Day two of our “Around the World in 40 days series” where we’re traveling the world together during Lent, meeting our fellow Christians, and learning about their country.
Yesterday, we visited Cameroon.
Today we’re off to Wallis and Futuna.
See the marker? That’s where these three French islands are in the South Pacific.
Let’s get a closer look.
“The territory is made up of three main volcanic tropical islands along with a number of tiny islets, and is split into two island groups . . . namely the Wallis Islands (Uvea) in the northeast, and the Hoorn Islands (also known as the Futuna Islands) in the southwest, including Futuna Island proper and the mostly uninhabited Alofi Island.” – Wikipedia
(All photos courtesy of Google)
The climate in Wallis and Futuna is about 82° F year round during the day, a little warmer in the summer months of November to February. “Winter” is April to September, but there is little temperature change in the seasons. Rainy season is December to February. “Typhoons can sometimes hit Futuna and Wallis” January to Mid-March, but this is the exception since the islands are too far south for the typical typhoon weather pattern.
The exception came just a couple weeks ago when “an active monsoonal trough” produced high winds and flooding in the American Samoas and Wallis and Futuna.
Fun Fact: The only indigenous wildlife on Wallis and Futuna are snakes, lizards and pigeons.
Landscape problem: Due to wood being the primary source of fuel, deforestation has greatly diminished the Wallis’ and Futuna’s dense forests. Only 15% of the forest remains on Wallis; 30% on Futuna. This also leaves the islands subject to increased flooding during the rainy season.
Language: “The ‘Uvean language is a Western Polynesian language closely related to Tongan. Wallisians use ‘Uvean as their everyday language. All school-age and older persons also speak French, the language of the administration. A few people also speak English. The Futunan language is of Samoic origin. It is the language of everyday life, though French is used on official occasions and is taught in schools.” – everyculture.com
Population: 15,500 (2014), or roughly the same population as Eugene, Oregon.
Main Livelihoods: About 80% of the industry is agricultural. Another 4 or 5 percent work for the government.
Connectivity: In 2002, there were about 1900 telephones, one AM radio station and two television station. Plans are currently underway to provide faster and cheaper internet connection via submarine cable.
Family: “The culture of Wallis and Futuna is typically Polynesian, with strong emphasis on marriage and extended families centered on the church. . . .Marriages are controlled by the family and formalized by the church. Missionaries once raised young boys and girls apart from their families and then arranged their marriages. Today young people meet in high school, and families approve or disapprove of the friendship. Cohabitation occurs but is not approved of. Aunts and grandmothers raise illegitimate children.” – New World Encyclopedia
Important Symbols: The kava bowl is an important part of ceremonies and social gatherings.
“Traditionally, kava was prepared by cutting the root into small pieces, being chewed by several people (often children or beautiful young women, because of their perceived reduced bacterial levels!) and spat into a bowl, where it was mixed with coconut milk. It was believed that the chewing procedure blended the root with enzymes in the saliva and promoted the extraction of the active ingredients of the root and generally produced a much tastier brew. The concoction was then strained through coconut fibre, squeezing the pieces of masticated root until all the juices were blended with the water. This was then decanted into another bowl for consumption. Nowadays, the root is ground, pounded or grated rather than chewed and spat out, although among some locals the traditional method is still practiced.”
Another important symbol is a tapa cloth made from various barks.
Tapa cloth was traditionally used for clothing, although more common, cheaper fabrics have replaced it. Now it is mainly used for ceremonial purposes. It’s very time consuming to make, thus making it expensive.
Foods: “Staple foods in Wallis and Futuna include cassava, taro, sweet potatoes, yams and breadfruit. Bread and fish are also eaten. A traditional earth oven, or umu, is used for cooking chicken and pork on special occasions. Fruits grown are bananas, coconuts, mangoes, papayas, pineapples and citrus fruits.” – worldinfozone.com
Visitors: Wallis’ and Futuna’s lack of affordable travel to and modern affordable accommodations for visitors is not good for the makings of a robust tourist destination like other tropical islands. Several sources have also surmised that English speaking visitors who would be most likely to visit the islands would have little way of communicating; there are few English speaking people on the the islands.
