Page images
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

THE launching of the missionary ship "Pitcairn " marks an era in the missionary history of Seventh-day Adventists. With the dedication and subsequent voyages of this little ship the hearts of Adventists for the first time were drawn out in behalf of the natives of the many groups of islands in the great Pacific. The enterprise thus set on foot was in the fullest sense a missionary enterprise, and it evoked among young and old an enthusiasm commensurate with its importance.

The whole thing had its beginning in the little island of Pitcairn, whose romantic story is too well known to need repetition in this connection. At an early period in the history of the denomination, James White had heard of the devout character of the inhabitants, and had been able by some means to send them a large box of Adventist publications. No word had come from the islanders in acknowledgment of the unordered consignment of reading matter, and apparently no further thought was given to it, literature in those days being sent out freely to many parts of the world.

There was one Adventist, however, who felt a deep personal interest in the island. When John I. Tay first went to sea, in

his sixteenth year, he was presented with a Bible and a book entitled, "The Mutiny on Board the Bounty.'" While serving on board the United States sloop-of-war "Housatonic," he again had his attention drawn to the island by a conversation with a member of the ship's company who had visited it. A number of years later, while doing ship missionary work in Oakland harbor, he met the captain of the "Ocean King," who had recently called at Pitcairn and spoke in high terms of its inhabitants.

His interest in the subject was thus newly aroused, and Brother Tay determined to make an attempt to visit the island. He succeeded in obtaining passage on the "Tropic Bird” to Tahiti, whence he hoped to be able by another vessel to reach Pitcairn. He sailed as ship carpenter, and was to have his Sabbaths free on condition that he receive no wages. The "Tropic Bird" left San Francisco July 1, 1886, and arrived in Tahiti July 29. On making inquiries at this place, Brother Tay was informed that only one vessel went to Pitcairn, and he might have to wait two years.

The event was more favorable. In the first week in September the British man-of-war "Pitcairn" sailed into the harbor of Tahiti, and it was soon noised about that the captain intended to make a call at Pitcairn. Brother Tay was accepted as a passenger, and at daybreak Monday morning, October 18, had the privilege of seeing with his own eyes the romantic little island which for so many years had been an object of unique interest to him.

He went ashore with the members of the crew, and when it was learned that he wished to stay on the island for a while, the bell was rung on Tuesday morning at six o'clock, and all the inhabitants came together to consider the question. When the vote was finally taken, it was unanimous and favorable. In the afternoon of the same day the ship sailed away. That evening the islanders held their regular weekly prayer meeting. The newcomer was invited to speak, and gave a short talk on the love of God, which seemed to interest the audience. On the following day he visited the people from house to house, and was everywhere kindly received. Thus runs a contemporary record:

"The third day of his [Brother Tay's] stay, he asked some of them if they would not like to have a Bible reading. At this time he was stopping at Simon Young's house, and all together there were eight at his first Bible reading. The first subject taken up was the 'Sanctuary.' A short time was spent on this occasion, and the next day the reading was finished with two or three more present. A reading was appointed for the following

day. At this time Simon Young, the pastor, was present, and about a dozen were in the congregation.

"It was soon found that the house was too small, and it was suggested that they go to the schoolroom. This was in one end of the church. He had with him a set of charts, and hung them up as he began the reading of Daniel 2 and 7. With their knowledge of the Bible, when it was told them what these symbols were designed to represent, the interest was wonderful, and so continued every day.

"The people generally had their breakfast about eight o'clock and dinner at five in the afternoon, sometimes earlier and sometimes later. It was arranged that he was to dine at one house one day, and at another the following day, and so on.

"The first Sunday he was there he went to their meeting, and was asked to speak. Standing near his seat, he talked for half an hour on the Sabbath question. Then Tuesday evening at the prayer meeting he spoke again by request, and as he talked of the Sabbath, one said, 'I will keep it,' and then another, and so said a goodly number all around him. It is ever thus that the Scriptures affect the unprejudiced child of faith.

