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The Annual Report of the Melanesian Mission for 1921.

From Melanesian Mission: Report Issued by the English Committee 1921, pages 9-18.

No place: Melanesian Mission, 1921.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2009

[9] The Annual Reports of the Melanesian Mission for 1921

N.B.--The Balance Sheets will in future be Published by the New Zealand Board of Missions.


As one looks back over another year's life in Melanesia, the general impression is of progress in the past and promise for the future. Having in my earlier days in the Islands acquired the reputation of being somewhat of a pessimist, I am encouraged to believe that my bright hopes for the coming years are not due to that frame of mind that persists in ignoring the difficulties ahead, and I feel that the Church in Melanesia is really fulfilling the motto of "with God Onward" in a way that would convince the most pessimistic of missionaries, that he and his work is "with God" and therefore cannot fail to go "onward." With this general impression, we may take the districts one by one and record in brief their condition at the end of 1921.

Northern Melanesia.

BUGOTU.--Here Mr. and Mrs. Sprott have carried on a very valuable, but at times very difficult work, hampered to a considerable extent by ill health on the part of Mr. Sprott, and (probably) in consequence, overwork on the part of Mrs. Sprott. The people of Bugotu, generally speaking, are suffering from the effects of having been guided by too efficient missionaries, men who were capable of directing them in every line of life. As a result they have come, as a whole, to rely far too much upon the white man and far too little upon themselves. They suffer, too, from the extreme loyalty of their former missionaries. One had the impression that the people of Bugotu were a race apart, not only (as they certainly are) physically a most attractive race, but also morally far in advance of their neighbours. Consequently, when one discovers that they are after all "men of like passions with ourselves" the disappointment is unduly great. At times, the suspicion creeps over one that the people themselves arc not quite free from the same misconception as to their own moral characters, as their indignation and resentment when corrected is sometimes rather excessive. However, among them, Hugo Hebala, their own priest, stands out supreme; loyal and yet self-reliant, seemingly untirable, he well upholds in his person the "Bugotu tradition," and now that God has allowed us to supplement his work with two more Bugotu deacons, Benjamin Hageria and Ambrose Iputu, we may really hope that the Bugotu Church is entering once more upon the "Golden Age." I visited Bugotu in October and hoped to see a good deal of the work; but, unfortunately, after a rather long canoe journey, I broke down for a time, and was only able to take the Confirmations that were waiting for me, and those [9/10] all gathered together in two main centres. Mr. Sprott was also in a state of health that should have kept him in bed, so that when we returned to his headquarters Mrs. Sprott had two more or less invalids about the place. It must have been a great hindrance to her, but it was a great help to them to have her to take care of them.

LAUBE, Cape Marsh or Russell Islands, is a little outpost of Bugotu, mainly occupied by plantations; but there are a few natives still here, and during the year I was able to hold a Confirmation here. They are a rather isolated little group of people, but, all things considered, are "keeping their end up."

GUADALCANAR WEST (Maravovo District and Savo). Here we have no European priest in residence, but the splendid work done by Hugo Toke, in spite of frequent ill health, seems to progress without any "foreign" interference. I was able to visit his district this year, and was delighted to be back once more in my "ain land" and see how well things were going under Hugo's care. The fault of many of the native clergy is that they love to present large numbers for Confirmation, not always considering the "quality" when "quantity" is forthcoming. However, Hugo is free from this failing; he was most careful not to present any candidates of whose suitableness he was not sure, and it was with a feeling of great hopefulness and confidence that I was able to ordain James Togariade, a teacher of long and faithful service, to assist Hugo as deacon. When in due time James is raised to the priesthood, I foresee a great growth in Guadalcanar.

