John Paton’s life was molded by his childhood in a little cottage in Kirkmahoe, Scotland. The cottage had ribs of oak, stone walls, a thatched roof, and three rooms filled with 11 children. The front room served as bedroom, kitchen, and parlor. The rear room was his father’s stocking-making shop. The middle room was a closet where John’s father retired each day for prayer and Bible study. The sound of his father’s prayers through the wall made a powerful impression on young John.

Years later, when Scotland’s Reformed Church issued a plea for missionaries for the South Pacific, John went to his parents for advice. They told him something they had never before disclosed—he had been dedicated to foreign missions before birth.

John sailed from Scotland April 16, 1858, landing on the islands in November. He found himself among cannibals and endangered again and again. “They encircled us in a deadly ring,” he wrote of one incident, “and one kept urging another to strike the first blow. My heart rose up to the Lord Jesus; I saw him watching all the scene. My peace came back to me like a wave from God. I realized that my life was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done.”

The turning point came when Paton decided to dig a well to provide fresh water for the people. The islanders, terrified at bringing “rain from below,” watched with deepest foreboding. Paton dug deeper and deeper until finally, at 30 feet, he tapped into a stream of water. Opposition to his mission work ceased, and the wide-eyed islanders gave him their full respect. Chief Mamokei accepted Christ as Savior, then a few others made the daring step. On October 24, 1869, nearly 11 years after his arrival, Paton led his first communion service. Twelve converted cannibals partook of the Lord’s Supper. “As I put the bread and wine into those hands once stained with the blood of cannibalism, now stretched out to receive and partake the emblems of the Redeemer’s love,” he wrote, “I had a foretaste of the joy of Glory that well nigh broke my heart to pieces.”

The Lord meant that when you eat this bread and drink from this cup, you tell about his death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Oct.24

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