Chalmers first arrived in New Guinea in 1877, midst the risk of cannibals and tropical diseases. A bold and stubborn man, Chalmers refused to give up. On his initial voyage to the island, he was shipwrecked and forced to go the rest of the way aboard a pirate ship. Once he arrived, he found himself in a land where cruelty, continual warfare, and cannibalism were the norm. Chalmers ducked death time after time as he took the gospel along the steamy coasts of the large island. He would literally pluck clubs and swords out of enemy hands to save his life and the lives in his party.
It wasn’t long before Chalmers and those working with him saw great fruit from their labors. Packed churches replaced feasts of human flesh. As entire villages turned to Christ, they laid down their arms against each other and peace prevailed. Love replaced the cruelty in the hearts of men. For 23 years, Chalmers labored among his beloved tribes, teaching them to live in the love of Christ.
In 1900, Chalmers’s second wife died. Many of his friends and fellow missionaries pleaded with him to return to England, where he could recover and rest. Chalmers’s reply: “I cannot rest and when there are so many thousands of savages without a knowledge of Christ near us.” This statement characterized the life of this great man. He was always pushing to reach new tribes with the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
In 1901, young Oliver Tomkins joined Chalmers with his work. With his new companion, he planned to go by canoe to visit a new tribe he had heard of. Before he left, he received a letter from a dear friend, Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the letter, Stevenson wrote, “I hope I shall meet ‘you’ once more before ‘you’ disappear up the Fly River, perhaps to be one of the unreturning brave.” Unbeknown to Chalmers, on this trip, he would become one of the “unreturning brave.”
On Easter Sunday, the men arrived at the new village. The next morning, they left the boat and eagerly approached the village. They were soon surrounded by a group of warriors, who promised that they had prepared the visitors a great feast. On their way to the “feast” at the village, the men were clubbed to death and killed. Their bodies were taken back to the village and became the main course for the promised feast.
The death of this great missionary shocked the world. On pastor summarized the thoughts of everyone when he said, “I cannot believe it! I do not want to believe it! Such a mystery of Providence makes it hard for our strained faith to recover. Yet Jesus was murdered. Paul was murdered. Many missionaries have been murdered. When I think of that side of the case, I cannot but feel that our honored and nobleminded friend has joined a great assembly.”
Often we run from sacrifice. If it will cost us something, we don’t want to do it. We don’t want to give. But God’s work requires sacrifice. It requires suffering. And many times, it will require death. Are we, like James Chalmers, ready to step up to the task given us and say, “Thy will be done at any cost”?
For nearly forty years, Judson labored and worked in the country of Burma. But the harsh tropical climate, the demands of the missionary work, and his old age were quickly taking a toll on his body. As he continually grew weaker, his wife Emily consulted the doctor in the town. He strongly advised a long sea voyage. At that time, a sea voyage was a type of medical therapy that doctors would often prescribe. The climate was always hot, muggy, and unbearable. This not only caused diseases, but it also made it very difficult to recover from a sickness. The ocean air was clean, cool, and crisp and would offer comfort and relief to those suffering from illness. Realizing that this was possibly the only hope for her dear husband to recover, Emily agreed to send him on the voyage.
Emily had the sinking feeling that Judson would never return from this trip. She spent days bustling around the house, preparing everything for his trip. Adoniram was bed-ridden and often unconscious, unable to move or speak. Emily would often just sit by his bed-side, begging for just one more of his dear words that always filled her with encouragement and hope. One night, as she was working, Judson suddenly sat up and bed and exclaimed, “This will never do! You are killing yourself for me, and I will not permit it. You must have some one to relieve you. If I had not been made selfish by suffering, I should have insisted upon it long ago. This separation is a bitter thing, but it does not distress me now as it did —I am too weak.
“You have no reason to be distressed,” Emily answered, “with such glorious prospects before you. You have often told me it is the one left alone who suffers, not the one who goes to be with Christ.“
This amazing couple was able to, that night, have the last real conversation in this world. At the end, Judson gave this amazing summary of his life:
Lying here, on my bed, when I could not talk, I have had such views of the loving condescension of Christ, and the glories of heaven, as I believe are seldom granted to mortal man. It is not because I shrink from death, that I wish to live; neither is it because the ties that bind me here, though some of them are very sweet, bear any comparison with the drawings I at times feel toward Heaven; but a few years would not be missed from my eternity of bliss, and I can well afford to spare them, both for your sake and for the sake of the poor Burmans;—I am not tired of my work, neither am I tired of the world; yet, when Christ calls me home, I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from his school. Perhaps I feel something like the young bride, when she contemplates resigning the pleasant associations of her childhood, for a yet dearer home — though only a very little like her — for there is no doubt resting on my future?…I feel so strong in Christ. He has not led me so tenderly thus far, to forsake me at the very gate of heaven. No, no; I am willing to live a few years longer, if it should be so ordered, and if otherwise, I am willing and glad to die now. I leave myself entirely in the hands of God, to be disposed of according to his holy will.
A few days later, Judson was carried aboard the Aristide Marie, ready for his final journey.
To the Golden Shore
On this day in 1781, Gordon Hall, one of the earliest missionary pioneers in the United States, was born in Granville, Mass.
As a young man, Hall grew an intense love for reading and would spend hours each day reading, often while he was doing farm work. In his books, he often read of the far away places. But never thought that one day, he would be in the group of the first five American foreign missionaries and that the rest of his life would be spent among the great people of India.
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