John Hunt - part 2
“We saw in part 1 the beginning of John Hunt's journey towards his calling to Fiji. We will pick back up where John Hunt is finishing his education at the Theological Institution at Hoxton.”
A spirit of revival was abroad in the Institute and it was not strange to hear the voice of prayer and praise coming from individual rooms as the students importuned God for needed blessings and then rejoiced in their finding. John had such a life-changing experience with the Lord during this time. Others noticed the change in their fellow student. John Hunt's biographer writes:
“As he stood up to preach, everything about him struck observers with the idea of power . . . When he spoke, good and solid thoughts came forth, with natural utterance, in plain, manly speech, sinewy and strong; no affection, no tinsel, nothing weak, nothing small. The preacher had something of the farmer-look still, but there was a masterly light in his clear, steady eye that commanded respect.”
Then came the call to Fiji. By April 29th, the newly wedded couple (John & Hannah Hunt) found themselves en route for Australia on the first lap of their missionary journey. After four months at sea, they arrived in Sydney where they were welcomed with open arms and were given many inducements to stay. Their friends tried to persuade them to be missionaries in Australia, instead of going to the cannibals of Fiji. Why, they said, should you risk your health and even your life and that of your delicate wife by going to such a place? But John would not be deflected from what he felt to be his life-calling.
After a two month stay in Australia, they set out once more on their journey. A stay of ten days in Tonga, in the Friendly Islands, initiated them into the harsher realities of what they were soon to face in Fiji.
These islands had been evangelized before. The first missionaries that came, the natives attacked the ship and cannibalized those on board, including one of the missionaries. Afterwards, many Fijians died from a mysterious illness. The chief made a proclamation that, in the future, no white missionary should be cannibalized. They did not relish any further such plague on their people. This was little comfort to the Hunts when the island itself was staring them in the face.
When they set their eyes on Fiji for the first time, the scene before them was rather intense. Seeing the British ship approach, the natives mounted their canoes and set out to see this great site. On board, every sailor is at attention. Every gun ready. Boarding nets hang over the side. Apart from the missionaries themselves, not a man who looks down upon the numerous savages around them would dare risk his life by lowering themselves down into one of these canoes. But over the side they went, a few unarmed men and one delicate cultured woman.
As they approached the shore, they were overwhelmed by how beautiful the islands were. Then they beheld their first Fijian. “The first sight of a Fijian is very appalling.” they tell us. “The people were much surprised to see us come, and stood, nearly naked, staring and shouting with astonishment as we passed.
What a formidable task confronted these young people, still in their mid twenties. The task of bringing Christ to a people whose ideals were so vastly different from that of a Christian nation. Those hills yonder, which they had viewed upon their arrival, contained the ovens in which human beings were roasted for the cannibal feasts. There, not far away, widows had been strangled to accompany the dead chief to their “Paradise”. On those very beaches, prisoners of war were transformed into “human rollers” over whose mangled bodies a new ship was launched, because such cruelty is believed to make the future voyages of the ship more prosperous.
The effect upon John Hunt as he viewed these people was a determination to quickly learn their language, but these Fijians had no language. They handed down their history to succeeding generations though their songs.
Within a month, however, the new recruit was communicating the good news of the Gospel to them. John writes, “I feel myself saved from almost all fear, though surrounded with men who have scarcely any regard for human life.”
Though in the mist of new circumstances and heavy demands this did not quench a longing for more of God. John Hunt writes:
“I want much power! There is a need, in preaching, of the power which is necessary to make it the sword of the Spirit, and “the power of God unto salvation.” I believe that this increase of power will be given, when I have more of the Spirit myself. I desire and determine 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 power!”
A new convert, Namosimalua, Chief of Viwa, had been a a monster of crime; hundreds of men had been beaten to death by his club. The great change in this chief was apparent to all when he ordered the sacred trees to be cut down for timber for the new building! Another convert of a distinguished nature from Tonga, it was said of him that he had eaten more men than any other Fijian. He too, had gone over to Lotu (became a Christian).
After being in Fiji for five months, John Hunt felt he must begin the work of translating the New Testament into the language of the people. He had unbounded confidence in the Word of God to convert these savages, for it had the “seed of Life with in itself.” In later years, the Fijian converts were almost solely the product of having been led to Christ through the reading of the New Testament.
