he persistent work of a single individual in the face of adversity over 20 years has blossomed into a rapidly growing church among the French-speaking population in New Caledonia.
Location and History
New Caledonia is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, about 1,500 kilometers (about 930 miles) east of Australia. It includes the island of New Caledonia (Grande Terre), where Nouméa, the capital is located, the Loyalty Islands: the Bélep Islands; the Island of Pines and many small uninhabited islands. The islands lie between latitudes 18 and 23 degrees south and longitudes 163 and 169 degrees east.
Indigenous Melanesians (Kanaks) were the sole inhabitants of the islands until 1774 when James Cook landed at Balade in 1774 and named the main island New Caledonia after his father’s native country of Scotland. Cook was followed by the French navigator Antoine de Bruni, chevalier d’Entrecasteaux, in 1793. Today the population of New Caledonia is about 270,000, with around 39 percent Kanaks, 27 percent European, 8.5 percent Polynesians and Tahitians, and others of mixed races and those of Vietnamese Indonesian and Vanuatuan origins.
The London Missionary Society commenced its work in 1841, and a Marist mission (Roman Catholic) at Balade was established in 1843. Today, more than 50 percent of the population are adherents to the Roman Catholic Church and have French European origins, while the largest Protestant church is the Evangelical Church of New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands.
France took possession of most of New Caledonia in 1853 as a possible site for a penal colony and claimed the Loyalty Islands in 1864. France granted French citizenship to all New Caledonians by 1953. Under the Lemoine Statute of 1984, the French government granted complete self-government in territorial affairs. Then the Nouméa Accord was formally signed in May 1998 and passed by both houses of the French National Assembly in March 1999. It provided for a change of status from overseas territory to overseas country (later, unique collectivity) and proposed that a referendum on the granting of independence be held.1
Europeans viewed the indigenous Kanaks as a labor source to be exploited, and many Kanaks were relocated by slavery, and coupled with European diseases, their population was reduced from about 60,000 in1878 to 27,000 by 1921.
Nickel was discovered in New Caledonia in 1864, and today nickel mining and processing, tourism, and subsidies from France provide the people of New Caledonia with a higher average GDP per capita ($39,000) than New Zealand ($38,500), Vanuatu ($2,800) and other Pacific nations. However, the indigenous Kanak population has not had the same access to jobs, wealth, and education as people of European origin, and these inequalities have resulted in racial hostilities and movements for secession from France. An independence referendum was held in New Caledonia on November 4, 2018. Voters chose to remain part of France. The next referendum will be held in 2020.
Origin and History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in New Caledonia
The earliest opportunity for the Seventh-day Adventist Church to have a presence in New Caledonia occurred in 1918. A French woman from New Caledonia was living on Norfolk Island and became a Seventh-day Adventist after studying the Bible with the resident minister, Arthur Ferris. She offered to go with Ferris and his wife to pioneer the Church in her homeland. Ferris alerted headquarters, but finances were not available for any expansions.2
When Griffiths Jones returned to Sydney from the New Guinea mission field early in 1924, he expressed the desire to be appointed to a territory where there was no malaria. The Australasian Union Conference (AUC) assigned him to pioneer New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands.3 He sailed for Nouméa on May 23, 1924.4
Jones tried to negotiate with the French authorities for permission to begin his work but was told he would have to apply at the colonial office in Paris. By August 21 he was back in Sydney in time for the AUC Session.5 An action voted at the session indicated Jones had not been discreet in his approach to the authorities in Nouméa.6
The AUC determined to approach government officials in Paris.7 Jones himself thought it would be sufficient to carry a letter of recommendation from the SDA church in France. Papers of some sort were obtained. In the meantime, Jones returned to Nouméa and kept a low profile, distributing French tracts and learning the customs of the people. He also made an exploratory trip on the island steamer to visit the northern coast and the islands of Ouvéa, Lifou, and Maré, all the time compiling an address list of people who showed some interest in his message.8
A French woman by the name of Cecile Guiot was baptized in Sydney and, at the 1926 AUC Session, was invited to assist Jones.9 She sailed from Sydney on November 26, 1926.10 Jones had some success, but it proved to be his undoing. Apparently, the French authorities were alerted to his activities, and their investigation of his papers did not satisfy their requirements. In November 1927 he urgently radioed headquarters to say he was pulling out.11 For the protection of any convert, their identity was deliberately kept anonymous in the church magazines.12 Guiot obtained work in the local hospital, and her position gave a reason, other than missionary purposes, for her residence. At the same time, she visited those on Jones’s list and quietly nurtured their interest.
