In the second half of the 19th century, the sugar cane industry was developing in central Queensland. The main problem was the lack of labourers, so ships would sail to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. On arrival at a convenient place, the sailors would conduct a fake church service on the beach, after which they would round up the man and take them back to Australia for several years, a practice known as Blackbirding. Many of these people came under the influence of the Christian gospel and were keen to see this established in their native lands. It was in this way that the young Australian Methodist Minister John Goldie and his wife Helena came to be invited to the Solomon Islands. According to the records of the church, they were not in a great hurry to come here, but after much prayer and preparation, they arrived on a small island off Munda Point – the very centre of head hunting in the country. They were not sure how welcome they were, so they spent some time on the island. When they did come ashore, John was put to the test by being strapped to a tree overnight on Kokeqolo Hill. The arrangement was that if he survived the wild dogs, then the people would believe that his God had saved him. He did survive the night, but the locals were rel
In the early 1800’s, British whaling ships moved from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean as the U.S.A developed. In so doing, they came across many of the islands in south-east Asia and the Pacific, including the Solomon Islands. In those days, the people of the Solomon Islands built their canoes and houses with sharp stones as they did not have metal for knives. The British sailors on the ships traded knives & axes for supplies and favours from the local people. Those tribes that were quick to trade gained the advantage over their neighbours. In this way the tribes from the Roviana area became strong and were feared throughout this corner of the Pacific. Under the guidance of the local chief, war canoes (tomoko) were prepared which could seat 50 or 60 warriors and capable of crossing large stretches of open sea in search of skulls and slaves. The people were animist by belief, meaning that their lives were controlled by the spirits of their dead ancestors. The male skulls (the slaves collected were women & children) had a value for earthly power for the chief and also for a guarantee of passage into the next life. The value of skulls was as follows, in ascending order: pig, child, man, warrior, chief, white man! It is important to understand that these people were not cannibals.
The first Governor General (Woodford), who established the British Protectorate in 1902, was determined to stamp out the practice, but he died before this was achieved. The Rev John Goldie was also keen to stop head hunting, but after nearly 30 years of preaching and persuading, he too was unsuccessful. Finally the British navy achieved what the politicians and missionaries had failed to do, despite their best efforts.
Nowadays the people of Roviana look back on head hunting times with some dismay and most are grateful for the work of Rev John Goldie, his wife Helena and others who gave up comfortable lives in Australia for the bush and uncertainties of life in the Solomon Islands.
A Brief History and Description of the Current Situation in 2013
The Rev John Goldie and his wife Helena arrived in what is now known as the West Province of the Solomon Islands in 1902. They came at the invitation of Solomon Islanders who had been taken to Queensland against their will by the process known as Blackbirding. They were essentially slaves, working in the rapidly growing sugar cane industry which was centred around Bundeburg, where they came across the Christian faith. The Methodist church was established in the very centre of the head-hunting area of the Solomon Islands; the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches did not venture here!
John Goldie established a mission station (a church) at Kokeqolo (Munda) with a coconut plantation for financial support. The hospital and school came later, mainly as a result of the work of his wife Helena. In the 1950’s, several local people were training for the ministry in Kokeqolo, including one named Silas Eto. In 1959, a separate movement developed under his leadership, and this became known as the Christian Fellowship Church in the early 1960’s. This was partly an independence movement against the British Protectorate, but it developed into a separate church, with Silas as the 4th member of the Godhead. There were many miracles reported at this time, and the island of Rendova was described as free of illness for a 2 year period. The C.F.C. church worshipped behind closed doors in the “Methodist” church buildings throughout the West Province and Choiseul.
After the death of Silas, his eldest son became the Spiritual Authority, and he continues today as the head of the church. However, since 2011, his younger brother Jobe Tausinga M.P. has been encouraging members of the C.F.C. church to return to their roots. On Thursday 23rd May 2013, the 111th anniversary of the establishment of the Methodist Mission Station at Kokeqolo, Jobe spoke to over 300 C.F.C. church members in the United Church building at Kekehe. Over the last 2 years there has been persecution and violence between C.F.C. group A people (who wish to remain C.F.C.) and C.F.C .group B people, who wish to move back to the United (Methodist) Church of the Solomon Islands. Some houses have been destroyed and many people threatened on both sides of this dispute. Hopefully there will be a peaceful resolution to this situation.
Many people from the C.F.C. have risen to prominent positions in government and civil service, but they feel that they are regarded as 2nd class citizens as a result of their religious allegiance.
