Central America was conquered by Spain in the 1500s and held in the grip of Catholicism for 300 years. Non-Catholic holdouts were subjected to dripping water torture while bound in straitjackets. Others were hung from rings in the ceilings or roasted alive in huge ovens. When the Spanish Empire broke apart in 1838, several new nations emerged, including Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The entrance of evangelical missionaries then became possible but hazardous.
The first to come were German Moravians, followed by Presbyterians. Then in the late 1880s C. I. Scofield established the Central American Mission (CAM). One of these early missionaries, Miss Eleanor Blackmore, wrote to her supporters: I’m stoned and cursed and hooted in every street. I don’t know one road in the whole city where I can walk in which there are not houses where they lie in wait to stone me. … We don’t want pity. We count it an honor thus to be trusted to suffer, but we do covet your prayers.
The first CAM missionaries went to Costa Rica, but soon a team of three headed toward El Salvador. They didn’t make it, but it wasn’t sticks and stones that struck them down. Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Dillon and Clarence Wilber were traversing Nicaragua in 1894, headed to El Salvador, when they became ill with fever, chills, and congestion of eyes and mouth. Clarence died vomiting black blood and was buried in a makeshift grave. The Dillons reached ship and started for home, but Mrs. Dillon died en route. Mr. Dillon survived and soon remarried.
He and his new wife, Margaret, returned to Central America where Dillon again contracted yellow fever and soon died. Margaret remained in Honduras, living in a small shack, sleeping on a straw mat, and training Honduran evangelists. Fifteen years passed without a furlough, then she planned a trip home. While packing, she was stricken with yellow fever and was carried 36 miles in a hammock to a missions station, arriving on June 6, 1913. She died two days later.
But these graves were but seed-plots for a harvest of souls that continues to this day.
My friends, we want you to understand how it will be for those followers who have already died. Then you won’t grieve over them and be like people who don’t have any hope. We believe that Jesus died and was raised to life. We also believe that when God brings Jesus back again, he will bring with him all who had faith in Jesus before they died. (1 Thessalonians 4:13,14)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). June 6.