James Hannington grew up peacefully enough near Brighton, England, working in his father’s countinghouse. But then he entered the ministry and offered himself to the Church Missionary Society. His first trip to Africa was interrupted by sickness. After recovering, he made a second attempt and arrived off the African coast July 23, 1884. He started inland toward Uganda, but he unwittingly chose the most dangerous path imaginable. Compatriots sent runners after him, but they arrived too late. Hannington was seized by warriors of the lawless Mwanga tribe. His small diary, crammed with tiny handwriting, is among the most moving missionary documents on record.

October 21, 1885. About 20 ruffians set upon us. They violently threw me to the ground. Twice I nearly broke away from them, then grew faint from struggling and was dragged by the legs over the ground, my clothes torn to pieces, wet through, strained in every limb, expecting death.

October 22. In a fair-sized hut, but with no ventilation, floor covered with rotting banana peel and leaves and lice, fearfully shaken, scarce power to hold a small Bible. Shall I live through it? My God, I am Thine.

October 23. I woke full of pain and weak. I don’t see how I can stand all this, yet I don’t want to give in.

October 27. I am very low; it looks so dark. I don’t know what to think, and would say from the heart, “Let the Lord do what seemeth Him good.”

October 28. A terrible night, first with my drunken guard and secondly with insects, which have found my tent and swarm. I don’t think I got one hour’s sleep, and woke with fever fast developing. O Lord, do have mercy upon me and release me. I am quite broken down and brought low. Comforted by reading Psalm 27.

October 29. I was held up by Psalm 30, which came with great power. A hyena howled near me last night, smelling a sick man, but I hope it is not to have me. That was his last entry. That day they killed him.

You, Lord, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears. Brutal people may attack and try to kill me, But they will stumble. … Armies may surround me, but I won’t be afraid; War may break out, but I will trust you. (Psalm 27:1-3)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Oct.21.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

1528 – Lutheran reformer Johann Brenz‘s tract against persecution of Anabaptists becomes available. Brenz was a strong defender of persecuted minorities and preferred to see people won by kindness rather than forced by cruelty.

1641 – English Parliament takes up a bill which will exclude bishops from the House of Lords and remove the clergy from the Commission of the Peace and other positions of governmental authority. Owing to the troubled times, the bill will pass, and King Charles will sign it at the plea of his frightened wife, Henrietta Maria.

1773 – Fifteen-year-old John of Monemvasia dies, after suffering two days from a stab wound given because he refused to convert to Islam.

1990Matilda Schmidt Epp, wife of Theodore H. Epp, the voice of Back to the Bible, dies. She was a soul-winner, Bible teacher, and role model to women apart from the work of her better-known husband.

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