Two little incidents of my visit to my old district stay in my mind. We are sometimes told that the natives are ungrateful and grasping, but two of my old boys came as boat's crew and refused any payment, and one of them had sufficient care for me to buy and give me two loaves of bread for my journey. The other was a quarrel between the villagers of one of our school villages and a body of Roman Catholic visitors. I was lying in my teacher's house after service, not too well in body, when I heard sounds of an uproar. I came out and found them fallen to blows. Our people were as a whole peaceably inclined. The visitors were nearly all baptised and wore tokens of membership of their Church. I had only to appeal to these tokens and their baptism for them to desist and give up their share in the quarrel. There was only one recalcitrant, and as his blood had been shed (from his nose) he "saw red." The only thing that appealed to him was the fact that his blood had fallen on my shirt and thus (somehow or other) honour was satisfied. I mention these incidents because I think they show two things: (1) that love and gratitude and service to others are not utterly unknown among Melanesians; and (2) that their religion is not only skin deep, but that even in moments of extreme excitement it does appeal to them and influence their characters.

MARAVOVO, with its College, Hospital and plantation, was at one time one of the largest establishments in the Islands, but when the [10/11] Hospital had to be closed and the College was moved to Siota, it seemed as if its former glory had departed. But once more Maravovo promises to become a "household word" in the Mission.

Mr. and Mrs. Warren (the former recently ordained deacon), are in the old College buildings. Mr. Warren manages the plantation, and his wife is "the hospital." Shortly we hope that with a fully qualified assistant he will open an Industrial School there, and with Mr. Isom and a new helper, W. B. Seaton, the Melanesian Mission Press will surpass even its palmiest days at Norfolk Island.

The plantation at Maravovo is not yet "a paying proposition," but before long there is every reason to hope that, at any rate, it will not be a further cause of expenditure. Industrial work has long been one of my dreams, and with a keen belief in Mr. Warren and the ready support of all the District Missionaries, I see every probability of "dreaming true" in this case at any rate, and some day the columns headed in our ledger "Maravovo Industrial School" should provide very pleasant reading.

SAVO, an outlying island, fifteen miles from Maravovo, still continues much as ever. About three keen people and the rest absolutely lethargic, especially as far as church building is concerned. The people of Savo are a very mixed race, and lack all "pride of race," and so are very hard to rouse to any pitch of enthusiasm. However, the Church here has, at any rate, not gone back, and that is some cause for congratulation.

GUADALCANAR EAST (Tasimboko District).--This district, the "industrial quarter" of the Solomons, has suffered a heavy loss by the death of "everybody's friend," Norman Dixon. It is a peculiar district, having a large area under cultivation and native villages dotted along the coast in between plantations. Dixon seemed the very man for the work, and though God has called him to his well-earned rest, no small fruits of his work remain as his memorial. I held a Confirmation there this year just before his death, and returned to him a young teacher of great promise who had spent a term at the Training College, Siota. In a few years' time he should be ready for Ordination and carry on the work Dixon had helped forward so well. WE VERY BADLY WANT A SUCCESSOR TO DIXON HERE. A priest with experience as a Military Chaplain should be the type of volunteer to offer. There is a very considerable scattered European population and great prospects of advance among the natives, but unless they have a trusty head they will not do much "on their own" just at present. This is undoubtedly a district of great promise, but it needs a WORKER to fulfil that promise. Now, who will come? "Your KING wants you."

GELA (or Florida).--The people of Gela have always had violent detractors and, from time to time, warm advocates. I suppose the fact of the matter is that they are a race with a very strong personality. [11/12] They are quick to copy the less attractive features of civilisation, they are keen business men, they are quick to sum up a man's character, and have been known to trade upon his weaknesses. In Mr. Graves they have a priest who knows them and whom they know, and that is a very important thing indeed. With Johnson Tome and Benjamin Tumu (priests), and John Pengone and Peter Sukoko (deacons) to help him, Graves has made great progress, and in Gela we have the only Island of any size in the Mission where every adult is baptised. The numbers Confirmed show that the Baptised are not content to rest at the first step, and the churches, built and building, show that the Gela Church is alive. The second and third generations of Christians are always the "problem" for Missions. In Gela there are, no doubt, a considerable number no better Christians than millions in more favoured countries, but Christianity has a real hold of the place and is not a dead tree, but a living and, as its missionary record shows, very fruitful one. One is naturally disposed to prefer the past under one's own aegis, to the present under the rule of "one who knew not Joseph," so when I record my delight at the vast strides the Church in Gela has made since the time when I was the priest-in-charge there, I do not fear the accusation of prejudice. Gela was always difficult, is still difficult, and probably will long continue so; but as to the progress of the Church there, there is no doubt a great cause for gratefulness to Him to Whom it is due. May we all, in Gela, "show forth our praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives."

