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Tuvalu is a tiny Pacific island of 26 sq km (10 sq miles) about midway between Hawaii and Australia. They were formerly known as the Ellice Islands and were once a part of the island groups that became the Republic of Kiribati in the 1970s. Tuvalu consists of five coral atolls and four reef islands, none more than 5 m (15 feet) above sea level. First populated by Polynesian migrants from Samoa and Tonga sometime in the fourteenth century, today the 10,600 inhabitants speak a Polynesian-Samoan dialect. The islands were sighted by Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century but no further European contact took place until the eighteenth century. It would not be until 1826 that the whole group was finally discovered and mapped. For three decades (1850-1880) the islands were a source of labor for Fijian and Australian sugar plantations and the population was said to have dropped from 20,000 to 3,000. Placed under a British protectorate in 1892 the islands, along with the Gilbert Islands, were annexed by the UK in 1916. In 1975 the islands were separated from the larger colony, extended home rule and renamed Tuvalu. Today the islands are governed by a constitutional monarchy with a single legislative body known as Parliament.
Tuvalu has the world’s smallest economy with subsistence farming supporting 70% of the population. Tuvalu does have a large Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.2 million sq km (500,000 sq miles) and receives revenue from fishing licenses in this zone. Some coconut is exported, small amount of phosphate are mined and remittances from expatriates and seaman provide income. An international trust fund also provides income.
The Church of Tuvalu (Congregationalist) accounts for 97% of the religious heritage of the population. In 1989 American Randy English, a resident of American Samoa, made a missions trip to Tuvalu making valuable contacts and establishing Bible-correspondence courses. In a follow-up trip in 1990 he conducted intensive teaching resulting in four baptisms and the establishment of an a cappella Church of Christ.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
For further historical reference:
Churches of Christ Around the World, Lynn, Mac, 21st Century Christian Publications, Nashville, TN, 2003.
P.O. Box 1268
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799