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Archive for the ‘Heroes of the Faith’ Category

The emergence of Mildred Jefferson’s life purpose can be traced all the way back to her childhood, in the small town of Pittsburg, Texas during the 1930s. 

Pittsburg, TX 1925

That’s when her fascination of medicine began, under the wing of the local physician who allowed her to tag along on house calls in his horse-drawn carriage.

One day Mildred announced to him, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a doctor too.”

He could have suggested, “A career in nursing might be another good choice, Millie. It’s not a bit fair, but most medical schools will likely turn you down because you’re a girl, and even in these modern times, most doctors are men.”  He might also have mentioned the barriers Mildred would face because she was black.

But the doctor encouraged her to work hard toward her dream. So did her mother and father, a teacher and Methodist minister respectively. 

Mildred followed their advice and graduated from high school at age 15 and then college at 18, summa cum laude no less. Too young to enter medical school, Mildred earned her master’s degree in biology while she waited.

Against great odds, Mildred was accepted into medical school–at Harvard–and in 1951 became the first African American woman to graduate from the esteemed institution.

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Then she became the first woman to intern at Boston City Hospital and the first female surgeon at Boston University Medical Center, where Mildred eventually served as professor of surgery.

By 1970 the abortion debate had begun to garner much attention.  At the time, the American Medical Association was preparing a resolution in favor of abortion rights. Mildred strongly opposed such action, citing the Hippocratic oath and Judeo-Christian values as her defense.

Driven by her strong faith in God and heartfelt patriotism, Mildred began her fight against abortion. She helped found the Massachusetts chapter of Citizens for Life and later co-founded the National Right to Life Committee.  Mildred served as president of the latter from 1975-1978.

After forty years of coping with sexism and racism Mildred had developed great strength of character and courage.  She did not mince words concerning her conviction that abortion was wrong.

“I became a physician in order to save lives, not to destroy them,” Jefferson said in a 1978 interview. “I will not accept the proposition that the doctor should relinquish the role of healer to become the new social executioner.” [1]

In another interview, Mildred stated:  I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live” (2003, American Feminist Magazine). [2]

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azquotes.com/author/29722-Mildred_Fay_Jefferson

Mildred abhorred the fact that women of color aborted at higher rates than white women.  Were there racist motives behind the push to publicly fund abortions? Was a purposeful genocide being committed against blacks?  It certainly appeared so.[3]

Mildred asserted: “I would guess that the abortionists have done more to get rid of generations and cripple others than all the years of slavery and lynchings.”[4]

The articulate doctor received invitations to speak all over the country.  Her logical arguments and impassioned delivery convinced many people that abortion was immoral.

After a television appearance in 1972, Mildred received the following letter:

“Several years ago I was faced with the issue of whether to sign a California abortion bill. . . . I must confess to never having given the matter of abortion any serious thought until that time.  No other issue since I have been in office has caused me to do so much study and soul-searching . . . I wish I could have heard your views before our legislation was passed.  You made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life.  I’m grateful to you.”

The letter was signed, Governor Ronald Reagan.[5]

For nearly 40 years Mildred continued to fight for the rights of the unborn as she lived up to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 25:40, that whatever we do for the least of those among us, we do it for him.

Sources:

  1. https://christiannewsjournal.com/one-doctors-prescription-for-life-mildred-fay-jefferson/
  2. https://www.classicalhistorian.com/johns-blog/mildred-fay-jefferson 
  3. https://cultureoflifestudies.com/newsletter/dr-mildred-fay-jefferson/
  4. https://kofc.org/en/news-room/columbia/2020/january/passionate-pioneer-remembered.html)
  5. https://marchforlife.org/dr-mildred-jefferson/

Notes


[1] https://kofc.org;en/news-room/columbia/202/january/passionate-pioneer-rememberd.html

[2] https://marchforlife.org/dr-mildred-jefferson/

[3] op. cit. https://kofc

[4]  https://www.classicalhistorian.com/johns-blog/mildred-fay-jefferson 

[5] op. cit. https://kofc

Photo credits: http://www.picryl,com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.heartlight.org, Ben Steed; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.all.org.

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For the second time in his life, twenty-four year old Johnny Lee Clary considered suicide. The first time he’d been just fourteen, when his parents split up and his mother’s boyfriend started beating him. Now Clary had reached another personal crisis.

For ten years he’d belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, members providing the family he’d lost.  Clary worked hard to move up through the ranks, thinking achievement would produce fulfillment. But his rise in the Klan came at a cost. His wife divorced him, taking their young son with her.

Six months after attaining the position of grand wizard, Clary realized he felt just as empty and unsatisfied as before.

Now he sat on the edge of his bed, contemplating suicide again, when a sunbeam lit up a dusty Bible on a shelf, and he remembered the hours spent at a Baptist church when he was a boy. Those days were the happiest of his life.

He took down the Bible and it fell open to Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son.  Clary saw himself as the young man returning to his father.  He explained later, “I realized that no matter what I’d done, the Lord had never left me or forsaken me.”

And so thoughts of suicide turned into a whispered prayer.  Clary asked Jesus for forgiveness and rededicated his life to him.

That was 1989.  He left the KKK and spent two years immersed in scripture and in the teaching of respected Christian leaders.  In 1991 Clary felt God wanted him to do two things:  preach about Jesus and call Wade Watts.

Wade Watts, a Black pastor and civil rights leader, had not been far from Clary’s thoughts since meeting him in 1979, when they’d participated in a radio debate on racism.

When Watts offered Clary his hand, Johnny took it without thinking but then quickly withdrew, remembering a Klan teaching:  “Physical touch of a non-white is pollution.”

The black pastor took no offense. Laughing, he said, “Don’t worry.  My black won’t come off!”

During the debate, Clary hurled every hate-filled insult he could think of. But Watts won with his strong logic and good-natured humor.

As Clary left the radio station, Watts stopped him, holding his adopted, biracial daughter in his arms. “You say you hate all black people.  How can you hate this little baby?”

Clary didn’t answer as he stomped toward the parking lot. Watts called out, “God bless you, Johnny!  I’m gonna love you and pray for you whether you like it or not!”

