John Hunt to Fiji

This is the day that … John Hunt was born in England, in 1812, to illiterate and irreligious parents.

Converted at the age of 17 when he came into contact with the Methodists, he was soon preaching in their meetings. At the age of 23 he entered their “Theological Institution” for missionary training, and on 29 April, 1838, he and his new bride, Hannah, sailed for the South Seas.

Fiji! “Those hills which they viewed upon their arrival contained the ovens in which human beings were roasted for cannibal feasts. There … widows had been strangled to accompany the dead chiefs to their ‘Paradise’.”

“Cunning was the highest intelligence. War was their business. The religion of the Fijian required cannibalism” (They Knew Their God, Volume 4, page 61).

Thus it was John Hunt and his good wife, both in their mid-20’s, tackled the unwritten language of these people that they might tell them of the Saviour.

“I determine,” he wrote in his journal, “to make known nothing among the poor Fijians but Christ and Him crucified. Oh that my speech and my preaching may be with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (Biography of John Hunt, by G. Rowe, 1860, page 173).

The savage climate led to the death of their three children soon after birth. He wrote: “I have three now in Heaven. I thank God they are safe. I feel much my need of them now; but, oh, how awful the thought of their living to sin against my God and be lost!”

For 10 years John Hunt persevered. King Thakombau – “the butcher of his people” – was a fierce foe, and his wars and hostility toward the missionary seemed to make all success hopeless.

John’s translation of the New Testament in Fijian was completed in 1847 (though not published until 1854).

And God saw fit to pour out revival among these people. There was weeping and groaning “and a general calling upon God to have mercy” by many Fijians. Even Queen Viwa was converted.

John Hunt wrote: “One hundred converts the first week of the revival… The mats of the chapel were wet with the tears of the communicants of the table of the Lord…”

But a year later – 4 October, 1848 – John Hunt died, at the age of 36.

King Thakombau was baptised nine years later by a fellow missionary.

And the gospel continued to bring light and joy and peace to those who had lived in darkness.

“The mission to Fiji has been as remarkable for its success as any ever undertaken by the Christian world. At the jubilee of that mission there was not an avowed pagan left. Fifty years before there was not a single Christian in all Fiji” (Epoch Makers of Modern Missions, by A. McClean, page 171).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.