While I was in Korea recently, speaking on the contribution of St Mary’s to the Korean church, I had a memorable conversation about mission. This was at a Presbyterian church in Busan founded by Australians, where they have a memorial in the grounds dedicated to J.H. Davies. I pointed out that five young missionaries who went from St Mary’s—including Davies—lost their lives soon after reaching their field of work: two from sickness in India and Korea, and three from violence in China.
At the time St Mary’s vicar, HB Macartney, was criticized by the press for sending these young people as if to their deaths. Even in St Mary’s Jubilee booklet of 1908 there was relatively little attention given to these five, and no mention of the three China martyrs at all. It was almost as though this sacrifice was not something to honor.
How different was the reaction of the congregation to the loss of lives in World War I: the magnificent plaque set up on the back wall records their names for perpetuity. Yet from the perspective of the Koreans, J.H. Davies’ mission to Korea was a remarkable success. Over twelve million Korean Christians today are testimony to the fruitfulness of his vision, as many others were inspired by Davies’ example to follow in his footsteps.
The lives of the five young missionaries from St Mary’s were sown deep into the fertile soils of India, China and Korea, and even today they continue to bear a plentiful harvest for the Kingdom. My heart is grieved that people in Melbourne may have regarded the loss of these lives as a mistake.
Jesus said “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:23-25)