Fueled by Watt’s intolerable good nature and the embarrassment of losing the debate, Clary began harassing the black pastor.  He and other Klansmen hurled garbage into Watt’s yard and plagued him with death threats.  Watts failed to respond.

Another night the Klansmen dressed in their white robes and hoods, lit torches in the pastor’s yard, and dared him to come out and face them.  Watts did, speaking calmly from his porch.  “Boys, Halloween is still four months away, so I don’t have any treats for you.  But come back in October!”  Then he went back in the house, leaving Johnny and company stunned into silence.

When they lit a cross in his yard, Watts asked if the Klansmen would like some hot dogs and marshmallows for their barbeque.

Finally Clary and other KKK members set fire to Watt’s church.  Clary called the pastor a short while later.  “You better be afraid,” he snarled in a disguised voice.  “We are coming to get you, and–”

Watts interrupted the threat.  “Hello, Johnny.  A man like you takes the time to call me, I am so honored.  Let me do something for you.”  And he prayed for God to forgive Johnny for setting fire to a house of the Lord.

Harassment of the black preacher continued for some time but Watts always responded with love, composure, and often humor.

One evening in 1991 after Johnny had turned back to Jesus, he called Reverend Watts.

“I don’t know if you remember me,” he began, “but my name is Johnny Lee Clary.”

“Remember you!” responded Watts.  “Son, I’ve been praying for you for years.”

The black pastor invited Clary to preach at his rebuilt church.   At the end of the sermon a teenage girl came down the aisle, crying, and embraced him.

Then he heard someone else crying—Wade Watts. “Johnny, remember that baby I showed you when we debated on the radio? And I asked how you could hate such a child?  This is that little girl!”

And so began a deep friendship between a former Klansman and a black preacher.

Watts often said, “If you want to make beautiful music, you got to use the black and white keys together.”

He and Clary enjoyed making beautiful music for seven years, often preaching and holding rallies jointly until Watts passed away in 1998. Clary continued preaching about Jesus and teaching against racism until his death in 2014.

Martin Luther King. Jr. wrote:

Through forgiveness, humor, and prayer for his enemy, that’s exactly what Wade Watts accomplished.  

Sources:

https://alobar.livejournal.com/3348812.html

https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/not-a-chance-encounter-but-a-divine-appointment-with-truth/

https://www.godyears.net/2017/08/the-redemption-of-ku-klux-klan-leader.html

https://thislandpress/2013/08/29

Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.photstockeditor.com; http://www.pxhere.com;www.wikimedia.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.flickr.com.

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Eight-year old Jennifer Wiseman tagged along behind her parents down the road in front of their farm, just as she did every evening on their habitual walk.  No matter how many times the family of three and various pets set out under the dark sky, Jennifer always ended up trailing them, her head craned backward to study the stars.

With no city lights within miles, the countryside of her Ozark Mountain home offered a spectacular heavenly view.  Jennifer shuffled along, mesmerized. 

It seemed as if heaven’s glory itself shone through thousands of pinpricks in the black canopy of sky.  Jennifer knew about heaven from her parents and their church community where she saw lived out what was being taught.

Her interest in stars grew as she watched Carl Sagan’s television program, Cosmos.

(Carl Sagan)

 What would it be like to explore space, she wondered, to stand on a far-distant planet amidst its craters and mountains? To make new discoveries about the universe? Maybe one day I can be a part of space exploration.

That interest remained with Jennifer.  But whether to become an astronaut, astronomer, scientist or engineer building space probes—Jennifer didn’t know. So she majored in physics at MIT, since that basic science could be applied in many areas of study.

A few months before graduation in 1987, Jennifer traveled with other students to the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.  On photographic plates taken by astronomer Brian Skiff, she discovered a new comet that became known as the Wiseman/Skiff Comet.

(An unidentified comet)

Jennifer continued her education at Harvard, receiving a Ph. D. in astronomy in 1995.  From Massachusetts she moved to Virginia as a Jansky Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory to research star formation.  Her childhood dream had finally become reality [1].

(Galaxy Grand star forming, photo from Hubble Space Telescope)

Currently she is the Senior Project Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope.

(Dr. Jennifer Wiseman)
(Jennifer teaching a seminar)

Dr. Wiseman is a sought after speaker because not only is she articulate and passionate about her subject of outer space, but as a believer in Christ she’s a strong defender of exploration as a divinely Christian activity.  She sees no conflict between science and her faith, sharing often a quote from John Calvin [2]:

As Jennifer considers the billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, she recognizes God is responsible for it all, and has been supporting and sustaining this ever-changing universe over billions of years, long before life existed.

(a star forming, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope)

For some, that realization fosters a feeling of insignificance, but not for her.  Jennifer senses a reverent fear and gratefulness that God engineered the universe to mature over eons of time until at least one planet can support abundant life.

“And I get to be a part of that for just a little while,” she says. “So I’m grateful. It also makes me a little fearful:  am I using my time well [3]?”

Jennifer allows her awe to impact her worship as she contemplates her Savior, the one who sustains the universe (Hebrews 1:3).  “He’s the one responsible for galaxies, black holes, planets, oceans, and porcupines!” she says.

(NASA photo of a dwarf galaxy)

“When we say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ we must mean that Jesus is Lord of all time and space.  Who was the Lord at the Big Bang when Time began?  Jesus.

“Who was Lord when the first galaxies coalesced and the first stars turned on?  Jesus.

(Colliding galaxies. Photo credit: ESA, Hubble, & NASA)

“Who was Lord as our own solar system came into being?  Jesus.

“Who was Lord during all the epochs of life on Earth—the Cambrian, the Pleistocene, the era of [early humans]?  Jesus.

“And who will be Lord as long as time exists, and forever outside of time as well?  Jesus [4].”

(The Omega Nebula or Swan Nebula)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We do praise you, O God, for the wonders of your universe. Thank you for giving us the capability to study and understand its marvels at least in part, providing opportunity to gain insight into your greatness.

(Planetary Nebula)

We also praise you for working at the infinitesimal level—in our individual lives. How glorious we can never come to the end of your attentive loving kindness any more than we can reach the end of your universe.