Many were the tests and trials of the missionaries in their new life. Much time had to be given to the natives who would come and stay for hours. Their privacy was constantly being invaded, for the natives would peer through the windows and sometimes even from the roof. “We are much tested, with the visits of the people,” John writes home. “They seem to think we have nothing to do but talk to them.” But it was such daily contact that make them acquainted with the people and their language.
One cannot imagine the horror felt by those delicately brought up when many barbarities (cruel or savage acts) were performed within sight of the Mission. The ovens where the flesh of victims had been prepared for feasting were placed near the Mission compound. The horrible odor could not be shut out by closing the windows or doors, for that was forbidden by the Chief. When a chief died, the Hunts would have to watch his wives be strangled nearby and then buried to line his grave.
Death was often hung over them whenever a chief became enraged over some trivial matter. But these were the daily occasions in which God was tempering and molding His instruments for even higher service in the ages to come as can be seen by the following excerpt from John's letters:
“We need always to be ready to part wit our property and our lives too. We have endeavored to turn our care into prayer and God has, in some measure, sanctified our sorrow and anxiety, by turning our mourning into joy.
We except to sow in tears as confidently as we hope to reap in joy; trials and privations are words seldom used by us, and are things that are thought much more of by our friends at home than by ourselves.”
The climate was unfriendly to missionaries' children, and the Hunts were tested as one after another of their children died soon after birth. At little Hannah's death John wrote, “I have now three 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!”
Disappointment dogged their footsteps when a new war would be waged and opposition would rise against the Christians, testing to the very limit the grace received. Once their chief threatened to plunder all the Christians and in the night with 500 men, he took away all their property. But the missionaries took the spoiling of their goods with cheerfulness!
Indeed, the opposition served to strengthen rather than weaken the young church, for the Fijians are by nature very covetous and thus the missionaries submitted patiently to the loss of their possessions.
The fires of tribulation seemed to be heated seven-fold more, but God was forging His vessels. Word came that the wive of their good friend and fellow missionary had died. Moved with compassion John decided to go and visit his friend to comfort him. This meant long days of sailing in an open boat, exposing him to unfriendly elements which had already taken their toil on this once robust man. But it is rare that we can ever really bless another without bleeding some ourselves.
Then, as if this were not enough, Mrs. Hunt was struck with a illness that threatened her life. But the young couple continued through it all, ever faithful in their trust in the Lord. John could say, “I feel my love towards them increasing and I am determined to spend and be spent in trying to do them good until God and His church shall remove me from them.”
His biographer wrote of him:
“He had lived for Fiji and his every thought, desire, purpose, plan and effort had long gone in this one direction – the salvation of Fiji. Once, for some weeks, he had been laid to bed and kept from his work. His voice hushed and his hands powerless, yet he had never ceased to pray for the people of the Islands; but now his prayers also were to cease. Never till then did he feel how Fiji had become identified with his very life.”
John Hunt would labor many more years before seeing fruit of his commitment. But fruit he would see! While approaching death he asked for John 14 to be read to him. He saw Christ as sufficient for everything and exclaimed, “Now He is my joy!”
The following article was written many years after the death of John Hunt when another missionary visited Fiji:
Our first missionaries came to Fiji by way of Tonga, but the dominating figure of all pioneers was John Hunt. He was twenty-six when he landed and thirty-six when he died. Only thirty-six! But he will never die. The man who had no other ambition than to exalt Jesus has left the imprint of his Lord all over Fiji and, unintentionally, his own as well.
I think life itself will fade before I forget the thrill of landing on Viwa. We made the journey in an outrigger canoe. It was utterly humbling to find that all the island was en fete to welcome friends from the land of John Hunt. We walked the road John Hunt had cut, stood on the site of his house and his first printing press, and came finally to his lonely grave. How tenderly they keep it! He might have died yesterday for the depth of their sorrow! And all in ten years! The
New Testament translated into Fijian and the Old Testament well begun. Trained evangelists fanning out over the islands with the news of Christ. Dead at thirty-six! But living for evermore in earth and in Heaven too!
It is not death, O Christ, to die for Thee:
Nor is that silence of a silent land
Which Speaks Thy praise so all may understand:
Darkness of death makes Thy dear lovers see
Thyself Who Wast and Art and Art to Be;
Thyself, more lovely than the lovely band
Of saints who worship Thee on either land
Loving and loved through all eternity.
~ Christina Rossetti
Take From :
"They Knew Their God" Vol. 4 ~ By: Edwin & Lillian Harvey