Today has been declared a national day of mourning in memory of Rev. Dr. J. Graham Miller who passed away on Saturday 6th September.
Graham Miller and his wife, Flora arrived in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in 1941 as missionaries of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. They worked on the island of Tongoa (in the Shepherd Island group) until 1947. From 1947-1952 Graham was the principal of the Teachers' Training Institute on Tangoa Island, Santo. This institute trained mission teachers for work in villages throughout Vanuatu.
During their time on Tongoa, they worked towards the independence of the local church. Upon its inauguration in 1948, the Presbyterian Church of the New Hebrides chose Graham Miller to be its first Moderator. Graham, a trained lawyer, had drafted the constitution of the church.
Graham and Flora returned to Vanuatu in 1971 to assist in establishing the Presbyterian Bible College at Tangoa on the site of the former Teacher's Training Institute. During this time he was heavily involved in the movement towards the independence of the nation. He helped produce the nation's constitution, and assisted in the meditations with Great Britain, France and the Untied Nations.
Upon leaving Vanuatu this second time in 1973, Graham Miller served as the Pastor of St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Hurstville, NSW. While there he wrote the Live books, a seven volume history of the church in Vanuatu. This account is told not just from the perspective of the Western missionaries, but from that of the many Polynesian and local missionaries who carried the gospel throughout Vanuatu. The people of Vanuatu "for many generations to come, will praise God for the privilege of looking back through Mr Miller's writing and learning of the firm foundation on which the Christian Church of the New Hebrides was built".
Graham Miller was deeply interested in the life and culture of man Vanuatu. He would engage many in conversation, listening with rapt attention. Our current Principal at Talua, Pastor Fiama Rakau, often refers to Graham Miller as a "man of prayer" who was "devoted to the word of God" and a "man to emulate". He is a beloved figure in Vanuatu, an elder both in the church and the state.
Olfala Nato, man Malekula, father of Pastor Masia (who lectures at Talua) and Mama Jenny (wife of another lecturer at Talua), was an old and dear friend of Rev. Dr. Graham Miller. Over the last few years, Graham Miller has never been far from his mind and he has asked again and again, has my friend Graham Miller died yet? No, he would be told. Not yet. On Saturday 6th September, however, the answer was yes. He has. He has gone to be with our Lord. On Friday, 12th September, Olfala Nato also went to be with our Lord; confident in His love and confident also in the company of his beloved friend.
Information drawn from foreword and afterword to the first volume of the Live Series; the book, 'they Served in Vanuatu' and personal communication with Ps. Andrew Williamson. Quote is from Kami Shing who wrote the forward to the first volume of the Live Series and the photo is also from this volume.