By Tim Meyer
The Solomon Islands are rich in
Christian history. This archipelago of
islands lies off the northeastern coast of
Australia. The people are Melanesian,
black islanders. In the late 1800s island-
ers were blackbirded (coercively recruit-
ed through trickery and kidnapping) by
ship captains who had contracts with
Australian sugar cane growers to recruit
workers for the fields. These workers
were called “kanakas.” Some of these
islanders were legally hired, but many
were gang-pressed (sold into slavery by
their village chiefs).
Florence Young was born in New
Zealand in 1856. Her family migrated to
Australia when she was young, and in
1878 her brothers bought a sugar cane
plantation in the Bundaberg region of
Queensland. Burdened to win these
islanders to Christ, Florence started the
Queensland Kanaka Mission in 1886.
She taught the blackbirded islanders to
read and instructed them in salvation
and Bible teaching. When Australia
federated in 1901 and introduced the
“white Australia policy,” the kanakas
24 BIMI WORLD – Number 3, 2010
were sent back to the islands. Because
of the witness of Florence Young, many
went back born again.
Florence spent six years of the
period between 1891 and 1900 working
as a missionary with the China Inland
Mission, founded by Hudson Taylor.
When the Boxer Rebellion broke out,
it was unsafe for white missionaries
to be in China. Some were martyred.
The CIM instructed Florence to go
back to Australia. When Florence
returned, she continued the work
with the Queensland Kanaka Mission.
Eventually, she received a letter from
a kanaka who had become a Christian
in Australia but had returned to his
home island of Malaita. He asked for
missionaries to come and help reach his
people with the Gospel.
The message was from Peter
Ambuofa. Peter had returned to Malaita
in 1894. Having accepted Christ as his
Saviour while in Australia, he returned
as the first born again believer to the
Malaitan village of Malu'u. He did not
receive a friendly welcome. His family
was expecting him to return with at
least some sort of worldly wealth.
Instead, he came only with the Gospel.
His family was from the inland regions
of Malaita. They had walked down
to Malu'u to meet Peter. His mother
approached him with roasted taro.
“Son,” she said, “you come back with
us, up to your home in the hills. You see
this taro? It's your food, but if you don't
come with us, you will die of hunger.”
She put the taro back in her basket and
walked away. This was a great insult.