By KURONA BALA
DESPITE the selective numerous photographs and unbalanced historical writings of the London Missionary Society, the pioneers of the gospel to Papua were not in fact Europeans.
According to Rev Joseph King, the first LMS pioneers were Polynesians trained in Rarotonga (Cook Islands) and brought to Papua in the Loelia under the leadership of Rev AW Murray. Murray left this party of pioneers and returned to Cape York in Australia.
Murray convinced the headquarters of the LMS that this party of six South Seas pastors and their wives were well-trained and adapted to be pioneers in this new mission field. Furthermore Murray found reason to justify that the LMS Papuan mission would be well administered from the comfort, convenience and safety of Australia.
History now commends Murray for his leadership in establishing the LMS mission in Papua, but in truth leadership from Murray was lacking in the early years. In truth Murray’s visits to support the pioneers were few and far in between.
In truth the pioneers were left basically to fend for themselves with little provisions, no shelter, no medical support, no translator, and almost no means of communication or escape. As a result of this lack of support and leadership some of the pioneers lost their lives due to malaria and other tropical diseases.
The original party of six South Seas pioneers with their wives were landed at Redscar Bay, Manu Manu, Central province, in November of 1872. The names of these first courageous six South Seas pastors were Ruatoka, Rau, Adamu, Anderea, Eneri and Piri. These names are respectfully listed so that we do not forget the contributions of the early pioneers. God bless their souls. May they rest in eternal peace.
By 1873 the pioneers had succeeded in obtaining their first Christian convert; one Arua Daera of Pore Porena.
Arua Daera would later become their first deacon and with Daera’s help the pioneers were able to gain the trust and confidence of the early Motu people, first at Redscar, next at Hanuabada, and then later all along the Motuan Coast.
There is a memorial of Arua Daera in Port Moresby and it is well worth a visit.
The courageous and steadfast Rev William George Lawes of the LMS would not take up permanent residency until two years later, on Nov 23, 1874.
Lawes was delivered by Captain John Moresby to Fairfax Harbor in the Basilisk.
Only when Rev Lawes was properly accepted and established at Hanuabada did Rev Murray follow Lawes to Papua.
It is hoped that through publishing this article a mural of Arua Daera can be reproduced in a public place for us to remember him.
Perhaps a mural on the walls of the Hubert Murray Stadium might be a good place to start.
- KURONA BALA is a freelance writer.