Lillie Grace Robinson Perrin, whose heartrending diary entries are published here, was a missionary to Jamaica. In 1895, she traveled from a rural Nebraska home to join her fiancé, Charles Perrin, who had gone to Jamaica for mission service two years earlier.
October 28, 1895—Spent all night on the train. Could not sleep. Thought much of my old home, also of my new home and Charlie.
Oct. 30—Went on board ship about 4:00 P.M., steamed out of Chesapeake Bay into the mighty deep. We all stayed on deck watching America fade from sight. Many and great were the conflicting emotions that filled each breast as we gave the last farewell look at our native country.
Nov. 4—We go to bed tonight happier than usual, for they tell us in the morning we will sight Jamaica. Oh, how anxious I am.
Nov. 6—We were nearing the City of Kingston and Charlie; but my calm face did not give away the conflicting emotions inside me as I expected to meet in a few minutes the man I loved and had not seen for two long years. At 9:00 A.M., after driving through quite a portion of the city and admiring the beautiful flower gardens and quaint houses, our driver stopped at the mission house on 23 High Holderman Street. The carriage had hardly stopped when the door opened and Mr. Perrin came bounding down the steps. I leave the rest to surmise, but will say no one but lovers long parted can know the joy of that meeting. Charlie and I went down to see our new home.
Nov. 7—Charlie and I went to the park. He told me how the Sabbath before as he wondered if I would come, he opened his Bible and his eyes fell on this verse: “Thou has given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips” (Ps. 21:2). He knew then that I would come.
Nov. 8—Nettie and I went shopping. We bought me a white dress, as we did not know if my trunk would get in on time to get my wedding dress, and Charlie said he preferred white anyway. Said he thought a Lillie should be dressed in white.
Nov. 9—We all went out to the mission hall to Sabbath school and preaching. Charlie taught the class of big boys. I sat with him then as he was teaching. How good to see him and to know I was with him and he was mine. After SS we took our place again on the front seat. Brother Eastman spoke, and as he was repeating what God said—“It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18)—Charlie said, “Amen.” All the joy and happiness and gratitude that filled his heart was expressed in that “Amen.” It brought a smile to every lip.
We went on home and to dinner and I can truly say I spent the happiest day of my life. The future looks so bright, not a cloud.
Nov. 10—Nettie and I went down to the mission hall to sew. When we came back, Charlie was sick. Had fainted while walking across the yard. Was carried in the house and suffered dreadfully for several hours, then felt better in the evening.
Nov. 11—Charlie felt quite well, and we thought best to be married, as arrangements were all made. Charley [sic] and Mr. Gordon walked down to the magistrate’s office and Mrs. Gordon and I took a bus. At 3:00 P.M. Charles Perrin and Lillie Robinson were united in marriage.
We then got into a bus and drove to the mission hall, where a reception was given us. There were about 60 guests in all. Charley [sic] thanked all for the presents and for their kindness to him in so many ways.
Charlie and I then went to our new home on 6 Lawson St. Oh, how proud and happy we were.
Evening—Mr. and Mrs. Gordon came in, and we all had worship together. We all prayed, and as Charlie was thanking God for the seeming realization of all our hopes and joys, he asked His blessing upon “me and my wife.” It seemed a solemn time, and God was near. Charlie arose and stayed up until after worship, then went to bed.
Newspaper Clipping Pasted in Diary:
“The following sad news from Jamaica will be read with deep interest by the people of this community:
“Died, at Kingston, Jamaica, November 20, 1895, Charles N. Perrin. This is the sad news brought by a letter from his widow, formerly Miss Lillie Robinson, who left Cedar Rapids a few weeks ago to become the wife of Mr. Perrin, and with him engage in the missionary work of the Seventh-day Adventists on that island.
“She arrived at Kingston on the 6th of November and found Mr. Perrin indisposed. The Sunday following he fainted and was carried into the house. Monday he was able to dress himself and they were married, as previously arranged, but on the evening of his wedding day he was again forced to take to his bed with the fever. He had every possible care, and the services of the best native physicians were also secured.
