all we had! People said to us, 'You’d better give up. Your founder is dead, the mission is so weak, give up.' But we learnt, mainly through Rees Howells to change our whole attitude and the Lord told us not to give up. The Lord talked to us about going to the world and we laughed. Here we were two missionaries at home, thirty-five starving missionaries on the field and the Lord is speaking to us about going to the world! How does anything get done? By faith of course! Faith is the ability, inspired by the Spirit, to believe something offered to you. It isn’t I doing it, it is Him doing it.” – Norman Grubb, writing in Samuel Rees Howells: A Life of Intercession
With Studd’s death in 1931, C.T. Studd had left a letter appointing Grubb as President of W.E.C. in place of himself, but Grubb thought it sufficient to be called Secretary of the World Evangelization Crusade (WEC International), which C. T. Studd had founded. It grew from one mission field with 35 workers to a worldwide mission operating in over 40 fields with thousands of workers from around the world, all living according to the principle that all needs will be supplied by God with no appeals to man.
William Carey was an English missionary who came to India.
David Brainerd (1718-1747) In the early 18th century, America was "wild", and Brainerd went through a lot of difficulties preaching the gospel to the American Indians. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 29.
There have been thousands of others who are too obscure to have pages on the internet devoted to them. I personally know dozens of rural Indian missionaries, forfeiting a comfortable life to preach the good news about Jesus Christ to their fellow Indians, and relying on the gifts of like minded Christians for their financial sustenance. About 70% of Indian missionaries are former Hindus. This reminds us of Jesus' words: "Those who have been forgiven much love me much".
Every ideology or belief has those who promote it. However, the distinctive feature of Biblical Christianity is that it can boast of many missionaries who have gone out of their way and made substantial sacrifices with no earthly reward just in order to take The Main Message of the Bible to the ends of the earth. This constitutes evidence that the God presented in the Bible is real, and the true God. Also see: