After being ejected from an English ship for their illegal status, Carey and Thomas found a Danish ship. After a five-month voyage (punctuated by a violent storm), the party finally approached Calcutta. Since they had no permit to enter the country, the captain set them on a small fishing boat, and they floated into Calcutta, arriving on November 11, 1793. When Carey and Thomas stepped onto the banks of the Hooghly River, the great attempt had begun.
Christian History Magazine-Issue 36: William Carey: 19th c. Missionary to India. 1992. Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today.
On this day in 1832, Melville Cox, the first missionary sent out by the American methodist, set sail for Liberia aboard the Jupiter.
For seven years, the money to send a missionary to Liberia lay unused. The mission committee could find no one willing to take the risk. They could find no one, that is, until Melville Cox stepped forward. Deathly ill with tuberculosis, he could speak only with pain. In 1830, his wife, baby and several close family members had died within a short span, devastating him, but releasing him from ties that might have held him back. Now his heart burned with desire to carry the gospel to people who had never before heard it.
“If you go to Africa, you’ll die there,” warned a student at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University.
“If I die in Africa, you must come and write my epitaph,” retorted Melville Cox. He felt that it would be no loss to die far from home (as long as Christ were with him) but hoped that his death would spur forward the cause of mission work. Even his epitaph should reflect that spirit.
“What shall it be?” asked the student.
Melville’s reply became a blazing torch to kindle Methodist enthusiasm for missions. “Let a thousand die before Africa be given up!” he exclaimed.
While sailing, he made plans, but recognized that their accomplishment was not up to him. “In making up my mind and in searching for a passage to go out, I have followed the best light I could obtain. I now leave it all with God…” The following March, he thanked God he had finally arrived in Liberia.
He immediately visited the area’s few Christians, gathered them into an assembly, and started a church. He opened a school and taught seventy students. But, as had been predicted, his health did not hold out. He contracted malaria. He could have returned home on the ship Hilarity after his first attack of the deadly tropical disease which sent shooting pains through him, but he chose to remain.
His last journal entry, written June 26, 1833, noted that it had been four days since he had seen a doctor. “This morning I feel as feeble as mortality can well. To God I commit all.” Despite his weakened state, he survived almost another month, not dying until July 21, 1833, four and a half months after his arrival.
During one of his fevers, he sang a spiritual, “I am happy! I am happy!…My days are immortal…” This triumphant spirit made his story a powerful tool for recruiting additional missionaries.
On this day in 1858, John and Mary Paton arrived at the island of Tanna, a southern island in Vanuatu, a group of eighty islands about fifteen hundred miles northeast of Australia, then known as the New Hebrides.
In his journal, John Paton recorded the experience:
We were all safely landed on Tanna. Dr. Geddy went for a fortnight to Umairarekar, now known as Kwamera, on the
south side of Tanna, to assist in the settlement of Mr. And Mrs. Mathieson, and to help in making their houses habitable and comfortable. Mr. Copeland, Mrs. Paton, and I were left at Port Resolution to finish the building of our house there, and work our way into the goodwill of the Natives as best we could. On landing, we found the people to be literally naked and painted Savages; they were at least as destitute of clothing as Adam and
Eve after the fall, when they sewed fig-leaves for a girdle; and even more so, for the women wore only a tiny apron of grass, in some cases shaped like a skirt or girdle, the men an indescribable affair like a pouch or bag, and the children absolutely nothing whatever
At first they came in crowds to look at us, and at everything we did or had. We knew nothing of their language; we could not speak a single word to them, nor they to us. We looked at them, they at us; we smiled, and n
odded, and made signs to each other; this was our fist meeting and parting.
Other missionaries had established a solid work on Anatom, a small island to the south, and several converts from there agreed to accompany the Patons north to the island of Tanna, where they built a small house on the low-lying land adjacent to Port Resolution, not realizing that it was an area infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
The Tannese people worshiped and feared many idols and had no concept of a loving God. Witches and wizards in each village cast spells they claimed controlled life and death. They stirred up warfare between the people, hoping it would drive out the missionaries. At first, the Patons felt overwhelmed by these warring cannibals. Then they realized that the Christians from Anatom had been just as savage only a few years earlier. However, warfare between tribes increased, with some of the worst fighting happening right outside the Patons’ house.