(Psalm 19:1; Genesis 1:27; 1 Chronicles 29:11;

Matthew 10:29-31; Psalm 57:10)

 Notes


(NASA’s Power Couple, Jennifer Wiseman and Mark Shelhamer)

[1] Meanwhile she married fellow NASA scientist Mark Shelhamer in 1997.  They met at MIT when she was an undergrad and he was pursuing his master’s degree.

[2] https://news.belmont.edu/dr-jennifer-wiseman-speaks

[3] https://blog.emergingscholars.org/2013/07/interview-with-jennifer-wiseman-part-2/

[4] www.letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/how-science-can-inspire-can-inform-worship-jennifer-wiseman/

Other Sources:

www.technologyreview.com

www.testoffaith.com

https://biologos.org/podcast-episodes/jennifer-wiseman-light-in-space

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com;www.pixabay.com; http://www.stockvault.net; http://www.snappygoat.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

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(In honor of Women’s History Month)

 

Hannah More (1745-1833)

 

The odds were stacked against her.

Like all young women of eighteenth century Britain, Hannah More would have to choose between marriage and a select few occupations for females. Universities did not accept women, most professions were closed to them, they couldn’t serve in government or even vote.

Yet the case has been made that Hannah More wielded strong influence in important arenas of her time. How could that be? God paved the way.

 

 

First, he gave Hannah a quick mind and a schoolteacher father who taught his five daughters at home. As the girls grew into womanhood Mr. More helped two of the older sisters open a boarding school for girls in nearby Bristol. Hannah attended for a while, but at age eighteen, became one of the teachers.

In addition to the ability to teach, God gave Hannah a gift for writing. Even at an early age she was composing poems and essays. Later she began to write plays for her students—dramas that included life lessons.

In her early twenties, Hannah became engaged to neighboring landowner, William Turner. Three times the wedding date was set; three times he backed out. The third time Hannah broke the engagement. To assuage his guilt, William gave her a monthly stipend, enabling Hannah to move to London and focus on her writing.

 

(www.azquotes.com/author/10363-Hannah_More)

 

God also provided opportunities for Hannah to meet people of influence. With her intelligence, wit, and charm, she was often invited to dinner parties and became a member of high society.

Meanwhile she made the acquaintance of John Newton, the slave-ship captain turned preacher who wrote Amazing Grace. They enjoyed a life-long friendship.

 

 

Newton was a member of the Clapham Sect, a group of passionate Christians, eager to release people from the oppression of poverty and slavery. One of the sect members served in Parliament, William Wilberforce. He, his wife Barbara, and Hannah also became friends for life.

 

     

William and Barbara Wilberforce

 

Hannah already despised the slave trade and joined the Clapham community. Their strong commitment to Christ greatly influenced Hannah and the practice of her faith took on greater importance.

At the suggestion of Wilburforce, Hannah wrote a poem to raise awareness about the treatment of slaves. It was published in 1788. One passage described the capture of Africans:

 

The burning village, and the blazing town:

See the dire victim torn from social life,

See the sacred infant, hear the shrieking wife!

She, wretch forlorn! Is dragged by hostile hands,

To distant tyrants sold, in distant lands.

 

As a result of reading Hannah’s impassioned account, thousands of people signed petitions demanding an end to the slave trade. The next year, Wilburforce used her poem in a Parliamentary debate concerning slavery.

Hannah helped the cause in other ways also. She encouraged a sugar boycott, since slaves provided the workforce on the British plantations of the Caribbean.

 

 

She even used her influence at dinner parties. Among people dressed in finery and focused on pleasure, Hannah would engage in cheerful banter, then pull out a folded piece of paper from her reticule, a drawstring purse.

“Have you ever seen the likes of this?” she might ask while spreading a print flat on the dining table—a diagram of the cargo hold inside a slave ship with Africans packed tightly together. The startling image helped garner more support for the cause.

 

 

Even as she campaigned for the abolition of slavery, Hannah took on another endeavor: education for the poor. She and her younger sister Martha established Sunday Schools since many of their students worked Monday through Saturday. (Child labor wasn’t prohibited in Britain until 1880.) They taught the three R’s and Bible lessons.

Soon three hundred children attended. Then adults were included and job placement provided. Within ten years, the sisters had opened sixteen schools, three of which still functioned into the twentieth century. Hannah involved herself in these schools for thirty years.

 

(Hannah More Academy, built 1834; closed 1974)

 

And of course, Hannah continued to write. She produced numerous pamphlets, plays of Bible stories that missionaries used around the world, as well as Christian novels and nonfiction. Her books outsold Jane Austen’s.

At age eighty-eight Hannah died peacefully in her sleep, just weeks after Parliament abolished slavery. The battle had taken forty years.

Even after her death Hannah’s positive influence lived on. She left the proceeds of her books, 30,000 pounds, for distribution to the poor—the equivalent of three million dollars today.

Hannah wrote in Practical Piety (1811):

 

“We must, while we keep our hearts humble,

keep our aims high . . . As God is unlimited in goodness,

He should have our unlimited love.

The best we can offer is poor, but let us not withhold that best.”

 

No one can say Hannah More did not give her best. May we follow her example.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/hannah-more/
  2. https://www.acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-26-number-1/hannah-more-1745-%E2%80%93-1833
  3. https://www.str.org/w/hannah-more-guided-by-christian-convictions
  4. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/march/hannah-more-powerhouse-in-petticoat.html
  5. https://religionnews.com/2014/11/05/hannah-karen-prior-evangelical/
  6. https://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/breakpoint/the-power-of-a-poem-hannah-more-and-the-abolition-of-the-slave-trade.html.
  7. https://mylordkatie.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/hannah-more-a-heart-for-the-poor/
  8. https://www.citieschurch.com/journal/culture-shaping-faith
  9. http://christianwomenonline.net/2020/02/18/hannah-more-changing-the-world-with-a-pen/

 

Art & photo credits: http://www.picryl.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (3).

 

 

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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

No sooner did Mama open the front door than Marian was in her arms, sobbing.

“Oh, Mama! It was awful. There were so many empty seats, and the critics—one said I sang as if by rote.” Marian’s throat constricted around the hurtful words.

