John Gibson Paton
1824 – 1907
John G. Paton was born near Dumfries, Scotland. Later his family moved to Torthorwald, where, in a humble thatched cottage of three rooms, his parents reared five sons and six daughters. The middle room of the cottage was known as the “sanctuary,” for it was there that John’s father went three times a day to pour out his heart in prayer to God for the needs of the family. At the age of twelve, John was helping his father in the stocking business but also studying Latin and Greek.
Later he left home to study medicine and theology in Glasgow. Not long after, he became a missionary to the poor in the slums of Glasgow. The work was discouraging, but during ten years of faithful labor, Paton won many to Christ, including eight boys who later became ministers. When John was about thirty years old, the Reformed Church of Scotland asked for a missionary to help with the work in the New Hebrides Islands. John answered the call, and soon he and his new bride were on their way to the South Pacific in spite of the news that the previous missionaries had been murdered and eaten by cannibals.
The Patons settled on the island of Tanna and began their ministry. Since the natives had no written language, John communicated with them in sign language. Gradually he learned a few native words and after many months mastered their language and reduced it to writing. While there, his wife and infant son contracted a tropical fever and died. The natives repeatedly stole his equipment, his life was in constant danger, but still Paton remained and preached to them.
Moving to the island of Aniwa, Paton built a home, a mission headquarters, two orphanages, a church, and a schoolhouse, and after many years of patient ministry, the entire island professed Christianity. In 1899 he saw his Aniwa New Testament printed and missionaries on twenty-five of the thirty islands of the New Hebrides. He went to be with the Lord in 1907.