Mackenzie tombs

From our house up on a hill, we look down on an incredibly beautiful ocean view and a small island nestled between the open ocean and the turquoise waters of the sheltered Erakor lagoon.

The small island, now a resort, is also called Erakor. The original inhabitants of the island have moved to the mainland. Erakor island is important in the missionary history of Vanuatu as it was an early Presbyterian missionary station. The people of Erakor were first evangelized by four Samoan evangelists, Mose, Sipi, Taavili and Setevano, who arrived on May 1, 1845.

Rev. and Mrs. John William Mackenzie of Pictou Co. Nova Scotia, Canada, also came to Vanuatu (then called the New Hebrides) and made Erakor Island their home. The foundations of their house and church are still visible.

Samoan missionary tombs

Recently, we went over to Erakor Island on the resort’s ferry to walk around the island and see where the early missionaries are buried. Rev. J. W. and Amanda Mackenzie lost three young children, Joseph aged 13 months died Christmas Day 1875, Arthur aged 19 months died 2 September 1878 and Walter aged 18 months died 12 February 1887. One can only imagine the heartbreak which accompanied each death.

In 1893, a ship, the Empreza, came through the islands bringing a deadly viral dysentery which had devastating effects on the local populations. Mrs. Amanda Mackenzie, became ill and died on the 30th of April, 1893.  J. W. and four of his children survived these difficult years of illness. He remained in Vanuatu and married a second time. J. W. Mackenzie was a missionary in Vanuatu from 1872 to 1912 and died after retiring to Australia in 1914.

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