If anything, she always put heart and soul into her music. To be told she sang by rote was as painful as being told she sang flat.

“I’m done,” Marian announced through tears. “I need to find a different profession.”

Mama paused, then quietly suggested, “Why don’t you think about it a little, and pray a lot first?”

For a full year, 1924-1925, twenty-six-year old Marian didn’t sing a note.

But a gift for music like Marian’s isn’t easily put away. She’d been singing all her life, including church solos from childhood. Her proud Aunt Mary took her to other venues in Philadelphia so everyone could hear Marian’s glorious voice with its three-octave range.

She longed to develop the gift God had given her and sing the music of the classical composers. So at age eighteen, Marian waited in a long line of applicants for a nearby music academy. Finally someone told her, “You can’t attend here; you’re Negro.”

Of course, she understood. African Americans of the time were prohibited from many establishments. But the pain didn’t come just from the words; it was how they were spoken. The young woman seemed to take delight in deflating Marian’s hope.

“That’s all right,” Mama told her. “God may have something better in mind.”

Mama was right. The principal of Marian’s high school introduced her to esteemed vocal teacher Guiseppe Boghetti, and asked him to take her as a pupil.

“No new students!” he barked, but agreed to hear her sing one song. Marian chose “Deep River,” and Boghetti miraculously found time for her.

But how would she pay him? Papa had died when Marian was twelve; Mama took in laundry and cleaned for Wanamaker’s Department Store to support her three daughters. Marian contributed as she could from her sporadic earnings as a soloist. It was their church who paid for the lessons as members contributed pennies into a special fund for her.

Soon invitations to sing arrived from outside Philadelphia. But travel, especially in the South, presented challenges and indignities. Trains did not serve food or offer sleeping berths to African Americans; hotels would not provide rooms. Marian stayed in homes or at the YWCA. And she sang to segregated audiences—Whites on one side, Blacks on the other.

Marian absorbed the ill treatment—even deflected it—by standing tall and dignified on every stage, in front of those who respected her voice but not her personhood.

Then came the devastating concert at New York City Hall, and her hiatus from singing. But within a year, Marian had returned to Boghetti for more lessons.

In 1925, he entered her in a vocal competition with 300 soloists. Marian won first prize: a concert with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Positive reviews fueled her courage to leave home for Europe, where she not only studied singing but the languages of the music she loved: German, Italian, and French.

From 1933-1939 she toured the continent. As those around her focused on her talent, Mama kept Marian focused in her spirit. “Grace must always come before greatness,” she would say.[1]

 

(1940)

 

As the Great Depression raged, Marian concluded each concert with several Negro Spirituals. Many were brought to tears as she poured her own emotions into each word, each note.

In 1939, Marian’s agent sought to book a concert at Washington D. C.’s Constitution Hall, owned by the Daughters of the Revolution. They refused the request, asserting their policy forbade African Americans from performing there.

The incident became a national headline when Eleanor Roosevelt heard of their affront. She expressed disapproval in her newspaper column and announced withdrawal of her membership from the organization.

 

(Eleanor and Marian, 1953)

 

Meanwhile the Executive Secretary of the NAACP approached the Secretary of the Interior with an alternative venue. Could Marian sing from the Lincoln Memorial steps and the audience stand on the Washington Mall? Permission was granted.

Seventy-five thousand people gathered to hear her sing. Black and White attendees stood together that day, shoulder to shoulder—a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream—nearly three decades before his famous speech, given from the same location.

 

(April, 1939)

 

More tours abroad and across the United States followed, keeping Marian away from home and family. But her mission compelled her forward:

 

“I sing to all, of course, but to that one, that one over the ninety-nine

whom you’d like to bring back into the fold—

if I reach that one soul, and reach it well–

then the concert was not in vain.”

—Marian Anderson [2]

 

By the mid-1950s the Civil Rights Movement gripped the country. Marian received criticism for not using her influence more vehemently. Perhaps they didn’t know her quiet battle behind the scenes.

For example, when the DAR sought to correct the wrong from 1939 and invited Marian to sing at Constitution Hall in 1943, she graciously accepted—with the stipulation that seating be integrated. The DAR complied.

Marian has been described as “a silent fighter who quietly opened doors for others.”[3]

Others. That was Marian’s focus, whether she was singing, serving her community, or giving interviews. In fact, she was known for questioning her interviewers, taking genuine interest in their lives.

Her nephew James LePriest remembers that even into her nineties people would comment, “You look just like Marian Anderson!”

She’d reply, “You’re the third person who’s told me that today,” and never reveal her identity.

Grace before greatness indeed.

(You can access a recording of Marian singing here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO9yDb_9NVw&list=PL-J_hJ4fmXTik1Z1NuWrH2mXrTAk-8HVe&index=43)

 

Notes

[1] https://www.guideposts.org/faith-and-prayer/prayer-stories/power-of-prayer/guideposts-classics-marian-anderson-on-the-power-of-faith

[2] https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/1165

[3] Ibid.

 

Other Sources:

  1. http://dla.library.upenn.edu/dla/ead/ead.html?q=year%20of%20first%20concert%20at%20New%20York%20City%20Hall&id=EAD_upenn_rbml_MsColl200&
  2. https://whittakerchambers.org/articles/time-c/marian-anderson/

 

Photo credits:  http://www.loc.getarchive.net; http://www.flickr.com (3).

 

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Young William Ramsay, along with his bride of just one year, leaned against the rail of their ship. Eagerly they scanned the horizon in order to catch the first possible glimpse of their destination, Smyrna, Turkey, with its whitewashed structures nestled into green hillsides.

 

(Smyrna, 1900)

 

William’s archaeological adventure, funded by a scholarship, was about to begin.

While the ship creaked around him, William daydreamed of the renown he would garner even as a young Oxford professor, when he proved at least one book of the Bible–Acts–was mostly fiction.

Granted, no one could say unequivocally that Peter and Paul had not performed miracles in Jesus’ name. But he could prove that Luke’s record of the apostles’ work was full of errors in the categories of geography and history, thus casting great doubt on the whole.

