Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mission Accomplished?

In May of AD 30, the risen Savior, Jesus Christ, told his disciples:

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Eighteen centuries and 15,000 miles away, on the tiny Island of Rata Iti, this task was accomplished:

"Rapa, on the southeast radial from the centre, is the most southerly island in tropical Polynesia and is sometimes included in the Austral Islands. Like the Austral Islands, Rapa had been so neglected that Stokes, who went there from Raivavae, found the myths and traditions scanty and confused. The few fragments that were gathered are interesting as remnants of a richer oral literature that was not committed to writing by the early native missionaries who were preoccupied with spreading the new theology.

The Reverend Davies, who visited the island in 1826, stated that the religion of Rapa was the same as that of Tahiti but without the parade and show. There were no regular religious structures, but a few stones were regarded as sacred shrines with magic power. No images in stone or wood were found, the the gods Paparua and Poere were represented by material objects." -- Vikings of the Sunrise, by Te Rangi Hiroa, chapter 13

After the gospel had spread throughout the civilized world, the London Missionary Society had set out to reach the heathen of the uncivilized world. A British sea captain, George Vancouver, rediscovered the island in 1791 on his circumlocution of the globe. Though better known for his exploration of the American Northwest, his voyage took him to Hawaii and Australia and around Africa back to England. Along the way he observed the island without much interaction. This was a "whirlwind" tour at the end of a short life (he died upon return to England at age 40).

The missionaries, though, used this discovery a generation later to reach this island that is the furthest point of land away from Jerusalem! The natives were eager to learn new ideas, and soon abandoned their old belief system. Unfortunately, the gospel was not the only thing that came from Europe. Diseases unknown to this far land ravaged a population of around 2000 people -- down to about 300! We can only hope that those who died had embraced the new faith. Our Lord is sovereign, so I am sure that in that generation HIS people were indeed brought into the kingdom.

Today a third of the inhabitants are members of the "Tahitian Choir" which spreads the gospel in their unique language - in their unique sound -- a widening audience (thanks to the worldwide web!) Of course, without translators, the wider audience will not benefit from the message. However, reviewers seem enthralled by the sound.

And now, if those in Jerusalem can just reach their own backyard!

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