David Brainerd and John Eliot were the only early missionaries to the Native Americans that I had heard of before this year.
I was missing out on such a fascinating period of church history and also one that has much to say I think even in my own context, in that, many of the mistakes that were made three hundred years ago are still being made today.
But, there were some real heros.
Take Samuel Kirkland.
As one author writes, “Among all the English youth who devoted their lives to Indian missions, and went out from New England to the Six Nations, Samuel Kirkland was the foremost. His name will always be honored in that region of New York where once the Oneidas roamed through the primeval forest, and where now he sleeps under the protection of Hamilton College with the Christian chief Skenandoa by his side.”
Eleazer Wheelock, the founder of Dartmouth, wrote of his missionary service to the Countess of Huntingdon thus: ‘This bold adventure of his, which considered in all the circumstances of it, is the most extraordinary of the kind I have ever known, has been attended with abundant evidence of a Divine blessing.”
But it was hard.
At one point he writes, “I have eat no Flesh in my own House for nigh eight weeks. Flour and Milk, with a few Eels, has been my Living – Such Diet with my hard labour abroad doth not satisfy Nature – My poor People are almost starved to Death…I myself would be glad of the Opportunity to fall upon my knees for such a Bone as I have often seen cast to the Dogs.”
In another letter home he explains,
“I fear I have seen my best Days for Hardships and an Indian Life; a little over-straining brings an old Pain in my Breast. Am not able to carry a Pack of a moderate Size (30 or 40 weight) without spitting Blood. Yet … Blessed be God, I am not discouraged; I am willing to wear out sooner or later, if only it may be in the Cause of my Divine Master.”
May God raise up more men like him, who are willing to wear themselves out in the Cause of their Master!