100 years of celebration of SDA church in SI – Part 1
Tulagi, less commonly known as Tulaghi, is a small island (5.5 km by 1 km) in the Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Florida Island. The town of the same name on the island (pop. 1,750) was the capital of the Solomon Islands Protectorate from 1896 to 1942, and is today the capital of the Central Province.
The island was originally chosen by the British as a comparatively isolated and healthier alternative to the disease-ridden larger islands of the Solomons.
Tulagi is the first landing sight of Captain Griffitt Jones and Mrs. Marion Jones of England who were working for the Seventh-day Adventist Australasian Conference, Australia. The day is Thursday, 28th May, 1914 some 100 years ago to date.
CAPTAIN GRIFFITH FRANCIS JONES.
Who was Captain GF Jones? He was born at Hamefy, North Wales on May 11, 1864. At the age of 15 he decided to become a sailor.
He studied hard and worked his way from cabin boy to seaman, and then to Captain of a merchant ship. His name was Griffith. F. Jones. At the age of 26, he was a master mariner in command of a British ship sailing between England and America. He had achieved his ambition.
One day, as he stood on the deck of his ship, he was about to throw a piece of paper overboard. He looked at the paper and read it. It was a page from an Adventist magazine called “Present Truth.” That piece of paper changed his life forever.
He had Bible studies, accepted the Seventh-day Adventist truths and on his birthday, May 11, 1893, he was baptized. He was united to Marriage with Marian Valentine, a cultured Christian lady, in 1897. It was noted the transition in his thinking, for upon his marriage certificate instead of ‘Captain’ he listed ‘Missionary’ as his profession. From that time on he became a missionary for God.
He worked in America, Tahiti and Pitcairn. He taught the Pitcairners how to navigate ships.
He was described as “an excellent missionary, and a cheerful, friendly man. He was short (only 5ft.2”) slim, softly-spoken, but with the courage and heart of a lion.”
He was ordained in 1903 at the missionary conference held at Tahiti.
After serving in many places in the Pacific, in 1912, Pr Jones and his wife were asked to start the work in the Solomons . A boat was built for him called the “Advent Herald.” It had a portable cabin which he could put together as a home among some of the less friendly tribes.
On May 1914, he and his wife landed at Gizo and were sailing “wherever God lead them.”
His talent as a sailor was very useful as he sailed from island to island.
The work grew rapidly. National Solomon Islanders quickly learned about the gospel of Jesus. Pr Jones used converted Solomon Island men to teach the people the story of Jesus using picture rolls.
He had a talent for learning languages quickly and this was a big help to him. Because of his warm-hearted, friendly personality people liked to listen to him. They called him “Jonsie.”
Pr Jones was working at Viru soon after beginning the work in the Solomons. Viru was the first mission station in the Solomons.
He and his wife liked to sleep on the deck of their little ship because it was very hot in the cabin.
One night after prayer, they had just dropped off to sleep when they were woken by the tap tap, tap of paddles on the topside of a canoe coming toward their ship. The canoe was filled with almost naked men. They pulled up beside the ship, dropped their paddles, picked up heavy clubs and scrambled aboard to take possession of the ship.
The little Captain-Pastor and his wife were alone and entirely at the mercy of these Warriors who planned to attack them. What could he do? These were powerfully-built, battle-scarred warriors!!
Pastor Jones, just 5’2” tall, stepped into the middle of the warriors, with no weapons, except the presence of God. He spoke to them using the little pidgin he knew and said,” Me Missionary.” He then told them that he was there to help them and to teach their children and to care for them all when they were sick.
For a while the warriors talked excitedly amongst themselves and then they looked into the faces of these two gentle people and sat down on the deck with them.
A warrior stepped forward and said,” Yes, what you say is good. We want your mission. We want you to start a school.”
Before they left they presented Pr Jones with a young man named Bulehite. Bulehitie knew the waters around the Solomons and could safely pilot the ship from place to place. Others offered to be crew. Pr Jones won a victory.
God had heard their prayers and they knew that His work would be successful in the Solomons.
Pr Jones was a very noble, courageous man of God. He, with his wife worked in many places in the Pacific and no work was too hard, too tiring, and no service impossible to them.
