More than 2000 people from every province of the Solomon Islands came to Viru Harbour last month to celebrate the centenary of Adventism in the Solomons.
In June 1914, Griffith Jones and his wife, Marion, sailed into Viru Harbour on the Advent Herald and set up a mission station on the northern side of the island of New Georgia. They were soon joined by Oscar and Ella Hellestrand, who had both worked at the Sydney Adventist Hospital, and who used medicine, schooling and the power of Jesus’ name to influence the local people. One hundred years later there are now 47,000 Seventh-day Adventists among a population of 500,000.
The centenary celebrations, from June 17-22, featured choirs and musical items from groups from every area—giving thanks for receiving the Adventist message. Historical sketches, stories, pictures and dramas highlighted the sacrifice of early pioneers from Australia and New Zealand, and the work of local pioneers. Many of them lost family as they took the gospel to the pagan and cannibalistic people of these picturesque islands.
Four grandchildren of the Hellestrands, one great-grandchild and three great-great-grandchildren came to Viru for the celebrations. They were amazed at how much the local people welcomed them as family and respected their forebears. A highlight was meeting a 106-year-old lady who remembered Oscar and Ella Hellestrand, and who shared with them some memories and sang an early Christian song she was taught.
Other Australians and New Zealanders present included descendants of pioneers, the Fergurson, House, Anderson and Boehm families, and more recent missionaries, the Townends and Curries.
A delegation of pastors and lay people from Papua New Guinea came to express their appreciation for the more than 1000 missionaries who came to their country from the Solomon Islands as nurses, teachers, ship captains and pastors. The delegation had an eventful trip after being rescued the night before when their boat ran out of fuel at sea.
South Pacific Division president Dr Barry Oliver spoke about the biblical basis of the message of Jesus and the hope of His soon return. “We do not want to be waiting another 100 years until Jesus returns,” he said. Dr Oliver and one of the Hellestrand grandchildren unveiled a centenary plaque in the village areabo or meeting place.
Although it rained every day and it was very muddy underfoot, nothing dampened the enthusiasm of the people attending. Solomon Islands Mission president Pastor George Fafale and his team kept reminding the people in practical biblical messages that they still have a mission and that the celebration pushes them on to reach out to others who are still lost or do not know the truths of the last day message.