Tonga & Niue

Semisi and Akanesi Mafi, and Isilele Beaua

About the year 1914, Semesi Mafi and his wife Akanesi were baptised in Tonga. Semesi died during the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic, leaving Akanesi with two small boys.

In 1919, Akanesi Mafi married Isilele Beaua, a man of another faith. However, he followed his wife’s example and began to attend the Faleloa, Haapai, Seventh-day Adventist Church. Isilele Beaua attended church wearing a boater hat and carrying a walking cane. He sat in the back row, slipping away from the service before the benediction was pronounced. Under the influence of the Spirit, he began to realize the
importance of living a true Christian life and moved closer to the front row.

At this time, Akanese Mafi, then known as Mafi Beaua, was quite sick, her throat a raw mass of tissue due to yaws. Beaua walked about with a cautious tread, the soled of his feet having developed deep, painful cracks, symptoms of another form of yaws. The two responded slowly to treatment, until a visit to the Haapai medical officer, who administered injections.

At the time injections were a new treatment form to the Tongan people, which called for courage to submit. But with just three injections, the two were quite healed.

A little later, when a call came for the couple to go to Fiji, they willingly responded, giving three years of service in the school gardens and printing press at the Buresala Training School at Ovalau, during which time, Mafi’s elder son died of typhoid fever and younger son of tuberculosis.

The couple continued to work, Beaua as the Beulah College farm overseer and Mafi as matron and girls preceptress

—B E Hadfield, Australasian Record. Vol 48, No. 34 August 21, 1944

Maria Young (who married Charles Edwards) and son, Edwin Edwards

There is a fascination in the story of the commencement of the work in Tonga, with events close to those which developed on Pitcairn.

Edward Young was one of the men who went with the Bounty from Tonga to Pitcairn. His great-grand daughter, Maria, came back from Pitcairn to Tonga on the mission ship Pitcairn. She became the first permanent Seventh-day Adventist resident member. At that time, a young man, Charles Edwards, roamed the Pacific as a “black-birder” or slave trader. He lived in a tall tree because of hostile local cannibal natives, but was finally caught. They prepared him for their feast, tying his hands and feet, lit
a fire was lit and began to boil water to cook him.

When the preparations were complete, for some unknown reason, the natives went into the bush, leaving him alone for a few minutes. A small boy rushed in and cut him loose and Edwards escaped into the bush. Avoiding recapture for a few weeks, he was picked up by a passing ship travelling from the Solomons to Tonga. Edwards decided to spend the rest of his day with the friendly people of Tonga, marrying a Miss
Young, and together did a grand work for God.

—W G Ferris, Mission Quarterly, Vol. 39, Third Quarter 1950, pp. 16–18.

Hubert and Pearl Tolhurst

Hubert, with his wife Pearl, came to Ha’apai, Tonga, in 1915. Trained as an evangelist, these missionaries found their tasks were much more than—teacher, nurse and builder. The couple worked for almost four years Ha’apai, where, although very isolated, they were kept busy learning the language, teaching school, nursing and preaching, often transported between islands in native canoes.

A few months after arriving, it was necessary to make an emergency visit to an adjacent island, which could be reached via a connecting reef at low tide. The crossing, made on horseback, was always dangerous because of the rushing currents, and at high tide it was impassable.

Accompanied by a Tongan student, the crossing was made in near darkness. A particularly strong current was running that night. Instead of following the raised reef where the rushing seas were strongest, they decided to enter the deeper and quieter water lower down and swim the horses the kilometre or so to the island. One horse always swam low, with its head just above the water, so that when seated in the
saddle, the rider was submerged to the waist.

As they entered the dark swirling current, the horse stumbled and went under. His head came to the surface, but with its body being in a perpendicular position, the animal was unable to swim and the rushing waters dragged me off the horse and into the deep. Emerging next to the horse, he grasped the tethering rope around its neck and hung on.

The Tongan youth, whose horse was swimming strongly, fearing the missionary would be carried out to sea and drowned, yelled to stay with the horse until finally they reached the shore. There they learnt that three other parties had been swept off the reef the same day, but all were able to swim to safety. Such were the perils of missionary life, with two more near misses while crossing that reef to come.

In November 1918, the Spanish influenza hit Tonga. Pastor Tolhurst was the first person in the village to contract the disease. Then a native mission worker fell ill, and finally Mrs Tolhurst. She fell into a delirium and for several days, hovering between life and death in a struggle that lasted for four months. Without medical assistance and separated from home and loved ones, they fought the battle alone, with the
natives having fled in fear of the plague.

When Pr Tolhurst recovered sufficiently to realize how serious Pearl’s condition was, he made every effort to save her life. But he was so weak that for a month he was unable to even clean the house. Mrs Tolhurst ate practically nothing and wasted away and eventually died.

