MONROE, MI – John G. Paton (1824-1907) was one of the great pioneering missionaries of the 19th century. Paton spent more than four decades (beginning in 1858) ministering on the South Seas islands of Tanna and Aniwa in the New Hebrides (present-day Vanuatu) as well as tirelessly promoting the cause of missions around the world. According to Paul Schlehlein, “Well into his seventies he continued to write Aniwan catechisms, hymns, and Scripture translations. At seventy-nine, he was still on Aniwa doing the Lord’s service.”
However, Paton’s long and fruitful ministry came with many hardships, which are well documented in Paton’s autobiography. There was severe criticism at home in Scotland from respected Elders like Mr. Dickson who famously proclaimed, “The Cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals.” Within months of arriving on the island of Tanna, Paton’s young wife, Mary, and newborn son both died suddenly. Paton pressed on through the sorrow. Paton pressed on while suffering serious illness fourteen times in the first four years on Tanna. Paton pressed on through constant threats of being killed and eaten by cannibals. Paton and his second wife, Margaret, pressed on through the loss of four of their ten children. They pressed on through the struggle of learning the language. They pressed on in proclaiming the gospel as the islanders practiced infanticide and widow sacrifice. They pressed on with courage and God graciously provided a great harvest of souls from those islands.
While Paton’s courage for the cause of Christ was firmly anchored to his unwavering faith in Christ, and his trust in the Lord’s providential control over life, Paul Schlehlein also reminds us, “The agency foremost in sending him to the islands of the South Seas was not his church or missionary society, but rather the godly home in which he was raised. From here a loving father set the footings of courage that would support a life of danger.” Paton’s father set a godly example for his children in daily family worship, which included Scripture reading and reflection, singing of psalms, and prayer for the salvation of the nations. Paton’s father (and mother) supported him in going to the South Seas when most tried to discourage him. Paton watched his father’s life and credited his father’s example with helping him remain courageously faithful during those many years of missionary labor.
Many have not had the privilege of growing up in such a godly home led by a father who set a Christlike example for his children. However, every Christian father is entrusted with this great responsibility (Ephesians 6:4). Teach your children about the worth of Jesus from His Word. Pray with your children for the work of Jesus in this world. Show your children in your actions that Christ is your greatest treasure. Encourage your children in their actions to serve Christ as their greatest treasure.
Near the end of his life, Paton wrote of his desire as a father for his own children to be given wholly to the cause of Christ. May it be the confession of all Christian fathers, “Nothing that has been endured, and nothing that can now befall me, makes me tremble — on the contrary, I deeply rejoice — when I breathe the prayer that it may please the blessed Lord to turn the hearts of all my children to the Mission Field; and that He may open up their way and make it their pride and joy to live and die in carrying Jesus and His Gospel into the heart of the Heathen World! God gave His best, His Son, to me; and I give back my best, my All, to Him.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jay Anderson serves as Lead Pastor at CrossPointe Church in Monroe. Jay and his wife, Kristie, are blessed with four active children (Noel, Deacon, Anna, Selah). Prior to coming to Michigan in November 2016, the Andersons served as church planters in Iowa and cross-cultural workers in East Asia.
 Paul Schlehlein, John G. Paton, Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2017), p. 73.
 John G. Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) (repr. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2007), p. 56.
 Schlehlein, John G. Paton, p. 79.
 Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), p. 444.