Image to the cover of the book Captain Jack Radley and the Heyday of the Fleet

The book that took 74 years to make

Friday, August 17, 2018
Sharing the story of Adventist mission boats in the South Seas

The year: 1944. Pacific Press, a Seventh-day Adventist Church entity in North America, writes to Captain Jack Radley expressing its interest in publishing a book of his missionary stories, particularly from his experience as a medical boat captain in Papua New Guinea during World War II. Radley’s mission service extended from 1917 to his retirement in 1955, spanning the heyday of the Adventist mission fleet and exceeding the war years. He always intended to write a book but had yet to do it before his death in 1968.

“During his life, Dad wrote several articles, some published, others not,” explains daughter Rose-Marie Radley in her “Preface” to Captain Jack Radley and the Heyday of the Fleet. “He had a retirement dream that he would write a book on the highlights of his mission years. Although I have some limited notes to realise his intentions, they are cryptic or otherwise insufficient to make up a book.”

Some 74 years after that first request, Signs Publishing has worked with Rose-Marie to publish the stories, including her memories of sailing with Jack around the islands of the Pacific on the Ambon and growing up as a missionary kid in old Rabaul.

Naturally, Captain Jack Radley and the Heyday of the Fleet is not the book that would have been published if Jack had accepted the invitation from Pacific Press or written in his retirement. Assisted by careful research of the church’s history, the book is also a comprehensive survey of the history and significance of mission boats in the growth and development of the church in the South Pacific—from the earliest missionary efforts launched from California to the boats still in service today. As a valuable work of church history—in another first—Signs has partnered with Avondale Academic Press as publisher.

The other privilege of working on a project such as? To get to know—at least, in a sense—the author whose story one is helping to tell. While most of the work on Captain Jack Radley and the Heyday of the Fleet has happened at a distance, via email and phone, helping someone tell their story feels like a kind of intimacy. And working with an author in her 80s—who could share many more stories of her years of service—on the raw material of history, there’s a sense of working with precious personal memories. That’s a task that must be handled with care.

While the mission continues, it looks different these days. And, with the passing of time, people who can re-tell the stories of mission 74 years ago are becoming less common, which is why publishing books such as Captain Jack Radley and the Heyday of the Fleet is important. And even more so, as we allow the service, sacrifice and sense of mission demonstrated by our previous generations to inspire our continuing and faithful mission here at home and abroad.

Captain Jack Radley and the Heyday of the Fleet

Captain Jack Radley and the Heyday of the Fleet is available from Adventist Book Centres.




Nathan Brown

Nathan is Book Editor at Signs Publishing. He is a former magazine editor, a published writer and an author or editor of more than a dozen books. He is also a co-convener of Manifest, a community exploring, encouraging and celebrating faithful creativity.

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