Lest we forget our first missionaries

Weekender
HISTORY

By KURONA BALA
THIS is a sequel to my previous contribution which introduced the pioneers of the gospel to Port Moresby, and Arua Daera a local convert and deacon of the London Missionary Society (LMS).
Daera was the first native Christian convert and lay pastor in Papua. This article will attempt to introduce further the other pioneers to Port Moresby.
As previously discussed, according to Rev Joseph King, the first LMS ministers were Polynesians trained in Rarotonga and brought to Papua in the Loelia under the leadership of Rev Archibald Wright Murray. Murray left this party of pioneers and returned to Cape York in Australia.
The original party of six South Seas pioneers with their wives landed at Redscar Bay, Manu Manu, Central in November 1872. The names of these courageous six South Seas pastors were Ruatoka, Rau, Adamu, Anderea, Eneri and Piri.

Plagued by disease
Fever and tropical diseases decimated this initial party and the survivors were collected the next year and brought to Australia. There they stayed for three months for medical treatment. They were later brought back to Papua in the same year.
Amongst the returning survivors were Ruatoka and his wife Tungane, as well as Piri and his wife Maki. It is not clear to this author if Ruatoka and Piri were the only survivors of the initial six. When they returned, Piri stayed on at Manu Manu and became pastor to Boera Village.
The remainder of the group decided that they would look for a more suitable site to settle, one which had more access to water and not close to the mosquito-infested mangroves.
When the group sailed into Fairfax Harbour they were welcomed by the villagers from Pore Porena and Elevala who regularly traded with Manu Manu. These villagers recognised Ruatoka whom they had befriended earlier. They were also greatly assisted in their settlement by Arua Daera who himself was from Pore Porena. Daera had become a Christian convert in 1873 before the survivors had left for medical treatment in Australia.
Ruatoka, although not the elected leader, assumed responsibility and took charge of the LMS mission in Port Moresby.
The courageous and steadfast Rev William George Lawes of the LMS would not take up permanent residency until some months later, on Nov 23, 1874. Lawes was delivered by Captain John Moresby to Fairfax Harbour in the Basilisk.

Hanuabada coined by Lawes
Only when Rev Lawes was properly accepted and established at Hanuabada did Rev Murray follow Lawes to Papua. It was Rev Lawes that coined the nick name Hanua Bada (Big Village) for Pore Porena village. Every European after him continued with this name, hence its use still today.
When he arrived Rev Lawes became the head of the Papuan Mission of the LMS, and brought European leadership to Papua. Rev Lawes’ previous experiences in Niue (at the time aka Savage Island) no doubt prepared him well for his new role in Papua. Rev Lawes also founded Vatorata Pastoral College near Gaba Gaba. This college was transferred to Fife Bay and then later again to Kwikila where it is now known as the David Kini Bible College.
Lawes Road in Port Moresby is named after Rev Lawes and it was Lawes that commenced the translation of the Motu Bible. Rev Percy Chatterton is the one who would have helped complete it.
Rev Lawes now has a beautiful portrait rightfully placed at the bottom of Lawes Road, however Arua Daerea has no such portrait for us to remember him.
It is hoped that through publishing this article murals of Arua Daera and perhaps even Ruatoka can be reproduced in public places for us to remember them. Perhaps separate murals on the walls of the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium might be good places to start.
Regretfully, this story does not have much detail of the early pioneers. This writer is from Rigo Inland and not qualified to publish a detailed history about these great men and women of God. The more qualified are the descendents of Arua Daera themselves, and the people of Boera, Elevala and Pore Porena where the pioneers served much of their early ministry.
Some might ask why publish anyway when there is not much of a story to tell? But that’s precisely the point! If we do not publish or digitise the little that we do have, then we risk losing even that little fragment.

Piecing the story together
Even a house is started from the first brick, even though it takes more than that first one brick to complete it. In the same way it takes one author to plant an idea, and several other authors and researchers to compile a more complete story.
The motive of this author is to inspire and stir up the memories of the descendants of Arua Daera as well as the descendents of the South Seas pioneers so that collectively we can record the history of the early pioneers and their wives.
The pioneers, Rev William George Lawes, Rev Archibald Wright Murray, Arua Daera, Ruatoka and his wife Tungane, Rau, Adamu, Anderea, Eneri, Piri and his wife Maki, all great men and their wives deserve a more fitting mention and memory.
There are physical LMS archives in London and this author has a passport and is willing and available to travel there to piece the story together. There are bits and pieces of history available on the internet.
This article although regretfully lacking, provides leads, suggestions and clues so that other authors can chase these leads, research and record a more complete history.
The LMS churches later became Papua Ekalesia in 1962, which was at that time the biggest single church in Papua New Guinea. In 1968 Papua Ekalesia became the United Church of the South Pacific which included also the Solomon Islands at that time.
The United Church of PNG and the Solomon Islands are now two autonomous churches, agreeing to separate at the United Church 1996 Synod.
The United Church of PNG is now 51 years old if you take 1968 as its birth year. However to do proper justice to history, the United Church would serve its members by researching and tracing its initial origin back to November 1872, when the gospel first arrived on our shores.
The two Bible verses that have inspired this author to contribute this piece are:
Psalms 102:18 – Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord; and
Hebrews 13:7 – Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.
The Lord through the Bible remembers his servants Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samson, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and others. In the same way, we also should remember the pioneers of the gospel to Papua New Guinea.
Not at all to glorify them, but to remember them for their compassion, courage and contributions.
It is my greatest hope that other writers will follow up this piece with a more detailed history of the early pioneers of the Gospel to Papua New Guinea.
To God be the glory great things he has done!

  • Kurona Bala is a freelance writer.

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