Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book report #3, John Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides

Dear Readers;
We are now up to my most recent required reading (though not most recent reading) is John G. Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides; An Autobiography.   As guessed by the title it is an autobiography.  It is 212 pages long, and divided very unevenly into ten chapters.  It is not repressed by any "politically correct views," that is none of today's.  
The first chapter, covering his family history and early life was rather slow, and was rather boring wading through.  The most interesting highlight from it concerned how his grandfather escaped death at the hands of the "pirate of the seas" John Paul Jones.   A different view then one usually hears of that individual.
Fortunately the book picks up in speed and interest from the second chapter.  By the third chapter I was not needing to be told to read it before other books.   This in fact was my favourite chapter, concerning his evangelism amongst the Catholics and other characters of the Scottish town.
In the fourth chapter he goes into the main thrust of this book, his missionary interests.  He was accepted into his church's missionary wing, and was sent to the South Seas.  He describes in latter chapters that this was not the ideal, relaxing, no-worries, mission field that some of you might be thinking.  Mainly the weather was nice, except for the worst hurricanes in anyone's memory hitting the island after he arrived.  The food was good except there was a fair chance of getting a poisonous fish (which in fact killed off at least two of his helpers).  Then the natives of the islands were friendly, except they were cannibals, entirely perfidious, utterly treacherous, and they thought it a virtue to be able to lie and get away with it (sounds like a few politicians I have heard of).   
He worked under some of the hardest circumstances I have heard of in the field, included but not limited to mosquitoes, malaria, diarrhea, consumption, the death of his newborn son, the death of his wife, the critics' insults for these two previous things,  a hurricane flattening his house and destroying much of his other work, the knowledge of previous missionaries being killed, the enmity of the heathen witch doctors, the enmity of most of the chiefs, the equally disturbing result of treachery by supposed friendly chiefs, constant and blatant thievery of almost everything he had, the enmity of the equally pagan European sandal wood traders, their thievery of his boat, and lastly almost daily threats to his life.  The list could easily be extended.  To the world this is of all things strange, a man who willingly stayed at his post despite all this, despite over five times being offered free passage else where.  
The thing that in hindsight seems most to have destroyed his work was the evil influence of the sandal wood traders, and it well seems that they were a worse lot then the cannibals that Paton had gone to witness to.  
I hope this does not spoil it, but he survives all of their attempts to kill him.


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