NUKUALOFA, the capital of the kingdom of Tonga, is a town of about fifteen thousand. As there was no hall large enough we conducted our meetings in the open air although it was the wet season.
Another denomination held two open air meetings against us, but on both occasions heavy rain forced them to close their meeting just as they were beginning. In answer to the prayers of God's people we had fine weather for all our meetings seven nights a week. On some occasions it rained heavily before and after the meetings but no rain fell during them.
The sermons were not translated. This, of course, cut off many of the people, but preaching in English had two big advantages. First, there were quite a number of our workers in from the New Hebrides, Fiji, Samoa, Nui, and of course, Tonga. If the meetings had been translated, these workers would only have gotten about half as much material and they are the ones that I especially wanted to help. Then, second, the educated class were attracted and the results have proved very profitable. One hundred and eighty-four signed covenant cards to keep the Sabbath and become Seventh-day Adventists. Among them were some of the leading ministers of government, and other prominent personalities from the government departments and offices and the business firms of the town. These are, of course, the type of people that are hard to reach.
Don Mitchell, president of the mission, is carrying on the meetings three nights a week. In a letter received from him, he states that they are progressing very encouragingly. After this campaign has finished the meeting will be held in Tongan.
Sabbathkeepers and Sundaykeepers Go to Church on Same Day!
One particular problem we face in Tonga is the question of the date line. This has caused some confusion, since in Tonga the Seventh-day Adventists attend church on the same day as the Sundaykeepers. Our work has gone very slowly in Tonga. Although we have been there for some seventy or eighty years we have still less than nine hundred members. At first I was concerned just how the whole truth could be preached under the circumstances, but with a good deal of research and much help from others I was able to gather up some very interesting facts and arguments that enabled me to deal with this apparently tricky problem. With clarity and convincing power we showed that Adventists are consistent.
Opposition and persecution is very real in some of these Isles of Paradise. Young people are beaten, dismissed from their jobs and driven from their homes, but they are standing firm for the Saviour, who loved them and gave His life for them.
Salt in the Gas Tank
One of our Fijian workers who was in our evangelistic classes there told of a recent experience that happened on the island of Viwa, in the Fijian group. This is just off the mainland of Fiji, not far from the Nandi (Nandi is the international airport, en route from U.S.A. to Australia).
A young woman of that island had accepted the truth and began to send tracts and papers to her father who was a lay preacher in another church. He requested that a preacher be sent over to the island. The chief granted permission, and a large group of people gathered to hear the speaker. The chief introduced the evangelist and then a sermon on the signs of the times was preached.
At the close of the meeting the Protestant minister ordered our evangelist to get out "or blood will be spilt." He stirred up the people and at the next meeting a cup of salt was poured into the gasoline tank of the motor that ran the lighting plant. No men attended the second meeting. This looked suspicious. The electric wires were cut and so there was no light and outside the hall men were crying out, "Kill them, kill them." A group of big Fijian men entered, one slashed at Brother Gray with a large knife, the blade of which was about two feet in length. It grazed his chest and cut his shirt open. Our evangelists were thrown out, the pulpit smashed and hacked to pieces as were many of the chairs and other articles of furniture.
The Protestant minister called a council of the chief and leading men. The result was that our men were forced to leave the island.
Four weeks later, our brethren heard that just after they were forced to leave, a baby had died. The practice there is that after a funeral they have four days for feasting. On the fourth day a second baby died. On the fourth day of the feast a third baby died, and on the following fourth day a fourth baby died. Then on the following fourth day the fifth baby died. Along with these dreadful occurrences a man out fishing for the feast was taken by a shark and torn into pieces.
Later the chief had a dream and he saw the whole of his island burning and all his people going into the fire and his son going in last. It was his son who had slashed at Brother Gray and cut his shirt. The chief had this dream three times. By this time both the chief and the people were frightened. To add to their fear, Fiji was hit by a severe hurricane and the island of Viwa was hit the worst of all. It was very nearly flattened. Adventists offered them help; they were grateful but suggested they would wait and see what their own church would do for them. But their church offered no help at all so the Adventists went in and helped them rebuild.
The chief's son, who had done the slashing with the big knife, is now our friend, and the whole island has turned in favor of our church. The prospects there are bright. Truth is certainly a hard thing to fight. "If God be for us, who can be against us?"