She sleeps beside the restless sea;
No sound save coral surf and breeze through leafy tree
Disturbs the peace of God’s sweet child.
Her choice—not fireside joys. But faith serene and mild
Preferred the lonely, bitter cross,
That gain might come to Friendly Isles, e’en through her loss
She sleeps beside the restless sea;
How dark the evening was! But morn bade darkness flee The morning beams of Tonga’s hope
Lit all the sky o’er palm-fringed shore and ashy slope
The glory of a sacrifice supreme—
The lonely grave—love son for choral angels’ theme.

Tales of Tonga, C S Palmer pp. 121–127

Tonga and Niue

In June 1891, E H Gates and A J Read visited Tonga (the Friendly Islands) on the fourth journey of the Pitcairn, but left without any Adventist converts. In August 1895, Edward Hilliard, his wife Ida, and daughter Alta, arrived in Tonga as the first Seventh-day Adventist missionaries. The Hilliards established the first Adventist school in the Kingdom of Tonga at their home.

In 1896, more Adventist missionaries arrived in Tonga, including nursing trainees Sarah and Maria Young, and Edwin and Florence Butz and daughter Alma. Maria Young would participate in assisting Queen Lavinia in giving birth to Salote, the third queen of Tonga. Maria later married the first Adventist convert in Tonga, an Englishman Charles Edwards. Timote Mafi was the first native Tongan Adventist

In Tonga the growth of Adventism was slow. The establishment of a school, under Edwin Butz and his wife enabling good relationships with government officials and the royal family. In 1904, with the arrival of Ella Boyd, a popular teacher, student numbers increased furthering the positive Adventist relationship with the Tongan population. A decade or so later, the first large Revival evangelical meetings were held by George Stewart, supported by Ethelbert Thorpe and his wife, and Hubert and Pearl Tolhurst. By 1935, there were 211 Sabbath keepers and graduates from Beulah College.

In 1904, Ella Boyd reopened the Adventist primary school at Nukuʻalofa (now known as Mangaia or Hilliard). The school grew in numbers and success, and 20 years later secondary grades were added. In 1937, the school was recognized as Beulah Adventist College.

Today, the Seventh-day Adventist in Tonga is relatively small in comparison to other dominant Christian churches. There are four Adventist schools—a primary school (Beulah Primary School), two integrated primary and middle schools (Hilliard and Mizpah), and one secondary school (Beulah Adventist College). Of these Beulah College is recognized for its brass band.

Siokatame Tupou

Siokatame Tupou was one of the worst prisoners in the Kingdom of Tonga. As boy, Siokatame Tupou attended primary school, then the Methodist College for four years, ending his study in Form Three when he was expelled from school because the staff could not control him. He wanted to do whatever he pleased; even the other students were afraid of him. At the age of 17, he became a wanderer and in 1961 was sent to Hu’atolitoli as a prisoner for 10 years. He completed his sentence, after 14 attempted

Once he led the prisoners out of the prison yard to break into a nearby soldiers’ camp to steal guns
and supplies in an effort to attack the government. Sometimes they went into the bush to work, where
they would hunt cows and horses for food.

Beulah College suffered because of Siokatame and his boys. He hated the Seventh-day Adventists and persecuted them, and often broke into the school compound to steal. To him, life was nothing. Early in 1968, Siokatame was placed in solitary confinement for three-and-ahalf years for his bad behaviour and continual disobedience. His mind dwelt continually on the overthrow of the government.

Then one day, Pastor R Millsom, then president of the Tonga Mission, visited the prison and presented a short talk on the topic, “God is able to change the life of a man, even though he is a prisoner.” He related his own experience in life as a drunkard, how God had changed his life and from that time he worked for God.

Hearing this changed Siokatame Tupou. From being a persecutor, he became a preacher, and committed his life to God. Said Siokatame, “Though I’m in prison, I know that I’m free because of Christ.”

When Siokatame was released from prison in 1971, he entered the Pierson Laymen’s School, and after two years of study the Tonga and Niue Mission called him to serve as a minister in the Vava’u group, where he worked for the next five years.

Back on his home island of Tongatapu, he pastored the Mu’a church and also worked with prisoners, some of whom were baptised.

—Pastor Sionatane Vunileva, Australian Record Vol 84. No.4, January 22, 1979

Enocke Fotu

Enocke Fotu, a prosperous Tongan vegetable farmer, became interested in the Seventh-day Adventist message through meeting some believers in a nearby village. His brother, Suli, however, was showing interest in the doctrines of the Mormon Church. Enocke strongly counselled him to join the Adventist Church if he were going to break from the national Free Church of Tonga. Enocke made slow progress
in accepting the faith, and the first point on which he was convinced was the doctrine of tithing. He put aside some tithe, but before paying it he interviewed the Department of Agriculture to ascertain whether he could export some cabbages. The department advised him that there were no prospects. His wife was very emphatic that he should not pay this amount of tithe, as that was the only money they had, and they would need it to pay their employees on the farm in a few days’ time. Enocke went to his garden to see if there was any other produce which could be sold to pay the wages, so that he would not have to use his tithe money, but all he had was cabbages and there was no local demand for them. He returned home and determined to go to Beulah College and pay the tithe leaving the future in God’s hands. He did this, and on returning home advised his wife of what he had done. Of course, she was very angry and worried because they had no ready cash to pay the wages.

Next morning Enocke was working in his garden when a large truck from the Department of Agriculture drove up. The driver told him he had come to buy 300 cabbages, and that he would pay 1/6 each for them. The local price was only nine pence each, and this sale realized £22.10, more than sufficient to pay the wages. From that time Enocke paid his tithe faithfully, and he is considered one of the most successful farmers in Tonga. This incident also led him into a deeper experience with the Lord, and he finally accepted fully the advent faith and was baptized during the conference held in June.

A Royal example

There appeared in the Tongan Government Gazette a list of persons authorized to purchase and consume alcoholic liquors. Heading the list was the name of Crown Prince Tongi who, as might be expected, was able to obtain an unlimited quantity.

A few months later the prince and the Government Secretary for Education travelled with Pastor W G Ferris on the mission ship Endeavour on a visit around the Tongan islands. Before leaving home, Pastor Ferris stocked the ship’s library with Adventist literature, including some books on alcohol and tobacco. During the trip, he noticed the prince read frequently from this library—and on the subjects of alcohol and tobacco. The impression this reading made on the royal mind was not realized until a few months later, when in the Tongan Gazette Pastor Ferris read that the prince had surrendered his licence to purchase liquor, and that henceforth he would not use strong drink. Later he decided to give up smoking. Pastor Ferris believes that the helpful information Prince Tongi gained from reading the books on the Endeavour led him to make this decision.

Silent messenger in the Palace

A Tongan young couple joined the Adventist Church, and in their desire to tell others of the love of Christ and His soon return, spent much of their spare time in distributing our monthly paper, the Tala Moni. The wife thought she would like to leave a copy with Queen Salote, so she went to the palace and was ushered into the Queen’s reception room. Her Majesty accepted a copy of Tala Moni and told her visitor she often read this paper, adding that it was the only one she had received that really contained a message for the times. She requested our sister to be sure to bring her a copy of the paper each month, just as soon as it was off the press.

—E W Howse, Australian Record, Vol. 52, No.41, October 11, 1948

The Seventh-day Adventist church in Tonga took almost 20 years to become established. The SDA is against dancing, and smoking is grounds for being expelled from the church. The SDA is stricter than other churches in observing the Sabbath. In the early years, the insistence on eating only “clean” foods and abstaining from tobacco and alcohol were obstacles to conversion. Their refusal to eat pork or
shellfish meant they could not participate at feasts or in the presence of chiefs, and therefore could not actively evangelize. The use of kava was a double problem, since this widely used drug was seen as akin to alcohol, and also had ceremonial and traditional religious connotations, but to refuse a cup of kava is to insult the giver.


Seventh-day Adventists became active in the South Pacific in 1886 when the missionary John Tay visited Pitcairn Island. His report caused the Seventh-day Adventist church in the United States to build the Pitcairn mission ship, which made six voyages in the 1890s, bringing missionaries to the Society Islands, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. On its first voyage, the Pitcairn visited almost every “white family” in the Tongan islands and sold books worth more than $500. In June 1891, E H Gates and A J Read visited Tonga, then called the Friendly Islands, on the fourth journey of the Pitcairn. King George Tupou I
(c. 1797–18 February 1893) authorized the entry of the missionaries. They left without
making any Adventist converts.

Initial work (1895–1912)

Edwin Sebastian Butz and Florence Butz (c. 1914)

Edward Hilliard, his wife Ida, and daughter Alta, arrived at Nukuʻalofa on August 30, 1895. Edward Hilliard was a carpenter, and Ida Hilliard was a teacher. She started a school later that year, which at its peak had 28 pupils. It closed in mid-1899 when the Hilliards returned to Australia. Hilliard understood the importance of learning the local language as a missionary and translated tracts into the Tongan language. He seems to have focused on converting locally living Europeans.

