Cook Islanders celebrating Gospel Day commemorating the arrival of Christianity to Cook Islands’ shores on October 26, 1821. 20102619
The epic journey of seeking and saving those who are lost took 36 years, to cover the whole of the Cook Islands not without challenges from the natives, writes Rev. Vakaroto Ngaro of Ekalesia Avarua.
Papeiha preached to the people of Rarotonga
his first recorded message almost 200 years ago or two years after the arrival
on the island of Aitutaki in 1821: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to
save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) Based upon his own exposition of the
text, this gospel message had transformed lives out of heathenism, cannibalism,
tribal wars and disputes to reflect upon the light of Christianity being
introduced to our shores.
We’ve come a long way as missionaries laboured
on to shape our small nation to become a more civilised and safer haven for our
very own people. Most of the Southern Group are now on the merge of celebrating
their own bicentennial. The influence of the London Missionary Society
channelled the likes of Buzacott, Pittman, the Gills, Harris Bond James and
many others paved the way for us. Aaron Buzacott was based mainly in Avarua and
also founded Takamoa Theological College as it still stands today, while
Pittman was stationed in Ngatangiia, the Gills in Arorangi and Mangaia as well
as Harris Bond James who was stationed on Aitutaki.
Not forgetting John Williams and the Tahitian
Missionaries who played a major part in bringing our very own people from their
heathen hideouts to accept for the first time the gospel message. With the
simple gospel message in the blood and toils of our people, they ventured
beyond their own shores to extend the same message mostly to the unknown
throughout the Pacific. It is only unfortunate that many of them never returned
home to share their stories, but praise be to the Sovereign God, because those
stories were shared among the very people they evangelised. This also reminds
me of the words of Prophet Isaiah and Paul: “How beautiful are the feet of them
that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans
10:15, Isaiah 52:7)
Beginning with his statement in verse 13 of
Romans 19, that all who call on the name of Jesus will be saved, Paul has been
asking a series of leading questions. How will anyone call on Jesus, express
saving faith in Him, unless they first believe in Him? And how will they
believe in Him if they never hear about Him? And how will they hear about Him
if nobody preaches the gospel to them? Then he continues with the next logical
question: How will anyone preach the gospel of Jesus unless they are sent by
someone to do so? Paul’s question shows that sending was the first step before
preaching. In the case of our own ancestors who had shared their testimonies,
their lives and stories, we became who we are today.
Thus, from 1821 to 1857, this epic journey of
seeking and saving those who are lost took 36 years, to cover the whole of the
Cook Islands not without challenges from the natives. Each islands gospel
history reflects upon the labours and sacrifices of our “ui tupuna” who had
laid for us and very strong foundation.
This year we will be celebrating 200 years of
the arrival of Christianity to the Cook Islands which also coincides with the
CICC General Assembly on Aitutaki on October 26. While preparations are in
progress, the people of the Cook Islands are looking forward to this great
event, inclusive of the challenges of Covid-19. This will also be a
re-modelling of our own history for the next 200 years. In the next two years
of so, all the other islands of the Southern Group will be sharing in their own
celebrations to commemorate this historical event. In this modern day and age,
the seeking and saving had not ceased.
For the Lord had been gracious enough, who
through the power of the gospel message, we are able to behold the reality of
the said message. Despite all tensions, we have all been blessed.