The inspiration for such an endeavor began with William’s exposure to the Tubingen School of thought. They asserted that only four of the epistles were actually authored by Paul, and the rest of the New Testament was written much later—perhaps two hundred years later.

 

(The School of Theology at Tubingen University today)

 

In an effort to lionize the heroes of the early church, these Tubingen scholars decided Luke had exaggerated the stories and didn’t concern himself with accurate details. But no one had proven these theories until William set out to do so in 1880.

Soon after arrival in Turkey, the Ramsays met Sir Charles Wilson, an experienced explorer. He invited William to accompany him on two lengthy investigations that included Phrygia, Lycaonia, Cappadocia, and Galatia (1).

 

(Ancient limestone cave houses of Cappadocia,

deteriorated into cone-shaped structures due to erosion)

 

Beginning with these excursions and continuing over the next thirty-four years, Ramsay saturated himself with the geography and history of the Graeco-Roman world. He began to uncover facts that refuted the Tubingen theories–information that only a first-century eyewitness like Luke could have known.

For example:

In Acts 14:1-7 Luke reports the escape of Paul and Silas from Iconium, before they were stoned to death. They fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe.

However, later Roman writers including Cicero asserted that fleeing to Lystra and Derbe wouldn’t have saved the men because all three cities were in the same district.

 

(Turkish town of Konia, Paul’s Iconium–1911)

 

But in 1910 Ramsay discovered a telling inscription. In the first century A.D., Iconium was not under the authority of Lycaonia but of Phrygia, from A.D. 37-72—the exact time period when Paul and his companions would have visited the area (2).

Acts 17:1-9 relates the experience of Paul and his companions in Thessalonica. Luke uses the term politarch (translated “city officials” in NIV) in verse 6, a word not found in any other Greek literature. But Ramsay found five inscriptions in Thessalonica that used the title (3).

In Acts 18:12-17 Paul was brought before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia. At Delphi, Ramsay and his team discovered an inscription of a letter to the proconsul from Emperior Claudius: “Lucius Junios Gallio, my friend and proconsul of Achaia.”

 

(The ruins at Delphi, Greece)

 

Historians date the inscription to 52 A.D., which corresponds to the time Paul and Silas would have visited the area (4).

In all, Ramsay was able to verify ninety-five geographical details included in the book of Acts, as well as historical facts and the names of people who existed at the time. He found no evidence of errors (5).

 

(Sir William Mitchell Ramsay, 1924)

 

Ramsay authored numerous books that give record of his findings. In one he wrote:

“I began with a mind unfavorable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen theory had at one time quite convinced me . . .but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth . . .

“. . . Luke is a historian of the first rank not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy . . . this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians” (6).

Some say Ramsay’s search for truth brought him to faith in Christ; others argue that he did not embrace Christianity.

But I can’t imagine dedicating decades of my life toward a cause in which I held no personal belief.

What I can imagine is God leading Ramsay from proof to proof while simultaneously working in his heart, bringing him to the point of belief in the Bible and finally in his Son as Savior.

 

 

Notes:

  1. See Acts 18:23, 14:6, and 2:9 for mention of these provinces.
  2. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stewart_don/faq/historical-accuracy-of-the-bible/question13-is-acts-historically-accurate.cfm
  3. https://highergrounds.live/2017/12/05/sir-william-ramsay-and-the-book-of-acts/
  4. https://christiantrumpetsounding.com/Archaeology/Archaeology%20Bklt/Archaeology%20Verifies%20Bible%20Ch2.htm
  5. http://taoandtawheed.com/TaoTawheed/TabId/108/ArtMID/550/ArticleID/61/Luke-Got-His-Facts-Straight.aspx
  6. William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, 222.

 

Other sources:

  1. https://www.5minutesinchrchhistory.com/sir-william-ramsay/
  2. https://bibleevidences.com/archaeological-evidence
  3. https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ramsay/ramsay_gasque.pdf

 

Photo credits:  http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.loc.getarchive.net; http://www.pxhere.co

 

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“So what do you think?”  Kemmons Wilson asked his friend and fellow home-builder, Wallace Johnson.  After talking nonstop for the first twenty minutes of their business lunch, Kemmons finally took the first bite of his ham on rye.   It had taken that long to share his idea for a new business venture, and he wanted Wallace to be a partner.

Wallace set his napkin down beside an empty chili bowl.  He was already catching his friend’s passion for the idea that definitely held promise.

The revelation had occurred while Kemmons, his wife, and five children had recently been on vacation to Washington, D. C. that summer of 1951.  Every night of their trip they experienced frustration because of the poor accommodations available.

 

 

Most motels of the day offered small, uncomfortable rooms with nothing for children to do.  To add insult to injury, they charged extra for each child, nearly tripling the price of a room for the Wilson family. 

What Kemmons proposed to Wallace was a revolutionary kind of motel.  First, kids under twelve would stay free in their parents’ rooms.  He and Wallace would provide spacious 12 x 26 accommodations, including the bathroom. 

There’d be free TV, a telephone in each room, and a motel pool—at no extra charge.  Oh—and they’d provide babysitting service too.  They’d even build an onsite restaurant with good, reasonably-priced food.  No one was providing so many amenities at the time.

But Kemmons’ entrepreneurial genius did not stop there. 

“I’m not talking about just one motel here in Memphis,” he enthused between bites.  “We’ll start here, but think about this, Wallace.”  And a big grin spread over his face.  “What if we built them all across the country, within a day’s drive of each other?”

Now it was Wallace’s turn to grin.  “Nobody can say you don’t dream big, Kemmons.  That sounds fantastic.  But where do we get the capital for such a venture?”

“I thought about that too.  That’s where you come in, my friend, as my gifted finance man and officer in the National Homebuilders Association.  All we have to do is get one homebuilder in each major city to build one of our motels.”

Wallace made no promise that day except to pray about the possibility.  Kemmons fully supported his friend’s decision, being a man of strong faith in Jesus Christ himself.

But it wasn’t long before the two men immersed themselves in executing Kemmons’ plan.

