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Allen Gardiner

"Not called! Did you say? Not heard the call, I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face-whose mercy you have professed to obey-and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world."  William Booth

"Someone asked, ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?' It is more the question with me whether we-who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not-can be saved."  Charles H. Spurgeon

"The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed"  J. Hudson Taylor

"Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist."  Oswald J. Smith

"If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a heavenly King be considered a sacrifice."  David Livingstone

I once read about an incident in the life of the missionary James Calvert that exemplified the zeal, fortitude and ambition of a true disciple of God. Calvert was on his way to start a mission among the cannibals of the Fiji Islands. The captain of the ship he was traveling on tried all he could to turn Calvert back. When all persuasion failed the captain said, "You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages." To that, Calvert replied, "We died before we came here." Did not Paul say, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). Is not everything in our life loss or rubbish (Philippians 3:8) when it comes to the purpose and will of the Father in our lives? Is not the Father's heart for souls? The missionary F. E. Marsh once said, "The will of God-nothing less, nothing more, nothing else." How true that was in the life of the Anglican Missionary Allen Gardiner. He was considered by many as a Saint, Sailor, and Martyr. To Gardiner, himself, there was no higher calling then that of a missionary. Even the "Prince of Preachers" Charles Spurgeon once professed, "If God calls you to be a missionary, don't stoop to be a king." Most in the church see the mission field as a life of drudgery, sacrifice, denial and quite often sickness and death. So here we are sitting in a comfortable lounge chair, feeling sorry for those men and women laboring "out there," and we offer up a short prayer for the work of evangelism. Could it be that we are relieved that the call went to them and not us. But the call is for everyone. Jesus said from the beginning that the field is the world. Robert C. Shannon warns us, "Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is-where life and death, sin and grace, heaven and hell converge." You can bet that Allen Gardiner and the men who went forth and died with him did not feel sorry for themselves, as their diaries proved, but received the crown of the righteous and heard the joyful words, "Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord."

The bodies of the missionaries were spotted in various locations along the beach of the Island. The bitterly cold Island was located off the southern tip of South America. The missionaries had used the remains of a wrecked boat as their shelter and died, one by one, on the beach where they peered longingly out over the ocean for the supply ship that never was sent. The Island was inhabited by a barbarous group of heathen Indians. In the natural, these Indians robbed or destroyed everything the missionaries had. In the spiritual, they refused to accept the God these men came to tell them about. Seven lives and not one convert. In the natural we would think it a waste but in the spiritual seven seeds were planted and over time a huge crop of souls would be harvested. John 12:24 tells us, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." When they were finally found the missionaries were dead for about three to four months. As the emaciated bodies of the young men were retrieved the remains of Allen Gardiner were found wearing three sets of suits and his hands wrapped in woolen stockings to protect him from the cold. Amazingly and in perfect condition, a journal was found in his hand and the story of what happened was slowly pieced together.

When the news of the missionaries' death reached England, the London Times carried a blistering editorial decrying the loss of life and resources for so foolish a cause. It wasn't long before a book on the missionaries' deaths containing the journal of Gardiner took the country by storm. Churches responded to the criticism by making contributions and a new group of missionary recruits prepared for a second mission to the Island. This mission was better planned and equipped but the outcome was the same. All eight of these missionaries were speared to death before a word of the Gospel could be spoken.

Now we have fifteen missionaries martyred and not one heathen converted. If each of those missionaries had a choice would they do it again. Would Allen Gardiner who spent his last days starving and freezing to death, if given another chance do it all over again. I'll let you decide after you read the following. Here is an excerpt from a letter of a church leader who read Gardiner's journal:

"I have held in my own hands Gardiner's journal. One would expect the dominant theme to be grief, but remarkably Gardiner's words reflected a contagious joy that was undiminished by his dismal circumstances. As Gardiner was in the final stages of starvation, he was focused on the future of the ...Mission Society. As he died, his heart seemed to overflow with thanksgiving for God's many mercies. ‘Great and marvelous are the loving kindnesses of my gracious God. He has preserved me hitherto, for four days without bodily food, without any feelings of hunger and thirst" September 5, 1851. Dr. Richard Williams, the physician of the missionary team, described the same peace that passes understanding in his personal journal, ‘ Let all my beloved ones at home rest assured that I was happy beyond all expression...and would not have changed situations with any man living...that heaven, and love, and Christ...were in my heart..."

