Heroes – James Calvert

In recent months it has been a joy to hear reports, mostly from countries where it can be dangerous to be a Christian, of local believers going to great lengths to feed the hungry and tend to the sick.

Much of this work has been done unofficially, below the radar of repressive governments, but it has made a huge difference to the local population as they see the love of Jesus shown to them by believers.  Evidently, people of a variety of other faiths have been willing to receive prayer and to listen to the Gospel, because of the example of compassion shown by those whom previously they too might have oppressed.

The Christians have risked their lives to do this.  They could be imprisoned by the government, they could get sick themselves.  Why would they take such risks when they could stay home and keep themselves safe?  A 19th century missionary to Fiji might have the answer.

James Calvert is not a household name.  He was a trainee Wesleyan minister who was sent with his wife and several others to minister in Fiji in 1838.  A story is told about him that when they arrived, the ship’s captain begged them not to disembark, as they would doubtless be killed by the warring cannibals ashore.  Calvert’s reponse?

We died before we came here.

In fact, the missionaries weren’t eaten, and Calvert went on to minister influentially in Fiji before also serving in South Africa and as a minister in the UK.  But that’s not the point.  He, like so many other mission workers ancient and modern, recognized that “my life is no longer my own” (Galatians 2:20), that “we have died and been buried with Christ” and that He deserves our obedience, even to the point of death.  After all, we have nothing left to lose: “for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)

Meanwhile Fiji has been the focus of much missionary attention and almost 2/3 of the population identify as Christian, according to Operation World.  But there remain some large gaps: indigenous tribes living in remote areas, and the significant Asian-background communities who continue in the religious traditions of their ancestors.  Who will lay down their lives to bring the gospel to them?

You can read more about James Calvert and his colleagues at:

Australian Dictionary of Biography

Evangelical Times