In 1821, the London Missionary Society commissioned and sent Griffith, his wife, and another missionary named David Jones to Madagascar as the first missionaries to this African island. Together, these two men built a strong mission and started several schools. Griffiths, who had a natural talent and drive for the language, soon mastered Malagasy, the main tribal language of Madagascar. Using his knowledge of the language, he began to diligently translate the Bible into Malagasy.
In 1828, he finished the Gospel according to Luke and, with a printing press he had brought over with him, began to print the gospel. By 1835, he had completed the entire Bible. This Bible would be the first Bible ever printed in an African language.
While he was working on translating the Bible, Griffiths had not forsaken his other missionary works. He preached extensively and saw many saved and baptized. The other missionaries, who had come to work with Griffiths, felt that these new converts were immature and even doubted that many of them were sincere. They want to try to keep them under the control of the mission so they could watch and control them closely. But Griffiths would have nothing of that. He organized the first indigenous church in Madagascar and began to train young men from Madagascar to care for the churches. Soon the churches were growing rapidly.
The queen and her ministers began to fear the growth of this new religion. Fearing that it threatened their power, they began to persecute the church. They also expelled all the missionaries from the country. Despite the persecution, the church continued to stay strong, even with the missionaries gone.
Three years after being expelled, Griffiths returned to the island as a “merchant”. His real intentions, of course, was to help and encourage his beloved flock. He could only remain a few years before he was again threatened with death and forced to flee the country. So he returned to England, where he started a church there and wrote about the struggle of the church in Madagascar. It was while he was in England that this faithful minister of Christ died.
On this day in 1887, John G. Paton wrote the following his his journal about the native Aborigines of Australia. At that time, the Aborigines were abused, beaten, and often killed by the colonist and other groups. But in this struggling group of people, Chalmers saw a potential force that could change the world, if they only had the Gospel:
Though reviewed as being amongst the lower types of the human race, the Aborigines have made excellent stock riders, bullock drivers, fencers, and servants in every department. And they have proved honest and faithful, especially when kindly treated. Australians are sometimes bitter against them, for a reason that ought rather to awaken sympathy. They take aboriginal boys or girls into their service, they train them just till they are beginning to be useful, and lo! They go back to their own people. But, in almost every case of that kind, the reason is perfectly clear. They were only taught so far as to make them useful tools. Their minds were not instructed, nor their hearts enlighten with the fear of God and the love of Jesus. They were not on equality in any way with children, or with servants. They grew up without equals and without associates. They saw their parents and tribesmen treated with contempt and abuse. They instinctively felt that the moment that they were unable to serve the self-interests of their employers, they themselves would be thrust out. They had not the spirit of the slave, though kept in rank of a slave; and they yearned for satisfaction of theses instincts, which the supply of their mere animal necessities could not assuage. Among the whites, they felt degraded and outcast; amongst their own people, the had the honor and esteem that were within reach of their kindred; and they might weave around their poor lot the mysterious and ever-blessed ties of family and home. And here and there, doubtless, flashed in the heart of some native boy a gleam of that patriotism that led Moses to escape from Pharaoh’s court, and refused to be identified with the despisers and oppressors of his own enslaved race,- divine in the Australian Aboriginal as in the Hebrew, though each might have a very different account of its origin!