One incident of that time was very memorable, and God turned it to good account for higher ends. I often tell it as “the miracle of the speaking bit of wood”; and it has happened to other missionaries exactly as to my self.
While working at the house, I required some nails and tools. Lifting a piece of planed wood, I pencilled a few words on it, and requested our old Chief to carry it to Mrs Paton, and she would send what I wanted. In blank wonder, he innocently stared at me, and said,”But what do you want?”
I replied, “The wood will tell her.” He looked rather angry, thinking that I befooled him, and retorted, “Who ever heard of wood speaking?”
By hard pleading I succeeded in persuading him to go. He was amazed to see her looking at the wood and then fetching the needed articles. He brought back the bit of wood, and eagerly made signs for an explanation. Chiefly in broken Tannese I read to him the words, and informed him that in the same way God spoke to us through His Book. The will of God was written there, and by and by, when he learned to read, he would hear God speaking to him from its page, as Mrs Paton heard me from the bit of wood.
A great desire was thus awakened in the poor man’s soul to see the very Word of God printed in his own language. He helped me to learn words and master ideas with growing enthusiasm. And when my work of translating portions of Holy Scripture began, his delight was unbounded and his help invaluable.
The miracle of a speaking page was not less wonderful than that of speaking wood!
(Location 3033-3041, The Story of John G. Paton, or Thirty Years Among South Sea Cannibals by John G. Paton)