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Church talk: Is there more to the 200 year story?

Friday 28 July 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Church Talk, Features

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Church talk: Is there more to the 200  year story?
Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health Secretary Bob Williams, Mama Rima Bob, Mama Josephine Lockington, Minister Rose Vainetutai Toki-Brown, Helen Williams and MP Toa Isamaela celebrate the 200-year commemoration of the Arrival of the Gospel on Atiu. SUPPLIED/ 23071915

This week has been a beautiful crescendo of many months of planning, fundraising, organising and no doubt, pressure to navigate the many ceremonies in commemorating the preaching of Christ through the arrival of the gospel 200 years ago throughout the Ngaputoru and finishing with Rarotonga, writes Paul Kauri, lead pastor at The Arepua Gateway Assembly of God Church.

Commendations to all the organisers, for your tremendous effort through what I’m sure was some stressful moments.

I also want to congratulate our Cook Island Christian Churches for taking a leading role in these celebrations even in the midst of your annual general meeting along with the amazing upgrades in your churches, which became an added feature in themselves to our 200-year celebrations, well done to all throughout Rarotonga, Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro.

Mangaia, we await your celebrations next year … Tangi Ke!

A lot of the commentary I’ve heard leading up to this week’s celebrations I have summed up in three statements, you may have heard others, but these are the three I often hear.

  1. “The 200 Years” and
  2. “The Arrival of the gospel” or
  3. “The Arrival of the Missionaries”

(of course, Papehia and John Williams’ names are never too far from these statements, when mention of missionaries is spoken)

However, if these celebrations have us constantly looking into our past (which is not an entirely bad practice) then would you follow me, as we pay further attention to our past and look at something much more significant and supernatural than the arrival of the Gospel of Christ 200 years ago, from my view.

The arrival of the gospel to Rarotonga was in 1823, that’s obvious. However, according to an article written in October 2022 under the authority of the SOAS University in England, Takamoa Theological Seminary (TTS) was established in 1839, our local information agrees with this.

That is sixteen years after the arrival of the First Missionaries to Rarotonga! That is incredible, when you consider the work needed to get to this point;

  1. The arrival of the good news of Christ to,
  2. Cook Islanders responding to Christ then,
  3. The establishment of Takamoa and the translation of the New Testament in Maori around 1839, then the complete Bible translated in Cook Island Maori by 1851.

We must also appreciate that there were no planes, phones, or computers during that time. Travel by boat was the modern technology and communicating by hand written letters on pieces of paper, was the “Twitter” of the time. (There is a whole generation that cannot wrap their heads around this concept of communication!)

So within 16 years of the Gospel being preached on our shores, Takamoa was established along with the New Testament in our mother tongue both achieved with the technology of its time. The set up of an equipping facility for men and women in The Lords Work (TTS) along with training in His Word were both significant and strategic for what God did in our people and what He was about to do through our people.

Here's where it becomes amazing.

According to this same article from SOAS University, Cook Islanders were considered ‘the Missionary Pioneers into the Pacific region’. In other material I had read years ago a comment was made that left me in awe at the time, and now in the light of the time frames mentioned, I am humbled and challenged, by their example.

During the mid-1800s (approximately 1842) to mid-1900s, the Cook Islands sent out more missionaries per head of capita than any other nation in the world! We were sending out more missionaries into the world, than any other nation during that time period! Wow, just wow!

What God did through our people, in this small nation, to advance His kingdom, by sending out young men and women, (some with young families) who had both the Call of God and the fire of Holy Ghost within them, trained to correctly divide the Word of God, and to preach the message of His Kingdom both in Word and Deed is incredible!

Within three decades of first hearing the gospel, to establishing a training theological seminary, to sending out more missionaries than any other country in the world at the time, that is supernatural!

Many people living within the Cook Islands today may not know, that the names of those who were sent from the Cook Islands during that time, have their names etched on the plaques in front of Takamoa Theological Seminary, and next to many of these names we see the word, “Martyred”.  It is this memory of their zeal and sacrifice that adds to the sacredness of this site.

But they lived as witnesses (the Greek word is martus) of Christ, and they loved Him so much, they willingly laid down their lives and went, and their sacrifice did not miss heavens eye, for it was recorded within the pages of God’s Word as Revelation 6:9 – 11 reads, “When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters – their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred – had joined them.”

These ones only followed in the steps of their Master and Maker who laid down His life, in total obedience to God the Father. I am humbled and challenged by their testimony.

As we have celebrated the Bi-centennial arrival of the gospel, I wonder how we will live in the years to follow, in taking this gospel of Christ to the nations?

I wonder if a new generation will embrace the Call of God with Holy Ghost Fire in their Spirit and the Word of God in their heart and mind, to continue the race where our forefathers left?

I wonder what messages the spiritual fathers of our nation need to preach today to see greater zeal and greater passion for the generations that follow, to serve our Lord no matter the cost?

I wonder for our nation and its future and the generations to come, but I am confident in this. Jesus is the reason for all the celebrations we’ve had this week, and therefore we must, as our forefathers of faith did, keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of faith, if we are to echo the words of Paul,

“I have fought the good fight and I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord will award me on that day.”