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JAMES CHALMERS: THE GREATHEART OF NEW

GUINEA

December 21, 2004 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box

James Chalmers
610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org; for instructions about
subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at
the end of the article).

THE GREATHEART OF The following is an abbreviated edition of "Jam es Chalm ers: The Greatheart of
New Guinea," from Giants of the Missionary Trail by Eugene Harrison, Scripture
Press, 1954. [The book can be ordered from Fairfax Baptist Tem ple, 6401

NEW GUINEA Missionary Lane, Fairfax Station, VA 22039. Phone: 703-323-8100. E-m ail:
fbt@ fbtm inistries.org]
of a herring box and sallied forth. He was speedily carried out
James Chalmers to sea by the strong current and was rescued only with
difficulty. He loved danger and did not hesitate on several
occasions to plunge into the water, at the risk of his life, in order
THE GREATHEART OF to rescue a playmate from drowning. These experiences were
a foreshadowing of many an adventure in his later life, when he
NEW GUINEA steered a boatful of New Guinea natives through the raging surf
or when he navigated the little mission schooner through the
James Chalmers (1841 - 1901) was born in Scotland, the land tempestuous storms that swept over the great Gulf of Papua.
which gave the world such romantic names as Robert Moffat,
CONVERSION TO CHRIST
David Livingstone, John G. Paton, Sir Walter Scott and Robert
Louis Stevenson. His father was a stone mason. It was while he In November, 1859, two preachers came from the North of
and his wife were living at Ardrishaig, a fishing village on Loch Ireland to Inverary to hold a series of evangelistic meetings.
Fyne, twenty-three miles south of Inverary, that James Chalmers, now eighteen years of age, was the leader of a
Chalmers was born, August 4, 1841 It was in this neighborhood group of wild, reckless fellows who determined to break up the
that Chalmers spent the early years of his life. "My first school," meetings. Although it was raining hard, he found a large
he states, "was on the south side of the canal, and I can well company of people gathered on the first night. He was much
remember my mother leading me to the master and giving him impressed by the enthusiasm and joyfulness with which the
strict instructions not to spare the rod." people sang. The evangelist who preached that night took as
his text, Revelation 22:17 — "And the Spirit and the Bride say,
A LOVE FOR THE SEA
Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is
James lived near one of the great lochs of Scotland and he athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life
came to love the sea with a passionate love. He was supremely freely." The words glowed with fire and burned deep into
happy when in a boat, or floating on a log or plank, or paddling James' soul. He went home that night overwhelmed with a
a raft. In such escapades he had many narrow escapes. He conviction of sin and a vision of the loveliness of Christ. A few
says: "Three times I was carried home supposed to be dead by days later, Mr. Meikle, pastor of the United Presbyterian
drowning, and my father used to say, 'You will never die by Church, came to the assistance of the groping boy. As he told
drowning.'" The remark proved to be prophetic but in a very of the wonders of divine love and explained the meaning of the
different sense from anything he then imagined. words, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all
sin," young Chalmers came to the Fountain of Life. He says: "I
James was a great favorite with the Loch Fyne fishermen and
felt that this salvation was for me. I felt that God was speaking
he spent much time with them. Being very eager to go out
to me in His W ord and I believed unto salvation."
fishing by himself and not having a boat, he improvised one out

