Henele (or Henry) Ma’afu was one of a small contingent of Fijians who early served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as missionaries to a foreign land.
Ma’afu was born at Mualevu on Vanua Balavu Island in the Lau Group, Fiji, about 1880 or earlier. He trained in the theological school of the Fiji Methodist Mission and was serving in that church when, about 1909, he converted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church under the ministry of Pauliasi Bunoa and Calvin Parker.1 He was immediately employed as an assistant teacher at Buresala Training School on Ovalau Island.2 During 1911 and 1912, he was a field worker with the Fiji Mission.3
In early 1913, arrangements were made for Ma’afu to move to Tonga as a missionary. Superintendent of the Central Polynesian Mission, Andrew Stewart, described Henele as “one of our ablest and best workers.”4 After pre-embarkation leave with his relatives in his home village, he and his wife, Sitipa, and three children sailed aboard the inter-island steamer Tofua, arriving at Nuku’alofa, Tonga, in May 1913.5
Ma’afu and his family initially settled in Va’vau, the most northerly group of islands in the Tonga group and began to learn the local language. Within a few months, tragedy struck when his eldest daughter, Vetenia (or Virginia), died of tuberculosis. On October 1, 1913, he had the painful experience of officiating at her graveside.6
In 1914, the surviving family members were transferred to a mission station at Faleloa in the Ha’apai Group. It was closer to mission headquarters, but still relatively isolated. Ma’afu conducted a small elementary school and worked among the five main villages on the island amid some ridicule from another mission group. The same individuals tried to persuade Ma’afu to join their mission, but he remained steadfast.7
Ma’afu was ordained in 1915,8 but it was obvious his health was poor. Within a short time, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In June of that year, he and his family were brought back to Fiji and he was anointed for healing. However, he deteriorated and died at his home village on December 5, 1915. Bunoa conducted his funeral service.9 Ma’afu’s shortened life was an impressive record of faithfulness as he labored in two different denominations.
“Pastor A.G. Stewart of Fiji writes...” Australasian Record, November 24, 1913.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1914-1916.
Stewart, A[ndrew] G. “A Missionary’s Farewell.” Australasian Record, June 2, 1913.
Stewart, A[ndrew] G. “Henele Ma’afu.” Australasian Record, January 31, 1916.
Stewart, G[eorge] G. “Tonga, Friendly Islands.” Australasian Record, January 12, 1914.
Stewart, G[eorge] G. “Tonga Mission Field.” Australasian Record, September 28, 1914.
Thorpe, Lily M. “In the South Seas.” Australasian Record, December 31, 1917.
See Bunoa, Pauliasi and Parker, Calvin.↩
See Buresala Training School, Fiji.↩
A[ndrew] G. Stewart, “Henele Ma’afu,” Australasian Record, January 31, 1916, 7.↩
A[ndrew] G. Stewart, “A Missionary’s Farewell,” Australasian Record, June 2, 1913, 4-5.↩
G[eorge] G. Stewart, “Tonga Mission Field,” Australasian Record, September 28, 1914, 10-11; Nuku’alofa Church Record Book, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Cooranbong, NSW. Box 3418. Folder: Tonga. Document: “Nuku’alofa Church Record Book, 1899-1943.”↩
“Pastor A.G. Stewart writes….” Australasian Record, November 24, 1913, 8; G[eorge] G. Stewart, “Tonga, Friendly Islands,” Australasian Record, January 12, 1914, 5.↩
Lily M. Thorpe, “In the South Seas,” Australasian Record, December 31, 1917, 2-3.↩
“Fiji Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1916), 138.↩
A[ndrew] G. Stewart, “Henele Ma’afu,” Australasian Record, December 31, 1917, 7.↩