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THE beautiful islands of the Southern Pacific, in common with other tropical countries, are occasionally visited with storms and hurricanes, so terrific as to defy all the efforts of man to avert the effects of their fury. Before their resistless career, human habitations and the trees of the forest are alike levelled with the ground; and the smiling settlement is within a few hours converted into a waste.
The following Letters bring under our notice a scene of this mournful description (see the Engraving, page 21); but while we are called to sympathise with the sufferers in the destruction of their property, and of what, we trust, they valued still more—the houses in which they were wont to assemble for the worship of God, it is still a subject for praise and thanksgiving that their lives have been spared ; and we encourage the hope, that so marked a token of the Divine forbearance and compassion will lead the islanders preserved, though called to suffer, to make a renewed surrender of themselves to the work and service of their Lord.
It will be seen from the following Letters that the Mission families, in common with the natives of the island of Upolu, have been severe sufferers by the storm; but we are happy to add that its ravages did not extend to the other islands of the group.
The Rev. George Stallworthy, under date Upolu, 16th April, 1850, gives the following details:–
“I must give you some account of a desolating gale which has recently swept over us.
“The gale to which I have referred commenced on the morning of the 5th of this month. During the preceding day and night a strong south-east wind had blown, accompanied with rain. That, however, is not the quarter from which gales blow here, consequently the people felt no apprehension. But between eight and nine o'clock on the morning of the above day the wind shifted to about south south-west, and a furious blow immediately commenced. At the same time a heavy sea came rolling in, which greatly alarmed many. There was all the time what appeared a driving rain, but which our taste informed us was largely charged with sea water. I tried, with the aid of three or
four natives, who came to see how we were getting on, to secure the thatch of my house, but was at last obliged to abandon the attempt. The covering of the ridge blew away, much of the thatch in other parts was turned upwards and inwards, and thus the house became deluged with water. Only one small room remained tolerably dry, in which my family took shelter. Trees were falling all around. Intelligence was every now and then brought me that such and such a house was down. In some cases the shivering and disheartened proprietors came themselves to tell me their loss. In not a few instances the most valuable property of the natives was buried in the ruins of their dwellings. About noon the wind suddenly fell, the rain ceased, and there was a dead calm, with only an occasional
gentle breath of air, little more than enough to assure us that the wind had changed. We hoped that the gale was over, but by halfpast one, or two o'clock, the wind had travelled round by east to about north-west. It again blew as heavily, and some think more heavily, than before, and continued through the afternoon and night, with much rain. A large number of trees and houses which had resisted the southerly blow, fell before this. In my neighbourhood only about one house in ten was left standing, and those remaining were for the most part of the smallest kind. Into these many of the natives crowded, others found partial shelter under portions of fallen houses, and many, I am informed, passed the night without any shelter. The roof of my house gave way in the middle, and a fifth part of it was carried off. My family continues to occupy the little room. We had little apprehension that the roof of it would give way; but after the change of wind it let in much water, and my wife and family could not find sufficient standing room between the droppings; besides which, there were from one to two inches of water on the floor. A native house near us was standing, and the roof was pretty sound. But its stability was doubtful. We, therefore, determined to wait the will of God where we were. Our position was uncomfortable and anxious; but we felt that it was our God who was working around
us, and that to trust in him at such a season, was as much a privilege as a necessity. The morning dawned and found us safe and in health. In the forenoon of Saturday, the 6th, trusting that the strength of the gale had passed, we removed to the native house above named, where we found shelter from the rain: the wind blew strong occasionally during Saturday and Saturday night, and it was not till Sabbath that we felt assured that the gale had spent itself. That day was squally and rainy. We had no large house to meet in; consequently we could only in our family circles return thanks to God, who, amid so much destruction, had spared our so often forfeited lives. “Since the gale all have been busy in drying their property, erecting small houses for their temporary abode, or taking to pieces their fallen houses, in preparation for rebuilding. “The whole of the roof of Mr. Harbutt's house was taken off by the wind. Out of more than thirty chapels, including those of the Wesleyans, which were standing in the two districts before the gale, only one remains, and that is much shaken. Nearly all the larger kinds of houses are down, so that in almost every village we are, for the present, without any place to assemble in. As far as I can learn, no life has been lost in my district, or in that of Mr. Harbutt."
Additional particulars of the hurricane are supplied in the following communication from the Rev. William Mills, under date Apia Harbour, more than a dozen of us were packed into a small room only twelve feet by ten, and there we spent two full days and nights. By midday the storm began: it was truly awful; the very earth seemed to tremble under the fury of the tempest. Our house soon lay in a heap of ruins, and all our property lay buried underneath; every moment we expected the little shelter we had to be laid flat with the earth; but where were we to flee? Every native house was down; and even our fine chapel on which we had bestowed so much time and labour, had nothing but the bare walls stand ing. The Mission-store was standing, but the cocoa-nut trees were bending over it so as to threaten its destruction every moment. We could do nothing but stand still and see the salvation of our God.
“Very likely before this reaches you, you will have had some intimation of the tremendous hurricane with which we were visited on the 5th of April. All our former storms appeared but as the gentle zephyr, compared with this. All on this island have suffered more or less by it, but I am the only one on whom the greatest calamity has fallen, in being left completely destitute of house in any shape. But for the exceeding kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Williams, whose storehouse happily weathered the gale, we should have been at our wit’s end to know what to do:— ever since the gale we have been residing in their family.