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"Come!" said the sweet accents of the Great Invitation. "I was THE PERILOUS JOURNEY TO RAROTONGA
thirsty and I came," said James Chalmers.
On October 17, 1865, he was married to Miss Jane Hercus.
Revelation 22:17 not only says, "Come!" It also says, "Let him Having received appointment under the London Missionary
that heareth say, Come!" The redemptive purpose of Christ Society, they left England January 4, 1866, on board the John
includes both salvation and service. He who hears the tender W illiams (the second vessel bearing this name), bound for
accents of the Great Invitation and comes to the Fountain, is to Rarotonga of the Hervey Islands in the South Seas. They went
go forth to reiterate the divine entreaty. by way of Australia, where they stirred up the Christians to
greater missionary zeal. On the way to Samoa an irretrievable
Chalmers quickly entered into this sublime realization.
disaster overtook them, on January 8, 1867. About midnight the
Immediately upon his conversion he became the teacher of a
John W illiams was dashed against the coral reefs of Niue or
Sunday school class and began to address public gatherings,
Savage Islands and became a total wreck. W ith great difficulty
both in the town and in the country. The word "Come!" — the
the seventy persons on board got safely to land but nearly all
Great Invitation of his great text, was frequently heard upon his
their belongings were lost or ruined.
fervent lips.
Mr. and Mrs. Chalmers finally reached Samoa and sailed
MISSIONARY CALL
thence to Rarotonga in a ship owned by the notorious pirate
He now remembered an incident which he had almost captain, Bully Hayes, who, coming under the charm of
forgotten. Several years before, at an afternoon class of the Chalmers' personality, acted the part of a gentleman. Moreover,
Sunday school of the United Presbyterian Church, Mr. Meikle when Chalmers asked permission to hold religious services on
read a stirring letter from a missionary in the Fiji Islands. After board for the crew, Hayes not only agreed but wanted to make
reading the letter which vividly described the horrible practices attendance compulsory!
of the savages, the minister said, "Is there a boy here this
On May 20, 1867, more than sixteen months after leaving
afternoon who will become a missionary and by-and-by take the
England, James Chalmers and his wife arrived at Avarua, on
gospel to cannibals?" Chalmers made no outward move but in
Rarotonga. As he got off the ship a native said to him in pidgin
his heart he had said, "God helping me, I will." This desire —
English, "W hat fellow name belong you?" The reply was,
now that he had been born again — came back to him with
"Chalmers" whereupon the native roared out, "Tamate" and the
tremendous force, especially after conversations with Dr.
people on shore shouted back "Tamate." This was the nearest
Turner, a veteran missionary from Samoa. After spending eight
approach to the missionary's name the South Sea Islanders
months working with people in the worst slums of Glasgow, he
could make. It was in this way that Chalmers received the name
studied for two years in Cheshunt College, then stayed one
by which he became known on the island of Rarotonga and
year at Highgate where he took special studies, including
later all along the shores of New Guinea.Rarotonga then had a
elementary medicine in Dr. Epps' Homeopathic Hospital.
population of about seven thousand. He labored with great

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success but he was not satisfied. There were relatively few in Chalmers found that, for fear of enemies and for purposes of
Rarotonga who were not Christians. Chalmers wanted to go to protection, the people often built their homes in strange places.
some place where Christ was unknown and to sound forth the Some of the villages were built over swamps, where the streets
Great Invitation of divine love to cannibals who would be were made with large trees, and the houses were raised on
hearing it for the first time. poles fifteen feet high. Many villages were situated over the
ocean water some distance from land and the people went from
MOVING TO NEW GUINEA
one house to another by boat. Many of the people who lived
His heart was set on New Guinea and, after ten years in inland, even when living on high hills or mountains, built their
Rarotonga, he and his wife sailed away, reaching New Guinea houses in the tops of trees that were reached by long, shaky
in September, 1877. At that time New Guinea was an unknown ladders.
land, full of terrors, savagery and the fine arts of human
In each village there was a temple called a dubu. The dubu
degradation. Rev. W . G. Lawes, who had opened up mission
was usually several hundred feet long with an aisle down the
work in that land and had spent between three and four years
center and many partitions or courts on either side. The courts
of discouraging labor in the district of Port Moresby, wrote:
were decorated with hundreds of skulls, skulls of men, women,
Cannibalism in all its hideousness flourishes on many parts of children, crocodiles and wild boars. At the end of the dubu was
the coast. Every man is a thief and a liar. The thing of which the a sacred place which contained hideous figures with bodies like
men are most proud is the tattooing marks, which mean that the fish and mouths like frogs. The dubu was used exclusively by
man who is tattooed has shed human blood. the warriors for purposes of deliberation and for shameful
abominations in connection with certain heathen rites.
Now that Australia is commonly called a continent, New
Guinea — or Papua, to use the native name — is the largest Among these people war and murder were considered the
island in the world. Papua means "crisp-haired." New Guinea finest of arts. Disease, sickness and death were accounted for
is 1,490 miles in length and, at the widest part, 430 miles in in terms of magic utilized by some human enemy. They knew
breadth. It is six times the size of England and has a range of nothing of malaria, filth or contagion. They believed that all such
mountains comparable to the Alps. There are many swamps things were caused by an enemy using sorcery and it was the
and the climate is warm and moist. There is a great deal of duty of friends to see to it that punishment was meted out. They
fever along the coast line. The population of New Guinea is would follow the night firefly believing that its course of flight
approximately 1,000,000. The many different languages used pointed in the direction of the enemy, or they would secure the
add to the difficulties of conducting missionary operations and assistance of a sorcerer who would pronounce a neighboring
caused Chalmers to say, "The tower of Babel must have been village guilty, whereupon they would stealthily attack the village,
located in or near New Guinea." The real Papuan has a brown kill some of the people and bring back their heads. Many of the
complexion and dark hair. tribes were not only head hunters but also cannibals. "W hen we

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first landed," says Chalmers in one of his books, "the natives you strong and healthy." W hen she exercised caution and
lived only to fight and the victory was celebrated by cannibal insisted on knowing what the dish contained, she learned that
feast in which the bodies of their enemies were eaten." He was it was some cooked human flesh. Chalmers was offered a
pained to discover that the natives of New Guinea showed very chief's daughter in marriage and was told that he would never
little skill in anything except in the manufacture of weapons with be a great chief if he continued to have only one wife.
which to fight and kill. One of the most ingenious of these was
In the spring of 1878 Tamate sailed along the coast from east
known as "the man-catcher." This weapon consists of a long
to west in the Ellengowan, visiting one hundred and five
pole with a loop of rattan at the end. The remarkable feature of
villages, of which ninety had never before seen a white man. He
the weapon is the deadly spike inserted in the upper part of the
made extended journeys inland, either on foot or by canoe
long pole. The modus operandi is as follows: the loop is thrown
following the course of winding streams. Like John Coleridge
over the unhappy wretch who is in full retreat and a vigorous
Patteson and other pioneer missionaries, he always went
pull from the brawny arm of the cruel captor jerks the victim
unarmed, knowing that this would allay native suspicions and,
upon the spike, which penetrates the body at the base of the
at the same time, would leave him defenseless in case of
brain, thus inflicting a death wound.
attack.
As the site of their first home in New Guinea, Mr. and Mrs.
The pattern of life was woven out of diverse experiences —
Chalmers selected Suau (or Stacey Island), where they found
some comical, some bizarre, some perilous. He would sit down
themselves surrounded by swarms of cannibals wearing
on a stone, knowing that although no persons were in sight,
necklaces of human bones. W hile the mission house was being
hundreds of women, children and armed men were in the bush
built, they accepted the rude hospitality of a chief who seemed
watching his every move. At length an old woman would
friendly but who was more than once a party to a plot to kill
venture near. Pointing at his boots she would say, "How is it
them. They lived in a small room separated from the rest of the
that, although you have a white face, your feet are black and
house by a partition two feet high and slept on a mattress on
you have noses?" He would take off one of his boots and the
the floor. The many human skulls adorning the walls were mute
woman rushed off screaming. After a while the natives
reminders of past victories and of cannibal orgies. After some
mustered enough courage to approach. He would shut and
weeks they moved into their own house and the natives came
open his umbrella, as shouts of amazement were heard on
in droves to visit them — partly out of curiosity and partly to
every side. W hen he struck a match the shouts were redoubled.
steal everything they could lay their hands on. Some of the
He would show them his bare arms, chest and legs, and they
savages invited them to eat in their homes. "W e received
wonderingly concluded that he was white all over. In such ways
numerous invitations to feasts," says Chalmers, "some of which
he accomplished his purpose of making friends with the
were cannibal feasts." One day when Mrs. Chalmers was
savages.
recuperating from a severe illness, a native brought her a dish
saying, "Here is something especially nice for you. It will make He found the Papuans to be extremely fond of pigs, especially

