Mission – Not for the faint of heart

Feb 18, 2022 | News

Back to News & Events

By Anne McCormick, NZCMS Archivist.

Whether way back when or more recently, missionaries face many varied challenges. References to so-called “one-way missionaries” abound in historical records on mission. Aware of the dangers on the field, these people booked one-way tickets to their location. Expecting to die overseas they sensibly and practically packed their belongings in coffins in anticipation of needing them one day.

While I can’t be sure that the earliest NZCMS missionaries actually did travel with a coffin, I do know that over the years many have faced significant challenges. Take, for instance, Miss Della Hunter-Brown, the second missionary to be sent out by us who, along with Marie Pasley, went to Japan. Della went first to Nagasaki and later to Kagoshima, where she taught English. This work provided much scope for evangelism and it is recorded that “four bank clerks, who really came to learn English, were so moved by the story of Christ’s life as recorded in the Japanese Bible, that they dropped English in order to learn more of Him. Of the four, two definitely became Christians.” (N.Z.C.M.A. Annual Report, 1896).

“The Devil seems to have resented this, for both these missionaries were shipwrecked on a small Philippine Island on their return from furlough in 1900 but were rescued after a week” (Stretching out Continually: a history of the New Zealand Church Missionary Society 1892-1972” by Kenneth Gregory).

A search of the spreadsheet of archival information I have worked on over the last few months, reveals other challenges faced by Mission Partners, of which the following is merely a small selected sample:


  • Rev. C. Godden was murdered in Norfolk Island by a tribal person in 1906.
  • Violet Latham worked in India in 1918 against heavy odds of plague, cholera and famine.
  • Margaret North was interned from China to Hong Kong by the Japanese in 1942.
  • Jocelyn Broughton was sent home from Pakistan due to malaria in 1955.
  • Dr Ian Hulme-Moir died of an infection contracted performing surgery on a patient in 1980.
  • Pilot Paul Summerfield was killed in a plane crash in Papua New Guinea in 1985.
  • Murray Ruddenklau died from injuries sustained in a fall in Cairo in 2006.
  • Health events took the lives of Jane Morrison while in Tanzania in 2000, and Allan Coussell in an undisclosed location in 2017.

Many Mission Partners suffered ill health on the field, possibly the least of these being temporary ailments such as diarrhoea, variously “Delhi belly” or the “Murree Hurries” and undoubtedly other colloquialisms depending on the location. Tropical complaints such as giardia, malaria and dengue fever were also common.

Engage any returned Mission Partner and they will no doubt recount various challenges ranging from humorous incidents to real dramas. Whether in 1900, 2021 or any time in between, these challenges were all par for the course for Mission Partners while still always being under the watchful eye of a sovereign God.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *