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Sialum and Sios on the North Coast

On the South Coast from, Finschhafen the work of the Gospel had spread.  Not so the work on the North Coast.  The population north of Finschhafen was very scarce.  Each isolated group of people represented a new language.  Two day’s walk Northwards were located the coastal villages of Sialum and Quambu and a small ship’s anchorage.  The two villages had a combined population of 500 people.

Originally the mission had thought of going to the Sio area.  But the only move was made by the Heldsbach congregation which had established an outpost in 1906 with one family one day’s walk north of Heldsbach.  From that outpost the influence of the Gospel spread along the coast till it reached Sialum.  The people at Sialim had also been frightened by the 1906 earthquake.  (p.153.GNM).

As evidence of the people’s thoughts, when a Jabem trading canoe was stranded, they saved the canoe and also all of the goods.  Thus at the beginning of 1907, Wacke and Stolz began the work at Sialum.  First a house was built.  Then the Sialum language had to be learned.  A day school for forty students was begun but this proved to proved to be big headache.

The first baptism of forty-two people took place in October 1910, and seven hundred guests were present.  By 1912 there were ninety-one Christians and by 1919, one hundred and sixty Christians.  In a letter of November 15, 1912, Wacke reports that the work was much more difficult than in the Huon Gulf.  The congregation was small with the majority of people still heathen.  In the year 1913 thirteen murders occurred in the area.  The heathen warned of the revenge of the ancestors.  (p.154.GNM). Following reports always mention the passively and lack of missionary zeal of the congregation.  Two reasons may be given for this situation.  (1)  The coastal villages were dependant on the mountain tribes for trade.  (2)  The mission method used.  Every third day the people traded fish for garden products at designated places.

Nearby was a large population of four thousand.  Since the coastal people hesitated, Wareo was asked for assistance.  To the north a station called Kelana was started.  Kelana had a population of two hundred and was a separate language group.  To the south Kanome was begun.  (p.155.GNM). 

Also not too far away was a population of three thousand in the foothills of the Cromwell.  These people were still untouched.  They asked for help however saying,  “We are afraid that the look of the whites will bring us death.”  At a helpers station name Zakam which was established, the women and girls did not appear because their men folk were afraid that the Balum cult would be revealed to them.

In 1916 the heathen held a great circumcision festival.  Many came and threatened the coastal Christians with annihilation if they would leave the Balum Cult.  They also stole their pigs.  Often these heathen shot arrows at the missionaries, refused hospitality to Saueracher and Wacke.

Missionary Stolz spent a year at Sialum in preparation for beginning the work at Sio.  (p.156.GNM).  The mission wanted a second man to go with Stolz but none was available.  When Saueracher came to Sialum in 1908, he was he hird man at the station but Stolz was not really free from Sios until 1910.  it must be remembered that in 1911 four stations were being built; Siassi, Sio, Lae and Gabmazung.

The people in Sio did not really want a missionary.  This was the first such situation since the beginnings at Simbang.  The reasons of the Sios were: (1) We will have to put away some wives; (2) we can’t dance; (3) we can’t use red paint anymore; (4) the men’s cult will be revealed; and (5) we want to keep our old customs.

On the small island of Sio there lived one thousand people.  Many young men were already working for years on plantations.  The older people were friendly but Stolz could not get any assistance from the young.  They were very bold.  (p.157.GNM)  No wood was available on the island, all wood had to be brought in by ship.  First in 1912 Stolz could build the first room of his house.  He had many problems with provisions, no trade articles, etc. 

Sio represented a New Melanesian language.  The Sio people were also called Sigaba.  (p.158.GNM)  Language assistants hesitated to tell stories in the day-time.  They claimed they would get grey hair if they did so.  In 1915 only eight boys were in school.

The Jabem sent a faithful helper named Samuel who helped Stolz very much.  In October, 1919  the Sios visited a mission festival among the Jabems.  After returning from this festival the decided to become Christians.  First they built a Church.  Then they sent their children to school, enough for two classes.  In addition, the village Luluai spoke for the Gospel. (p.159.GNM)  He set a big day, invited two hundred inland people to a feast.  When these people returned home they built Miti Houses in their villages.

Some months later at a visit by thirty-five representatives of the Jabem congregation, the Balum festival was revealed.  The people inland from Sios also participated.  One hundred were baptized in March, 922 at the first baptism.  Two thousand visitors were present.  This was the great turning point.  A baptism of one hundred and eighty on July 24, 1927 included also other villagers along the north coast.  (p.160.GNM).

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Last Updated on Friday, 08 July 2011 13:32

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