Thanking God for a Courageous Missionary

Thanking God for a Courageous Missionary

John G. Paton believed in doing missions when dying is gain. The 19th century Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides, a chain of islands in the South Pacific, was no stranger to suffering. Soon after he arrived to the islands in 1858, he buried both his wife and newborn child. He had left the ease of Europe for the hardships of the Hebrides, and he would become well acquainted with pain.

Over the next several years his life was characterized by loss and sickness, criticism from respected friends, dangers from the cannibalistic natives, and deep communion with Jesus.

Perhaps it is his fellowship with God that is most fascinating. Against the background of so much affliction, Paton walked close to Jesus. In one particular story, he hid high in a tree as a band of natives hunted him. Shots from their muskets rang out along with their yells, all the while he quietly stayed put.

He tells about it in his autobiography,

Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior's spiritual presence, to enjoy his consoling fellowship. (Autobiography, 200)

Paton lived many years after that night in the tree. Today, January 28, marks the anniversary of when he died in 1907 and met the Savior he knew so deeply. To help commemorate his life, we’d like to highlight John Piper’s ebook biography of John G. Paton with hopes that you find it inspiring, and even life-changing. Download the ebook for free as PDF, MOBI, or EPUB, and help us spread the word.

Thank you, God, for John G. Paton. Would that we learn from his life and so serve the gospel overseas, in our homes, and on our streets like dying is gain!


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Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.