On this day in 1861, George Gordon and his wife, Ellen, were killed on the island of Erromanga, where they had served five years as missionaries.

Almost a hundred years earlier, when explorer James Cook first visited Erromanga, he remarked “This will be a dangerous place for missionaries to work”.  But despite the dim outlook, the champions of the Gospel would not be dismayed.  In 1839, John Williams and James Harris landed on the shores of Erromanga, hoping to reach out to the large number of people living on the island.  But they were killed.  The death of these two men scared other European and American missionaries from trying to reach the Island.  But the new Christians on the neighboring were much more bold.  Within the next few years, over 40 missionaries from neighboring islands went to Erromanga.  They were all killed or starved to death.  Many talked on giving up all attempts to reach the island.

Gordon refused to follow the others in surrendering the thousands of souls of Erromanga to Hell.  He began to study medicine and theology, so that he could teach the people of Christ and also help heal the diseases they often contracted from the traders who came to the islands (the horrid abuse the traders often caused the people was one of the main reasons they hated foreigners so much.)  In 1857, he set out for  Erromanga with his wife.  During the trip, he studied the language of the people diligently, so he would be able to communicate effectively with them once he arrived.  When this brave couple landed, the people of the Island were amazed to find white people who could speak their language and let them build a home and church among them.

For five years, this couple bravely faced sickness and hardship as they taught the people of Christ.  Slowly, they began to see fruit.  But their work began to cause conflict with the leadership of the island, because their teachings went completely contrary to the harsh culture of the Erromangans.  And the new Christians were turning away from the old lifestyle   Tense grew, but the Gordons continued on.  Forty Erromangans had turned to Christ and joined the growing church.

In 1861, a merchant ship came to the island and, in the course of its time there, infected the island with measles.  Hundreds died from the disease.  The Gordons did everything in their power to help stop the spread, but there was little they could do.  The enraged chiefs began to blame them for the disease.  He ordered them killed.  So on May 20th, as George was out working, two natives came up to him and asked for his help in treating a sick boy.  As he walked with them back to his house to get medicine, the other Natives jumped out of the jungle and ambushed him, chopping him to death with tomahawks.  Not far away, another man had just killed Ellen at her home.

When James Gordon heard of the killing of his brother, he immediately left his home in Canada and went to Erromanga to keep his brothers work alive.  For eleven years, he loved and gave to the people who killed his brother.  And then he was also killed.  He would be the last missionary who would try to scale the shore of this island for a long time.  But by the time of his death, the church started was strong enough to continue to work and see hundreds of Erromangans saved!


Valiant Circle of Christians on Erromanga

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