“When it became evident that human skill would not avail, he called for the elders of the church, and they prayed and anointed him. He was conscious to the end and, having submitted all to the Lord, died in peace. His death is greatly lamented by his fellow laborers, among whom he was known as a courageous Christian worker.”
Nov. 21—Charles was buried at 4:00 P.M. at May Penburning Ground, Kingston, Jamaica.
Dec. 25—Spent Christmas at home. This is the first green Christmas I ever saw. In fact it did not seem like Christmas at all, but just like the Fourth of July.
1895 Closes—In this year have been the happiest days of my life, also the saddest. What a change a short year has made. One year ago tonight I was in my happy home, amid parents and friends, a light-headed carefree girl. Now I am a widow in a strange land, but the Lord is good.
Jan. 1, 1896—The first day of another year has ended, and I am alone . . .
Jan. 14—Want my mother. Felt lonesome, am going to cry. I want Charlie, I long for the time when we can all go home and then there will be no more parting. Oh, Charlie, my own darling, you will be mine then, and you will never be taken from me anymore. I do so pray that the Lord will help me to be comforted wherever I am, and to be willing to live and do the work He has for me on this earth. Oh, I can’t begin to think of living for months and years alone. I would be willing to endure anything—hunger, or anything—if only he were with me. But Jesus helps.
Jan. 28—Haven’t been feeling well so have been home.
Jan. 31—Could do nothing in the afternoon, felt so discontented. I asked the Lord to give me the right feelings as would be more help to other people and would honor Him most.
Feb. 15—This has been a hard week. . . . I missed Charlie so much, and it seemed to me so hard that he should be taken from me. Then when I could endure it no longer, I went alone to God and as I was telling Him of my grievances I saw as never before the goodness of God in all His dealings with me.
He, in His mercy had spared my life and had guided me happily through so many dangers, and had sustained me by His grace through the darkest hours.
Well, I humbly acknowledged my sin and asked God to forgive me and to help me to not sin against Him. . . . Then I remembered that text that says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
He says He will remove our sins from us as far even as the east is from the west. When I believed this promise, then peace, sweet peace, filled my heart. All evening I sang praises to God for His goodness and mercy to me.
April 4—Went for another walk on the beach, cried.
August—Haven’t felt well this month. Hattie and I went to Kingston. Got a letter while there, that Mother was sick. I felt so bad to think my little mother was sick and I couldn’t see her or do anything for her.
Sept. 21—Got a letter from Mother; she said she was better and they were starting for the Fremont camp meeting. I felt so relieved. Did pretty well canvassing.
Sept. 24—My twenty-first birthday. Spent the day walking up and down the dirty streets of Brown’s Town. Quite a contrast to my last, which was spent in my pleasant home with Father, Mother, brothers, sisters, and friends, and writing to Charlie.
Sept. 28—Silva woke me up saying she had been to the post office and got two letters for me. One from Clark [brother]. First words were, “I have the saddest news to write you: Mother is dead.”
Mother died September 14, but I did not get news till the 28th. She died at camp meeting.
I was ill-prepared to stand the shock of Mother’s death, but I see more and more how good Jesus has been to me.
Nov. 7—The anniversary of the happiest day I ever spent.
Nov. 11—One year ago today I was married to Charles Perrin. It seems a long year, but the Lord has mercifully preserved me. Today I have begun canvassing. Have been walking the hot, dusty streets of Montego Bay since morning, and I am tired and lonely. Oh, it is such a change from one year ago. How little we all thought that the then-happy bride would in nine days be left a widow, alone in a foreign land.
One year ago I was a child. Had never tasted but the sweetest in life. Today I am a woman and have tasted to the full the bitter. The Lord has done much for me in this year that has gone. He has shown me how to lean on Him. But it has been a lonely year.
How I wonder what the year before me has for me. My only prayer is that those things that will purify me and fit me for an eternal home may come to me.
Nov. 20—One year ago my Charlie died. Oh, I miss him. I lost my protector and my mother in the same year, but I am glad my Savior is mine, and I know He will stay, for He has promised to be with me always.
Lillie Grace lived fewer than four more years, dying of typhoid fever on August 3, 1900, in Grannis, Arkansas. She would be astonished to know that the church first organized in 1894 with 37 members now counts more than 285,000 across the island country of Jamaica.