When John Hunt was a lad in the early 1800s, he believed that God hears prayers. He prayed for his protection against the things that made him fearful--dogs, gypsies, and thunder. As he grew older, he drifted from faith. His clumsiness was mocked. Handier farm boys taunted him as an idiot. He fell in with rough companions. At times he promised the Lord he would change, but did not keep his word.
Then he got sick. Death loomed before his eyes. It was no use making the Lord more promises. He fell to his knees and vowed to serve God then and there. When he recovered, he repeated his promise to godly neighbors, making himself accountable for spiritual growth. After that, he attended church, read the Bible and religious books in his spare time, and addressed a local congregation. Friends encouraged him to preach, but he wasn't sure. He prayed earnestly to know what God expected him to do, until his last doubt vanished.
Untrained though he was, God used him. He studied at night, so as not to neglect his farm duties. His earnestness was apparent to all. Revival broke out when he attended a London institution. He began to think of mission work. South Africa was his goal.
However, an appeal was made for workers in Fiji. Asked pointblank to go, John returned home much troubled--not for himself, but for the girl he hoped to marry. Hanna Summers, in poor health, would have accompanied him to South Africa, where a measure of civilization prevailed. But Fiji? The Fijians were cannibals and completely savage. Thieves and liars to a man, they killed their sick and old, treated women as beasts of burden, robbed graves for food, and strangled wives when their husbands died. But Hanna said she'd go.
The couple sailed from England in 1838. They refused a lucrative offer to remain in Australia and sailed on to Fiji, arriving on the scene of their labors on this day, December 22, 1838. Although John would master the language in short order, conversions were slow in coming. One cruel king threatened them with death if they closed their windows to keep out the smell of bodies roasting a short distance from their home.
Eventually, however, on one of the smaller islands, revival broke out. Many Fijian lives were transformed and faces shone with new hope. John translated the New Testament into the native tongue for these converts. He was one of those men who cannot rest long while there is work to do. Little wonder that he sickened. The Islanders prayed for his recovery, offering God to take ten of them rather than him. But John was dying. He mourned over his inconsistencies, failures and backslidings. He prayed in fervent ejaculations for the salvation of the Fiji islands. Suddenly he grew utterly calm. "You see a bright prospect before you," said someone.
"I see nothing but Jesus," exclaimed John. He died, just 33 years old. Within fifty years of his landing, there was not a single person in the islands who openly professed the old heathen religion.
- McLean, Archibald. Epoch Makers of Modern Missions. New York, Chicago [etc.] Fleming H. Revell company, 1912. Source of the image.
- Rowe, George Stringer. A Missionary Among Cannibals; or, the life of John Hunt who was eminently successful in converting the people of Fiji from cannibalism to Christianity. New York: Carlton & Porter, 1859.
Last updated May, 2007.