Born in Basildon, Berkshire in 1794, Allen Francis Gardiner was from his early childhood fascinated with wild tales of adventure and danger in strange lands. His mother, a devout Christian raised him up in the faith as best she could. He founded what would become known as the South American Mission Society but that would be years later. In 1808, when he was fourteen he left home and entered the Naval College at Portsmouth, England and began an exciting career in the British Royal Navy. He turned away from the Christian faith and while his service would take him to Cape Town, Ceylon, India, Malaysia and China he became a Buddist. His mother died while he was away and a letter describing her final moments and prayers for him led him to start to ponder on God. While he spent some time in China he was already becoming disillusioned with the futility of idol-worship and he saw the need of reaching out to those who put their faith in idols. Denouncing Buddhism he turned back to Jesus and became an avid Bible reader. From the Word of God Gardiner became aware of the Lord's desire to be known, honored and glorified among all nations. When his naval career ended in 1826 he remembered a tribe he had visited in Chile called the Mapuches and how they needed to know who Christ was. Gardiner knew that there were many Indian tribes in South America that so needed the Gospel. His one desire was to reach those, up to now, unreached tribes. His trip to South America would have to wait, so off he went with his wife, Julie, on a mission trip to the Island of Tahiti. The Island was in deep darkness and fruit from preaching was non-existent. It was there that Julie died and Gardiner was left alone. Reacting to her death Gardiner obtained a boat of his own and set out to evangelize the Zulus in South Africa. The opposition to Christianity was overwhelming but in the process he founded the city of Durban. The only fruit he could claim from that work was meeting his second wife Elizabeth. Opposition began to increase so finally the opportunity arrived for him to go to South America and his original desire to share the Gospel of Christ with the Chilean Mapuches. With not one convert that he could claim from the past few years of work, Gardiner never lost hope. His burden was, "Our Savior has given a commandment to preach the Gospel even to the ends of the earth. He will provide the fulfillment of His own purpose. Let us only obey."

Finally, in 1838, he was in South America and headed for the Andes Mountains. Gardiner, his wife and children travelled 1000 miles overland and mountainous territory by pack mule from Buenos Aires to Santiago and Conception, all the time distributing scripture. All for nothing. Indigenous Chileans and the Mapuches would not trust him, regarding every Christian as "the enemy." He finally travelled to the other parts of South America where he thought he would not be opposed. He only found the same and for years he never gave up on the sharing of his Savior no matter how stiff the opposition. He distributed Bibles in the Falklands, Argentina and Bolivia. While visiting the tip of South America he saw off in the vast ocean a speck of an Island called Tierra del Fuego, "The land of Fire." It was inhabited by a people called Yagans. These were an extremely primitive, barbaric people. Gardiner knew of the Yagan Indians because four of them were brought to England back in 1832 by Charles Darwin as proof that there was no lower scale of humanity on the earth than the Yagans. Darwin declared that the Yagans were so low in human degradation that they were, "incapable of being civilized." Darwin said that," they existed in a lower state than any other part of the world." Yet one they called Jimmy Button was taught English and sent back to the Island. As Gardiner looked out over the horizon at Terra del Fuego he thought what a perfect people for God to share His loving-kindness and mercy toward. He for one, by the grace of God, would make an attempt not only to civilize but Christianize these unhappy, heathen people. He noted that any mission would have to be by boat using the Falklands as a base. So back to Britain he went. Setting his family in good lodgings he then began to recruit for this daring venture.

With years of missionary work behind him and not one convert he could claim, Gardiner's passion and desire for souls was unwavering. His faith would be tried sorely over the next months. He received little encouragement for his project. Meeting with hundreds of benefactors to raise money for supplies and commission a ship proved disappointing. He was no closer to having the mission finance than when he first arrived in England. He knew the will of the Father and daily in prayer he prophesied over the Yagan people who daily were dying into an eternity of hell. Tierra del Fuego was in what was called Pantagonia, off the Southern South American coast of Cape Hope. Because of frightful weather conditions year round many had no hope for a mission to survive. Gardiner kept praying to God and pleading for finances from the churches. He named the expedition the "Pantagonian Mission Society" and finally one night, after he decided he was going with or without their help, he held a meeting in Douglas. In the complacent crowd were two people, a Mrs. Elliot and her young son Willie. Gardiner poured out his heart to the audience for the, "Burning need of helping those beings of their own flesh and blood, who were nevertheless, in their persons and habits, little removed from the brute creation and without God in the world...He was himself ready to die, if need be, in the attempt to start this mission in the dark miserable region of Tierra del Fuego."

When the meeting was over, little Willie rushed to the front saying, "I would like a card to collect money for your Mission." When his little hand grabbed hold of the card conviction fell on everyone's heart and many who had not planned on doing so took a card. Monies were raised and everyone was going after the "golden opportunity of doing something in the name and for the love of the Redeemer of men!"