BUNANA.--The Girls' School here, in spite of continual changes in the staff owing to ill health, has flourished and is still flourishing. The girls seem all healthy and happy, and the services here are a lesson in hearty singing and a general air of reverence combined with enjoyment of the sense of being in their Father's house.

SIOTA has been the scene of great activity during the past year. Buildings going up, or coming down, the Mission launch coming and going, and the every-day activities of Boys' School and Training College, culminating in the arrival of the Southern Cross with a cinematographer, the Mission Staff and our Secretary from Auckland for the Conference and opening of Synod.

The Boys' School is still in temporary quarters at Siota, though soon after this is in print it should have been planted at Ugi under Mr. Hodgson, who has carefully and thoroughly nursed it through its various moves, to Maravovo and then to Siota, and hopes to set it firmly in Ugi with the help of Mr. Lea, a newcomer to the Mission, but not a stranger to him, for they were together for a time at Burgh College. The fact that a new school is badly needed and is to be established at Pawa on Ugi, speaks for itself in testimony of the growth of the Mission, and it should be mentioned in this connection that the boys for at least one other school are only waiting for the time when we can establish and staff a home for them. The natives, growing [12/13] more into the knowledge of the outside world, are one and all desirous of "change." This has created a great stimulus among the younger boys in favour of "going away to school." This is, of course, all for the good, as long as we can accommodate them--but if we cannot, then they will go elsewhere, probably to plantations, and may be lost altogether, and certainly will be out of our hands at the most impressionable time of their lives.

The Training College has added yet another to the long list of successful undertakings associated with the name of Mr. Hopkins. The presentation of a priest and five deacons to the Bishop for the laying-on of hands is no small achievement when one considers the unsettling effect of the move and settling down into new quarters. His task was rendered easier by the fact that we had a splendid set of students, promising great things for the future of Melanesia, but none the less it was a great achievement, and we send after him on his well-earned holiday our warmest thanks and congratulations and sincerest wishes for health and happiness.

The greatest happiness is felt in the anticipated return of Rev. R. P. Wilson and his sister; it will be a great joy to have them with us once more. Mr. Wilson's official position will be Chaplain to the Training College, and Miss Wilson will give us the benefit of her experience as unofficial adviser, and generally, we hope, "the power behind the throne." I cannot say, personally, how glad I shall be to have them with us again. May they have many years of quiet happiness once more among their beloved Melanesians.

Mr. G. West needs no eulogy. His work as Mission Carpenter is his monument, not only in Siota, but throughout the Islands, and now that he has heard the Call to the Ministry, our prayers and good wishes follow him to S. John's College, Auckland, where he hopes to spend the next two years in training for Holy Orders.

I must personally say a word of thanks to my Secretary, A. G. Kayll, who has done all my work and a great deal of other people's, too!

The Conference and Synod form the subject of a separate report.

NORTH MALA.--Mr. and Mrs. Mason have been away for a much-needed holiday. During their absence the work seems to have gone on quietly under Jack Talofuila and Charlie Turu, the two Mala priests. The death of Charlie Turn will be felt as a great loss. A humble, holy man, he will be now at last at rest with his Master.

SOUTH MALA,--The Rev. A. A. Thomson has settled down here and is doing well. He reports good progress with the languages, though he finds the effects of the long absence of a white priest add not a little to his difficulties. The ordination of Joseph Leo and James Uqe to the diaconate should relieve him of some considerable portion of his burden. It is a very interesting district, and Mr, Thomson seems very happy, and should be very successful, I think.

