King of the Cannibals: The Story of John G. Paton
Missionary to the New Hebrides
by Jim Cromarty
Reviewed by Gabriel Oh
On October 13th, 1973, a Uruguayan airplane crashed into the snow coated Andes Mountains, killing nearly half of the 45 passengers onboard. The surviving 27 individuals found themselves living the next several days on a limited supply of food rations. When the supply was entirely consumed, the survivors became desperate for provisions. Some became so desperate that they condescended to cannibalism!
Whichever way you may feel about the situation, we can all agree that cannibalism is one of the most grotesque acts of inhumanity. Any person characterized by such a lifestyle is quickly judged and viewed as an animal. Such were labeled the people of the New Hebrides (now recognized as Vanuatu), a nation of cannibals.
King of the Cannibals is the life story of John G. Paton, a missionary to the New Hebrides. During an era when men set their hearts on exploring the open seas, John G. Paton set his mind and heart on saving the souls of cannibal men and women who were greatly feared and widely avoided. When criticized for making his decision to leave for the New Hebrides, he simply responded by saying:
“‘If I can live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms (meaning in the grave); and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.'”
This is a triumphant story about a man who was completely sold to the things of the Lord. From constant life threatening circumstances to the loss and murder of his closest companions, John G. Paton remained still and obedient before his God. He took courage and challenged their pagan gods and sorcerers. He stared death into its eyes and was found victorious.
“The warriors formed a circle round John and his friends, urging each other to strike the first blow or fire the first shot. At that moment, John felt an overwhelming sense of assurance that the Lord Jesus was watching the whole scene: ‘My peace came back to me like a wave from God,’ he said afterwards. ‘I realized that I was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done. The assurance came to me, as if a voice out of heaven had spoken, that not a musket would be fired to wound us, not a club prevail to strike us, not a spear leave the hand in which it was held vibrating to be thrown, not an arrow leave the bow, or a killing stone the fingers, without the permission of Jesus Christ, whose is all power in heaven and on earth. He rules all nature… and restrains even the savage of the South Seas.'”
John G. Paton offered up his life to the very people who took many attempts to take it and what happened as a result is astonishing. You must read it to believe it. You must read it to understand why Charles Spurgeon gave John G. Paton the alias, King of the Cannibals. You will be moved to tears as you see how amazing our God truly is.
2 Chronicles 16:9 reads:
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.”
D.L. Moody once heard a man say, “The world has yet to see what God can do through a man wholly surrendered to Him.” I believe that John Paton was an exception. And so will you, after you read this book.