“The Cook Islanders march magnificently, and make an impressive spectacle”

Men from across the British Emoire, including those of non-European descent, answered Britain’s call during the First World War. Several hundred men in all came from the Cook Islands.

THE L.M.S. AND THE EMPIRE

Not only have many sons of the L.M.S. missionaries answered the call of the Empire, but also many “sons of the L.M.S.” from far off Rarotonga and its sister isles of the Cook group in the South Pacific two contingents of the young cook islanders, trained in New Zealand and associated with the famous Anzacs, have found their way to the battle fronts of Europe. In 1915 a first contingent of 50 or more young men left Rarotonga for training. Of these some have already fallen in action “somewhere in France.” The second contingent of 120 odd left Rarotonga in July of 1916, and after training in New Zealand were sent on to Europe recently. Special services were held for these men before they left their island home, and several of them became seekers of “the Pearl of Great Price.” These sons of the Mission have gone forth not only as soldiers of the Empire, but as soldiers of the Empire of Christ.

The Rev. G.H. Eastman, of Rarotonga, communicated with the Congregational ministers of Auckland, New Zealand, and with other friends there, who gave the young Cook Islanders a warm welcome, and made arrangements for their spiritual welfare while in camp. The friends of the Devonport Congregational Church in particular went out of their way to help these “missionary children”, and the following extracts are from a letter received by Mr. Eastman from one of the deacons of the church.

“…The Narrow Neck Camp where the men are training is only a few minutes’ walk from my home, and we see a lot of them under all sorts of conditions; everyone is loud in their praise the men are all that could be desired in behaviour, in smart appearance, and show intense interest in their work. We have had the great pleasure of seeing some 90 men Sunday by Sunday at our church for the morning service.

“The men march magnificently, and make an impressive spectacle. We have a service suitable to the Cook Islanders in the morning, being only too happy to waive our regular procedure to any extent needed. The reading of the lessons is first in English and then in the native tongue. We usually have two hymns sung by our friends, and they are the soul of the music. The sermon is translated in the usual way, and in this particularly we are indebted to Sergeant Beni, he is a most intelligent chap and does wonders. We shall miss these men when they go, they are quite one with us, and we feel we quite love them.

“Words fail me when I think of the work that has been done at the Cook Islands that such a magnificent example of missionary ‘children’ should come to our shores, their behaviour and attention during service is truly wonderful. I wish the L.M.S. Authorities in London could step in to our church one Sunday morning and see them.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, April 1917 (D/EX1237/1/12)

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