The first agenda of business was to buy a schooner to be loaded on the ship so they would have a vessel to take them from the Falkland Islands to Tierra del Fuego. Having not raised enough money to buy a schooner, Gardiner bought two small sailboats and named them "Speedwell" and "Pioneer." He now needed companion missionaries to volunteer for the trip. It wasn't hard. His companions included a surgeon by the name of Richard Williams, a young Bible teacher named John Maidment, a carpenter Joseph Erwin and three strong fishermen from Cornwall by the names of, Badcock, Pearce and Bryant. Their first venture on arriving on the Island was to find Jimmy Button, the Yagan who was taught English, to be an interpreter for them.

On December 17, 1850, Gardiner and his six companions, after enduring a long trip from England landed at Patagonia on the Southern tip of South America. What these seven Anglican missionaries faced was staggering. The natives were fierce and the land and weather was extremely treacherous. The team had brought six months worth of supplies and those back in England had committed to sending a relief ship with more supplies in six months. It would never come. The mission from the beginning was underfunded but Gardiner wrote in his journal:

"Nothing can exceed the cheerful endurance and unanimity of the whole party... I feel the Lord is with us, and cannot doubt that he will own and bless the work He has permitted us to begin."

Things immediately began to go wrong. Isolated at the bottom of the world, they found out that all their ammunition was mistakenly left on the ship that was returning to England. Then they could not find the interpreter, Jimmy Button, putting them at a disadvantage. They did find some of the Yagan Indians who by force started to take as much of their provisions as they could. The missionaries, there to evangelize, could not fight back, so they reloaded what they could on their two boats and headed for another place to land. The Yagans chased them in canoes and day and night harassed them with stealing parties. The lack of communication proved to be the death-knell of the mission. Finally the men found protection in a lagoon on the other side of Tierra del Fuego. It was a rocky coast and the "Pioneer" was destroyed on landing. They found a cave to shelter them and their provisions but a storm came up and the ocean flooded the cave and took everything out to sea including their Bibles. They then decided to go to the other side of the Island, known as Spanish Harbor. They piled into the "Speedwell" after painting a large message on the rocks for a passing rescue boat to see:

"Dig here below-Go to Spanish Harbor-March 1851"

There they buried a bottle containing a message. On arriving at the South-west end of the Island things were not much better. The natives continued to harass and steal from them. They brought the "Speedwell" ashore and converted it into a sort of dormitory. Soon scurvy broke out among them. Gardiner's journal entry:

"Poor and weak as we are, our boat is the very house of God to our soul, for we feel and know that God is here. Asleep or awake, I am, beyond the power of expression, happy."

In April their provisions were just about gone, and as sickness increased there was a great difficulty in getting more food. It didn't matter what it was, if it walked or crawled they ate it. Birds, fish, a fox, and even vermin that came in their way they ate of it what they could. For months they lived on mussels, until Captain Gardiner could stand them no longer, though he managed to drink mussel and limpet broth. Every morning, noon and night you would see these men kneeling in the sand on the shore thanking God for His loving-kindness and mercy towards them. All the time keeping one eye on the horizon hoping for the relief ship to come with supplies. The men never lost heart.

Gardiner's journal entry:

"Let not this mission fail. Grant O Lord, that we may be instrumental in commencing this great and blessed work, but should Thou see fit in Thy providence to hedge up our way, and that we should even languish and die here, I beseech Thee to raise up others and to send forth laborers into the harvest. Let it be seen, for the manifestation of Thy Glory and Grace that nothing is too hard for Thee..."

Gardiner didn't know it but his supporters back in England couldn't find a ship to carry the next six months' supplies to Patagonia. Most Captains were unwilling to make such a dangerous trip. With the onset of winter in South America the temperatures on Tierra del Fuego usually reached 20 degrees below zero. With no relief in sight one by one, these faithful missionaries, these soldiers of the cross, started dying of sickness, starvation and cold.

Badcock was the first to die. Then on June 22, Dr. Williams made a last notation in his diary, "The will of the Lord be done." In July, Gardiner writes in his journal, "the bitter cold and the scarcity of rations extends now to seven weeks." In August, Erwin and Bryant died, followed by Pearce. All were gone but Gardiner and Maidment. Even though Gardiner was the weakest Maidment died next. In Gardiner's journal after morning prayer is written:

"Our dear brother Maidment left the boat on Tuesday at noon to search for food and has not since returned doubtless he is in the Presence of his Redeemer, whom he served so faithfully. Yet a little while, and through grace we may join that throng to sing praises of Christ through eternity. I neither hunger, nor thirst, though five days without food. Marvelous loving kindness to me, a sinner."

