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New Book Shines Light on the life of Cook Islander Missionary in Papua New Guinea

Monday 31 July 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Education, Features, National, Weekend


New Book Shines Light on the life of Cook Islander Missionary in Papua New Guinea
Lady Tuaine Marsters, granddaughter of Cook Islands missionary to Papua New Guinea Tumupu Kea, and New Zealand authors Mary and Kevin Salisbury. MELINA ETCHES/23073015

A new book was presented to the Cook Islands National Library, shining light on the life of Orometua (pastor) Tumupu Kea, who lived in Papua New Guinea over a century ago, spreading the message of the Gospel.

The book titled “Tumupu Kea, Tere Orometua mei Atiu ki Papua: Celebrating 200 years of the Gospel in Nga Pu Toru” tells the story of Cook Islands orometua Kea, who was a missionary in Papua New Guinea in the early 1900s.

Tumupu Kea was born in 1890 on Atiu, the third of five brothers who were the sons of the paramount chief Rongomatane Kea Ariki and his wife Teiva-Nui.

He was the last Cook Islander of the pioneering period to PNG, and one of only two orometua from Atiu to go there.

The book was published on July 18, Rarotonga, and launched on the following day on Atiu during the island’s Bicentennial “Arrival of Christianity” celebrations.

It was presented by the writers, Kevin and Mary Salisbury of Aotearoa New Zealand, to Lady Tuaine Tumupu Wichman Marsters.

Lady Marsters, a descendant (granddaughter) of Kea, spoke at the book presentation last week. She talked about the importance of preserving her grandfather’s legacy.

“I’m just so proud, this book was my highlight of the Bicentennial celebrations on Atiu,” Lady Marsters said.

“My grandfather Tumupu Kea was a great man of great faith and courage. He left his home and his family to travel to a distant land and share the message of Christianity.

“His story is a reminder of the sacrifices our ancestors have made to spread the message of the Gospel.”

In the book, the preface is a rendition by Lady Marsters.

Tumupu Kea and his wife Te Vaine Moeroa ki Piura were sent to Takamoa Theological College on Rarotonga for London Missionary Society training (1911-1917).

On November 8, 1917, they left for Papua New Guinea and it took them four months to reach Port Moresby, the country’s capital.

They served in the Gulf of Papua New Guinea for more than eight years, from 1918 until 1926, firstly at Orokolo in the village of Arahaua, then at the mission station at Urika.

During his many years of missionary work, they had five children – Teiva, Ana, Te Tere o Tumupu Orometua ki Papua (Lady Marsters father), Teau Matangaro and Misepa.

Returning home to the Cook Islands, they were later appointed to the church at Oneroa, Mangaia where another daughter “Muri Aroa” was born.

While Reverend Kea and his family were on a voyage, he fell ill. They were taken ashore on Aitutaki where the village of Tautu embraced them. Sadly, he passed away on May 5, 1929 and was buried in the churchyard of the Tautu CICC church.

“Tumupu Kea, Tere Orometua mei Atiu ki Papua: Celebrating 200 years of the Gospel in Nga Pu Toru” draws on written work by Rev Kea, historical documents and personal accounts from Lady Marsters to paint a picture of his sacrifice, life and work.

Two children’s books by the Salisburys are also available – Rau Taria of Aitutaki, Tere ‘Orometua ki Papua (1872-77), and Tumupu Kea of Atiu, Tere ‘Orometua ki Papua (1918-26).