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An emotional return

20 July 2014
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Gordon Griffiths’ account in the Islands

I was in Renell Island; and was told that I was the first white kid to be seen on the island. After many decades I still kept my father’s word that I will one day visit that island again.

I did enjoyed staying on the Island for nearly a week, waiting for my flight back to Honiara.

In 1987, I returned to Renbell Islands, the very islands our Missionaries Thomas Sandwich and a Malaitan, Andrew Kanairara were killed.

“I know for sure that the seed our family planted there was growing mature then. 

“When I was here in Malu’u again in 1987, I broke down in tears.

“That was when I remember how I was growing up here as a kid in the unknown land among mostly heathen people.

“My father was the captain of the Missionaries here during those days; I spent some times in Malu’u and most of our time in Nafinua in Eat Malaita.

Gordon Griffiths was the grand child of Miss Florence young, who brought in the South Seas evangelical church in the Solomon Islands.

The sister of Florence young gave birth to Griffiths Mother, Mrs. Margaret Griffiths.  

Here was his account on his experience here in the Solomons, particularly Malaita Province.

Gordon Griffiths was born in Sydney, Australia in 1936.

Around that year his father and mother Ken and Margaret Griffiths were on a mission to the Solomon Islands as Queensland Kanak Mission to the Solomon Islands.

Gordon said, “I was growing up as a kid in Malu’u and was given a name Tonafalea, a Tobaita ascent meaning ‘free gift’. And that’s how my family has a very close link to the Solomon Islands, Malaita especially.

The 78 year-old Griffiths said his link with Malaita has started since he was a small kid.

“I was growing up as a kid in Malu’u and then in Nafinua in east Malaita with my parents. I used to watch my father day by day baptizing the Malaitan people. Those days were not too safe for white people like us to live in the Islands, as a good number of our missionaries have been killed in the Solomon”.

“We left the shores of Malaita by boat years when the first Japanese military group arrived and settled on the Islands in the Solomon Islands.

Mr Gordon was a School science teacher, and as a kid growing up in the tropical Islands, he spent four years of his time as a teacher in Papua New Guinea, a lecture at the University of Papua New Guinea.

And as his dream land, he decided to visit the Solomon Islands, particularly Malaita and Renbell Islands, a destination of his childhood as a missionary kid.

“I reached the shores of Malaita, broke down in tears when people still say, Tonafalea was here. It did evoke an emotional feeling in me and makes me felt the close link of my family to the people of Malaita.

“I did visited Malu’u and Nafinua where I grew up as a kid. Noticeably, there were many significant changes. The good news I am longing to see and hear.

“That the seed has grown and continues to be growing”.

Decades after his last visit in the country, since 1987, he did revisited his grandmothers, and parents’ great mission place in the tropical heathen land; again he was here to celebrate the South Seas Evangelical Church SSEC 50th Golden Jubilee in Ambu Community near Auki, Malaita.

“I was so overwhelmed to see for myself the real change occurring here within the SSEC church. It has never been the same again.

“Since its establishment as SSEC from the initial South Seas Evangelical Mission in 1964, SSEC has grown mature now that we celebrate its 50th Golden Jubilee Anniversary this year.

“That the remarkable impacts of the early missionaries’ work were still felt and SSEC is humble to be a mature church today.

“Now the church has grown mature and I believe that it can now stand the forth coming tough and challenging times”.

By CHARLEY PIRINGI

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