[14] SAN CRISTOVAL.--Mr. Fox still carries on his wonderful work here with Joseph Gilvelte to help him. Mr. Fox's unique knowledge of the language and customs of his people makes him an invaluable asset to this district. The ordination of Paul Marita to the office of a deacon, should be a great help to Fox, who needs all the assistance he can get; while Samuel Gede, who has had his long term of service crowned with the diaconate, will prove, I trust, a staff for Fox in his own near neighbourhood. Still, I feel, and would say here, that New Zealand should provide now a successor to her own priest, one who may be trained under this priest and succeed him at the time, long hence, we hope, when Fox has to lay down his office of priest-in-charge of San Cristoval.

Few men have made a deeper mark in their districts than has Fox. Wilson and Drew before him laid strong foundations; on them he has built a fine edifice. It must not crumble away for lack of someone capable of carrying on the work when his time of service ends.

PAMUA.--The Central School here is thriving under Mr. Nind. The numbers are keeping up well and the general health of the school has been excellent. The main difficulty has been the provision of suitable native assistants. This is likely for the present always to be a rather difficult matter, as the "recruiting ground" for these assistants is the District Teachers' Staff of the various islands. As we have not any too many really efficient district teachers, it is sometimes hard to get a District Missionary to view with equanimity the borrowing of one of his best young teachers for a school. Still, every District Missionary so far has been most unselfish in doing his best to help in the matter, and as our district teachers improve in quality as well as quantity, we may reasonably hope that a due supply of native assistant teachers for our Central Schools will be forthcoming. For part of the past year Clement Marau has been helping Nind. This has proved a very successful experiment, and I very much hope that it may be a permanent arrangement in the not very distant future. Unfortunately for Pamua, at present Clement has a great reputation as an architect, and he has been "booked" by some of the villagers of Ulawa to supervise the erection of a stone church in their village.

ULAWA, with Martin Marau as its parish priest, should have a great future before it. The Christian villages are doing well, and some of the heathen are ready to receive and welcome teachers.

UGI.--Here are some three or four villages scattered over a small island. At present not much progress can be reported. The Ugi people have a reputation for idleness and slackness beyond the average; but the establishment of our school at Pawa, with a European priest always in residence, will, I much hope, prove a nucleus of a fresh start, and zeal and energy will be recreated and Ugi should do well in future. Incidentally, I may here disabuse the minds of certain not too well-informed friends of the Mission with regard to the land at Pawa.

[15] This land has not been purchased as a plantation, with a view to "industrial labour," nor, as a profitable investment of Mission funds, but as the site of a school to which the elder boys from Pamua will go for further training. The fact that part of the land has been planted with cocoanuts should, in the future, help to lessen the expenses of the upkeep of the school here.            ,
Pending the arrival of Mr. Hodgson and his boys, Paul Marita, from San Cristoval, should help the people of Ugi as far as is possible for one in deacon's orders.

SANTA CRUZ AND THE REEF AND DUFF ISLANDS.--These Islands form one of the most difficult problems of the Mission. The wide area over which these islands are scattered seems to call for the supervision of a European priest; but, on the other hand, the terrible loneliness of such a life and the very small and shifting population of these groups are strong arguments against the appointment of a European priest for the district. Such a priest must be a man of experience, fully able to live alone among Melanesians; but, on the other hand, he must be physically a really strong man, able to sustain real hardships and possible privations. Alas, these qualifications are very rarely, if ever, found combined in one man. The obvious remedy is to staff these groups with native clergy, but this can only he done when the supply of native clergy will permit of it. A matter of some very considerable time as yet. Could I get two young men volunteering for this work together, both in priest's orders, this would probably be the best way to meet the difficulty for the present.

Southern Melanesia.