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when roasted, but it astonished him to find the skulls of dead behind Tamate and making menacing gestures. Several times
pigs hanging in their houses and to see a woman nursing her Tamate looked around to find the man's club raised to strike. "I
baby at one breast and a young pig at the other. must have that club," said he to himself, "or that club will have
me." W heeling suddenly around, he took out of his satchel a
One afternoon he spread his chart on the floor of a native hut,
piece of hoop-iron and held it before the savage. The man's
right in front of the fire. As he busily traced his journey on the
eyes glistened as if he was being offered a bar of gold. Just as
chart, he became aware that some large foul-smelling drops
he stretched out his hand to grasp the prize, Tamate seized the
kept falling around him and on him.
man's club, wrenched it out of his hand, and then proceeded to
Looking up, he saw a bulky bundle hanging from the roof. the boat without further molestation.
"W hat is that?" he inquired. The native explained that his
THE DEATH OF HIS W IFE
grandmother had recently died and that he had hung her
remains right above the fire, so they would be thoroughly Before commencing his first long journey in the spring of 1878,
smoked and dried. "It spoiled my dinner," says Tamate. Tamate urged his wife to accompany him. She, however,
insisted on staying at the station believing that the work would
MANY NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES
suffer if she, too, were away and that the Rarotonga teachers
Facing death was a commonplace affair for the Greatheart of might sicken and die. One of the noblest, most self-denying
New Guinea. The hairbreadth escapes of his early years in decisions in the annals of nineteenth century missions was that
Scotland were now reenacted on a much more stupendous and of Mrs. Chalmers. Her only helpers were three Rarotongan
exciting scale. On one of his voyages in the little mission teachers and their wives. They all were at the mercy of the
vessel, he came to a bay he had not seen before. As soon as savages who coveted their possessions and would have
his canoe touched the beach, he was surrounded by a crowd of considered their bodies as choice dainties for a cannibal feast.
fierce-looking savages, armed with clubs and spears. Followed Her courage was heroic but the strain of those early months of
by the mate of the vessel, he made his way along the beach, constant peril and the anxiety occasioned by her husband's
accompanied by the hostile Papuans, till he reached the house long absence on a very dangerous mission, weakened her
of the chief. The old dignitary sat on a raised platform in front of constitution and made her more susceptible to the ravages of
his house and completely ignored his visitors. When Tamate fever. In October, 1878, she went to Sydney, Australia, seeking
offered him some presents, he threw them back in his face. an improvement of health, but in February, 1879, she finished
Taking their cue from the surly, menacing attitude of the chief, her earthly course. In the hour of this devastating bereavement
the dark mob began to threaten the white man. They now Tamate wrote in his diary, "Oh, to dwell at His cross and to
started back toward the beach. The crowd followed close on his abound in blessed sympathy with His great work! I want the
heels, growling savagely and urging each other to strike the first heathen for Christ!"
blow. A man with a stone-headed club was walking immediately
DANGER ON EVERY HAND

