38 houses and other mission memories

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Ron Heggie was born in New Zealand. His mother, impressed with the Bible-based doctrines of Adventism, joined the Church when Ron was nine. Some years later, he too was baptised and in 1929 graduated from the pre-ministerial course at Longburn College. Because of the great economic hardship of the time, Ron worked for a year canvassing and assisting his father, a builder. He enrolled at Avondale College in 1931, graduating from the ministerial course in 1933.

After a year canvassing in South New Zealand, Ron was called into evangelism in NZ’s North Island and in 1937 he married Alvine Reye, whom he had met at Avondale. 

Alvine and Ron were a team totally committed to the work of the Church, living in 38 houses in their years together.

As World War II loomed, Ron found himself frequently in court supporting young people who refused, as conscientious objectors, to bear arms. During this time an attempt was made to deport Pastor Nelson Burns, an evangelist in Wellington, whom Ron was assisting. Fortunately, due to the intervention of then prime minister, Peter Fraser, the deportation order was overturned and the campaign continued to a successful conclusion. 

Continuing in his calling as an evangelist, Ron was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1942 and shortly afterwards appointed to mission work. Initially he was called to serve as principal of the Training School at Batuna, Solomon Islands. But due to the Japanese invasion of the Solomons, he was instead appointed president of the French Polynesia Mission. 

Due to the wartime conditions there were no regular passenger services across the Pacific so it took some time negotiating with ship captains in Newcastle before one was found willing to take the family as passengers. It took 28 days to get to Tahiti with a lot of travelling away from the normal shipping lanes in order to avoid naval mines.

Ron spent five years in this role and his practical skills were useful. He built, among other things, a six-metre boat to assist with travel around the islands. Being wartime, car parts were hard to come by so Ron either repaired the old Model T Ford and Mission Oldsmobile himself, or on occasion, actually made his own parts. 

Alvine, being born in Samoa, was fluent in Samoan and German as well as English, and this background helped her quickly master the Tahitian language. She had significant input into a new hymnal for the Church in French Polynesia. In addition, though without teacher training, she home-schooled her two older children during these years. 

Being without regular lines of communication was hard for Ron and his family. Once he was marooned on an island for three months before gaining the use of a small, four-metre sailing boat. He sailed it 386 kilometres across open ocean back to Tahiti—a risky enterprise!

Because of the legal and other difficulties faced by non-French citizens in French Polynesia, Ron advised Church headquarters in Sydney at the end of his five-year term that future presidents should be appointed from France. 

When a new—and French—president was appointed, Ron was asked to return to Tahiti for “a month or two” to help his successor settle into the role. That turned into nine months away from his family, who were living in Rockhampton in Australia for the interim.

Ron was then involved in pastoral work in Victoria until he was called to Avondale to be preceptor (dean of men) in 1955. While there he took advantage of the opportunity to complete his BA degree in Theology. In 1960 he accepted a call to be president of the Cook Islands Mission, returning to Australia after two years to take up pastoral work in Queensland until retiring to Cooranbong in 1972.

Alvine and Ron were a team totally committed to the work of the Church, living in 38 houses in their years together; each of which Alvine transformed into a warm home for her family and the always welcome visitors. They were a very special pastoral couple and their legacy lives on in the lives they influenced for good.

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