Record Rewind: God’s faithful messenger in Tonga

Translators at Avondale. Photo from Journal of Pacific Adventist History.

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Tala’fekau Mo’oni (“Faithful Messenger” or “True Messenger”) was a periodical printed in the Tongan language between 1909 and 1956.

The decision to produce a Tongan language periodical was taken in September 1908 at the Australian Union Conference session, Cooranbong, NSW.1 

William Palmer, a delegate at the session, was nominated as the editor.2 He was an Englishman, a resident in Tonga, and one of the earliest to be baptised in the island group. 

The little periodical titled Tala’fekau Mo’oni first appeared in 1909 with a print run of one thousand.3 It was a four-page (eight-sided) monthly, printed at Avondale Press, Cooranbong, NSW. Frances Waugh acted as subeditor until 1911 when she became both editor and translator.4

At the start of World War I, mission officials were obliged to utilise the printing press at Buresala Training School, Fiji, because the military restricted periodicals leaving Australia.5 Translation responsibilities soon shifted to Vai[ola] Kerisome on Niue Island, with missionary Annie Williams as editor.6 In 1922 a new convert in Tonga named Beaua, and his wife, Mafi, located at Buresala to proofread the magazine and learn some typesetting. He remained until 1924, when the monthly ceased to be published.7

Hubert Tolhurst, missionary in Tonga, appreciated the value of a national periodical and revived the paper in 1937 under the title True Messenger, with himself as editor. The print run remained the same, but it was issued only bimonthly.8 Tolhurst returned to Australia in 1941. Nevertheless, the periodical continued to be issued in the same format.9 It was last listed in the 1956 Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook.10

The periodical experienced the shortest life span of all the Pacific Island papers, 34 years in two runs, but it served its objective as an effective evangelistic instrument.

This article is taken from the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists which can be accessed online.

1. “Plans and Recommendations,” Union Conference Record, September 21, 1908, 39–41.

2. “Nominations,” Union Conference Record, September 21, 1908, 41.

3. FN Waugh, “Our Island Papers,” Union Conference Record, October 4, 1909, 8.

4. “Tongan,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, DC.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1913), 188.

5. “The military authorities have just issued . . . ,” Australasian Record, November 16, 1914, 8.

6. “Tongan,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, DC.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1917), 214.

7. LV Hadfield, “Letter from Tonga,” Australasian Record, July 7, 1924, 3.

8. HL Tolhurst, “Tonga’s True Messenger,” Australasian Record, March 15, 1937, 3.

9. “Tongan,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, DC.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950), 346.

10. “Tongan,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, DC.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1956), 288.

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