Guiot sold copies of the French language health magazine and translated the Sabbath School lessons for the small number of fellow worshippers. The members were scattered, necessitating regular trips on the interisland steamer. Although her status and the work in New Caledonia was never acknowledged in the SDA yearbooks, Guiot continued to work as a missionary until the Second World War conditions forced her to return to Australia in 1942. Due to strict entry requirements, she was not able to return to Nouméa until February 1948. She remained another three years before finally retiring in Australia in late 1950 (see Cecile Francine Guiot).
When Guiot departed, the few scattered members were left for three years without support. One adherent and the Chitty family were living in the north of the island near Poum. The first baptized member, Ada Williams, now an old woman, remained in Nouméa,13 and a crippled man, Apiela Abraham, lived on Ouvéa Island.14 Marcel Bonert was appointed to transfer from France and reactivate the work of the Church.15
Bonert was reappointed to Tahiti after a short time and was replaced by Paul Nouan. Like those before him, Nouan concentrated on the distribution of French literature in order to develop interest. On a Gestetner machine, he issued his own paper, titled Espoirs et certitudes (Hopes and certainties). From 1954 to 1956 he conducted public meetings in a hired cinema in Nouméa and then found a permanent chapel that he dedicated on July 13, 1957. Twice a week the Voice of Hope was aired over radio.16
Nouan was replaced by Leon Hillaire in 1959. By 1960 the membership had risen to 34 and continued to mount under his successor, Georges Hermans. To replace their small chapel, a two-story church building to seat six hundred was constructed in Nouméa. It was dedicated on July 29, 1967. Membership in the entire country at the time numbered 240.17 The following year a second church, at Poum, was dedicated on July 14.18 Guiot had visited earlier and seen the partly finished building, raising her spirits as she recalled her efforts in past years.19
When Hermans was transferred to Canada in late 1972, he was replaced by Maurice Fayard.20 Membership was approximately four hundred.21 Unfortunately, Fayard returned to France prematurely. The Voice of Hope speaker, Yvon Missud, was appointed as the president of the New Caledonia Mission. During the Second World War, he had been a pilot in the Free French Air Force.22 He and his successor, Johan Van Bignoot, witnessed a drop in membership, but by 1992 it was back above four hundred. The number of churches had risen to four.23
Dr. Stenio Gungadoo, a Mauritian, arrived in 1994.24 He was appointed the president of the Central Pacific Union Mission late the following year.25 His emphasis was always on training the laity.26 Eddy Johnson, another Mauritian, followed Gungadoo. It was during his tenure that a church for Vanuatans was dedicated in Nouméa on February 23, 1997. They named it Bethany. Its members were largely Vanuatan young men, numbering approximately sixty, who had come to New Caledonia to work in the mining industry.27
In 2001 Patrice Allet took up his duties as president of in the New Caledonia Church.28 His tenure proved to be the longest, and it was very successful in terms of membership growth, rising to 816 by 2014.29 His strategy included an emphasis on quality family life and literature and satellite evangelism. In a report given in 2003, he spoke of a revival in the Koumac church, one that increased its regular attendance from 6 aged members to 30 individuals in a few months.30 A French translation of The Search video series was completed by the mission for satellite evangelism in 2005.31 Meetings by evangelist Jean Noele Adeline were the catalyst for much of this growth during Allet’s tenure.
New Caledonia has two main cultures that have, at times, been hostile to each other. The French-speaking culture is located mainly on New Caledonia, and the indigenous Kanak, or Melanesian, culture is found mainly on the islands of Ouvéa, Lifou, and Maré. One SDA church is located on Maré, together with a small company at Tadine. Most of the SDA work has taken place among the French speakers on the main island. In addition to Bethany and the main church in Nouméa, there are also churches on that island at Dumbéa, Voh, and Canala. The membership in recent years has grown to almost one thousand dispersed among the six churches.32
“A French young lady, Miss Cecile Guiot. . . .” Australasian Record, December 6, 1926.
“A radio message sent by Pastor G. F. Jones. . . .” Australasian Record, November 21, 1927.
Aveling, R. L. “Literature Flows Into New Caledonia.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 9, 1956.
Branster, G. “Central Pacific Union Mission.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, January 7, 1957.
———. “News Notes from Central Pacific Union Mission.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, June 14, 1954.
Brown, Nathan, “Breakthrough in New Caledonia Inspires Session.” Record, October 22, 2005.
Encyclopædia Britannica online. S.v. “New Caledonia, French Unique Collectivity, Pacific Ocean.” Accessed August 20, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/place/New-Caledonia-French-unique-collectivity-Pacific-Ocean.
Ferris, A. H. “There’s a Cry from Caledonia Come and Help Us.” Australasian Record, September 6, 1920.
Guiot, Cecile F. “How the Message Came to Me.” Australasian Record, December 8, 1941.