The name for the would-be chain came from a movie the draftsman had seen during the time he worked on the plans.  He’d jokingly written the title at the top of the document:  Holiday Inn.

 

 

The first motel opened for business in 1953.  On each nightstand was a Bible, a tradition the two partners maintained over the ensuing decades of growth.

Wallace once explained, “The one reason why we’ve always had an open Bible in every room in the Holiday Inn motels is to help people find Jesus and the solution to their problems, no matter who they are” (1).   

By 1962, two Holiday Inns were opening each week. And today, they still remain an iconic sight along American highways and across the world.

Surely Kemmons and Wallace went to bed many a night, marveling at what God had done in their lives.  Both had grown up in dire circumstances, but escaped poverty with hard work and determination. 

Both experienced setbacks, but overcame them with faith and perseverance.  Wallace had once been fired from a good, stable job at a lumberyard and wondered what God was doing. 

But “later I saw it was God’s unerring and wondrous plan to get me into the ways of his choosing,” he explained (2).

Part of God’s plan included the 35-year partnership between Kemmons and Wallace, a partnership founded on their relationships with God and each other.  Together they gave liberally of their wealth to support numerous Christian ministries.

 

(Wallace Johnson (left) and Kemmons Wilson (right)

 

Some men and women who find great success in life are lulled into false security because of their financial standing and position.  Not Wallace Johnson.

“I am totally dependent on God for help in everything I do,” he emphasized.  “Otherwise I honestly believe I would start to fall apart in months” (3).

Such a statement reveals the foundation on which Kemmons and Wallace based their lives. Their decisions and actions grew out of a desire to honor God.

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I thank you, Father, for such men as Kemmons Wilson and Wallace Johnson, who exemplified undying commitment to you in the midst of great success in the secular world.  In grateful response to your blessing upon them, they became conduits of blessing to others. May we do the same.        

 

Notes:

  1. Peter Kennedy, Copyright 2002, Devotional E-Mail DEVOTIONS IN ACTS, found @ www.sermonillustrator.com
  2. https://www.facebook.com/SMDP1/posts/bounce-back-abilityobstacles-don’t-have-to-stop-if-you-run-into-a-wall-don’t-t/701780540019915/
  3. Kennedy, DEVOTIONS IN ACTS, www.sermonillustrator.com

Other sources:

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.fold3.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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How it might have been:

Edward’s fingers followed the pick-ax marks carved in a left-to-right direction.  He marveled at the skill and perseverance of long-ago workmen to create a tunnel of such length–a tunnel he thought might be the one ordered by King Hezekiah 2,500 years previously.

 

 

Suddenly Edward drew in a sharp breath. The markings abruptly changed direction. Instead of left-to-right blows, they became right-to-left, and an astonishing thought occurred to him.

“Eli,” he called. “Look at this. What do you make of it?”

His explorer-companion came alongside and fingered the wall as Edward had done. “How strange. All of a sudden the pick-ax marks change direction.”

“I’m thinking there must have been two teams of workmen, Eli—each working toward the middle from opposite ends. That would cut in half the time necessary to create such a tunnel.”

Time would have been of the essence to King Hezekiah as the Assyrians threatened to attack Jerusalem. No water source existed within the city walls. So the king ordered the tunnel be constructed in order to redirect the Gihon Spring into the city, and deprive the enemy of water at the same time.

 

 

Edward Robinson and Eli Smith continued sloshing through shallow water along the twisting, two-feet wide tunnel. Could it be that, behind the silt that had built up for centuries, they had indeed rediscovered Hezekiah’s tunnel, referred to in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah? Curiosity kept them going.

In fact it was curiosity that had brought Edward to Palestine in the first place. His Puritan upbringing in the early 1800s had instilled in him a love for scripture, which he studied with a passion, along with Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Now age 44, he was finally exploring the beloved land of the Bible, for the purpose of creating the first systematic survey of biblical geography (1). God had provided Edward with a knowledgeable guide and translator, Eli Smith, a missionary of the region.

After a thirty-minute trek through the underground stream, Edward and Eli found the tunnel did lead to the Gihon Spring outside Jerusalem’s walls.

But the Bible says nothing of two teams working from either end. How could such a feat have been achieved, 140 feet below ground at some points, long before the compass had been invented?

In addition, the tunnel twists and turns for 1,738 feet. A straight line from pool to spring would have shortened the distance considerably, to slightly more than 1,000 feet. Why did the foreman of the crew choose a winding route when an Assyrian invasion loomed at any time?

 

 

Edward Robinson’s idea of two teams working toward the middle remained a theory until 1880 when several boys playing in the Siloam Pool (as it came to be known) decided to explore the tunnel for themselves.

About 20 feet from the entrance, one boy spotted an inscription in the wall. The find was reported to authorities, and Professor A. H. Sayce, a resident in the area at the time, was sent to study the ancient writing. He reportedly sat for hours in mud and water, transcribing the inscription by candlelight (2).

 

This is a replica; the original resides

in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

 

The inscription included the following information:

    1. While stone-cutters worked toward each other, and while three cubits of rock remained to tunnel through, a workman’s voice was heard, because of a fissure in the rock.
    2. On the final day of tunneling, each stonecutter struck the stone forcefully in order to meet his co-worker. And then the water began to flow toward the pool.
    3. The full distance of the tunnel: 1200 cubits. The height of the rock above the stone-cutters’ heads: 100 cubits. (3).

After more than forty years, Edward Robinson’s theory was proven correct.

But Hezekiah’s name is not mentioned.  How can we be sure the tunnel dates to the time of the ancient king?

In 2003, archaeologists implemented modern radiometric dating, based on the decay of radioactive elements. They determined the excavation of Hezekiah’s tunnel did occur about 700 years before Christ, the era of the Judean king’s reign (4).

As for the winding route, some speculate that workers followed natural fissures in the rock as well as cracks that already seeped water, making the process easier and faster.

Last, how did workmen meet in the middle so far underground? That is still a mystery and source of wonder. It would seem God himself brought the two teams together.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Robinson completed a three-volume work, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai, and Arabia Petraea that laid the groundwork for a new realm of study: biblical archaeology. https://www.vision.org/digging-faith-370
  2. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/101-hezekiahs-tunnel
  3. https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/places/related-articles/siloam-inscription-and-hezekiahs-tunnel (translated by Christopher Rollston).
  4. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-09/huoj-dok090903.php

 

Other sources:

  1. Archaeological Study Bible, Zondervan, 2005, p. 564
  2. https://www.hopechannel.com/au/read/siloam-inscription
  3. http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/Hezekiah_Tunnel
  4. http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/node/854

 

Art and photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pickist.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.org (2), http://www.canva.com.

 

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We hear it again and again, especially this time of year: few of our founding fathers were Christians, many were Deists. That is, they believed God created the universe and set everything in motion, but he does not participate in the affairs of humanity.

Those who perpetuate such statements are ignoring a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

Last Independence Day we noted thirteen signers of the Declaration of Independence who clearly put their faith in Jesus. Their quotes from documents, letters, and last testaments offer the proof. You can access that post at Faith in a Participatory God.

This post provides proof-of-faith for ten more men who signed the Declaration.

Some of the quotes are lengthy; feel free to skim read!

 

 

Josiah Bartlett, while serving as governor of New Hampshire, issued a Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 17, 1792, calling for the people to:

“confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord” (1).

 

 

Samuel Chase, while serving as a circuit court judge in Pennsylvania, spoke to the defendant, John Fries, during his trial for treason, 1799-1800:

“I expect that you are a Christian; and as such I address you. Be assured my guilty and unhappy fellow-citizen, that without serious repentance of all your sins, you cannot expect happiness in the world to come; and to your repentance you must add faith and hope in the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ. These are the only terms on which pardon and forgiveness are promised” (2).

 

 

Samuel Huntington, while serving as governor of Connecticut, issued a Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation, March 9, 1791, including these remarks:

It becomes a people publicly to acknowledge the over-ruling hand of Divine Providence and their dependence upon the Supreme Being as their Creator and Merciful Preserver . . . and with becoming humility and sincere repentance to supplicate the pardon that we may obtain forgiveness through the merits and mediation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3).

 

 

Richard Henry Lee, while serving as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774, joined Samuel Adams and Daniel Roberdeau to recommend:

“Thursday, the 18th of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance” (4).

 

 

Philip Livingston, in his last will and testament, wrote:

“First, I do resign my soul to the great most mighty and most merciful God Who gave it, in hopes, through mercy alone by the merits of Jesus Christ, to have a joyful resurrection to life eternal, and my body I commit to the earth to be buried decently and without ostentation” (5). (Dated May 18, 1778, and on file at the Family History Center in Texas.)

 

 

Thomas McKean, while serving as a judge, presented the following in a public address given to the defendant who had just been sentenced to death:

“It behooves you most seriously to reflect upon your past conduct; to repent of your evil deeds [Acts 8:22]; to be incessant in prayers to the great and merciful God to forgive your manifold transgressions and sins [1 Kings 8:50]; to teach you to rely upon the merit and passion of a dear Redeemer and thereby to avoid those regions of sorrow—those doleful shades where peace and rest can never dwell, where even hope cannot enter [Ephesians 2:12]” (6).

 

 

George Read, known as “the Father of Delaware,” wrote “the first edition of her laws,” and the Constitution of the State. The requirements, stated in the Delaware Constitution, for holding office include:

“DELAWARE 1776. Article XXII. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust…shall…make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: “I, ________, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration” (7).

 

 

Richard Stockton, from his last will and testament:

“I think it proper here not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great and leading doctrines of the Christian religion, such as the Being of God, the universal defection and depravity of human nature, the divinity of the Person and the completeness of the redemption purchased by the blessed Savior, the necessity of the operations of the Divine Spirit, of Divine Faith, accompanied with an habitual virtuous life, and the universality of the divine Providence, but also . . . that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; that the way of life held up in the Christian system is calculated for the most complete happiness that can be enjoyed in this mortal state; that all occasions of vice and immorality is injurious either immediately or consequentially, even in this life; that as Almighty God hath not been pleased in the Holy Scriptures to prescribe any precise mode in which He is to be publicly worshiped, all contention about it generally arises from want of knowledge or want of virtue” (8).

 

 

John Witherspoon, the only clergy among the signers, spoke the following in a sermon, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation through Christ, January 2, 1758:

“It is very evident that both the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New are at great pains to give us a view of the glory and dignity of the person of Christ. With what magnificent titles is he adorned! What glorious attributes are ascribed to him! All these conspire to teach us that he is truly and properly God – God over all, blessed forever” (9)!

 

 

Oliver Wolcott, in a letter to his daughter, Laura, April 10, 1776:

“Through various scenes of life, God has sustained me. May He ever be my unfailing friend; may His love cherish my soul; may my heart with gratitude acknowledge His goodness; and may my desires be to Him and to the remembrance of His name….May we then turn our eyes to the bright objects above, and may God give us strength to travel the upward road. May the Divine Redeemer conduct us to that seat of bliss which He himself has prepared for His friends; at the approach of which every sorrow shall vanish from the human heart and endless scenes of glory open upon the enraptured eye” (10).

 

Of course, not all founding fathers drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence.

The website, www.biography.com, lists eighteen men among the most influential of our founders (11):

  • John Hancock**
  • James Madison
  • John Adams*
  • Ben Franklin
  • George Washington**
  • Patrick Henry**
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Alexander Hamilton*
  • Thomas Paine
  • Samuel Adams**
  • Richard Henry Lee*
  • John Dickenson*
  • James Monroe
  • Roger Sherman*
  • Benjamin Rush*
  • George Mason*
  • John Marshall
  • John Jay*

 

The asterisks indicates those who included statements of faith in Jesus Christ in their writings. Two asterisks by a name indicates other posts on this blog that share their stories.

Count up the names with no asterisks: six.  Six who may have been Deists rather than Christians. That does not constitute “many.”

And why does it matter whether our founders were Christian and strived to live by Christian principles?

Perhaps Alexis de Tocqueville explained it best in his book, Democracy in America (1835):

 

(Alexis de Tocqueville)

 

Not until I went into the churches of America

and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness

did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

America is great because she is good,

and if America ever ceases to be good,

she will cease to be great.”