"Brother Tay then thought that they ought to have a Sabbath meeting; and the magistrate, being present, said they could, and there should be no disturbance. So a meeting was appointed for the next Sabbath morning. Friday evening he called on the magistrate's sister, and asked her if she thought her brother would be at the meeting. She said she did not think he would. As Brother Tay did not want any division, he went to the magistrate himself, and talked the Sabbath question to him for an hour, until he was thoroughly aroused over the subject. The next morning the bell was rung, and everybody on the island turned out to the meeting. Simon Young took his text and preached a sermon on the Sabbath question. Others talked about it, and another service was held that day, and the principal talk was of the Sabbath. The next day, Sunday, the whole island went to work, and they have never kept Sunday since.

'About five weeks after reaching Pitcairn, a yacht came down from San Francisco, by the name of the General Evans.' Here, it seemed, was the opportunity for him to leave the island; but the work was not yet finished off. He wished to give them the third angel's message. Providentially, a strong wind storm came up for a few days, and it was impossible for the boat to leave. Brother Tay improved this opportunity by holding Bible readings on this topic. He left many books with them, a law and a prophetic chart, also, and instructed Sister McCoy, in whose care they were, to see that they were used.

"They then wished to be baptized, but he told them that the regulations of the church to which he belonged did not allow a deacon to perform this ceremony, but he believed the Lord would accept them under the circumstances if they expressed the desire, and then when the proper time came, they could be baptized. Brother Young thought this was right. . . .

"The last thing to be done was to go from house to house talking with them, and encouraging them to hold firm. Finally, just five weeks from the time he landed, the boat was ready, and he took his departure. Before the yacht sailed, Simon Young thanked him for his coming to the island, and for the work that had been done there."-" The Story of the Pitcairn, " pp. 20-22.

Thus was the advent message given to the Pitcairn islanders. Perhaps the rapidity with which they accepted the new doc

[graphic][merged small]

trine was due in part to the fact that the Adventist tracts and papers sent to the island years before had not been wholly unread. The seed had been sown, and only needed watering to spring up and yield an abundant harvest.

When Brother Tay returned to California and told the brethren of his experiences on the island, there immediately sprang up a deep interest, not only in Pitcairn, but also in the other islands of the Pacific. When the General Conference was convened in November, 1887, the following recommendation was duly brought before that body:

"1. That a vessel of suitable size and construction for missionary purposes be purchased or built, and equipped for missionary work among the islands of the Pacific Ocean.

"2. That the cost of building and equipping said vessel for two years' cruise shall not exceed the sum of twenty thousand dollars ($20,000).

"3. That such a vessel be made ready for service early in the year 1888. "4. That the duly elected officers of this body for the coming year constitute a committee who shall be empowered to put in execution the provisions of this bill, and also to appoint other persons, as their judgment may dictate, to act with them in carrying out the project."- General Conference Bulletin, Nov. 14, 1887, p. 2.

The matter was referred to a committee of five, which finally reported, in view of the urgent needs of enterprises already on foot, that the building of a missionary ship be postponed till the next annual session of the General Conference. This report was adopted.

At the meeting of the General Conference Committee held in April, 1888, it was decided to send A. J. Cudney, of Nebraska, to Pitcairn Island. He was to be accompanied by John I. Tay, and after baptizing the believers on the island, the two missionaries were to visit other islands in the interests of the message.

Elder Cudney, finding no means of reaching Pitcairn directly, took ship for Honolulu. After waiting there for a time, he at length accepted the offer of one of the members to fit out a schooner then offered at a forced sale. In this vessel he started for Pitcairn, intending to call at Tahiti to take on board John I. Tay, who had sailed from San Francisco July 5. The vessel on which Elder Cudney sailed, was never heard from after leaving Honolulu. Brother Tay waited for a time at Tahiti, and then returned to America.

The attempt to send an ordained minister to Pitcairn Island having thus failed, the General Conference assembled in the autumn of 1889 took action authorizing the purchase or building and equipping for service of "a vessel of suitable size and construction for missionary operation among the islands of the Pacific Ocean." The vessel was to be ready for service early in 1890, and a board of three persons was to be appointed to superintend the carrying out of the Conference decision,

« PreviousContinue »