‘One Mr. Paton, expressing great anxiety to see some of them, she, after consulting some time with the other blacks, said she had some belonging to King John, her uncle, who was absent, and left them in her care. After considerable reluctance shown on the part of the other blacks, were produced, in which three were kangaroo tusks or bears tusks, , pieces of human bone, stones, charred wood, etc., etc. She described the virtues attributed to different articles. If any evil was wanted to befall one of another tribe, the doctor, after muttering, threw such a stone in the direction he was supposed to be, wishing that he might fall sick, or might die, etc. The spirit from the idol entered into his body and he was sure to fall sick or die. Another piece of charred wood, that the doctor rubbed on the deased part of any sick person, made the pain come out to the spirit into the wood, and the doctor carried it away. All this time the other blacks were in evident dread of the things being seen and handled, repeating, no white man ever seen these before!’ Mr. Paton got three specimens from them, an evil and a good spirit, and a piece of carved bone.’ Robert Hood, J.P. Hexham, Victoria, Merang, 28th, February 1863.
Mr. Hood asked Nora how he had never heard of or seen these things before. Living so long amongst them, and blacks, constantly coming and going about his house. She replied, ‘Long ago white men laughed at black fellows, praying to their idols. Black fellows said white men never see them again! Suppose this white man not know all about them, he would not now see them. No white man live now and see what you have seen.’
Thus it has been demonstrated on the spot, and in presence of the most reliable witnesses that the Aborigines before they saw the white invaders, were not “brutes” incapable of knowing God, but human beings, yearning after a god of some kind. Nor do I believe that any tribe of men will ever be found, who, when their language and customs are rightly interpreted, will display their consciousness of the need of a God, and that Divine Capacity, of holding fellowship with the Unseen Powers, of which the brutes are without the faintest trace.
Mr. Gordon, in his last letter to me dated the 15th of February, 1861, says:
“My Dear Brother-
I have news of the best and of the worst character to communicate. A young man died in December, in the Lord, as we believe. We are still preserved in health at our work, by the God of all grace, whose power alone could have preserved us from all of our troubles, which have come upon us by the measles per the Blue Bell. Ah, this season which we will soon not forget. Some settlements are nearly depopulated, and the principal chiefs are nearly all dead! And oh! The indescribable fiendish hatred that exists against us! There is quite a famine here. The distress is awful, and the cry of the mourning perpetual. A few on both sides of the island who did not flee frm the Worship of God are living, which is now greatly impressing some and exciting the enmity of others. I cannot now write of perils. We feel very anxious to hear from you. If you have to flee, Aneityum of course is the nearest and best thing which you can go to. Confidence in us is being restored. Mana, a native teacher, remains with us for safety from the fury of his enemies. I cannot visit as usual. The persecution cannot be much worse on Tanna. I hope the worst is past. Mrs. Gordon unites in love to you, and to Mr. And Mrs. Johntson. In great haste,
I remain, dear brother, yours truly,`
Let every reader, in view of this epistle, like a voice from the World Unseen, judge of the spirit of this man of God who penned it, and of the causes that were even then at work and were bringing about his sorrowful death. Cruel superstition, measles, and the malignant influences of the godless traders- these on Erromanga, as elsewhere, were the forces at work which brought hatred and murder in their train.
On Sunday the 26th of January, thirty persons came to work at the mission house. Thereafter, at great risk, we had worship at three of the nearest and most friendly villages. Admidst all our perils and trails, we preached the Gospel to about one hundred and sixteen persons. It was verily a sowing time of tears; but despite all that followed, who shall say that it was all in vain! Twenty years have passed, and now when I am writing this, there is a church of God singing the praise of Jesus in that very district of Tanna. On leaving the second village, a young lad affectionately took my hand to lead me to the next village; but a sulkly, sullen down savage, carrying a ponderous club, also insisted upon accompanying us. I lead the way, guided by the lad. Mr. Mathesion got the lad to go before him, while he himself followed, constantly watching. Coming to a place where another path branched off from ours, I asked which path we took, and, on turning to the left as instructed by the lad, the Savage, getting close behind me, swung his huge club over his shoulder to strike me on the head. Mr. Mathieson, springing forward, caught the club from behind with a great cry to me; and I, wheeling instantly, had to hold the club off also, and betwixt us wrestled it out of his hands. The poor creature, craven at heart however blood thirsty, implored us not to kill him. I raised the club threateningly, and caused him to march in front of us to the next village fence. In terror lest these Villagers should kill him, he gladly received back his club, as well as the boy his bow and arrows, and they were lost in the bush in a moment.