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One day Chalmers and a native teacher found themselves In 1882 Chalmers found the cannibal ovens unused. People
surrounded and followed by a crowd of armed, threatening who formerly thought every sound at night meant the coming of
Papuans. W hen about two miles from Mailu, where their boat enemies, now slept in peace, and tribes that before never met
was awaiting them, they came upon another group of people, except to fight now sat side-by-side in the church worshiping
all of whom — including even the women — were armed with the true God. W hat were the means used to accomplish these
spears and clubs. All that day two groups of savages had results? The answer given by Tamate himself is this, "The first
hounded their steps for the avowed purpose of killing them. It missionaries landed not only to preach the gospel of divine love
was agreed that their belongings would go to the natives of but also to live it." Few men have preached and lived the gospel
Aroma and their bodies to the people of Toulon to be eaten. as effectively as Chalmers. He was a sermon in shoes. He was
Tamate's account of this episode is, at this point, particularly an incarnation of Revelation 22:17.
vivid and revealing. He says:
BRAVE NATIVE CONVERTS
"The teacher heard them discussing as to the best place for
Greatheart had as helpers a number of South Sea Islanders
the attack. I said to him, 'W hat are they saying?' He replied,
who drank daily and deeply of the W ater of Life and exhibited
'They are saying they intend to kill us. Let us kneel down and
to a remarkable degree the fullness of life available in Christ.
pray.' 'No, no!' I replied, 'let us walk and pray,' and strode
Many of these he himself had led to Christ and trained during
resolutely forward."
his ten years in Rarotonga. Many of them died of fever, others
Presently two savages with clubs came forward and walked died as martyrs, but there were always volunteers ready to take
right at Tamate's heels. Just one blow and all would be over. the place of those who had fallen. During Chalmers' years of
But an Invisible Hand intervened and they managed at last to service more than two hundred of these native workers from
reach their boat and thus escape. Rarotonga, Samoa and other far-distant Polynesian Isles left all
for Christ's sake to take the Great Invitation to the dark hearts
Tamate moved from Suau to Port Moresby, because the latter
of New Guinea. About half of these either died of disease or
was more centrally located. He spent all his time trying to make
perished at the hands of the savages. Chalmers called these
friends with savage tribes and settling native teachers in
native missionaries "the true heroes and heroines of the
villages all along the coast. A glance at the work in Suau will
nineteenth century."
reveal the sort of change that was taking place in many districts
and that the gospel light was breaking in upon the long, dark He tells of a "rainmaker" named Kone who listened attentively
night of heathenism. Before Chalmers landed at Suau in the fall to the gospel message and declared that his heart responded
of 1877, the natives came out to the vessel and gleefully told to its appeal. At the man's urgent request, Greatheart taught
him that they had recently killed and eaten ten of their enemies him this simple prayer, "Great Spirit of Love, give me light and
from a neighboring tribe. On all sides there was gross darkness, save me for Jesus' sake." W hen he returned to this district
bloodshed and cruelty. some months later, he found that the rainmaker was dead. His

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heart was deeply moved as he learned the circumstances awaking soon after sunrise the next morning, he found the two
connected with his death. The rainmaker was in the company preachers still talking, still hearing and answering the people's
of two Naara men when the chief of the hostile Lolo tribe came questions. Aruako in particular had become quite hoarse.
stealthily to attack them with spears. The chief threw a spear "Aruako," inquired Tamate, "have you been at it all night?"
which would have killed one of the Naara men, but the "Yes," he answered, "all night. But I can't quit now. After telling
rainmaker stepped in front of him and received the spear in his them all about the garden of Eden, the flood and the Old
own body, thus saving the other by his own death. And as he Testament, I have now come to Jesus Christ and I must tell
lay dying he was heard to pray again and again, "Great Spirit of them all about Him." How long would it take to proclaim the
Love, I come to Thee; save me for Jesus' sake." Saviour's love "to every creature," if even one-tenth of the
professing Christians of America had that kind of zeal?
Two other members of this noble company were Aruadaera
and Aruako. The former was a deacon, the latter a teacher. W hen Greatheart was living in Rarotonga he met Anederea,
Both were zealous evangelists. They accompanied Tamate in a young man who was living a vile, reckless life. He marked him
the fall of 1883 on a hazardous trip among the cannibals of the out as a trophy for Christ and eventually won him. Anederea
Orokolo and Maipua districts. At five o'clock, October 15, they became a very earnest worker and was one of the first band of
reached Maipua, "a horrible hole in the middle of a swamp with twelve teachers who landed on New Guinea in 1872. He soon
miles of swamp all around." The leading chief, Ipaivaitani, distinguished himself by his zeal in learning the language of
invited the missionary party to stay in the dubu. Tamate then Kerepuna, where he was located, and in seeking the salvation
had his "breakfast and dinner all in one." "I could have enjoyed of the natives. In March, 1881, Taria, the teacher located at
it better," he relates, "if there had not been so many skulls in a Hula, along with five Hula boys, went in a boat to Kerepuna and
heap close by." Kalo to bring the teachers and their families to Hula, on account
of the serious ill health of some of the party. W hen the boat with
At sunset a large crowd assembled and Aruadaera
fifteen persons aboard was at Kalo, a large crowd of armed
commenced to preach, with Aruako to follow later. What a weird
natives assembled on the beach. The chief, named Quaipo,
scene! A large temple, lit only by flickering fires; a crowd of real
pretending to be friendly, stepped into the boat. After a brief
cannibals who pronounce man to be the best of all flesh;
conversation he jumped out of the boat onto the beach. This
hundreds of human skulls for decorations, and in the sacred
was the prearranged signal for attack. Instantly a cloud of
place six Kanibus, or idols, holding the power of life and death,
spears flew toward the mission party. Four spears struck Taria
of war and peace with themselves. "In the center of this weird
and ended his life. Anederea and Materua were soon
crowd," to use Tamate's own words, "sit Aruako and Aruadaera,
dispatched. A single spear slew both mother and babe in the
both of them until recently wild savages themselves, preaching
case of both wives. Four Hula boys jumped into the water and
Christ as the revealer of God's love and the Saviour of sinful
managed to swim to safety, but the other eleven persons were
man." When Tamate fell asleep the service still continued. Upon
slain.

