For the past couple of weeks I have been reading John G. Paton-The Autobiography of the Pioneer Missionary to the New Hebrides. John G. Paton was a missionary to the heathen peoples of the New Hebrides during the late 1800s. As I read this autobiography, I stand in amazement of John Paton’s great faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew that this gospel was the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes…..even for the black cannibalistic tribal people of the New Hebrides.
John Paton labored continually knowing that God would save some of these cannibalistic people if he could persevere in living amongst them, learning their language, and then preaching to them about the depth of love that God has shown them by giving His only beloved Son (Jesus Christ) up to death on a cross that they might be saved. Therefore, this is exactly what he did.
Shortage of Water and the Building of a Well
During Paton’s labor on Aniwa, fresh water began to run low due to a drought. Paton, in great faith, sought to dig deep into the earth with a shovel and spade in order to find water so that he could construct a well. Now the tribal people had never seen nor heard of a well. Therefore, they thought that Paton was a foolish white man that had lost his mind! Seriously, when Paton told them about digging into the earth to find water, one of the chiefs (Namakei), of the heathen peoples said, “Rain comes only from above. How could you expect our Island to send up showers of rain from below.” Paton responded, “Fresh water does come up springing from the earth in my land at home, and I hope to see it here also.” On hearing this, Namakei said, “O Paton, your head is going wrong; you are losing something, or you would not talk wild like that! Don’t let our people hear you talking about going down into the earth for rain, or they will never listen to your word or believe you again.” Even though the tribal people thought Paton was losing his head, he sought to construct a well that was 30 feet deep with a spade and shovel!
One thought that was constantly running through Paton’s head was that there may not be water where he was digging. That would be detrimental! Another thought was that if he did find water, it may prove to be salt water. This too would be detrimental. Though these thoughts were in his head, his faith did not waver. He believed that God would allow him to find fresh water so that the tribal people might know that Jehovah is God alone and that all the gods on their islands are not gods at all.
Then, after digging thirty feet, Paton struck water. This water proved to be fresh drinking water. Paton was astonished. The Island people were astonished. The God of John Paton was glorified. And when I say glorified, this section of the book left me astonished.
The Preaching of a Cannibalistic Heathen
Right after the finding of fresh water Namakei, the chief that formerly thought Paton was out of his mind, asked Paton if he could preach the sermon on the next sabbath day. Paton told the chief he could if he could get a large number of tribal people to attend the service. This is exactly what he did. Then, with everybody in the church that Paton had constructed on the island of Aniwa, Namakei stood in the pulpit and preached saying:
Friends of Namakei, men and women and children of Aniwa, listen to my words! Since John came here he has talked many strange things we could not understand-things all too wonderful; and we said regarding many of them that they must be lies. White people might believe such nonsense, but we said that the black fellow knew better than to receive it. But of all his wonderful stories, we thought the strangest was about sinking down through the earth to get rain! Then we said to each other, the man’s head is turned; he’s gone mad. But John prayed on and wrought on, telling us that Jehovah God heard and saw, and that his God would give him rain. Was he mad? Has he not got the rain deep down in the earth? We mocked at him; but the water was there all the same. We have laughed at other things which John told us, because we could not see them. But from this day I believe that all he tells us about his Jehovah God is true. Some day our eyes will see it. For today we have seen the rain from the earth.
Namakei went on:
My people, the people of Aniwa, the world its turned upside down since the word of Jehovah came to this land! Who ever expected to see rain coming up through the earth? It has always come from the clouds! Wonderful is the work of this Jehovah God. No god of Aniwa ever answered prayers as John’s God has done. Friends of Namakei, all the powers of the world could not have forced us to believe that rain could be given from the depths of the earth, if we have not seen it with our eyes, felt it and tasted it as we here do. Now, by the help of Jehovah God, John brought that invisible rain to view, which we never before heard of or saw.
Namakei concludes powerfully:
Something here in my heart tells me that the Jehovah God does exist, the Invisible One, whom we never heard nor saw till John brought Him to our knowledge,. The coral has been removed, the land has been cleared away, and lo! the water rises. Invisible till this day, yet all the same it was there, though our eyes were too weak. So I, your Chief, do now firmly believe that when I die, when the bits of coral and the heaps of dust are removed which now blind my old eyes, I shall then see the Invisible Jehovah God with my soul, as John tells me, not less surely than I have seen the rain from the earth below. The gods of Aniwa cannot hear, cannot help us, like the God of John. Henceforth I am a follower of Jehovah God. Let every man that thinks with me go now and fetch the idols of Aniwa the, gods which our fathers feared, and cast them down at John’s feet. Let us burn and bury and destroy these things of wood and stone, and let us be taught by John how to serve the God who can hear, the Jehovah who gave us the well, and who will give us every other blessing, for He sent His Son Jesus to die for us and bring us to Heaven. This is what John has been telling us every day since he landed on Aniwa. We laughed at him, but now we believe him. The Jehovah God has sent us rain from the earth. Why should He not also send us His Son from Heaven? Namakei stands up for Jehovah!
This is one of the most remarkable stories I have ever read. And just to think that one day, on the New Earth, I will be able to speak with Namakei about how God saved him from a life of cannibalism to a life of serving Jesus Christ.
This gospel that we have is remarkable. It is powerful beyond measure! We must be like Paton with it. From the first day he stepped foot on Aniwa, he was speaking about Christ crucified. We must do the same!