A bigger boat was provided, some sixty feet long with an 80 h.p. engine. It was called the ‘Melanesia’, and on July 2, 1917, Jones sailed from Sydney to the Solomons for wider service to compass those tempestuous waters. He continued as superintendent in the Solomons. In 1920 the Joneses returned to Australia. At that time there were five central stations and seventeen out-stations with a Sabbath School membership of1,108. Today there were more than 45,000 baptized members.
In April, 1921, they worked among the people of Koiaris near Port Moresby, one of the worst tribe of New Guinea, yet by learning their language and with much prayer they remained until 1924. It was the Koiari people who gave the land that Pacific Adventist University was established today.
In October 23, 1925 Pastor and Mrs Jones sailed to Noumea, New Calendonia. Within two years they were compiled to withdraw from this French Territory and were replaced by a French worker, Miss C.F. Guiot from Australia.
In 1929, he was again called once more to investigate the prospect of opening a mission on the large island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Two Solomon Islands by the name of Oti from Marovo and Salau from Dovele accompanied him to successfully open a school in Matupit, East New Britian, PNG. They later sailed to Musssau Islands in the St. Matthias groups and the whole island group became Seventh-day Adventists until today.
From this beginning the gospel message mushroomed until Rabaul become the centre of the work of the Bismarck-Solomon Union Mission. Later, the Jones Missionary College was established at Kambubu, the training centre for the whole union. It was so named as a tribute to the memory of a man who inspired these dusky sons and daughters of the South Pacific to do valiant deeds in the service of the King of kings.
Pastor Jones was one of God’s noble men who with his devoted wife pioneered many fields, counting no labour too exacting, no task too onerous, no service impossible. They were always courageous, always confident, always self-sacrificing. They are worthy examples of all those who have with dignity and honor served the cause of truth in the South Pacific.
Only 5ft 2in but what a real giant for God.
God wants you to be a courageous worker for him, too.
(As told by Mrs Thelma Silva, the wife of the late Pastor Kevin Silva who was the founder of Pathfinder works in Australia and Solomon Islands. She was the guest speaker at Honiara, Solomon Islands during the 100 years celebration Pathfinder Camporee December, 2013. Additional information from the Australasian Record, April 22, 1966 by the associate editor, W.E Battye )
Sasa Rore, a well known name among Adventist came to Tulagi in 1914/1915 in youthful age of 15/16 as a cook boy yet not an Adventist but soon to be when the Adventist church later entered his village of Boro, Dovele in 1919.
Early in 1901 a remarkable story occurred in Dovele when the British Government was trying to establish justice and peace in Solomon Islands. To do this, it had only a few and very little money. Sometimes it did not seem possible to have peace with justice, and unjust things were done for the sake of peace.
In the past, people had travelled from one island to another killing and burning. Now the Government seemed determined to show it-self stronger than the war parties. It used the same way as the people of old had done. Villages were burnt and people shot. It was a new kind of war. As always in war, innocent people were hurt more often than those who had really done wrong. It was out of the flames of one government raid that a baby named Rore was rescued at the cost of his mother’s life.
Tumu was the young wife of the warrior Sakakolo, and Rore was their first born child. When the guns of the man-of-war began to boom, the earth to shake and the houses to burst into flames to the sound of rifles fire, the people of the village ran away in the bush. Tumu had left her child in the house, and in her terror forgot him. His screams recalled her just as she was nearing the safety of the bush. Back she went in to the burning house to bring out her baby. She was struck by a bullet and died, but her baby was safe. Ever afterwards Rore was to look back on that event and see in it, God’s hand.
Rore was now cared for his grandmother, and grew up like any other child of the island of Vella Lavella at that time. He grew with memories of stories told by former warriors of courage and cunning. Rore enjoyed the games as other children did. However, he sought other adventurers and went to work as a cook for a nearby trader and planter, Mr Frank Hesselgren who was from Sweden.
In 1917, another event occurred which was to help to shape the young man’s life. Two white men came recruiting. They were Mr Knibbs, the government surveyor, and Mr Heffeman, owner of the ship Mala on which they were travelling. On hearing that Mr Knibb was looking for a cook boy, Rore asked if he could be the one. He was accepted and so was his cousin Sasabule. They set out on the journey in the unknown.