In September 1896, more Adventist missionaries arrived in Tonga on the Pitcairn, including Sarah and Maria Young, two nursing trainees from Pitcairn Island, and Edwin and Florence Butz with their daughter Alma. The Butz family initially had difficulty being accepted, as they were Americans and most European residents were British. This was eased by Florence Butz’ provision of medical services. In September
1897, Dr Merritt Kellogg and his wife Eleanor Nolan came to assist with the medical work. He built a timber home at Magaia, which was long used as the home of the mission superintendent.

The Butz’s tried to establish a permanent mission, but were limited to working with the small papalagi (European) colony. They made sporadic missionary efforts in the islands of Haʻapai and Tongatapu. In June 1899 the Pitcairn again visited, bringing a prefabricated 5-by-10-metre building that was used at first as a mission home and chapel. After 18 months it was dismantled and rebuilt as the Nuku’alofa church. The church almost failed to survive. The Butz were taken to Vavaʻu on the Pitcairn, since it was thought that there were too many missionaries at Nuku‘alofa, returning after the Hilliards left later in 1899.

First results (1899–1912)

The first European was baptized on September 10, 1899, on the day that the first Adventist Church in Tonga was organized. He was Charles Edwards, an Englishman and a reformed drinker. He was a medical assistant, but also managed the finances and records of the church of Nuku‘alofa for many years. Edwards married Maria Young soon after his baptism. Maria helped when Queen Lavinia gave birth to Salote Tupou III (1900–1965). Salote later became queen of Tonga.

Timote Mafi was the first Tongan convert. She was baptized on December 22, 1900, along with her European husband. The English missionary Shirley Waldemar Baker, founder of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga in 1885, fell out with the authorities due to his intrigues to obtain German “protection” for Tonga. When he died in Haʻapai in 1903, a visiting Adventist minister officiated at his burial when the Free
Church, Wesleyans, Catholics and Anglicans refused to give him a funeral.

In November 1904, Ella Boyd reopened the Adventist primary school at Nukuʻalofa. She was an American who had trained at Avondale College in Australia, and had taught in church schools in Australia. By 1905 the school had reached its full capacity of 28 pupils. The curriculum emphasized health and warned of the evils of narcotics and stimulants. Butz recognized but failed to address the language problem. He noted
that the Tongans were very interested in learning English. Until 1905 at least half of the pupils at the Adventist schools were European or part-European, with lessons given in English.

The Butz family left in December 1905. In 10 years Butz had baptized two Tongans and 12 Europeans. Over the next seven years, just one person was baptized—Joni Latu, in 1910—who later became an Adventist minister. For a while, the Nukuʻalofa school thrived, reaching about 60 pupils in 1907. Another school was established at Faleloa in 1908, with 30 students. An Adventist leader who visited Faleloa in 1908 recorded that the school was a “credit to our school work not only in Tonga, but throughout the Australasian field.” The monthly Tongan-language Talafekau Moʻoni (“Faithful Messenger”) appeared in 1909, mostly written by Frances Waugh, the translator at Avondale Press, and Tongan students attending Avondale School. Some members of the royal family patronized the Adventist school, but the church suffered from emigration and lapses. By 1911, the school at Faleloa was almost deserted and with just 18 students remaining at Nukuʻalofa, both schools closed.

—“Seventh-day Adventist Church in Tonga,” Wikipedia

Truth Triumphs: A missionary’s report

Happily settled in our new field of labour with the flag of the Kingdom of Tonga flying o’er us, we pause after five months of service to chronicle the story of God’s leading and the triumph of His cause in the face of much opposition and hardship.

An inspiring Week of Prayer conducted shortly after our arrival resulted in a sincere and universal revival and reformation in the churches. It brought great joy to our hearts to see the many victories won. One of the many to receive special blessing was Kofe of Vavau. Kofe had long endeavoured to win her husband’s interest in this wonderful message, but he spurned her overtures and treated her unkindly in his attempt to lead her away from her precious treasure. From the commencement of the Week of Prayer Kofe’s heart warmed to the messages from the denomination’s leaders, and she longed to share her joy with her husband. Imagine her dismay when he finally forbade her to attend any further meetings. She pled with him, but he was adamant. Her zeal to attend aroused his anger and he threatened her with dire consequences if she disobeyed him. Nothing daunted, this dusky daughter of Israel was again in her place at the next meeting, and special prayer was requested for her husband. On returning home she was the helpless victim of a cruel assault. She lay bruised and bleeding, but her courage was strong and her determination was to serve the Lord without fear.

Next evening, Kofe was not in her place. The church members were concerned, and again special prayer was offered. On returning to his home, Pastor Suli Taimi and his wife found Kofe weeping brokenheartedly. She had prepared to attend the evening service, but her husband had again beaten her unmercifully and was now demanding that she accompany him to a village on the far side of the island where she would not be able to attend further meetings. She did so much desire to fellowship with God’s
people for the remainder of the week. What should she do? The Tongan pastor counselled her to accompany her husband at his bidding as this was her duty. She reluctantly agreed to do this, and it was agreed that the church would have special prayer for her and her husband. Next night her place was empty. When the meeting commenced on Thursday night, she was again missing. After the hymn there was another season of very earnest prayer for Kofe and her husband.