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W hen the news of this atrocity reached the Christians in In 1888 Tamate met Sarah Eliza Harrison at Cooktown, where
Polynesia, a whole boatload of volunteers came to take their they were married and he took her to Motumotu, which he had
places. Chalmers asked a man named Pau and his wife if they determined upon as his new headquarters. The house, which
would settle at Kalo, where the recent massacre took place. at first had not a chair, bed or table, was lively with rats,
They readily agreed and he went with them to help them get cockroaches, spiders, lizards, ants and mosquitoes. They were
located. He decided to spend the first night with them, for he living among people who were as fierce as they were depraved.
was not willing to subject them to hazards which he would not In this district they practiced a horrible custom called "biting off
share. It was a daring thing to do. Quaipo had sent him word the nose."" W hen an enemy was killed there was a rush to see
that he was determined to have his head. Chalmers writes, "W e who would have the honor of biting off and swallowing the dead
were quite at their mercy, being unarmed and in an unprotected man's nose. W hen the warriors returned home with several
house. Had they attacked us, we should all have been killed." dead bodies the women came out to meet them calling out,
W hat was his reliance in such an hour as this? "After evening "W ho are the killers?" After being told, they applauded them
prayers," he states, "I was soon sound asleep." heartily. Then they would call out, "W ho are the nose-eaters?"
W hen these were pointed out, the women would applaud and
FIRST FURLOUGH TO ENGLAND AFTER 20 YEARS
honor them even more than the actual killers.
In the summer of 1886 Chalmers returned to England for his
Mrs. Chalmers was a woman of remarkable devotion to duty
first furlough, after twenty years of missionary service.
and a worthy helpmeet for her famous husband. She never
W herever he went he attracted and stirred great audiences with
thought of complaining, when, on numerous occasions, she
his fiery enthusiasm and his story of thrilling adventures for
was left alone among these savages for many weeks at a time,
Christ. His messages were utterly devoid of anything
with the nearest white person 170 miles away. W hile Tamate
suggesting self-pity. He insisted that the word "sacrifice" has no
was facing death daily as he sought out new tribes in order to
place in a Christian's vocabulary, at least when referring to his
invite "whosoever will" to the W ater of Life, she was seeking to
own labors. He was engaged in the highest and holiest
point the cannibals of Motumotu to the same Blessed Fountain.
business on earth and he was radiantly happy. "Recall my
One day she noticed the house was surrounded by about
period of more than twenty years of service," he said; "give me
twenty-five warriors. She was terrified but with a prayer in her
back all its experiences its ship wrecks, its frequent occasions
heart she disarmed them of any evil designs by boldly going out
on the brink of death; give it to me surrounded by savages with
among them and engaging in a friendly conversation. A school
spears and clubs; give it to me again with spears flying about
was soon started, in which the children from various tribes were
me, with the club knocking me to the ground, and I will still be
taught to read and write in five different languages. Several
your missionary."
native teachers assisted her.
A NEW W IFE
Despite various precautions she often fell prey to the fever