First and foremost, the considered opinion of all the Missionaries in active service is that these Islands need a resident assistant Bishop. It is not that the actual physical work of visiting the whole of the present Diocese is beyond the powers of one man, but that one Bishop cannot, owing to geographical conditions, possibly give adequate pastoral care to the people, European and native, of the New Hebrides Condominium and the Solomon Islands Protectorate alike. We none of us desire the Bishop to be merely a Confirming, Dedicating and Ordaining machine. We want a real Father in God, who will be "get-at-able" when he is needed. And for this it is absolutely necessary that each half of the Diocese should have a resident Bishop. The special difficulties which are inevitable owing to the complications of the "Condominium" form of Government, form another reason why the presence of a Resident Bishop is desired in the Banks and New Hebrides. Speaking generally, the condition of the Mission in this part may be summed up in the words "holding on." If there be very little striking progress to report, at any rate there is no marked degree bf retrogression to deplore. But we are not, and will not be, contented with merely "holding on." We must go ahead. Even after all these years there are still a considerable number of heathen places, and a [15/16] sadly insecure Christian Community in many more. Here, above all, we need a good Native Ministry, and to meet this need we propose to establish at Vureas a Southern Training College under Mr. Hart. Although the actual area of land that would fall under the care of an assistant Bishop in the South may not be very extensive, I am quite sure, from my own experience, that if he will work this area thoroughly, such a Bishop will very soon realise the fact that he has enough, and more than enough, to do.

New Hebrides.

RAGA AND S. MAEWO.--R. Godfrey, Matthias Tarileo, Miss Hardacre and Miss Mason form a strong little band of workers here. Godfrey, with the aid of his little launch, locally and disrespectfully known as "Puffing Billy," manages to encompass a very regular and effective visitation of Raga generally. His main sphere of work is in South Raga, where the Mission has not a very strong position. Matthias and the two ladies, keep the more Christian North going and growing. Maewo forms the main difficulty here. The inhabitants are few and hard to reach. Most of the villages, so called, are absurdly small and far apart in almost inaccessible spots inland. The natural remedy is to collect the scattered units into one accessible whole; but experience in Melanesia soon teaches one that "natural remedies" won't work there for many and diverse reasons. In the present case, for thee simple reason that the "scattered units" refuse to be "collected!" My usual remedy of a "Native Ministry" has special difficulties here, but I hope that by the time a native priest is forthcoming, these difficulties may prove not to be unsurpassable.

OPA AND N. MAEWO.--Here Mr. Webb has had a very difficult task. The actual travelling is difficult and exhausting, and the work of inducing nominal Christians to observe the elements of their religion even more so. However, even here we have a note of gladness to sound. There is a considerable improvement most clearly noticeable. Candidates for Confirmation and a formal and definite abandonment of heathen customs, mark a real advance. Unfortunately Mr. Webb's health has not proved fully equal to the strain put upon it, and he will have to go to the equally important, but physically easier work of helping Hart at Vureas. But I am happy to say that this does not mean, as so often the departure of a missionary does mean, leaving the district alone. Before Webb goes he will have the cheering task of introducing his people and their new priest to one another. Mr. Teall, who succeeds him here, is a man of great promise, and I am sure that Webb shares my confidence that under his successor the work he has so long struggled manfully to keep up will not go back, and, too, I know he shares my prayers that it may prosper and grow and flourish.

N. MAEWO forms part of the Opa district at present, and my remarks on S. Maewo apply just as truly to the Northern part.

[17] Banks Islands.

VUREAS.--Mr. and Mrs. O'Ferrall have fully justified their wonderful venture of Faith. S. Patrick's School, under their care, has retained all its former charm and success. And though we deeply regret the fact that ill-health sends them once more home, we thank them with all our hearts (this does not mean "we" editorially, but "we," all the Missionaries of the South, and the Bishop) for their response to our cry "come over and help us." Their action has been an inspiration to us all, and God grant that it may prove an inspiration to many a hesitating recruit for the Missionary World. This, I am sure, will be all the reward that either Mr. or Mrs. O'Ferrall care for, though it must not be all the reward the Church at home can give them. Their place at Vureas will be temporarily filled by one with another familiar Melanesian name, Frank Browning, who is following his father's footsteps in the Islands. Under the general oversight of Mr. Hart, we do not think the loss of our two "Founders" will be felt, except in the hearts of those who knew and loved them at S. Patrick's.