There had been no news of them for two days and all present were anxious concerning their sister’s welfare. Pastor Suli stood to commence the reading, but he was interrupted by some late comers. Curious heads turned for a glimpse of the new arrivals. Imagine their astonishment when they recognized Kofe, her face radiant, and at her side, looking shy and sheepish—yes, her husband! The Spirit of God had touched his heart in response to the prayers of God’s humble children. He had been won by the Christian attitude and forgiving spirit of his wife.

And the sequel? Kofe’s husband has attended all Sabbath and mid-week services since, is a member of the Sabbath school, has resigned from his own church, and is now preparing for baptism.

Beulah College

Beulah College, under the capable leadership of A H (Hardy) Dawson and his Tongan staff, is a missionary school. Many of the 250 pupils come from non- Adventist homes. It is to be expected that a few years spent in this Christian school should greatly influence their lives and their thinking. Some accept the message fully and join the church, others return to their villages, and though not professing to be with us,
they carry the influence of Beulah with them.

All over Tonga today we have staunch friends of the cause in these ex-students, and whenever there is opportunity, they invite us to come to their island or village to preach: these former students have made a number of openings for us. The work on Tungua Island in the Haapai Group commenced in this way. A few months before our arrival in Tonga, my predecessor, Pastor O D McCutcheon, recognized an interest on Tungua and placed a worker there. Muti Palu has worked along steadily, and despite opposition has raised up a strong Sabbath school and has several adults and young people preparing for baptism. Recently, we gathered our church folk of the Haapai Group together at Pangai for a district meeting of several days’ duration. Muti, anxious that a large number from Tungua should attend, conceived the idea of forming a choir. The mission vessel Lao Heni called and conveyed about 50 people from Tungua to Pangai, some of whom had not shown any interest in the message, but who had been brought into the choir as a means of bringing them in contact with the truth.

Uninterested parents, too, came to look after their young people and children. All who came to the first meeting were so impressed that they kept right on coming. It was a joy to see them drinking in the wonderful words of life, for it was all new to them. As calls were made from time to time the Tungua folk responded slowly at first, but each time there were fresh decisions, till at the last meeting there was a full and spontaneous response. Those island people returned to their homes rejoicing in their new-found faith. The homecoming of Muti and his Tunguan friends was marred by the spiteful action of those who were working against the truth, for it was discovered that as soon as the Lao Heni had departed with its precious freight bound for the district meetings, these misguided zealots had completely demolished Muti’s home, which was a semi-European building, destroying every vestige of it, and scattering his goods far and wide over the island. The devil, with all his millenniums of experience, still lacks restraint, and certainly overstepped the mark in his attempt to suppress the truth, for this high-handed action only served to turn many more Tunguans to the message. On the return of the Lao Heni, many gathered around expecting a scene, but to their amazement, Muti and his wife announced that they did not intend to make an issue of the incident, and freely forgave those who had injured them. This attitude made a profound impression on the people, who flocked around Muti and told him not to worry, for by this time tomorrow he would have a new home. As good as their word, almost the entire community rallied to the cause, and before nightfall the next day the Muti family was comfortably domiciled in a new house of ample dimensions. The folk then set to and built a very nice house of worship.

As a result of the district meetings and the above incident, Muti’s Sabbath school membership has increased from 25 to 55. A few months ago, permission was granted our mission to conduct a service in the gaol each Sabbath afternoon. These meetings have been well attended from the start and are appreciated by gaolers and inmates alike. Recently the gaolers obtained permission for their wives and families to attend. Quite an interest is evidenced, and a number of the prisoners have expressed their
desire to join our church on their release from gaol. One gaoler has already taken his stand and was baptized recently.

“Beulah College has completed a successful school year with an enrolment of 250. Of the 17 senior students presented for the government examinations, 15 passed with credit, while the two who failed came to Beulah from another school only three months before. The school year ended with a baptism service when 18 students and six villagers were added to the church.

Our greatest problem in Tonga is to know how to answer the many Macedonian calls. Islands in the group not yet entered with the message are inviting us to come and teach them. The large island of Niue, where Mrs Head has so nobly kept the banner aloft in her isolation over the years, is a challenge to us, and a recent visit to this lonely outpost has convinced the writer that now is the time to commence strong,
aggressive work here. In fact, right through the field the bulwarks which were raised against the truth are crumbling, and we expect to see a large influx of souls very soon.

The seed sown so faithfully and patiently through the years will verily produce a
bountiful harvest.”