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germs. The natives had many unsanitary practices. Among take her on a trip to Samoa and Rarotonga. They went by way
these was the very unhygienic habit of burying their dead quite of Australia where he sought to raise money for a steam launch
close to the houses. Mrs. Chalmers also suffered from with which to carry on his missionary expeditions more
sunstroke. But she refused to be despondent and her effectively. As fellow passengers on the boat from Sydney to
indomitable spirit rose above every trial. She was an inspiration Samoa, Tamate and Robert Louis Stevenson began an
to her husband and a great help to the native teachers, who, in acquaintance which ripened into a very warm friendship. Before
times of illness, were inclined to lose all hope of recovery. "W e going to Samoa, Stevenson had "a great prejudice against
shall die like the others, they would say and would not take missions," but his views were soon changed. "Those who
medicine unless she or Tamate was there to insist upon it. deblaterate against missions," he stated, "have only one thing
to do — to come and see them on the spot." W riting to his
Mrs. Chalmers accompanied Tamate on a boat trip to
mother Stevenson said, "Tamate is a man nobody can see and
Moveave. There was an abundance of crocodiles in the stream
not love. He has his faults like the rest of us but he is as big as
and of parrots of brilliant plumage in the trees. Traveling part of
a church." Much of admiration and of soul aspiration is indicated
the way on foot they found it almost unbearably hot in the bush
by the following extracts from a letter of his to Chalmers: "I
until they were refreshed by the cool milk of some fresh
count it a privilege and a benefit to have met you. But, O
coconuts. Tamate had visited Moveave frequently and had
Tamate, if I had met you when I was a youth, how different my
made friends with the old chief. Upon reaching the town he
life would have been!"
found that the old chief had died and been buried in front of his
house in a temporary enclosure nine feet square. Inside this, In Samoa and Rarotonga Chalmers moved the Christians to
according to custom, the whole family — widow, children and new missionary devotion by telling them of the heroic labors of
grandchildren — had to cook, eat and sleep for several months. their comrades and secured many new volunteers for service
The widow, daubed with mud, looked wretched and filthy. She in New Guinea. Mr. and Mrs. Chalmers returned to Motumotu
was not permitted to wash during the three months of her in July, 1891. Some time later, while he was on the way to
mourning. As the missionary party entered the village the Cooktown on the Harrier, the ship struck a rock and was
people crowded around them. Suddenly there was a wild outcry destroyed. This was his fourth experience of shipwreck.
and the savages began to make dire threats. There was a great
One day the service at Motumotu was greatly disturbed by the
display of clubs, spears, bows and arrows, and the missionaries
troublesome antics of a young man. At the close Chalmers took
and their party had a very narrow escape from a general
the youth by the hand in order to hold him while talking with him
massacre.
about his behavior. This was resented by the young man and
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON his friends. Quickly the church was surrounded by a crowd of
excited, armed men. Their leader was brandishing a huge
In 1890 Mrs. Chalmer's health was so precarious a change
broad sword. Tamate sprang to the door, met the leader on the
and rest were deemed imperative, so Greatheart decided to

