Articles

Gilbert Islands Mission (Micronesia, central Pacific)

 

The call to Missions came to Charles Scarborough in 1964 when he was chairman of the Sheffield Committee of the London Missionary Society. Tasked to make known the need for an itinerant missionary in the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) he was gradually convicted by God to obey the Great Commission. After a period of Mission Training at Selly Oak, Birmingham, he, his wife Dorothea and their two young children, Thomas (5) and Ann (3), sailed for Kiribati. They were warmly received at the mission's headquarters on Tarawa, the palm covered 'capital' coral atoll on the Pacific equator.

 

 Approach from the lagoon to the LMS Mission
Headquarters on Tarawa atoll.


The 16 Gilbert Islands had been christianized for 100 years. The American Rev Dr Hiram Bingham had translated the Bible and the British Rev George Eastman had established schools. Between them they had given the islanders the Scriptures, a hymn book, a dictionary, a history, and various school books. The once warring natives had a pastor/schoolteacher in every village, their lives were well ordered, and they had a sufficiency of coconut and fish.

 

 

 

 

 Rev Charles Scarborough (left) at the time of the formation of
the Gilbert Islands Protestant Church, with Rev Norman Cocks, LMS Australia.


Though some paganism persisted, the overall island life was Christian. The LMS maintained a ship, the 'John Williams' (named after the 19th century martyred missionary of the Pacific), which transported pastors to their parishes and students to the mission schools and theological college. With this ship Rev Scarborough visited the island congregations, preaching, teaching, encouraging ministers and instructing deacons. The Church had a good grasp of evangelical

 

 

The mission ship 'John Williams' which
kept the isolated atoll churches connected.



Christianity. He ministered in each village for a week. Then the family were taken to the next by bicycle or outrigger canoe. Thomas and Ann were home schooled. 

 

Women's Association

The Scarboroughs taught much of the Gospel with slide strips projected onto a sheet in thatched open-sided village meeting houses - moths and insects buzzing around a paraffin magic lantern. Many souls were won for Christ. In one instance, a village mischief maker whose activities had harmed the whole island, was converted. Almost immediately, he and his family became sober, well-fed, clean, and at peace. The whole village and island prospered in a remarkable way.

 

 Pupils at the Rongorongo Mission School
on the Island of Beru.


Being a practical man Rev Scarborough also repaired much needed watches, radios, even a lorry and rainwater system. This made him very popular. He was also liked for his conjuring tricks which caused much merriment. The ability to entertain was regarded as a social 'must' in the islands. Often he was asked for medical help as each atoll had only a 'dresser' with few supplies. Praise God for the Mission Auxiliary ladies in Australia who, each Christmas, sent parcels with such necessities as needles, bandages, cotton wool, and most importantly - Aspirins.

In 1968 the LMS Mission became the Gilbert Island Protestant Church. In a gracious gesture of thankfulness to God for the work of the LMS, Rev Scarborough was elected its first Chairman. But after this Church Independence the LMS withdrew all its missionaries. 

 

 

 Thomas and Ann boarding the 'John Williams'.

 

In 1969 Charles Scarborough took up a 25-year ministry at Sea Point Congregational Church in South Africa.

Thirty years later, Thomas Scarborough, by then a minister himself, began visiting Kiribati (Gilbertese) sailors when their ships came into Cape Town harbour. He also took a group of Christians from Sea Point Congregational Church to minister in the islands and replenish much needed Christian literature. On this and other visits he found that his father Charles is still well remembered and that the blessings of His work remain.

Festive welcome by the Women's Association of Ocean Island. To the right,
Dorothea Scarborough and Eritaia, the most senior Gibert Islands pastor.


To God be the glory!

 

Church at Tamana



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