As a child John Hunt often sat by the fire, engrossed in his father’s tales of military adventure. At 16 he nearly died of “brain fever.” Recovering, he found the Lord in a Methodist chapel. He later married Hanna Summers, and on December 22, 1838 they arrived on the Fiji islands as missionaries.
They shuddered at the sight. Two-thirds of all children were boiled and eaten. Every village had its human butcher. Aged parents were butchered and eaten by their children. A man would often cook his best wife or most tender child as a feast for his closest friends.
Some time after their arrival the chief’s youngest son was lost at sea. Seventeen women were killed and roasted as a result, and Hanna was forced to watch. The islanders then insisted the missionaries leave. But the Hunts refused. They found increasing numbers willing to listen. The queen of Viwa came under such conviction that she fainted twice, then, coming to, pleaded for mercy. A revival swept her village, then others.
Hunt translated the New Testament into Fijian and kept preaching fearlessly. Converts increased and chapels were built. At length, Hunt’s health broke, and when the islanders realized their missionary was ill, they flocked to the chapels to pray for him. “O Lord,” cried one of them, Elijah Verani, “We know we are very bad; but spare thy servant. If one must die, take me! Take ten of us! But spare thy servant to preach Christ.”
But Hunt realized he was dying. He committed his wife to the Lord and began crying, “Lord, bless Fiji! Save Fiji!” Later, turning to Hanna, he said, “If this be dying, praise the Lord!” “I want strength to praise him abundantly. … Hallelujah!”
With that he breathed his last. The island was moved by his death, and even the wicked King Thakombau confessed Christ openly. Much of Fiji was transformed, causing one missionary historian to call Fiji a “jewel in the missionary diadem.”