For one of the Board Members of the Vanuatu Cultural Centers, Chief Joseph Tinapua, a recent visit to the Solomon Islands as part of the Vanuatu delegation to the Melanesian Arts Festival, was more than a festival of cultures, because it led to a historical trace of a Ni-Vanuatu Missionary to the Solomon Islands, after 140 years.
“After we arrived in Honiara, the Vanuatu delegation received an invitation from the Anglican Province of Melanesia, for one or two of our officials and performers to attend a very important historical event that would take place in Ulawa island, in Makira Province of the Solomon Islands. But I realized that none of other Vanuatu delegation members was prepared to go to this important event, so I accepted to go and represent the people of Meralava, the Government the Anglican Church and the people of Vanuatu,” says Chief Tinapua.
He says the visit to the Ulawa island in Makira Province to attend the event was more than he had expected because later it would reveal traces of the first Missionary that took the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to the people of Ulawa, who never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ before. The twist of events in the history of the life of a New Hebridean, who laid down his life for the light of Christ to reach the people of Ulawa and remove the darkness, was more than today’s modern time missionary adventures. It was a matter of life and death.
“It’s simply amazing. When we arrived at Ulawa, and when this magnificent 140 years anniversary celebrations of the late Clement Marau, who was the first Missionary to Ulauwa, began, the who episode began to unfold before my eyes and I could not hold back, even tears to shed about this great missionary Anglican Priest from Meralava, in the Banks Group and from here in my very country Vanuatu. It almost seemed unreal, but there you, it was real, it did happen and most importantly the Solomon Islands honored a Ni-Vanuatu Missionary from Meralava, who 140 years ago, was taken on a ship to the Solomon Islands to break the darkness and preach the first Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ulawa. This is also the home of many Solomon Island prominent figures including the current Arch-Bishop the Anglican Province of Melanesia, the Right Reverend George Takeli,” Chief Tinapua, relates.
Chief Tinapua was honoured to give a speech on behalf of the government and the people of Meralava and as well as standing in for the Anglican Diocese of Vanuatu.
“There’s not enough word to express this moment in the history of the life of one of my own country man, who 140 years ago, was taken from Meralava Island back in the Torba Province of Vanuatu, to come to the Solomon Islands and ended up right here where I am standing today, and spent his life here to preach the Gospel of Christ to the people of Ulawa. I have seen the very place where he hid for three years, to save his life, in order that he will turn darkness into light of Christ. I have seen the very first church and the cross he built those 140 years ago that still stand the centuries to this day. I have seen the very alter that remains to this day which built those 140 years ago and prayed there, day after day week after week, moth after month and year after year until the light of Jesus Christ shone throughout the Ulawa Province of the Solomon Islands. I am humbly and deeply honored to receive this great honor top be here and be part of this very special occasion in the life of the Church of Melanesia in the Solomon Island, Vanuatu and also New Caledonia and their very Christian and Cultural connections. We never saw him, but the tradition handed down among the families simply said “Bishop took him on a big ship Salan (Southern) Crosi ( Cross). O aga nina. He went and was never return but, many years latter through travelling of scholars back and forward between the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, some came back and told us that they came across a name ‘ Marau’ in the Solomon Islands and seo we said it must be him, and so here we are today”, Chief Tinapua, expressed on the golden jubilee of the first missionary to Ulawa, who happened to be an Anglican Priest from Meralava, in the Torba Province in Vanuatu.
Father Marau, was taken by an Anglican Bishop and trained as a Teacher and Catechist for two years in Norfolk Islands and retuned to his home island of Meralava in Vanuatu, but the Mission had planed to send Missionaries throughout Melanesia at the time. It was then that Father Clement Marau, was handpicked by the Bishop of Melanesia, and sent to the island of Ulawa, in the Solomon Islands,” Chief Tinapua recalled in his speech.
Chief Tinapua, told the Arch Bishop of Melanesia and the Clergy on Ulawa, that he did not realized before leaving Vanuatu for Honiara that he will be part of the jubilee which he so deeply moved by the whole history unfold before him, an on actual site where these all happened 140 year ago.
“I realized a quote by the Vanuatu’s first Prime Minister Father Walter Lini, (late) that when Vanuatu become independent, we have to use ‘two paddles’ to guide our canoes that would keep us to the direction that leads us to our destiny. It was here that I realized I had two responsibilities when we started for the Solomon Islands which represented the two paddles. It was one of these two paddles that led me to Ulawa, and I will never regret this task and the journey to trace Father Clement Marau,’s 140 years jubilee on the actual spot on Ulawa,” Chief Tinapua recalled.
He concluded by saying that: “ However, I would also like to say that if ever, there had been any difficulty or problems that may have offended the lives of the people of this island in any way during those past 140 years, I on behalf of the people of Meralava, the government of Vanuatu and Anglican Church of Vanuatu and the people of Vanuatu, beg forgiveness from the Arch Bishop of the Church of Melanesia, the Clergy, the chiefs, the leaders and the people of Ulawa, to forgive us on this very day; remembering the past, remembering the present and enhancing the future between us all. You are all our families as one in Christ and in our treasured Melanesian cultures,” chief Tinapua concluded.