1835: Power of Fijian chief converted in Tonga, Josua Mateinaniu of Fulaga, eased the entry of David Cargill and William Gross first Wesleyans to Lakeba

1835: A Fijian chief who had been converted in Tonga, Josua Mateinaniu of Fulaga, who accompanied the first Wesleyans to Lakeba in 1835 , was a person of far greater importance than most previous accounts allow.

Educated and high status: His status and his command of both Tongan and Fijian eased the entry of David Cargill and William Gross of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. Recognizing that effective Christian mission in Fiji depended to a large extent on the attitude of Bau, Rewa and the Tui Cakau, the Wesleyans sent Josua Mateinaniu westward alone from Lakeba toward the end of 1835 to mingle with the many Tongans who were spread out through the islands and to sound out the situation in the strongholds of the high chiefs. He was a well informed scout who advised on the future course of gospel warfare.

Josua Mateinaniu brings in a big congregation: By September 1836 he was back at Lakeba. On the Sunday after his return Cargill’ s small chapel was overflowing with a congregation `of 300 or 400 Tonguese from the Leeward Is. of Feejee. ‘ Many of them had embraced Christianity through the instrumentality of Joshua, an accredited Preacher whom we sent among them 10 Months ago. He has acted with great zeal and fidelity’.

John Garrett, “To Live Among the Stars”(book reviewed in the Journal of Pacific History, Sept, 1998, by Roderic Lacey) . Geneva/Suva: World Council of Churches in Association with the Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific. 2-8254-0692-9

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