—James E Cormack, Australian Record, Vol. 57, No. 8, February 23, 1953

Teti Pahulu

I was born on the island of Nomuka, which is one of the smaller islands of Tonga, about 100 miles (160 km) from the capital, Nuku’alofa. I am 24 years of age. My mother, and my grandmother who looked after me as a child while my parents worked, were both strong Methodists. As for my father, I cannot tell which church he belonged to because I have never seen him in one.

Education for me was in the Methodist schools on Nomuka and later at a Methodist college in Nuku’alofa. While studying for my Government certificate there, I was given the job (though a staunch Methodist) of supervising a young Adventist group who met in one of the classrooms. The leader of the group was Sonatane, a young man about my age, who really lived his religion and sought to show others how to achieve the same experience.

At first, I hated the supervision periods and used to rudely sit at the back of the room and read or study. However, the earnestness of the young people in the group, and their friendliness, gradually broke down my resentment and I became interested in the gospel—the good news—which Sonatane so enthusiastically presented The enthusiasm and influence of Sonatane and this group began to spread through the college; and our fellow students beat us up, and our supervisors ridiculed and mistreated us so badly that most of us were glad when vacation came and we could go home. I was not so glad, however, for I knew the opposition I would receive at home from my mother and grandmother if I even hinted at disbelief in the Methodist faith. However, with Sonatane’s encouragement, after one month’s secretiveness, I could no longer resist God’s pleading. Thus, just before Christmas in 1963, I entered the waters of baptism.

My joy seemed to be full, until cycling home from the baptism I met my mother standing outside our home. She pushed me inside and told me how ashamed she was of me and how I had disgraced her among her Methodist friends. As she talked, she turned to a heap of dry palalafa (coconut sticks). Taking these in her hand, she proceeded to give me a very painful beating. Once she had completed this, she
gathered up my things, and placing them in a bundle, she pushed me out the door, shouting loudly, “You are no longer any son of mine. Go from here and don’t ever show your face here again.”

What a mixed Christmas! First to have the joy of baptism, and then to lose my mother and my home! The beating had left me dazed, and I stumbled along the main road until I reached our Adventist college in Tonga. I stayed at the Adventist college and continued my education. After gaining my Higher Leaving Certificate in 1966, I was invited by Pastor Mitchell, then president of the Tonga Mission, to go to Fulton
College. This invitation I immediately accepted and, on arrival, was met by Sonatane and others of my Tongan friends who had been in the group at the Methodist college in Nuku’alofa where my story began.
Sonatane has since graduated from Fulton College and returned to the Friendly Isles of Tonga to serve faithfully, first as a ministerial assistant, and then in the MV Department. Through the work of Sonatane and his study group, I came to know the joys of being a Seventh-day Adventist, and now my one ambition is to train to be like Sonatane and go and tell others of the love of Jesus.

—Australasian Record, Vol. 77, No. 40, October 1, 1973

The group that was led by Sonatane–Bible
Study at the Methodist School. Sonatane in the
middle front row and Teti back row (right)

Tribute to the Late Queen Salote

Salote, Queen of Tonga, is dead. On hearing this announced in the national news on December 16, 1965, our hearts were saddened as we recalled the years of close and happy friendship, we enjoyed with this gracious Christian lady during our term of mission service in her island kingdom. Although head of the Wesleyan Church, which is the national church in Tonga, the late queen recognized and cherished the principles of religious liberty and offered personal and official encouragement to all denominations represented in the kingdom. She was particularly interested in the activities and beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Mission, and welcomed opportunities to lend her support.

Queen Salote’s intimacy with the Adventist Church commenced early in her life, for her nurse was Maria Young who had come to Tonga from Pitcairn Island with Pastor and Mrs E S Butz on the mission ship Pitcairn. “Aunt Emma”, as the nurse was affectionately called, left her impress upon her royal charge and the late queen often expressed her lasting affection for this Adventist lady. Queen Salote made her debut
in the world in 1900, being the eldest of a family of daughters born to King George II. She was named after her great-great grandmother, the consort of George I; and thus after Queen Charlotte, consort of the British King George III. She came of the longest unbroken line of rulers of any monarchy in the world, for her descent is traced direct from Ahoeita, the first Tui Tonga, or king, of whom there is record, who flourished in the 10th century AD, about the time when Ethelred the Unready was king of England.

As the young princess lost her mother at the early age of two, she became more dependent on her Adventist nurse. She was educated at the Church of England Diocesan Girls College in Auckland, New Zealand, and learned to speak perfect English. At 17 she married Uiliami (William) Tungi, whose line of descent also traced from Ahoeitu 42 generations back. The eldest son of the marriage, Prince Tungi, who
has served Tonga for many years as Premier and Minister for Education, now succeeds his mother as Tonga’s ruler with the title of King Tupou.

