The Saving of John Paton

During the nineteenth century John Paton was a Christian missionary to New Hebrides in the South Pacific – a group of fourteen islands we know today as Vanuatu.

A native of Scotland, John arrived in this mission field in 1858, accompanied by his young wife. But only a few months later tropical fever would kill both her and their young son. Despite this tragedy John continued to work on the islands for decades. As a minister, educator, and a developer of small industries for the locals, he strongly advocated against the practice of slavery in the region.

One evening some hostile natives surrounded the minister’s house and were intent on murdering John and his second wife, along with their young children. As you might expect a pastoral family to do, the Patons prayed. They 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. Of course they thanked the Lord for His deliverance.

A year later, the chief of the tribe who had surrounded the Paton family that night was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, John asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them all. The chief was surprised by the the question and replied: “Well… we couldn’t attack because of the hundreds men who were surrounding your house.” John Paton was shocked because he knew they were alone that night. The chief then said he was afraid to attack because all the warriors were much bigger than his men, and were wearing shining garments with swords and spears circling. The chief said he was sorry and was very glad John had organised the shining warriors to protect his family.

John Paton discovered he and his family were saved that night a year previously 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 then happens to the servant’s eyes and he sees what Elisha had known all along – the servant sees an even bigger army of God’s angels surrounding the enemy, and these angels were ready to protect those who stayed faithful to God.


Do you ever feel under attack? Is there a difficulty or a disaster weighing down heavily upon you? Keep faithful, keep praying, 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.

David speaking 2

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