John Paton was a Christian missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific – a group of fourteen islands we know today as Vanuatu.
A native of Scotland, John Paton arrived in the New Hebrides 1858 with his young wife. But only a few months later he would lose his wife and young son to tropical fever. Despite the early tragedy John continued to work on the islands for decades. As a minister, educator, a developer of small industries for the locals, he was a strong advocate against the practice of slavery in the region.
One evening some hostile natives surrounded John’s house and were intent on burning out John and his second wife and killing them – including their young children. The Patons prayed as you would expect a missionary family would, and stayed awake all during that terror-filled night requesting God might deliver them. When daylight finally came they were amazed and relieved to see their attackers leaving. They thanked the Lord for his providence.
A year later, the chief of that tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief was surprised by the the question and replied: “Well… we couldn’t attack because of all those men who were there with you”. John Paton was socked because he knew no other men were there with them that night a year previous. The chief continued and said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with swords and spears circling the mission station. John Paton discovered he and his family were saved that night because God had sent a heavenly army to protect them.
There’s a similar story in the Bible where an opposing army surrounds the city where the prophet Elisha is staying. Elisha tells those close enough to hear: “Don’t be afraid….Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).
Elisha then prays to God that his colleague might see more clearly – and the eyes of Elisha’s servant are spiritually opened to see why Elisha told him not to be afraid. Something happens to the servant’s eyes and he sees what Elisha had known all along – the servant suddenly sees an even bigger army of God’s angels surrounding the enemy army, and these angels were ready to protect those who stayed faithful to God.
Do you feel under attack at the moment? Is there a difficulty or a disaster weighing down heavily upon you? Keep faithful in prayer and know with confidence your Creator is surrounding you with all the heavenly help you need.
May the opening words to the 46th Psalm in the Bible be of comfort to you:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times trouble.”
Click here to read a story of another faithful Scot – a dog named “Greyfriars Bobby” who waited by the grave of his owner for fourteen years.
About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.
Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the fascinating story of a European king’s funeral and how in death we are all the same.