In April 1918, Princess Salote succeeded her father, George II, on the throne, and in the following October was crowned in the royal chapel, Nuku’alofa. The first few years of the new reign were a period of development in education and public health. In addition to government schools the missions were encouraged to expand their educational work. The school conducted by the Seventh-day Adventist Mission was recognized as the leading school in the kingdom. Men now holding portfolios in the Tongan cabinet and men holding high and responsible positions in the government services often told me with pride that they had received their education in our school.

A growing enrolment led to the establishment of Beulah College which today holds a proud place among Tonga’s schools for secondary education. Queen Salote often reminded me with pride that she was present for the dedication of the school and had addressed the staff and students. Recalling the occasion, Pastor C S Palmer wrote, “Queen Salote alighted from the royal car and was received and welcomed by the mission superintendent, Pastor Tolhurst, and the headmaster. Complimenting them on the beautiful appearance of the school grounds, Queen Salote smiled happily as she walked down the orderly rows of students. The sight cheered the queen’s heart, for the education of young Tonga was the object of her constant concern.” The queen addressed the students in her usual gracious and friendly manner. “My
sons and daughters of Tonga,” she began, “you are fortunate to receive your education in such a fine school, with dedicated teachers to instruct you. Your forefathers were valiant in war and expert navigators of the sea, but you live in a different age. The arts of peace to which our kingdom is dedicated are greater than the arts of war. As you learn the wisdom of books and become adept in new skills, you will be fitted to act as the future leaders of a new and greater Tonga. Your feelings of loyalty and love for me, your queen, so ably expressed by your head prefect in his speech, are greatly appreciated by me. You will find true success and achievement as you follow the example of your teachers and make full use of your time. But above all, be loyal to your parents and your country and be true to God.’—Tales of Tonga, pp. 132, 133.

Through the years Queen Salote read a number of our books. She told me she has followed the Morning Watch text for years and she often read passages from Desire of Ages with great blessing. One day Sioni Fua, a Tongan literature evangelist, called at the palace and introduced himself to the queen’s secretary. He was anxious to interest Her Majesty in one of his books. On the suggestion of the secretary, he left four different large books for her perusal. Next day he rushed excitedly into my office and announced that the queen had bought the lot. Later it was my pleasure to present her with a specially bound copy of our newly published book, Steps to Christ, in the Tongan language. This little volume proved a great blessing to her.

I recall very well our first audience with Queen Salote. Soon after our arrival in the island kingdom we obeyed a summons to the palace to be presented, and were nervously ushered into the throne room by an official, and formally announced. There, on the far side of the room, standing erect and regal before the throne, stood Tonga’s queen. My wife curtseyed and I bowed, and the queen extended her hand to
us and said, “Welcome to Tonga.” It was then that she smiled. With that smile all stiffness and formality vanished, our nervousness was gone, and there commenced a rich and rewarding friendship which was to last throughout our period, of service in Tonga.

I was impressed from the beginning with the queen’s immense dignity coupled with an engaging shyness; with her sagacity as a ruler; her delightful sense of fun as a human being; with the mixture of awe, pride, and love with which she was regarded by her subjects. Two momentous events in the queen’s life brought her world-wide acclaim. The first was her triumphant visit to England to attend the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, when with the spotlight full upon her, her charm of manner cast an irresistible spell over London and wherever she went. How thrilled we were two days after her return from this trip to obey a summons to the palace where we spent a glorious afternoon listening as the queen told her story. How her eyes sparkled with happiness as she recalled her experiences at Buckingham Palace; the coronation
procession when she elected to ride in the rain; her meeting with the great leaders of the nations and other dignitaries.

The second notable event was in 1953 when she and her people were hosts for two days to Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh during their Commonwealth tour. During those two memorable days we saw the friendship which had already sprung up between the two queens grow into a strong and lasting bond of mutual affection. We were all very happy when it was announced that Queen Elizabeth had been graciously pleased to invest Queen Salote with the insigne of the Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. And now her eyes are closed. Her wise and benevolent reign of 48 years is at an end. Those who knew her will long cherish the memory of an illustrious and dedicated Christian lady. We feel for her sorrowing family and people and earnestly pray that the Christian principles and ideals she fostered and developed throughout her kingdom will remain as a lasting memorial.

—James E Cormack, Australasian Record, Vol. 70, Number 4, January 24, 1966.

