Mitieli Nakasamai and his wife Fika with their children, c. 1925.

From Journal of Pacific Adventist History.

Nakasamai, Mitieli (c. 1890–1945)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: January 29, 2020

Mitieli (or Mitchell) Nakasamai was born in Fiji about 1890. As a teenager he was one of the first students to attend the Buresala School on Ovalau Island in 1905.1 He first appeared in denominational periodicals as a missionary at Namarai in the Ra Coast region of Viti Levu in 1912.2

New Guinea Mission

In 1913, Nakasamai and his wife, Fika, were appointed to the New Guinea Mission. They first sailed to Sydney by the Levuka, spending two days ashore visiting the Sanitarium Health Cafe and Sydney Sanitarium where he addressed the nurses and told them of his two years in ministry, 1911 and 1912. They sailed to Port Moresby on the Houtman to help at the Bisiatabu mission station where Benisimani (or Bennie) and Mary Tavodi were assisting.3 After two years, Nakasamai’s health was so compromised with malaria4 that he and his family returned to the Sydney Sanitarium for five months of treatment. They embarked for New Guinea again on April 20, 1916.5

Nakasamai became the chief assistant for mission superintendent Griffiths Jones. Together they climbed up and down the Astrolobe Mountains beyond Bisiatabu, gathering young men from the Koiari tribe to attend a simple Bible school located where Nakasamai lived at the hamlet of Maketi Numu near the main mission station.6 One trip took them through twenty-seven small villages perched on hilltops where the air was positively invigorating compared to Bisiatabu.7 Nakasamai would break down prejudice by giving the Koiari people salt which they prized highly.8 Mitieli and Fika Nakasamai both learned the Koiari language and translated hymns for the people to learn.9

After ten years of pioneering among the Koiari people, Nakasamai and his family returned to Fiji. They made a brief stopover in Australia where Nakasamai, speaking of his experiences at the Bathurst Seventh-day Adventist church, created a sensation reported in the local newspaper.10 Some years later, one church official expressed the view that the health of Mitieli and Fika Nakasamai suffered permanent damage during their decade in the New Guinea Mission.11

Back in the Fiji Mission

Nakasamai was ordained on his return to Fiji. The service took place on Sabbath, June 14, 1924, at the Fijian annual council held at Namarai where his ministry had first begun.12 He was appointed to the inner mountain region of Viti Levu, centered at Nadrau.13 Tragedy struck twice in 1928 when the Nakasamais lost two of their young children. Elizabeth contracted typhoid fever while a student at Wainibuka Mission School. She died in nearby Drekeniwai Hospital on March 21.14 Their youngest child, Arthur, died of diphtheria and pneumonia three months later. They were left to grieve with their two remaining children, eight-year-old Bennie and four-year-old Naomi.15

The following year, Nakasamai was a guest speaker at the camp meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, held December 26, 1929, through January 5, 1930.16 He proceeded south to the Oamaru camp meeting and repeated his addresses.17 He also visited the New Zealand Missionary School where he was presented with wicker-ware baskets and a musical chair for his children. The chair created quite a sensation among his Fijian friends.18

On his return to Fiji, Nakasamai and Gordon Branster explored the Waidina River area on Viti Levu and found the people keen to have them develop mission stations.19 Nakasamai was then asked to develop the Visonogo area on Vanua Levu, where he remained until 193620 when he was transferred to the scattered Lau Islands to lead a group of less experienced missionaries.21

Nakasamai was in active service to the last. One day in early November 1945, he suddenly became ill and died a few hours later.22 His dedication to the mission cause in both the New Guinea Mission and the Fiji Mission are reverently remembered. He is esteemed as one of the pioneering apostles of the early Fijian church.

Sources

“Brevities.” Australasian Record, November 26, 1945.

Carr, S[eptimus] W. “News Notes from Fiji.” Australasian Record, March 22, 1937.

Edwards, Eva E. “Back to Navuso.” Australasian Record, July 23, 1928.

Edwards, Eva E. “Death of a Native Missionary’s Daughter.” Australasian Record, May 21, 1928.

Fulton, J[ohn] E. “After Ten Years.” Missionary Leader, May 1924.

Fulton, J[ohn] E. “En Route to New Guinea.” Australasian Record, November 24, 1913.

Herbert, A[lbert] S. “South New Zealand Conference Session.” Australasian Record, March 3, 1930.

Jones, G[riffiths] F. “Hunting and Finding the Koiari People of New Guinea.” Missionary Leader, December 1922.