Page 17 of 24 Page 18 of 24
steps and dexterously wrenched the broad sword from his murderous savages. The song he often sang, the first song he
grasp. Seeing their leader thus disarmed, the mob dispersed. translated and taught to the native Christians, was — "Come to
Jesus." It was the old, old text set to music! In Revelation 22:17
CHALMERS BEGINS W ORK ON THE FLY RIVER AFTER
the word "Come" is found in the opening sentence and is then
HIS W IFE RETURNS TO ENGLAND
thrice reiterated. If every word in the Bible except one had to be
The state of her health having become very serious, Mrs. blotted out, Chalmers would choose to cling to this mighty
Chalmers left for England in March, 1892, after a pathetic monosyllable — "COME!"
parting with her husband at Thursday Island. Greatheart then
Chalmers lived to see the firstfruits of harvest. He was
turned to a work he had long been hoping and praying to
privileged to baptize hundreds of earnest converts and to see
undertake, namely, the exploration of the Fly River district, with
other hundred under Christian instruction, meeting on the Lord's
a view to the eventual establishment of mission stations along
Day in the chapels built by native hands.
the course of this mighty river. He chose Saguane on Kiwai
Island in the Fly River delta as his new base of operations and MRS. CHALMERS RETURNS TO NEW GUINEA BUT DIES
settled there a teacher named Maru and his wife. He looked SOON THEREAFTER
upon this new enterprise as probably the most hazardous, the
In August, 1897, Mrs. Chalmers returned to New Guinea and
greatest and the last of his life. He wrote in his diary, "God
entered with joy into the work. A letter written by her in January,
knows there will be many Gethsemanes and it may be many
1900, shows what progress had been made at Saguane. About
Calvarys, but all for Christ and all is well."In January, 1893, the
seventeen hundred people attended the New Year services.
long awaited launch arrived and was named the Miro. He found
Three hundred participated in a solemn communion service and
this a great help but it soon became apparent that the swift
136 adults were baptized. It was marvelous to see people of
current of the Fly River demanded a larger vessel with more
different tribes assembling in friendly fashion, who a few years
powerful engines.
before were almost constantly engaged in sanguinary conflicts.
For months he traveled in boats, often wet from morning till
Mrs. Chalmers became critically ill in the summer of that year
night, visiting the established stations and endeavoring to
and died at Daru October 26. She left a legacy with which to
establish new ones. He was constantly sailing up new rivers,
procure an excellent new whale boat for her husband's use in
visiting new tribes, braving new perils. W hat was it that lured
opening up the Fly River area for Christ.
him on? He said, "I dearly love to be the first to preach Christ in
a place." CHALMERS' FINAL MISSIONARY JOURNEY

The Papuans loved to hear Tamate sing. On numerous To this work he turned, haunted by a vision of teeming
occasions it was his singing, accompanied perhaps by the multitudes of Papuans who knew nothing of the Saviour. Robert
Christian teachers, that stilled the angry tumult in the breasts of Louis Stevenson wrote a friend: "Tamate is away now to go up

Page 19 of 24 Page 20 of 24
the Fly River, a desperate venture, it is thought. He is quite a similarly killed and beheaded. The heads were distributed as
Livingstone card." In a letter to his mother the great writer said, trophies among the murderers, while the bodies were handed
"I hope I shall meet Tamate once more before he disappears up over to the women to cook. The flesh was mixed with sago and
the Fly River, perhaps to be one of 'the unreturning brave.'" The was eaten the same day by the wildly exulting cannibals.
words proved prophetic, for a little later he went out to return no
And so it was that Greatheart was called to a higher realm of
more.
service. He now heard the same, sweet voice he heard at
In April, 1901, Chalmers set out to visit the district around Inverary long ago and the invitation was the same "Come!"
Cape Blackwood, on the eastern side of the Fly River delta. He Having made the abodes of cannibalism echo the sweet
knew this area was inhabited by a particularly ferocious tribe of accents of the Great Invitation, he now turned his face toward
savages who were both skull hunters and cannibals. He was the city foursquare; and as his last climbing footstep took him
accompanied by Rev. Oliver Tomkins, a promising young across the threshold of the Celestial City, he heard once again
colleague recently arrived from England. At a place called Risk the stately cadences of love's mighty monosyllable.
Point on the island of Goaribari a swarm of natives, with all
sorts of weapons, came in canoes and took forcible possession
of the mission vessel as it lay anchored off shore. Tamate
decided to go ashore, but, anticipating trouble, urged Mr.
Tomkins to remain aboard the vessel. Mr. Tomkins, however,
insisted on sharing whatever dangers might await his beloved
leader, so the two went ashore together to the village of Dopina.
Those on board the vessel never saw them again. This was on
April 8, 1901.

A few days later the Christian world was stunned by a


cablegram stating that James Chalmers and his young
colleague had been killed and eaten by the Fly River cannibals.

As was ascertained later, when Chalmers, Tomkins and


several boys from the mission school got ashore, they were
invited into the dubu of the village to have something to eat. As
soon as they entered, the signal was given for a general
massacre. The two missionaries were hit on the head from
behind with stone clubs and fell senseless to the floor. Their
heads were immediately cut off, then their followers were

Page 21 of 24 Page 22 of 24
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