- Thomas, John
- (1796-1881)pioneer Methodist missionary to the South PacificJohn Thomas was born in Worcester, England, and became a blacksmith. Converted by Methodist preaching, he felt a call to the mission field after reading about Henry Martyn. Thomas traveled to Tonga (then called the Friendly Islands) in 1826, arriving as part of a company that included himself, a Tasmanian, a British associate, James Hutchinson, and their wives. He remained in Tonga for 25 years.Thomas learned the language quickly, made friends with the chief and leaders of the people, and engaged in evangelism. His work had an initial success in 1831, when Chief Taufa'ahau, who ruled one of the northern Tongan islands, and his wife accepted baptism. Later, Taufa'ahau, who took the name Siaosi or George at his baptism, united the Tongan Islands under his leadership through a series of wars. Thomas participated in his enthronement in 1845 as the first king of all Tonga. He also supported the king's policy of sending Tongan missionaries to Fiji and Samoa.Thomas remained in Tonga until 1850. He then returned to England for four years before going back to Tonga when the mission was transferred to the Australian Methodists. He remained in Tonga another six years and then retired to England.See also South Pacific.Further reading:■ Shalamit Decktor Korn, "After the Missionaries Came: Denominational Diversity in the Tonga Islands," in J. Boutilier, D. Hughes, and S. Tiffany, eds., Mission, Church, and Sect in Oceania, ASAO Monograph 6 (Ann Arbor: university of Michigan Press, 1978)■ Sarah Farmer, Tonga and the Friendly Islands (London: Hamilton, Adams, 1855).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.
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