On this day in 1859, a group of missionaries assembled at Tanna, a small island in the Pacific, and passed a resolution in regards to their fellow missionary, John Paton, and the tragic death of his wife and son:
“This meeting deeply and sincerely sympathizes with Mr. Paton in the heavy and trying bereavement with which the Lord has seen meet to visit him in the death of his beloved wife and child; and the missionaries record their sense of the loss this mission has sustained, in the early, sudden death of Mrs. Paton. Her earnest Christian character, her devoted missionary spirit, her excellent education, her kind and obliging disposition, and the influence she was fast acquiring over the natives, excited expectations of great and future usefulness. That they express their heartfelt sympathy with the parents and the other relatives of the deceased; that they recommend Mr. Paton to pay a visit to Aneityum for the benefit of his health; that they commend him to the tender mercies of Him who was sent to comfort all who mourn; and they regard this striking dispensation of God’s providence as a loud call their own souls, and more diligent in pressing the concerns of eternity on the minds of others.”
On March 3rd, John’s beloved wife Mary had died. Here sudden death had taken a toll on John and many of his dear missionary friends worried about the effect her death would have on John and the ministry. Many of them begged John to leave the New Hebrides islands and to take a trip around the Pacific Islands, so he could recover both physically and mentally.
To the kind pleas of his friends, Paton responded:
But, with a heart full of gratitude to them, I yet resolved to remain, feeling that I was at the post of duty where God had placed me; and besides, fearing that if I left once the Natives would not let me land again on returning to their island, I determined to hold on as long as possible, though feeling very badly and suffering from the pain.
While studying at the University of Jena, the German-born Peter came under the heavy influence of one of his professors, Nicolas Ludwig Zinzendorf. Zinzendorf helped the young man to understand the truths of God’s word and the importance of living a holy, sanctified life. When Zinzendorf became leader of the Moravian Church, his first official act was to ordain Böhler to the ministry and to send him to the growing American colonies as a missionary.
While in London preparing to go the the colonies, Böhler met a young man named John Wesley, who had just returned from two years in the Americas. On his trip back to England, Wesley had, in the midst of a storm, seen the inner strength several Moravians who were also aboard had. This experience helped him to realize that he was not truly saved. When he met Böhler, he was a young man who was searching for truths and answers. These young men spent weeks together, traveling England together and speaking about the Bible and the work of Salvation.
When Böhler arrived in the colonies, he began to work among the colonist, slaves, and Native Americans in South Carolina and Georgia, building a strong Moravian church. When religious persecution forced the Moravians to flee, Böhler lead them to Pennsylvania, where they built the cities of Nazareth and Bethlehem. For five years, Böhler worked in the colonies. After that, he returned to England to work in the church there and moved up the Church leadership to become the Bishop of the Moravian Churches in England and America. But church politics held no allure to Böhler, especially when compared with the work he had done in America. So he resigned his office as Bishop and returned to the Colonies as a missionary. He spent ten more years there, before retiring to England.
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