Hancock, Kellie. “Where Two Cultures Meet.” Record, September 13, 2003.
“Island Leadership Elected at Session.” Record, November 25, 1995, 10.
Jones, G. F. “New Caledonia and Other Islands.” Australasian Record, October 18, 1926.
Lee, Gordon A. “Dedication of Poum Church.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, September 30, 1968.
———. “Noumea Opens Its First Adventist Church.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, September 18, 1967.
———. “Two Ordination Services.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 29, 1974.
Manners, Bruce. “President Looks to Future.” Record, August 9, 1997.
“New Church.” Record, April 26, 1997.
Nouan, Paul. “Advancing Steps in New Caledonia.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, September 2, 1957.
“Pastor and Mrs. Fayard and their daughter. . . .” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, January 22, 1973.
“Pastor G. F. Jones sailed from Sydney, . . .” Australasian Record, June 2, 1924.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1973/1974.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1992, 1994.2001, 2014.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2016.
Stewart, A. G. “We Salute Miss C. F. Guiot.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, November 25, 1968.
“The way not yet being open. . . .” Australasian Record, September 1, 1924.
Turner, W. G. “Our Work in the Loyalty Islands.” Australasian Record, August 25, 1924.
———. “Recent Actions of the Union Conference Committee.” Australasian Record, February 25, 1924.
“Undergoing Trials in Accepting the Truth.” Australasian Record, January 16, 1928.
“We were pleased to have with us. . . .” Australasian Record, February 25, 1924.
- Encyclopædia Britannica online, s.v. “New Caledonia, French Unique Collectivity, Pacific Ocean,” accessed August 20, 2018, https://www.britannica.com/place/New-Caledonia-French-unique-collectivity-Pacific-Ocean.↩
- A. H. Ferris, “There’s a Cry from Caledonia Come and Help Us,” Australasian Record, September 6, 1920, 6.↩
- “We were pleased to have with us . . . ,” Australasian Record, February 25, 1924, 8.↩
- “Pastor G. F. Jones sailed from Sydney. . . ,” Australasian Record, June 2, 1924, 8.↩
- “The way not yet being open . . . ,” Australasian Record, September 1, 1924, 8.↩
- W. G. Turner, “Recent Actions of the Union Conference Committee,” Australasian Record, February 25, 1924, 8.↩
- W. G. Turner, “Our Work in the Loyalty Islands,” Australasian Record, August 25, 1924, 8.↩
- G. F. Jones, “New Caledonia and Other Islands,” Australasian Record, October 18, 1926, 14–16.↩
- Cecile F. Guiot, “How the Message Came to Me,” Australasian Record, December 8, 1941, 6.↩
- “A French young lady, Miss Cecile Guiot . . . ,” Australasian Record, December 6, 1926, 8.↩
- “A radio message sent by Pastor G. F. Jones . . . ,” Australasian Record, November 21, 1927, 8.↩
- “Undergoing Trials in Accepting the Truth,” Australasian Record, January 16, 1928, 2.↩
- R. L. Aveling, “Literature Flows Into New Caledonia,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 9, 1956, 1.↩
- G. Branster, “Central Pacific Union Mission,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, January 7, 1957, 1–2.↩
- G. Branster, “News Notes from Central Pacific Union Mission,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, June 14, 1954, 4.↩
- Paul Nouan, “Advancing Steps in New Caledonia,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, September 2, 1957, 1–2.↩
- G. A. Lee, “Noumea Opens Its First Adventist Church,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, September 18, 1967, 4–5.↩
- Gordon A. Lee, “Dedication of Poum Church,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, September 30, 1968, 8–9.↩
- A. G. Stewart, “We Salute Miss C. F. Guiot,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, November 25, 1968, 13.↩
- “Pastor and Mrs. Fayard and their daughter . . . ,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, January 22, 1973, 16.↩
- “New Caledonia Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1973/1974), 119.↩
- G. A. Lee, “Two Ordination Services,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 29, 1974, 5.↩
- “New Caledonia Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1992), 308.↩
- “New Caledonia Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1994), 300.↩
- “Island Leadership Elected at Session,” Record, November 25, 1995, 10.↩
- Bruce Manners, “President Looks to Future,” Record, August 9, 1997, 6–7.↩
- “New Church,” Record, April 26, 1997, 5.↩
- “New Caledonia Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2001), 288.↩
- “New Caledonia Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2014), 320.↩
- Kellie Hancock, “Where Two Cultures Meet,” Record, September 13, 2003, 8.↩
- Nathan Brown, “Breakthrough in New Caledonia Inspires Session,” Record, October 22, 2005, 7.↩
- “New Caledonia Mission, Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2016), 341.↩