John Geddie, Pioneer Missionary – When He Came, There were No Christians; When He Left, There Were No Heathens

 John Geddie Missionary South Seas Hebrides

The 19th century is often characterized as the great century of missions, and indeed it witnessed a resurgence of fervent, widespread missionary activity such as had not been seen since the early centuries A.D. It was the life’s focus of many in all the conservative, evangelical denominations to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to people of every ethnicity, nationality, language and location, no matter how difficult the language, no matter how remote the location, not matter how challenging the obstacles.

Among those who answered the call to “come over and help us” was John Geddie (1815­-1872), a native of Scotland, but raised in Nova Scotia, Canada. He pastored a Presbyterian church for seven years on Prince Edward Island before answering the call to foreign missions, particularly to Aneiteum in the South Pacific, the most southerly of the New Hebrides Islands. Leaving in October 1846, he and wife Charlotte arrived in Samoa in April 1847 after traveling 20,000 miles on the open ocean.

While waiting in Samoa six months for transport to Aneiteum, the Geddies diligently studied the Samoan language, which was the native language of some pioneer teachers in Aneiteum. Arriving in Aneiteum in 1848, the Geddies faced immense challenges. First, they were indeed very much isolated from the outside world. Then, there was the matter of the local culture and customs­­ the people were extremely superstitious, idolatrous and pagan, besides being given to violence and vice, and commonly practicing cannibalism. Then there was the challenge of reducing the local language to writing, creating a dictionary, translating the Scriptures into the local tongue, and then teaching the islanders to read.

Incredible courage and tenacity were necessary to overcome all these, but by the grace and strength of God, the work prospered. Additional missionaries arrived to assist in the work. The language was learned, reduced to writing and the Scriptures translated, beginning with the Gospels (Mark, 1853; Matthew 1856; Luke, 1857; John, 1857). The complete New Testament was printed in 1863, and the Old Testament in 1879 (portions had appeared earlier). The local national Christians raised 1,200 British pounds through the cultivation of arrowhead root to pay for the publication of the Bible in their own language.

So extensive and so effective was the ministry of John Geddie among the cannibals of Aneiteum that upon his death, a plaque was commissioned in his honor and posted in one of the churches there with these words:

In memory of John Geddie, D.D., born in Scotland, 1815, minister in Prince Edward Island seven years. Missionary sent from Nova Scotia to Aneiteum for twenty­four years. When he landed in 1848, there were no Christians here, and when he left in 1872 there were no heathens.

What higher commendation could a servant of Christ receive? May we likewise commit ourselves to drive out the darkness where we live with the light of the Gospel.

­­­Doug Kutilek

Posted from “As I See It” vol. 18, no. 2 February 2015
Volume 18, Number 2, February 2015

[“As I See It” is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor’s perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request. All back issues may be accessed at

Read a biography (online book) about John Geddie here – Rev. John Geddie – First missionary in the South Seas – READ „John Geddie : hero of the New Hebrides” online


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