When I was in Washington D.C. in May of this year I took a tour of the Capitol building. In the National Statuary Hall I was struck with how many of the statues donated by the states in our country were pioneers who were also known for their faith. I really enjoyed how the sunlight rested on the cross that Father Serra is holding in this statue. The statue of Junipero Serra was donated by the state of California. The statues donated by my current state, Washington, are of Marcus Whitman and Mother Joseph. In 1856 Mother Joseph lead a group of 5 missionaries to the Pacific Northwest Territories. She was responsible for the completion of 11 hospitals, 7 acadamies, 5 Indian schools and 2 orphanages. I didn’t get a photo of her statue but it’s one of her kneeling in prayer. It just made me chuckle to think of the climate in Washington and schools these days to forbid crosses, Bibles and prayer when our nation and so many schools were built by pioneers who carried their Bibles across the wilderness and prayed this country and schools into being with Christ and his work on the cross as their motivator. Now some would love to re-write history to suit their unbelief.
When we were living in Ventura California from 1984 until 1988 our sons attended Junipero Serra Elementary School. There is a large statue of Junipero Serra in front of the City Hall in Ventura.
This is the statue of Marcus Whitman donated by the state of Washington. He is carrying a Bible along with his medical bag. The next quotes on the history of Junipero Serra and Marcus Whitman are taken from the Architect of the Capitol website.
“Father Junipero Serra (Miguel Jose Serra) was one of the most important
Spanish missionaries in the New World. Born in Majorca on November 24, 1713, he
joined the Franciscan Order at the age of 16. He soon gained prominence as an
eloquent preacher and eventually became a professor of theology. His dream was
to become a missionary to America. He arrived in Mexico City in 1750 to begin
this new life.
In 1769 he established a mission at the present site of San Diego,
California, the first of a number that would include San Antonio, San
Buenaventura, San Carlos, San Francisco de Assisi, San Gabriel, San Juan
Capistrano, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Clara. This was a herculean task
considering that Father Serra was already in his fifties and suffered from a
chronic ulcerated condition in one leg. Serra was ascetic and uncompromising in
his zeal to convert the Indians to Christianity and to make his missions self
sufficient. Inhabitants built their own homes, spun wool for garments, and
pursued careers as masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, and millers; thousands of
barrels of grain were kept in reserve supply, and herds of cattle, sheep,
horses, and swine were maintained.
The ulcerated condition of Serra’s leg eventually spread to his chest. At the
age of 71, aware of his deterioration, he made a final visit to his missions.
The well-known and beloved missionary died in Monterey, California, on August
28, 1784; his missions continued to flourish for another 50
“Marcus Whitman was born on September 4, 1802. At the age of seven, when his
father died, he went to Rushville, New York, to live with his uncle. He dreamed
of becoming a minister but did not have the money for such a time-consuming
curriculum. Instead, he studied medicine for two years with an experienced
doctor and received his degree from Fairfield Medical College. In 1834 he
applied to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Two years
later, Whitman married Narcissa Prentiss. A teacher of physics and chemistry,
Narcissa was eager to travel west as a missionary but, as a single woman, had
been forbidden to do so.
Marcus and Narcissa made an extraordinary team. They joined a caravan of fur
traders and went west, establishing several missions as well as their own
settlement, Waiilatpu, in the Blue Mountains near the present city of Walla
Walla, Washington. Marcus farmed and gave medical attention, while Narcissa gave
classes to the Indian children. Returning from a trip east, Whitman assisted in
the “Great Emigration” of 1843, which clearly established the Oregon Trail.
The primitive health practices of the Indians and their lack of immunity to
diseases such as measles fostered the belief that Whitman was causing the death
of his patients. The Indian tradition holding medicine men personally
responsible for the patient’s recovery led to the murder of the Whitmans on
November 29, 1847, in their home.”
Our nation was built on the backs of people who trusted God and were guided by the Bible. I hope that is never written out of our history.