 

Therefore, we must beware of those who distort the facts of our Christian heritage and downplay the importance of Christian values.

We must be informed voices of Truth.

 

Notes:

  1. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  2. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N27848.0001.001/1:7?rgn=div1;view=fulltext , p. 203.
  3. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  4. http://reclaimamericaforchrist.org/2010/11/24/faith-of-our-founding-fathers/
  5. Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels, ed., The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012, p. 1612.
  6. William B. Reed, Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1847), Vol. II, p. 53. Quoted in The Founders’ Bible, 1733.
  7. http://reclaimamericaforchrist.org/2010/11/24/faith-of-our-founding-fathers/
  8. http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=78
  9. https://quotepark.com/authors/john-witherspoon/
  10. (from Letters of Delegates to Congress: January 1, 1776-May 15, 1776, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1978), Vol. 3, pp. 502-503. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  11. https://www.biography.com/people/groups/founding-fathers

 

Art credits:  http://www.en.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.nyplgetarchive.net (2); http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.nyplgetarchive.net (2); http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.nypl.getarchive.net.; http://www.wikimedia.org.

 

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Mention “Fiji” and our imaginations conjure up aquamarine waters, sugar sand beaches, and lush foliage.  Add to the delightful surroundings a slow-paced lifestyle and some of the happiest people on earth (1); it’s easy to understand why many describe the islands as paradise.

But that’s not what John and Hannah Hunt experienced when they traveled to Fiji.  They encountered villagers who cut off the fingers of those caught stealing.  The sick and infirm were strangled to death, and victors of village wars ate their enemies.

The young newlyweds arrived on the island of Rewa in 1839, sent as missionaries by the Methodist mission board of England.  In spite of the obvious danger of living among cannibals, John wrote in his journal, “I feel myself saved from almost all fear though surrounded with men who have scarcely any regard for human life” (2).

Fijian Warriors (1915)


Though still in his twenties, John had been a well-respected preacher in England.  He was able to continue the same kind of work on several Fiji islands. 

The young missionary was quick to learn the language.  Soon he was preaching three sermons on Sunday and teaching throughout the week.  John also established a small medical clinic.  And during spare moments, he continued to study the Fijian language.

After six years of preaching, teaching, and building relationships, John felt led by God to hold a special prayer meeting.  The villagers came. 

He invited them to be set free from the fear and darkness of their violent practices and enjoy a new way of life with Jesus, as well as accept his gift of eternal life.  More than one hundred Fijians accepted that invitation, including the queen of their island.

Not long after, an enemy tribe attacked their village, intent upon killing them all.  But the war party inexplicably fled in fear.  Later these men admitted their plan failed because they suddenly knew the missionaries’ God was stronger than they were.

Not far away lay the island of Mbau, the highest seat of Fiji power.  The ruler, King Thakombau, was called “the butcher of his people.” 

But over time, the king’s respect for John Hunt grew.  When Thakombau’s general of war asked Jesus into his life, the king tried to dissuade him, but did not resort to violence.

 

King Thakombau


Excitement about Jesus spread from island to island, and brutal cannibals became transformed into peaceful, devout Christians.

One evening, as Fijian villagers worshiped, a band of thirty chiefs surrounded their church and threatened to kill everyone inside.  The congregants said and did nothing. 

Finally one of the chiefs entered the door, brandishing his club, but immediately fell to the floor in a swoon.  Other warriors entered, and they too collapsed until all thirty lay helpless.  By morning, every young man of that murderous mob had received Jesus.  

John soon turned his attention to translating the New Testament into the Fijian language.  With the help of others, he strived to express scripture with idioms and terms from Fijian culture.  The volume was published in 1847.

Old Fiji (1860)


John also trained villagers to teach the Bible.  The lectures were compiled into a manual of theology and used for decades.

On December 1, 1847 John wrote to friends in England:  “We can now report upwards of three thousand who attend our ministry and that of our teachers every Lord’s Day.”

During these ten years of ministry in Fiji, five children were born to John and Hannah.  Three are buried there, all before their second birthdays.

At age thirty-six, John succumbed to dysentery.  But according to historian, Rev. Joseph, Nettleton, John had “crowded the work of a lifetime into ten short years” (3).

A page from Christian Herald and Signs of Our Times (1886), honoring the work of John Hunt (top left) and colleague, James Calvert (top right).


The next day, King Thakombau came to pay his respects to the missionary.  He was given a letter, written by John not long before his death, expressing love and including a prayer for the monarch.  Thakombau was deeply moved and later he too came to faith in Jesus.

At the king’s baptism, a most unlikely crowd gathered:  widows of husbands he had killed, relatives of men he had eaten, and adult children who had formerly vowed revenge against Thakombau for the deaths of their fathers. 

God had rescued all of them from the dark power of Satan, had forgiven their sins, and set them all free (Colossians 1:13-14).


In 2012, two hundred years after John Hunt’s birth, Fijians held a grand celebration in honor of the man who had brought happiness to their islands—happiness in Jesus (4).  To this day, most indigenous Fijians are Christian (5).

Notes:

  1. https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/travel/6-reasons-fiji-is-one-of-the-happiest-places-on-earth
  2. https://lights4god.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/john-hunt/
  3. John Hunt, Missionary and Saint by Rev. Joseph Nettleton, p. 114.
  4. https://www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/wcr-julia-edwards-newsletter-junejuly2012.pdf
  5. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/religion-in-fiji-important-facts-andfigures.html#:~:text=Christianity%20in%20Fiji,Europeans%20than%20Fiji’s%20indigenous%20population.

Additional Sources:

  1. The Life of John Hunt, Missionary to the Cannibals in Fiji by George Stringer Row, 1874. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moa/AQY9133.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext
  2. “A Missionary Evangelist,” Frank Leslie’s Sunday Magazine, 1877, pp. 266-270. https://books.google.com/booksid=T29MAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA266&dq=Frank=Leslie%27s+pCdUQ6AEwAXoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=Frank%Leslie’s%20Sunday%20Ma

Art & photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (3); http://www.heartlight.org

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