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Friday, July 16, 2010

To Die Victorious Over Fear

Mini-Biography Part 4
James Chalmers

Murdered and Eaten. Two verbs you do not run across too often regarding the same person. But that was the fate of this heroic missionary, James Chalmers (born 1841). Growing up in Scotland by the sea, the young Chalmers sought to conquer it through many daring adventures that often left him in need of rescue. His riskiness led him to listen to a preacher at a revival and he was stricken by his own sinfulness, but found relief in Christ the next day thanks to his Sunday school teacher. Shortly after obtaining some language training, he and his wife were sent off as missionaries to Rarotonga, an absolutely isolated island between Australia and South America. After experiencing some success there, he desired to go where Christ had never been preached - the cannibal islands of New Guinea. The cannibals did not react so kindly at times to their new neighbors, but eventually were won over by the joyful service of the Chalmers. So much so that at one point when Mrs. Chalmers lay bed-ridden with fever, a native kindly brought her a stew with the meat of the day. Yes, you guessed it, human flesh.

Chalmers was relentless is pursuing those who had never heard of Jesus. The majority of his missionary adventures were carried out by boat. At times he was greeted by spears and clubs or even a weapon called "the man-catcher". Other times he went face-to-face with villagers obsessed with evil spirits. No doubt he was dealing with brutal tribes who were far from receptive or willing to hear the good news of Jesus. Yet, before long, progress was evident. After one particular night of preaching, a biographer cited a 'savage' as saying, "No more fighting, Tamate [Chalmers], no more man-eating; we have heard the good news, and we shall strive for peace." (Read more here.)

Eventually, Chalmers' final attempt to reach the cannibals came to fruition. He traveled to Goaribari Island and met the islanders on shore. From there he was invited into a feast hall where he and a fellow missionary were clubbed to death. Their heads were cut off, bodies were cut to pieces, and promptly taken out to be cooked for the feast they had been invited to.

My friend Eric once wrote his resolution was "to expend my life in pursuit of passion; to die victorious over fear." This is exactly what James Chalmers did. He found his passion in Christ Jesus and bringing the good news to cannibals. He died victoriously over fear as he sought to bring happiness to the islanders. He stared death in the eyes over the years as he served there and knew it was worth it. A great example of missionary faith. May God use us like he used this man!

-G

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