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June 2007

from John G Paton

The name of John G Paton (1824-1907) will ever be associated with the group of islands in the South Seas, now known as Vanuatu, but then called the New Hebrides. This choice Scottish Christian was enabled to engage in heroic and fruitful missionary labours in one of the hardest and darkest fields of service in the world. One of these islands was Aniwa. There follows here part of his own most moving account of the first Communion service there.

‘It was Sabbath, 24th October 1869; and surely the Angels of God and the Church of the Redeemed in Glory were amongst ‘the great cloud of witnesses’ who eagerly ‘peered’ down upon the scene – when we sat around the Lord’s Table and partook the memorials of His body and blood with those few souls rescued out of the Heathen World ….

Solemn prayer was then offered, and in the name of the Holy Trinity the Church of Christ on Aniwa was formally constituted. I addressed them on the words of the Holy Institution - 1 Corinthians 11:23 – and then, after the prayer of Thanksgiving and Consecration, administered the Lord’s Supper …. And I think, if ever in all my earthly experience, on that day I might truly add the blessed words – ‘Jesus in the midst’.

The whole Service occupied nearly three hours. The Islanders looked on with a wonder whose unwonted silence was almost painful to bear. Many were led to inquire carefully about everything they saw, so new and strange. For the first time the Dorcas Street Sabbath School teachers’ gift from South Melbourne Presbyterian Church was put to use – a new Communion Service of silver. They gave it in faith that we would require it, and in such we received it. And now the day had come and gone! For three years we had toiled and prayed and taught for this. At the moment when I put the bread and wine into those dark hands, once stained with the blood of Cannibalism, but now stretched out to receive and partake the emblems and seals of the Redeemer’s love, I had a foretaste of the joy of Glory that well nigh broke my heart to pieces. I shall never taste a deeper bliss, till I gaze on the glorified face of Jesus Himself.’

The full account may be read in his autobiography, John G Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides (pages 375f), published by The Banner of Truth Trust.