TAHITI – We took our car in for servicing in urban Pirae, on the north side of the island. The mechanic informed us it would be an hour or two before the work would be finished. It was a pretty morning for a walk, so to pass the time, we began walking south, toward the mountains. As we walked up the avenue, we passed apartment buildings, nice and not so nice, industrial workshops, and a chlorination plant, until the asphalt petered out and the road became a somewhat rugged dirt road. The valley and the trees drew closer in, and a stream, swollen and made muddy by a rainy night, roared along down below. Signs of human habitation became fewer and further between. Not long after, as we climbed, we spied a small white sign that said, “Marae, 1100 meters” and then another indicating 400 meters. A marae is a pagan worship site, often with a small stone pyramid 15 feet or less in height, and wooden stele grave markers. There can also be a small altar for votive offerings. How interesting: A marae not marked on any map, there for us to explore. We continued our hike up the valley, across the rushing stream, and up the hillside, well-hidden in the jungle, was the marae. This little marae had all the usual elements of its kind, even with recent votive offerings on a wooden crossbar, and a small amphitheatre with benches. It appeared otherwise abandoned. After strolling around for a few minutes, we headed down the valley. Not long after, we noticed a Tahitian man about our age hiking uphill toward us, and we stopped for friendly conversation. He inquired whether we were tourists, and when we revealed that we live on the island he immediately opened up to us. The first question he asked is whether we are Mormons. If you are American and involved in missionary work, this is the assumption. Learning that we are Christians, Theodore (named after President Theodore Roosevelt) recounted his family history. His great, great, grandfather was Henry Walker, one of the original missionaries to Tahiti from London. After a few more niceties, we each went our ways, and I thought, “This hike is Tahiti in a nutshell.”
Tahiti has a thousand-year history of paganism that includes human sacrifice and bizarre, demonic rituals. Over two hundred years ago, the first wave of missionaries came from the London Missionary Society. In the first Christian generation in these islands, a Bible translation was made, some cultural transformation took place (some good, mostly bad), and then the cults began to arrive. First, Roman Catholics, then Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists landed in succession and infiltrated the islands with their false doctrines and harmful practices. Christian discipleship and the fulfillment of the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ began a long retreat to where it stands today. And now, the Protestant denomination, with its roots in the work of the London Missionary Society, has decided to return to the paganism of their ancestors, complete with its shamanistic worship of creation.
The flourishing and thriving of the cults and the retreat of the once-strong church is the reason we came here. The crisis is first and foremost a tsunami borne of biblical ignorance. We are told time and again that Tahitians disdain reading; we observe an education system gone awry through French colonialism; we see Bibles barely opened; and churches either ignorant of the Gospel or teaching a murky or even false gospel. And how can anyone find the good news of the Savior apart from the Bible? This is our battlefield: beautiful, broken, Tahiti and her isles. Rene and I are only two people fighting this battle. We have a handful of local allies and a network back home of diligent prayer warriors and generous supporters. As soldiers say when they are surrounded, it’s a target rich environment. So it is, so it is. Everything we do seems like so little in the face of this wave of evil, yet our God is Good and Great, and we trust completely that He is using and will use our work to stem the tide. Please continue to pray as we make more connections, prepare more resources, and continue our preaching and teaching.
Just as we left Hamutai Valley this morning and returned to the urban street, we spotted a spectacular native bird, the gray-green fruit dove. We marveled for a moment at his vivid green plumage, breathtaking evidence of the beauty of creation and the genius and beauty of our Creator. He is our Savior and Lord. He will prevail. He will reign forever and ever.