On the 29th of August, 1851 at the age of 57, Gardiner said good-bye to his wife and children and then wrote:

"If a wish was given to me for the good of my neighbor it would be that the Mission in Tierra del Fuego be pursued with vigor. But the Lord will direct and do everything because time and reason are His and your hearts are in His hands..."

Another journal entry is to the Lord:

"Lord, at your feet I humbly fall, and I give you all I have, all that Your love requires. To lack is best, for all is Yours, take care of me in this hour of test. Do not let me have the thoughts of a complainer. Make me feel your power which gives life and I will learn to praise you while carrying your cross..."

As the bitter South American winter was coming to an end, Allen Francis Gardiner was the last to die. He gave his life without ever sharing the Gospel of God with a single Yagan Indian. God had a more eternal plan. Precious and holy seed had to be planted into the fallow soil of the hearts of the Yagan and the deaths of these martyrs would not be in vain. His last lines written in his diary were on the 6th of September , "By God's grace this blessed group was able to sing praises to Christ for eternity.

On October 21, 1851, a rescue ship arrived and found what was left of the "Speedwell" with the bodies of Dr. Williams and Pearce inside and Bradock meagerly buried nearby. A bad storm came up so the ship had to leave without finding the others. It wasn't until three months later in January 1852, that another rescue ship arrived and guided by the paintings on the rocks found the bodies of Gardiner and Maidment. The bodies of Erwin and Bryant were never found.

The Lord saw to it that the diaries and journals of these godly men, despite rough sea winds and storms, were miraculously preserved on the sands nearby their boat. The journal of Gardiner was found clasped in his hands and he was wearing three sets of suits with his hands wrapped in woolen stockings to protect him from the frigid air.

Upon learning of the death of these missionaries the English press wrote blistering editorials on the foolish waste of lives. The attention of the nation, however, was stirred by a book containing Gardiner's journal. Churches soon responded with contributions and new missionary recruits made it possible to launch a second mission. The "Patagonian Mission Society" was renamed the "South American Missionary Society" and soon constructed a 65 foot schooner called the "Allen Gardiner" and launched in 1855. In November 1859 a catechist by the name of Garland Phillips and eight others set sail for Tierra del Fuego. The missionaries arrived at Wulaia on Navarino Island in 1856. There they met George Despard the field director for the Missionary Society. The settlement at Wulaia was where the Society had recently found the interpreter Jimmy Button and five days later they arrived on Tierra del Fuego. They had planned a Sunday service to introduce the Yagan to the Gospel. All the missionaries went ashore, except the cook who stayed on the "Allen Gardiner." Within five minutes the men were viciously attacked and killed with spears and rocks without motive or warning. Jimmy Button was said to have been one of the attackers. The field director, Despard, was crushed and gathered the small settlement, closed the mission post in Wulaia and returned to England. Two missionary teams had gone out with high hopes, and the results were 15 dead, 7 by starvation and cold and 8 murdered and not one Yagan had heard the Gospel. All was hopeless and lost.

As Despard was preparing to leave for England, a small seventeen year old boy asked for permission to stay behind and continue to carry out the work. He understood the Yagan language and habits and had no intention of returning to England. He was granted permission to stay. His name was Thomas Bridges, a name given him because he was abandoned as a baby on the London Bridge. The Despards had found him and taken him in as their own. Knowing that one man would not be a threat to the Yagans he would visit their settlements on the Island. Many of the inhabitants were the ones who murdered the second missionary team. But unthreatened by his vulnerability, and moved to their core by the forgiveness he showed them, this dark, lost people finally were able to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. In a few months, Bridges was baptizing many of the same people who had killed his friends. Within a year an Italian ship ran into rocks off the Island and was sinking. Formerly the Yagans would have killed the sailors and helped themselves to their belongings. But now, instilled with the love of Christ, the Yagans risked their own lives to save the sailors. The King of Italy was so impressed with their heroism that he had a medal struck in their honor and the honor of Bridges and the South American Missionary Society. Even a notation was added on all navigational charts, "A great change has been effected in the character of the natives of Teirra del Fuego...the Yagans...can be trusted." Charles Darwin now looked upon the Yagans who were so changed physically, mentally, spiritually and actually so humanized that he pronounced his belief in the regeneration of the spirit through the Holy Ghost. Until the day he died, Darwin, became a subscriber and benefactor to the Mission Society.

The Yagans now have a place in the Kingdom of God. One can only imagine the scene in heaven, as the fullness of their time comes, and the Yagans, one by one, see the face of their Redeemer first and then second the smiling face of Allen Francis Gardiner. Gardiner, a grain of wheat that fell into the ground and died but produced a harvest.

John 12:24 "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain."

JJ (Dark) Di Pietro
Cane Creek Church