According to author Dr David McClintock, we are at risk of losing the stories of early Adventist missionaries to the Pacific. At recent meetings of Adventist bookstore managers and staff from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific—held this year via Zoom—he spoke about his new book Canoes, Crocodiles and Christ and emphasised the importance of recording these stories for future generations.
“We haven’t tended to focus on our Pacific pioneers as much as we have on our Australian expatriate missionaries,” said Dr McClintock, who serves as Director of Adventist Education for the South Pacific Division. “And in many cases their hardships were more extreme.”
Having grown up in Papua New Guinea and served there as principal of the Mt Diamond Adventist High School, Dr McClintock is no stranger to the work of these missionaries. But it is the compelling story of Haru Hariva, one of the first Adventist Papua New Guinean missionaries, that captured his attention. Dr McClintock worked with members of Haru’s family and also heard some of the stories from Haru’s widow, Kaura.
“Haru Hariva was someone who came from absolute heathenism,” he said. “His dad was a village chief and the local puri puri [magic] witch doctor.” Haru was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps until he came to know Jesus by secretly attending a nearby Adventist school. Rejecting the opportunity to be village chief, Haru dedicated his life to sharing the gospel in unreached parts of Papua New Guinea, including the remote Turama River region.
Canoes, Crocodiles and Christ tells the stories of some of the most remarkable experiences of Haru Hariva’s ministry: muddy water that turned transparent revealing lurking crocodiles, capsized canoes filled with precious materials that stayed dry, a village chief who learned to keep the Sabbath through dreams and more. But there were hardships too: the loss of a beloved child to polio and the death of a mission family in a boat explosion.
“As you read Haru Hariva’s story, you get a sense of someone who had an incredibly deep abiding trust in God regardless of the outcome,” Dr McClintock said.
This is the legacy Dr McClintock hopes to record for Adventist readers today. The book, which features line drawings by Papua New Guinean artist Bryan Paul, historical photographs, a glossary and discussion questions, will be part of the Bible curriculum for Year 9 students across the Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Trans Pacific Union Mission, being made available to some 5000 students. He hopes it will encourage a new generation of Adventists that God is with them as they share the Good News with those who still haven’t heard it.
Canoes, Crocodiles and Christ: The Story of Haru Hariva is available from Adventist bookstores in Australia, New Zealand and online.