“I have never seen a gale like it, and hope
I never may again. The whole came upon us so suddenly that no time was afforded in any way to guard against the havoc which it made. When I arose a little before sunrise, nothing unusual appeared to indicate a storm, except light puffs coming across the island; but these puffs soon changed into squalls. In less than an hour they became so thick and strong that I began to think it prudent to secure as well as I could a small stone building, as a kind of refuge, if needed; we were not left long in doubt about that, for before the natives and myself could get the thatch secured, it became evident that our dwelling house was about to give way. Mrs. Hardie and family were with us at the time, so that
"You will be glad to hear that the iron Bethel chapel stood out the hurricane; and
with the exception of one of the ends being somewhat bent in, it has met with very little damage.
“Long before the hurricane was at its height, three ships which lay at anchor went on shore; one of them, a fine vessel, the Favourite, of London. With all our losses of provisions, furniture, barter-goods, and other things, I lament nothing more than the loss of a great portion of my books; and what remain are very much spoiled by the torrents of salt water which poured down with little intermission for forty-eight hours. It is matter for thankfulness, that, though much exposed to cold and wet, none of us suffered the least in health; and with this blessing, and the help of our gracious Father, we may expect in time to master our difficulties.”
SAMOAN NEW TESTAMENT. Our Missionary brethren in Samoa, on the completion of their important labours in the translation and revision of the several books of the New Testament, forwarded the manuscript to this country, to be printed under the auspices of the British and Foreign Bible Society. The Committee of that Institution, with their accustomed liberality, undertook the expense of the issue of a large edition, which was accordingly carried through the press by the Rev. J. B. Stair, whose services, while in England, were specially retained for the purpose. We have the pleasure to announce that the completed edition, consisting of 15,000 copies, which was shipped for the islands in August of 1819, arrived safely in Samoa, and is now in the course of distribution throughout the different islands of the group.
TAHITI. In one or two of our recent Numbers, it has been our pleasing duty to report the revival and gradual spread throughout various districts in this island of the spirit of pure and undefiled religion. In the mean-while the enemy of souls has been on the alert, seeking by means of a snare, Intemperance, which has too often proved effective among native tribes, to recover his lost dominion ; but it will be seen from the following Letter, that the
attempt has signally failed, and that, with very few exceptions, the mem
bers of the churches have maintained their Christian rectitude, while the
number of converts has continued to increase.
“As the Directors may be anxious to hear how things are going on here, at the present juncture, I write to say, that, notwithstanding the amount of moral depravity which the re-introduction of intoxicoting drinks has brought to light, there are bright points in the picture, which have been made more conspicuous by the dark shading.—The church members as a whole have shown a most pleasing measure of stedfastness : the past month has been a most trying one, as the means of indulgence have been abundant; so that Mr. Barfi and I were delighted to find, on our monthly visit to Hitiaa and Tiarei, that but four members in these two districts had been ensnared; and we had the pleasure at the same time of admitting thirteen new members. One of those admitted at Hitiaa deserves particular notice, as he was a character of whom I formerly entertained but slight hopes, and was not a little surprised to see him present himself amongst the candidates. During my residence at Hitiaa, he invariably turned a deaf car to all that was said to him, and when he attended chapel seemed one of the most careless of hearers; but God's thoughts are not as our thoughts. Ise who had suffered the poor man to despise the proffered mercy for upwards of fifty years, brought him to the foot of the cross with the simplicity of a little child, a few weeks ago, by the following simple means:—His sister, with whom he lived, and who was much older than himself, had been for many years a church member, and although feeble she continued to enjoy her usual health, until one morning at daybreak, when she called her brother, and thus addressed him—‘My brother, don't you see how feeble I am? will not you leave off your evil ways, and seek Christ, that I may be comforted before I die? Come here, and let us two pray together.' Prayer being ended, she again addressed him—'I entreat you, dear brother, to follow sin no more for ever, but come now and walk in the way of life;’—and having said this, she immediately expired, without any apparent pain. It seems to have
been a message of mercy to his soul, his views were so clear, and his sincerity so evident, that we felt no hesitation in baptizing him, and proposing him as a member to the church: he was admitted accordingly. The others who were admitted, were mostly young people who have been under instruction for some time past. The improved state of things in both these districts since I removed from them, convinces us more and more that native agency, under occasional superintendence, will produce more real and lasting good than exclusive foreign agency can ever be expected to do. When we go there from time to time, and see that God is stirring up individuals to zeal and activity in his service, we are glad, and earnestly pray. that he may carry on the good work more and more, and graciously prevent any blighting influence from falling upon it. One man at Hitiaa, who is now the life and soul of the place, was a very inconsistent member on our first going there, but I trust has been since purified in the furnace of alliction: about two years ago he was brought to the grave's mouth, and led to realize the nearness of eternity. On one of my visits to him on that occasion, I was led to pray that he might be spared for the sake of his children. He seemed to regard his recovery as an answer to my prayer, and felt that he was bound henceforth to live for the good of his children; and, happily, his concern for their spiritual welfare has led to active usefulness in other ways; and we now feel that confidence in him, as a fellow-worker in the Gospel, which we are seldom able to cherish in regard to a Tahitian. There are now Hufa and Arato at Tiarei; Roura, at Mahaena; and Mairuai and Tomu, at Hitiaa, all useful active labourers in that part of the island. I am now endeavouring to lead some to act in the same way, on this side of the island; and for this purpose have meetings with those in the neighbourhood of Papeuriri on the Tuesdays, and here on the Thursdays, for the purpose of explaining texts that may be suitable to address the people from at their