Religion in the south Pacific (from my email)

I spent years living on a small, remote Pacific island. I am not religious, I was there on a government contract. Practically the only other Westerners were missionaries.

Importantly, Pacific islands have always been relatively easy to convert. They converted quite quickly to Christianity. The off-the-cuff explanation for this is usually “because they are so friendly” or whatever. An underrated factor is the fact that on many islands they genuinely helped improve the situation. Prior to the missionary operations many of these islands were getting literally and figuratively raped by Whalers. Disease everywhere, alcohol completely ruining everything. Fathers selling children to Whalers for alcohol. The missionaries helped improve that situation (albeit incompletely and with their own set of issues they themselves caused!)

That said, these days Mormons have the best missionary operation by far:
-They learn the language.
-They translate the book of Mormon into the local language even when it is a language spoken only on that island by a small number of people.
-The missionary group, very consciously, is designed to usually contain Pacific islanders from OTHER islands but rarely one from THAT island. They generally avoid putting islander missionaries on their own island to avoid sex and alcohol issues.
-They are on their missionary grind all day, 6 days a week. One day a week (Monday or Tuesday I think) reserved for running errands and being able to relax.
-They are allowed to and encouraged to exercise but very little other recreation is allowed. They are not allowed to go swimming.
-They do a fantastic job of just talking to people and being friendly, hosting youth stuff etc. and having it be genuinely wholesome and valuable.
-The LDS churches on the islands (though not the missionaries themselves) provide food and other forms of aid (like helping with the electricity bill) to church members. This is VERY important. They are widely seen on remote islands as mostly attracting “poor families” at first, for this reason.

Distant 2nd and 3rd place is a toss up between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seven Day Adventists. SDA builds schools. JW does a good job with the languages. SDA missionaries are often very low quality though without much in the way of a code of conduct. JW do not celebrate holidays on islands where social life is organized around all kinds of major and minor holidays.

Assembly of God, Calvary Baptist are just too small of operations, usually much older missionaries. A few other vaguely Pentecostal-seeming varieties are around too but again, they just don’t have the resources or operation size/scale to really compete.

If you’re looking for a dark horse candidate moving forward… Ahmadiyya Islam is making inroads into the Pacific! It is a tall order in very Christian Pacific cultures that know nothing about Islam, but they actually are making some progress. Big focus on providing services to the poor.

I thank A. for sending me this!


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