Jenny & Sally (H.G.H. theatre sister) left for Seghe on Monday morning (20th) for the medical tour and opening ceremony of the new “O.R.” at the hospital in Seghe. The operating theatre has been built with funds raised by the Marovo Medical Foundation (see web site of same name). They visit twice a year, but this will be their first combined medical and surgical tour. Sally will stay in Seghe and work in the new theatre – she was born in this lagoon (the largest salt water lagoon in the world) – so she knows the local language and customs! Jenny will join the medical & community doctors to visit villages throughout the entire lagoon over the 12 days of the tour. Jenny describes the Uepi resort as idyllic and is keen to join the tour again in November if possible.
Meanwhile Graham remains at Helena Goldie Hospital working on the male ward and in the operating theatre. We have had problems with the spinal anaesthetic solution over recent weeks, so he has been helping Dr Dina to mix our own anaesthetic and sugar solution to give into the spine, which numbs the body below the chest (hopefully). Graham then monitors the patient while Dr Dina removes the “basket for the baby” as they call it here! We have 6 hysterectomies waiting to be done, so we need to do three this week. Graham has become the regular “anaesthetist” for the major procedures in theatre.
On Tuesday evening, towards the end of the English class for the 12 nurse aides, a 16 year old girl from a local school was brought in on a stretcher. She had been found outside the Munda police station earlier in the evening shaking uncontrollably, with the suspicion that she had an evil spirit. Once inside the female ward, a nurse aide checked her vital signs and soon after that, the hospital chaplain arrived to deal with any evil spirits present. Earlier in the day, people collected at the Kokeqolo end of the runway, as they heard the sound of a different aircraft overhead. There were correct – it was an Australian Hercules trying to land. After several attempts, the plane flew away, much to the disappointment of the assembled crowd.
Thursday 23rd was the anniversary of the United (originally Methodist) church of the Solomon Islands, being the day that the pioneer missionary Rev John Goldie arrived here in Kokeqolo with his wife Helena in 1902. It is very clear that the people here remain grateful for the sacrifices made by these young missionaries from the Australian Methodist Church – hence the public holiday. In Kekehe there was a meeting of group B C.F.C. members to hear the Honourable Jobe Tausinga M.P. speak to over 300 people, all dressed in white for the occasion.
Graham arrived back on Monday after a pleasant trip on the M.V. Fair Glory from Honiara to find that R.A.M.S.I. were sending a helicopter to air-left a patient with bowel obstruction resulting from a strangulated hernia. Normally we use the plane but as there was no space and the patient was deteriorating, R.A.M.S.I. agreed to get involved. Jenny was relieved that he had survived the night and we hope that he had successful surgery in Honiara. It proved to be a bust week with three young men with appendicitis who all had successful surgery. On Friday night we were all in theatre for a caesarean section on a lady whose baby was showing signs of distress. Fortunately the baby survived after resuscitation. We continue to see new cases of Dengue Fever, the milder ones are treated at home and those more severely affected are admitted. We hope that our elective medical student with Dengue Fever has arrived back in the U.K. and is recovering well.
It has been a difficult and frustrating week for all the medical staff at Helena Goldie Hospital. A young child died with overwhelming infections on Dr Zotei’s ward and a lady died just after delivery on maternity ward, probably due to an amniotic fluid embolism. Spraying of the hospital and staff houses to kill mosquitoes lead to the cancellation of a hysterectomy on Wednesday, and a power cut had the same result on Thursday!
Jenny has been troubled by very itchy bites on both feet which seem to be caused by fleas. We have waged war on the rats inhabiting General Ward over recent weeks, but we now need to deal with stray dogs and their fleas. The dogs like to sleep under Robina House – the accommodation for medical students. One of the students developed Dengue Fever and returned to the U.K. early as a result.
Graham sailed to Honiara on the M.V. Fair Glory which leaves Noro Port at 9am on Tuesdays, returning from Honiara on Sunday mornings. He has spent many hours trying to renew residency and work permits. Unfortunately the residency permit office is closed on Wednesdays due to “staff reshuffling” so he spent most of Thursday in a queue with many other people trying to keep cool! Fortunately the paperwork is now complete and most of the fees have been paid, leaving the manager of the United Church Rest House to collect the documents later this month.
Our first laboratory confirmed case of Dengue fever heralded the formation of our Dengue Fever Task Force, with the first meeting held on Monday (29th April). Fortunately our first cases have been mildly affected by the virus, but we are now on the alert. As it was World Tuna Day on 1st May, two team members were able to give an awareness talk to the crowd gathered in Noro to celebrate the occasion. The mosquitos responsible for the spread of Dengue Fever are attracted by rubbish left by humans, which underlines the importance of cleaning up! The Malaria team will be responsible for spraying in the affected areas. As we only received our diagnostic test kits recently, the disease may be well established, but fortunately it is a mild illness in most cases, resembling Influenza. Treatment includes reducing body fever and taking plenty of oral fluids.
Our English lessons with the nurse aides are going well and we are all learning from the experience. We are encouraged by their enthusiasm and grateful to the University of the South Pacific for the course material and support.