TORGIL.--This, which naturally falls under the heading "Vureas," for it is only about three-quarters of a mile distant from S. Patrick's, is the site of the Girls' School for the South. At present the school is but little advanced beyond the experimental stage, but it has already made a start, and as soon as it becomes more widely known and appreciated in the neighbouring islands, it should be a most valuable asset to the southern half of Melanesia. One of the greatest difficulties in our work is the effective teaching of the women. A most interesting statement of the considered opinions of the women Missionaries appears in the Report of' the Fourth Conference, but the formation of District Girls' Schools appears to be one of the most promising methods of reaching the younger women and girls. Miss Hurse is giving us the benefit of her long experience at Norfolk Island, and with the help of Miss Williams, I have little fear for the future of Torgil.

BANKS ISLANDS.--Formerly these islands were divided into two groups for purposes of administration, but our shortage of priests has compelled us for some time past to group them together under Mr. Tempest. The group comprises the islands of Mota, Motalava, Vanualava, Merelava, Merig, Rewa, Gaua and Lakona, and Ureparapara. The mere list of names will suggest at once that this is too much for one man to cope with properly, and when I add that this district is about the most undesirable for boating, and that practically all the travelling is done by boat, one can picture to some degree the task which Tempest has been asked to undertake. So bad is the boating that the mere expense in boats is an item in the Mission expenditure. "Dear Captain, I have broken my boat again, at such-and-such a place; you will find a mast and four quite good oars, which are worth collecting," might form a "model" for correspondence between the captain of the [17/18] Southern Cross and the Missionary in charge of the Banks. Mr. Tempest has many more difficulties to face--slackness of the nominal Christians, unscrupulous half-caste recruiters, and many, many more, but in spite of all he has put up a fine fight and made his mark in the district, and now I am glad to be able to report that the group will be divided once more, and the Northern Banks, the easier portion to work, will be given to Mr. Browning, while Tempest will retain the Southern part. May every success rest on their labours, and may the result be that the Banks will return to the position they held in the early days of the Mission.

TORRES ISLANDS.--Almost depopulated by labour vessels; neglected, perforce, by the Church, contaminated by "imported customs," ministered to by incompetent teachers, separated by sixty miles of sea from any priest, Native or European; are there any results visible of the work of Robin, Durrad and others? And amazing as it is, the answer to the question is "YES." A struggling little church still holds on, still presents candidates for Baptism and Confirmation when the Southern Cross calls, still wrestles against the white, and to preserve the beautiful fittings which Mr. Robin left in all his churches.

The Torres group is one of the most saddening of all the places where the Southern Cross calls. One goes ashore, does what one can and sails away, sick at heart with the feeling, "What good have I done?" How can we help these people? A single European priest put down here would eat his heart away with melancholia. There is so little to do, so few to minister to, the future looks so black. It is, I fear here, really "ministering to a dying race." But the TRUE Christian never says "Is it worth while?" He knows that one of the priestly duties is to minister to the sick and dying, and therefore I claim that the Torres Islanders, even though they are a dying race, MUST be ministered to. I dare not ask one man to live alone here. I would not face it myself, except in the spirit in which a man might face his death warrant, and worse. So I am going to ask for two priests to definitely volunteer together for this work. They should be firm friends, full of fun and humour, able to occupy hours and hours of spare time profitably, and absolutely incurable optimists. I can promise them a hideously difficult task, a truly Christ-like work, no honour and glory, very little expressed thanks, just enough to live on, ill-health and weariness--here, and hereafter--"Enter thou into the joy of the Lord."

Brethren, pray for us.
Your Servant and Friend in Christ Jesus,
Bishop of Melanesia.

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