Tannese Noah and the ark story retold through song and dance at Jon celebrations (John Frum), Feb 2016
Interaction with Don’t Throw the Book at Them by Harry Box
To live on Tanna is to live in the land of stories. Perhaps this is a familiar experience for other westerners living within oral societies. All people love stories; it seems we’re wired for them. But here, they carry out functions that are foreign to us. For example, stories can function somewhat like a title-deed for land ownership. Stories are also fundamental to all Tanna’s religious movements, conveying and reinforcing their ideals and values. When someone came to our closest village promoting a new movement, he came telling a story.
Box’s fundamental question in this chapter is: ‘Do oral societies have a system of communication that is adequate for receiving and passing on the Christian message?’ Box’s answer is, unsurprisingly an emphatic yes. I will summarize Box’s chapter and then add my own thoughts as to how we might answer Box’s question in relation to any particular oral culture with particular reference to oral communication on Tanna. Continue reading →
Three students on field experience from Southern Islands Presbytery Bible College were practicing pastoral visitation, going from household to household praying for people’s needs. They entered one house where the upcoming circumcision of their son was weighing heavily on the people’s minds. The students brought the matter before the Lord and moved on. Later that day the family discovered that their son had been miraculously circumcised.
Six further ‘miracle circumcisions’ took place within about a month at that location, which is one of our mission fields. But these weren’t the first circumcisions of this kind to take place on Tanna. The first took place in 2000 when it was prophesied that miraculous circumcisions would take place across the island and radiate out from here around the world. Continue reading →
As I have said in a previous post on the Jon Frum cult found on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, there is great disagreement on both the origins of the cult and the identity of Jon Frum. One particularly tantalising version has it that the name ‘Jon Frum’ came from a misunderstanding when a US serviceman who introduced himself as ‘John from America’ was misunderstood to be named ‘Jon Frum’. When I was on Tanna in April I stumbled on a diary extract that shed a little light on the matter. Continue reading →
‘While we might be baffled by the seeming ignorance of people who believe that raising a flag could possibly bring untold riches from over the sea, we must realise that the cult is supported by a deeply held world-view and destructive spiritual power.’ (Tom Richards)
In a previous post Tom introduced the John Frum cargo cult, centred around Sulphur Bay on the island of Tanna in Vanauatu. Cargo cults are not generally found in consumerist First World countries, but they are more common in societies where aid has been offered or settlement/colonisation has taken place. Continue reading →
In 1972 I was sent (jointly by the Departments of Agriculture & Health) to investigate the reason for malnutrition and deaths in a very remote area at the very south of the Chimbu Province (Karimui), Papua New Guinea. It involved a couple of weeks walking and detailed checking of gardens etc in an area which had only recently been brought under government control. Continue reading →