Jones, G[riffiths] F. “The Spirit of a Pioneer Missionary.” Australasian Record, May 1, 1922.

Martin, H[arry] R. “Our Native Evangelists.” Missionary Leader, August 1928.

“Mitieli in Bathurst.” Australasian Record, March 24, 1924.

“Mitieli Nakasamai, one of our Fijian missionaries….” Australasian Record, May 8, 1916.

“Mitieli Nakasamai, one of our Fijian workers….” Australasian Record, November 22, 1915.

Nakasamai, Mitieli. “How the Lord Helped Some Fijian Boys.” Australasian Record, September 2, 1912.

Nakasamai, Mitieli. “A Letter from Mitieli Nakasamai.” Australasian Record, June 9, 1930.

Parr, G. C. “New Tear at Visoqo, Fiji.” Australasian Record, April 2, 1934.

Rudge, E[dmund] B. “Fijians Today Willing to Die for Christ.” Missionary Leader, September 1930.

Rudge, E[dmund] B. “Opening Doors in Fiji.” Missionary Leader, August 1930.

Stewart, A[ndrew] G. “The Fijian Annual Council.” Australasian Record, July 28, 1924.

Turner, W. G[ordon]. “North New Zealand Conference and Camp-meeting.” Australasian Record, November 4, 1929.

White, H[erbert] C. “A Visit to Buresala, Fiji.” Australasian Record, September 21, 1925.

White, H[erbert] C. “A Visit to the Bisiatabu Sabbath School.” Australasian Record, March 17, 1924.

Notes

  1. See Buresala Training School, Fiji; H[erbert] C. White, “A Visit to Buresala School,” Australasian Record, September 21, 1925, 4.

  2. Mitieli Nakasamai, “How the Lord Helped Some Fijian Boys,” Australasian Record, September 2, 1912, 3.

  3. J[ohn] E. Fulton, “En Route to New Guinea,” Australasian Record, November 24, 1913, 2-3.

  4. “Mitieli Nakasamai, one of our Fijian workers….” Australasian Record, November 22, 1915, 8.

  5. “Mitieli Nakasamai, one of our Fijian missionaries….” Australasian Record, May 8, 1916, 8.

  6. G[riiffiths] F. Jones, “The Spirit of a Pioneer Missionary,” Australasian Record, May 1, 1922, 8.

  7. G[riffiths] F. Jones, “Hunting and Finding the Koiari People of New Guinea,” Missionary Leader, December 1922, 1-2.

  8. J[ohn] E. Fulton, “After Ten Years,” Missionary Leader, May 1924, 7-8.

  9. H[erbert] C. White, “A Visit to the Bisiatabu Sabbath School,” Australasian Record, March 17, 1924, 2.

  10. “Mitieli in Bathurst,” Australasian Record, March 24, 1924, 2.

  11. E[dmund] B. Rudge, “Fijians Today Willing to Die for Christ,” Missionary Leader, September 1930, 8.

  12. A[ndrew] G. Stewart, “The Fijian Annual Council,” Australasian Record, July 28, 1924, 3.

  13. H[arry] R. Martin, “Our Native Evangelists,” Missionary Leader, August 1928, 8.

  14. Eva E. Edwards, “Death of a Native Missionary’s Daughter.” Australasian Record, May 21, 1928, 5.

  15. Eva E. Edwards, “Back to Navuso,” Australasian Record, July 23, 1928, 5.

  16. W. G[ordon] Turner, “North New Zealand Conference and Camp-meeting,” Australasian Record, November 4, 1929, 7.

  17. A[lbert] S. Herbert, “South New Zealand Conference Session,” Australasian Record, March 3, 1930, 5.

  18. Mitieli Nakasamai, “A Letter from Mitieli Nakasamai,” Australasian Record, June 9, 1930, 2.

  19. E[dmund] B. Rudge, “Opening Doors in Fiji,” Missionary Leader, August 1930, 7.

  20. G. C. Parr, “New Year at Visogo, Fiji.” Australasian Record, April 2, 1934, 2-3.

  21. S[eptimus] W. Carr, “News Notes from Fiji,” Australasian Record, March 22, 1937, 3.

  22. “Brevities,” Australasian Record, November 26, 1945, 8.

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Hook, Milton. "Nakasamai, Mitieli (c. 1890–1945)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5I7Z.

Hook, Milton. "Nakasamai, Mitieli (c. 1890–1945)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5I7Z.

Hook, Milton (2020, January 29). Nakasamai, Mitieli (c. 1890–1945). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5I7Z.