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James Chalmers: Missionary Martyr

James Chalmers
James Chalmers

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known…” (Romans 15:20).

James Chalmers was a youth in Scotland when his pastor spoke in his Sunday school class. The pastor talked about a missionary and mission work.

“I wonder if there is a boy here who will by-and-by bring the gospel to the cannibals?” the pastor asked. James silently thought that he would like to take on that challenge for God.

About 10 years later, after James had gotten married, he and his wife began mission work on the island of Rarotonga in the South Pacific. But James really wanted to work among tribal people in New Guinea who had a reputation for violence, and after a while, God gave him the opportunity to do so.

James was a good example among the natives in New Guinea, and many gave up their violent ways. But he also had grief and sadness during his time with them. His wife died of an illness, and after he remarried, his second wife also got sick and died. He dealt with his grief by working even harder for Christ.

In 1901, James and another missionary sailed to an island that they had not yet visited. The next day, April 8th, the men left the boat, and a group of natives met them on shore. The missionaries were never seen again.

Upon hearing about James Chalmers, other missionaries were inspired to go to New Guinea to carry on his work.

To Talk About

  • On April 8th, the day of his disappearance, how do you think James Chalmers would like to be remembered?
  • Why do you think other missionaries wanted to carry on Chalmers’ work in such a dangerous place?
  • Read Romans 15:20. Who was saying the words in the verse?

Sources include: 70 Great Christians by Geoffrey Hanks, and From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth A. Tucker.
Image credit: Horne, C. Sylvester (1904) The Story of the L.M.S., London: London Missionary Society / Wikipedia


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