First they sailed across to New Georgia and into the Marovo Lagoon where they called at Lilihina, through to Bill passage, Cape Marsh then set sail to Savo Island, and then finally to Tulagi. It was nearly dark when they approached the harbor, and Rore was surprised to see the very tall wireless masts, and wondered about their purpose.
The recruits were left to sleep on the boat that night. The following morning they were called, by Mr Knibb who introduced to them their Chinese cook who taught them how to set a table, wash clothes and care for the house. They were both quick and bright. It was not long before Knibb noticed Rore and saw his growing skill. The lad had other interest too. He asked a man from Shortland to teach him how to use a rifle. When he had learned, he asked Mr Knibb if he could be his gun boy. He had first to go to the Resident Commissioner, Mr Workman, to get a permit. Now Rore had a new place in the surveyor’s house.
At the end of two years, Rore and his cousin returned to their home at Dovele. They were surprised to find a big change. The previous year, a Seventh-day Adventist missionary, Pastor Tutty, had begun a work in the area. Many people were attending school and learning to read and write.
The challenge of this new skilled attracted young Rore, and he attended school with others. After three months, however, Mr Knibb sent for him with his cousin to Tulagi to look after his house, during his absence on leave in Australia. Rore asked if he could go with him but refused because of the cost. So Rore stayed at Tulagi for almost one year to watch over the house and property.
It was during this time, that he got a little book in English called “The Way of Life and the Way of Death”. The book quickened his interest in the teaching of the church. True it was hard for him to read, and because he needed help, it also stimulated his interest in education. Thus it was that when Mr Knibbs returned, Rore went to back home to Dovele and started school again, with the clear idea of learning more from the missionaries.
He progressed in his studies and in time he was appointed to be pastor-teacher in a village. The year was 1923. Some men were chosen to go to Choisuel, but Rore was sent to nearby Paraso ten miles from his village. Here he met the young lady who, on 29th of January 1924, became his wife. Donga was to be support him loyalty through all the years that followed.
In September of that year, Pastor Tutty was transferred to Bougainville, and Rore was called back to take charge at Dovele. After seven years he was moved again, this time to Ughele on Rendova. Rore and Donga were there for only one year. But because their eldest child died there, it always remained a special place for them. Terms of service followed, as pastor, on Ranoga and as assisitant director of the Gizo district. In 1937 Rore was ordained.
The years of preparation were over and the years of wider service and testing were ahead. First he was appointed to Guadalcanal. Rore had not been there long when war came. The white missionaries all left. He was given the responsibility to care of the whole SDA work on island. Though his people were not involved in the fighting, many of them were driven from their homes. All of them suffered in some way or other. Sasa Rore cared for them all. Including American soldiers whom he took services for them as well, and shared his faith with them.
After the war, the Mission structure began to change to meet the challenge of the future. The Coral Sea Union Mission and the Bismarck Solomon Union Mission was formed and there was need for experienced pastors at the headquarters in Lae, Papua New Guinea. Rore was the one chosen to go from the Solomons. But before going there, he had a visit to Australia where he witnessed to what he believed. He told of the work that the church was doing among his people. Another overseas trip came during his three years in Lae. He was chosen to go on a visit to the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand.
In 1952, he returned to the Solomons, and after a short time, he was appointed to be in charge of the work on Malaita. But ill-health was becoming a problem. Donga was often sick, and after only two years they returned to Dovele.
There was once more period of service away from home. In 1957, Rore was sent to Madang PNG, where for 7 years he worked in the town and the surrounding area. He was experienced and able, but he was getting older. He himself says they were years of hard work. So in 1964, the Church allowed him to retire, after 41 years of faithful and capable service.
Rore, the child saved from the fire, became a light to many people in our country and beyond; and the light has not gone out. His six children, four boys and two girls, have each in their own way, taken up the challenge of Christian witness, and are playing their part in church and community.
(Story told by Rev. George Carter in 1981, who spent seventeen years in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands as missionary teacher, translator, minister and Chairman of the Methodist District. He became the first Chairman of the first Methodist United District which led to the formation of the United Church in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands)
Compiled by Wilfred Tatagu Liligeto
Chea Village, Marovo Lagoon Solomon Islands