Growing up in England, his family moved to America when he was 14. After graduating from the University of Tennessee Medical School with highest honors and training at New York Universities, he turned down the offer to be a professor from the University of Tennessee. His desire was to be a medical missionary.
In Korea, Heron began to work in the Royal Government Hospital, Chejungwon, the predecessor of Severance Hospital. In 1887, he became the superintendent of the Hospital following Dr. Horace N. Allen. He also worked for the Royal family and sometimes traveled to the rural areas to care for the patients. He started Chejungwon Church which later became Namdaemoon Presbyterian Church. In 1887, Dr. Heron worked as a member of the Bible translation committee and in 1889, he was elected as the chairman of the Public Committee of the Presbyterian Churches. In 1890, he established ‘The Korean Religious Tract Society (Chosunsyungkyoseohoi) with Underwood and Ohlinger. The society published and replenished Christian books, periodical magazines and booklets.
In the summer of 1890, Dr. Heron did his best to take care of the sick suffering from an epidemic dysentery and himself got infected because of the terrible overwork. He passed away on July 26th, 1890. On his deathbed, he told his soldier and native friends around him as follow: “Jesus loves you. He gave His life for you. Stand by Him!” The martyrdom of Dr. Heron should be remembered in the Korean history of mission, because he was the first victim among the foreign missionaries who had lived and worked in Seoul for Korean mission. Dr. Heron’s mind of love, service and devotion should be remembered by the medical doctors working today in caring for the patients suffering from physical and spiritual illnesses.
Heron gave up the comforts and pleasure of the world to live His life for God and His work. Are we willing to do the same? Is the cause of Christ worthy for us to give our whole lives to? Sick or well, rich or poor, will we serve Him?
After only a little over 10 years in South America, he, and his companions died. However, upon discovering his body, his journal was also discovered. In his journal contained two significant entries.
One of the entries contained precise instructions as to how the plans for mission work should be carried out: A mission station should be set up on one of the Falkland Islands and a vessel, suitable for making the crossing to Tierra del Fuego, purchased. If the confidence of the natives could be gained, Gardiner believed some of the younger people might be persuaded to cross to the Falklands. Reports of the kind treatment they received might induce their friends to follow. In this way a firm friendship could be built up between the Fuegian Indians and the missionaries. Natives were not to be kept in the Falklands against their wish: if they wanted to return to their country they should be allowed to do so as soon as possible. It was most important that the white man should learn the native language and, as soon as it was considered safe, a mission should be established in Tierra del Fuego.
In 1854, Gardiner’s vision became a reality. The Patagonian Missionary Society purchased a ship and sailed to the Falkland Islands. For decades, Fuegian Indians were brought to the islands to learn of the love of Jesus from other missionaries there.
The other entry was the last in the diary and was written just days before he starved to death: “Great and marvelous are the loving kindnesses of my gracious God unto me. He has preserved me hitherto and for four days, although without bodily food, without any feelings of hunger of thirst.”
Great vision comes from great men. What a great man of God who, in his last moments of life, gave praise to our God. Great men of God leave behind a continuing work because their labor was in the everlasting kingdom of God. His work outlived himself because it was never his, it was the Lord’s.
What is our character like? Will we praise God in our toughest times? And are we laboring for the kingdom, for a work that will out live our lives? Let’s take our example from Gardiner and leave behind a vision for the work of God and praise and honor God at all times.
*Post submitted by Edward de los Reyes
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