Opening of the new building in 1939
–Beulah College

Tidings from Tonga

A few weeks ago, a trader and his wife announced that, beginning with the New Year, their store will be closed at sunset every “Preparation Day.” They asked me to print them a notice to that effect in Tongan to be tacked on their door. For years Mr Brahne has been studying the truth, and for a long time has been under conviction. We rejoice that the Lord has given him the faith and courage to step out, and that in this important decision his wife is with him. Pray for this couple. Sister Edwards, who came here from Pitcairn with Pastor and Mrs Butz, spoke of the message to Mr Brahne and lent him books.

Another cause for rejoicing is the fact that our three candidates for the Government examinations this year were all successful. We sent up two young men and one young woman, all church members. One of the boys sat for the Leaving Certificate and the other for the Teachers Certificate, while the girl took both. For a long time we have been looking forward to the day when Beulah Adventist School would become Beulah Adventist College—when the Tongan Cabinet would recognise our school as a college within the meaning of the Act that makes provision for half taxation for boys between 16 and 20 years of age, attending secondary schools that have reached the required standard of education. This is the fifth year that we have had success in the Government examinations. But before this year’s results were out, we sent in a request for recognition. The matter was referred to the Acting Director of Education for his report. This gentleman, who is also principal of the Government college, has been most considerate, even hastening on his report in an effort to help us to receive the Cabinet’s answer before school broke up.

This morning, the very day our students are going off to their homes, the Clerk of the Cabinet told us that the Cabinet had granted our request. We greatly rejoice at this good news, praise the Lord for His goodness. The result will be that more students will come, and those who come will remain with us longer, to hear the message we teach. There should be a larger fruitage from Beulah in the future. Last night we had our closing exercises, and the students sang twenty-one selections from the cantata, Under the Palms.

—Pr Tolhust, Australian Record, Vol. 42, No. 4, January 24, 1938.

Timeline Tonga

1891E H gates and A J Read visit Tonga on the fourth journey of the Pitcairn
1895Edward and Ida Hilliard, and daughte Alta arrived in Tonga as the first Seventh-day Adventist missionaries
Hilliards established the first Adventist school in the Kingdom at their home
1896More Adventist missionaries arrived in Tonga – Sarah and Maria Young, Edwin and Florence Butz, and daughter Alma; Maria later married to the first Adventist convert in Tonga, an English man, named Charles Edwards. Maria continued with her nursing and attended birth of Queen Salote and other royal family members
Timote Mafi, first Tongan Adventist convert
Spread of Adventistm slow
Establishment of a school under Edwin Butz enabled success with government officials and Royal Family
1904Arrival of Ella Boyd, a popular teacher; student numbers increase and there was a positive Adventist relationships with Tongan population
Ella Boyd reopened the Adventist primary school at Nuku’alofa (now known as Mangaia or Hilliard)
1904-1911Evangelistic activities school-focused and slow, then the school system appears to fade
First large evangelistic meetings held by George G Stewart, supported by Ethelbert Thorpe, Hubert and Pearl Tolhurst
Mission home and school built at Mizpah on Vava’u, with up to 50 students
1917First camp meeting for all Tongan members
1922Beulah School established at Vaini and CS Palmer as principal
1924211 Sabbath keepers and graduates from Beulah Adventist College
1935Beulah Adventist School recognised as Beulah Adventist College
1937Queen Salote gives Beulah College 100 acres of land
1945Beulah’s enrolment 289, – Largest Adventist school in the Pacific
1956Tesimale Latu, first Tongan principal of Beulah; growing enrolments as a result
1982Vanessa Latu, first Beulah student to sit for the University Entrance exam
1986First of the SAH Heart Teams to Tonga
Centenary of Adventist schools and Church in Tonga
1995-presentSeventh-day Adventist small in comparison to other Christian churches
Four Seventh-day Adventist school in Tonga
Beulah College recognised for its brass band


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Cormack, J.A. (1966). Tribute to the Late Queen Salote. Australian Record. Vol 70, #4, Jan 29.

Ferris, W.G. (1950). Maria Young and Charles Edwards. Mission Quarterly. Vol 39, 3rd quarter, p 16 – 18.

Hadfield, B.E. (1944). Our Oldest Native Believers in Tonga. Australian Record. Vol 48,

Hook, M. Talafekau Mo’oni: Early Adventism in Tonga and Niue: Booklet 21: Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series. Wahroonga, NSW: South Pacific Division Department of Education.

Howse, E.W. (1948). The Reward of Obedience. Australian Record. Vol 52, #41, Oct 11.

Pahulu, T. (1973). Dry Coconut Stalks Won’t Stop Me. Australian Record. Vol 77, #40, Oct 1.

Palmer, C.S. (1959) Tales of Tonga. Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association.

Tolhurst, H. (1938) Tidings from Tonga. Australian Record. Vol 42, #4, Jan 24.

Vunileva, S. (1979). From Prison to Freedom. Australian Record. Vol 84, #4, Jan 22.