Celebrating 200 years of Christianity

Friday 19 February 2021 | Written by Emmanuel Samoglou | Published in Church Talk, Features

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Celebrating 200 years of Christianity
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.