If you’re looking to make a move and start a business, Lonely Planet says that they are in desperate need of a boat service to make the 230km or 142.915 miles between the two main inhabited islands.
Try your hand at coloring a Tapa cloth pattern. I know it’s not the same thing as making the designs on handmade cloth from barks, but it’s all I can offer (ha,ha).
The image is available for free download at http://pisto684.deviantart.com/art/samoa-tapa2-129444458
98 percent of islands’ population is Christian, with close to 96% adhering to Roman Catholicism.
Matâ’Utu Cathedral is “a Roman Catholic cathedral, and a national monument of France, located in the town of Matâ’Utu on Uvea, in Wallis and Futuna. It is a dominant edifice in downtown Mata-Utu town, capital of Wallis Island. It bears the royal insignia of Wallis, a Maltese cross between its towers. The cathedral is also known as the “Our Lady of Good Hope Cathedral” (Matâ’Utu Cathedral and wikipedia).
I loved looking at the cathedral’s Facebook page. There’s a lot of pictures of our fellow Christians and lots of pictures of cake. Even with the Facebook translator, I can’t understand all that is written, but that’s okay because the pictures are awesome anyway. There’s people laughing, smiling, sharing food and using computers and the internet. To me, it shows that they are a community of believers, sharing fellowship with one another. I absolutely love that! It reminds me of one of my favorite passages in Acts.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. -Acts 2:43-47
Interesting: Futuna has one official Catholic saint and martyr: Pierre Chanel.
Chanel was a French Catholic priest who was sent to the islands as a missionary in the mid-1800’s. At first the king welcomed Chanel and Chanel’s companions. That is until, the king saw that the people were responding to Chanel’s message of repentance, baptism and acceptance of Jesus Christ. The king started to get nervous that he would lose his power over the people to Chanel and Jesus. The last straw came when the king’s son announced that he wanted to be baptized, too.
The king devised a plan to have Chanel killed. He sent his best warrior, his son-in-law to do the job. The warrior first went to the king’s son, and the two fought. The warrior was injured in the fight and went to Chanel for medical attention. While Chanel was caring for the warrior, the warrior found an ax and clubbed Chanel to death.
Eventually, word of Chanel’s death made news through several channels and his remains were sent back to France through several more channels.
In 1986, the basilica (pictured above) was built honoring Chanel. His skull was returned to Futuna in 1985 and they lay in a glass case on the spot he was murdered. In addition to the basilica, the Musee Oceanien et de Saint Pierre Chanel was built in 1991.
Challenges to Christians: Since an overwhelming majority of the population are Christian, there are not many challenges to Christians on Wallis or Futuna. However, Operation World (Mandryk, 2010) states that there are three major.
- In recent years, lack of reliable work has caused many of the people of Wallis and Futuna to emigrate to nearby New Caledonia. New Caledonia’s lifestyle is different than Wallis and Futuna and many of the emigrants are becoming addicted to substances.
- The Futuna Bible is complete, but the Wallisian/Uvean Bible is not. There are no other Christian reading sources in the native languages; limited if you read French.
- Complacency in faith is the norm among the people. Personally, I don’t think that the Christians in Wallis and Futuna are unique in this.
The Joshua Project website states that there are no military or political conflicts affecting the islands. This has changed somewhat recently.
- Political and business protests have arisen in Wallis and Futuna. So much so, that supply ships have been blocked entry into the ports. While Wallis and Futuna are self-governed, the French own the territories and banned the protests to allow supply ships safe passage.
- There is growing interest in gaining independence from France, which may cause problems in the near future.
- France is not going to let Wallis and Futuna go without a fight, as they are using the islands to grow their own military and economic interests in the region.
Please pray for:
- The completion of a Uvean Bible translation so that Christians on Wallis will have God’s word in their own language.
- All of us, not just Christians in Wallis and Futuna, to have God “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within” this Lenten season.
- Business to grow in Wallis and Futuna so that the younger generations can find work and they do not have to leave.
- God’s will be done regarding politics and independence for the islands.
I hope you enjoyed spending time at Wallis and Futuna today. Thank you for praying for our fellow Christians in this small corner of the world.
I hope you’ll come back tomorrow to see our next destination.
Until then, may God keep you and bless you, especially this Lenten season.