It was a pleasure to see Rev Steve Maina from NZCMS two weeks ago at the Enthronement of the new Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea. The day was bright and colourful – though I can’t say the same about the weather, which was somewhat damp at times. It was also a delight to meet many other old friends and make new ones. The highlight for me however on the Monday following the event where the PNG Bishops sat with their fellow Bishops from Melanesia, England, Australia and New Zealand. They shared their challenges and their mutual hopes for the future of the Anglican Church in PNG.
Now to the question I’m sure you’ve been wondering: Where in the World am I?! In some earlier newsletters I had said that I’d be relocating again on June 30. It’s now well past 30th of June but… I’m not in the Archbishop’s Office and we are no closer to knowing when I will actually relocate again. Winding back the clock a little, in January I came across to Popondetta to assist at Newton Theological College for ‘six months’ until Archbishop Clyde Igara retired in June.
The new Archbishop, Allan Migi, asked me to continue in my role as his executive assistant for a further term. However that did not mean I would leave Newton College in July, and there continues to be a level of uncertainty around timing – hence the mixed messages in the NZCMS Prayer Fuel about my whereabouts. Simply put: ‘the goal posts keep moving’.
What we do know is that ++Allan will be based in Lae on the same site as the National Office (when he finishes in the Diocese of New Guinea Islands near the end of the year). This means I will not be returning to live in Port Moresby for the foreseeable future but will eventually go to Lae. The building where my accommodation and office space will be is in the process of renovation. So I find myself still living at Newton Theological College in Popondetta.
Thank you once again for your love and prayers.
There is a sense of security living and working within fenced compounds with guards on the gates 24/7, but the mission of the Church in Papua New Guinea lies beyond the wire.
“What does your day look like?” The answer: “Which day?”
Working in the Archbishop’s Office involves administration which supports Mission and Ministry throughout the Province. Mostly I’m working on Mission projects sponsored by PNG’s overseas partners such as the Anglican Missions Board NZ, Australia and the UK. Or I’m helping to send people overseas for further training. The aim of all of this is to assist with capacity building as the transition to a fully indigenous Church continues. As I work with groups and individuals I’m excited about new ministry projects as I see the feedback come in and realise the impact small amounts of funding have on outreach and ministry in the remotest parts of the country.
I officially live in a comfortable apartment with hot and cold running water, electricity, fridge, washing machine and yes a vacuum cleaner for the endless dust that is found in Port Moresby. The food is much the same as in New Zealand (except beef is too expensive and mutton and lamb are not available). Home is at St Francis Koki where there is a mission house (sort of). The Franciscan Brothers have run a Mission House there for many, many years. It is also home to young people who can’t or don’t live at home. It’s here that I’ve been adopted and am known as Sister Margaret.
One of the challenges is that the Mission house is waiting to be rebuilt so the accommodation is basic. A converted classroom, a flush loo shared with the teachers, cooking over the fire outside, a 44 gallon plastic drum with a plastic dipper for bathing. There are usually three or four of us under mosquito nets in the church overnight.
To describe a weekend is to say ‘I just hang around with the young people who come and go’ as we prepare for the Sunday Service. I’m officially their choir mistress (just so long as I don’t try to sing). We laugh, we cook, we share life with its ups and downs. Often I just sit and relax or, like today, write this letter to you. Food is much more PNG style, cooked over an open fire and always includes rice, greens, probably noodles and usually some chicken or tinned fish. We cook for 12 – 25 under 35’s on a Saturday night. Mondays is my day for language learning and then I return to my apartment on Monday afternoon to start the week over again.
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of helping to plan a funeral service for a young girl who was killed by an as yet unexplained bullet to the head. The funeral was held during the time of the ‘Haus Krai’. The ‘Haus Krai’ or open home is where all sides of the extended family, along with friends come together to mourn, it is a place of hospitality and sharing, confrontation and honesty. It is a time of asking the hard WHY question. Always in the background of thought and belief here is witchcraft and sorcery; the dark side of spirituality are the cause of all things unfortunate and unsolved for both victim and perpetrator.
In their search for answers some looked to their belief in witchcraft and sorcery for explanation and even comfort. Others talked the guilt and fear associated of their own encounters with the spiritual realm. Some of our young people who live at the mission house also began to have bad dreams and nightmares after the funeral, they and began to wonder aloud about the presence of spirits of the dead. Nearly all found it hard to reconcile their Christian beliefs and their cultural beliefs, and yet one our church young people came to the point just this last weekend of posting on Facebook “Find joy in every day, not because Life is good but because God is”.
Having lived as a Christian in a neighbourhood where the occult was evident for those who had eyes to see, this reality in everyday PNG culture and belief does not surprise me. Rather it saddens me. Like my New Zealand neighbours, the people of this beautiful country need to know that the light, the life and the love of God can and does transform our hearts and minds to turn away from these things, to stop communicating with the past. To stop exclaiming ‘the devil made me do it.’ There will be more conversations where there is the opportunity to share the freedom we have in Christ.
Please join me in praying not only for the truth to be revealed in this situation, but also for the need all people have to experience the power of turning their lives to walk in the way of truth and light, so that both heart and mind are transformed. Please pray for those who have been traumatised by the things they have seen and heard.
The above photo is of the steps leading from the church hearse lined with flowers as the body of the young lady was carried to the waiting hearse – an act of love created by the youth of the parish to farewell their friend until they meet again.
The last year seems to have disappeared in a whirlwind. It began with four and a half months of training and orientation in Melbourne, followed by four months deputation in the Wellington and Waiapu Dioceses as well as some very special times with family. I’m feeling grateful to all the staff at St Andrew’s Hall in Melbourne, for all their advice and wisdom about adjusting to a new climate and a new culture.
On arrival in Papua New Guinea I was warmly welcomed to Begabari or ‘place of peace’ and then on to my apartment where I began the process of unpacking. I’m pleased to report that for me even though there is a security presence everywhere, Port Moresby hasn’t lived up to its negative reputation. Everyone here is, however saying bikpela sun (‘it is HOT!!’), although some nights we do get down to a cool 26 degrees.
Each morning I’m up around 5am ready to walk down to the Diocesan compound for 6am Morning Prayers and a Communion Service in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. My packed breakfast is then shared over a cup of coffee before moving across to the office to check emails and news ready for the day ahead. The working day ends with Evening Prayer and a ride home.
References to foot washing in the Bible have taken on a whole new under-standing since being here. Arriving home one afternoon on what had been a particularly hot day, there seemed to be dust everywhere. My desire was that my feet not carry dirt and grime around the house so I decided to wash them in the basin… It was one of the most refreshing things I have experienced.
Each of my first four Sundays has been different: On one, we arrived to find that the University Chapel was ‘shut up’ as the teaching year had finished. Within no time at all the area under the chaplain’s house had been converted to a chapel and the students and lecturers gathered for their final time of worship before heading home to their villages or to the Solomon Islands. The Archbishop reminded the students to stand firm in their faith.
On another Sunday St John’s Cathedral had some special visitors. Miss South Pacific contestants were present as part of their week of preparation for the pageant to be held the following weekend. The Archbishop encouraged these ladies to reflect the image of God. These ladies described themselves as ambassadors and advocates for the women and children of PNG.
St Martin’s on my third Sunday saw the church filled with parishioners from all over Port Moresby as they came together for a combined Service where Bishop Denny ordained a new priest. Processions were led by dancers from Oro Province in traditional dress.
Last Sunday there was lively worship at Holy Family Church, Hohola. The unaccompanied singing was certainly not to be missed!
We are delighted to be able to announce the recent acceptance of Margaret Poynton as a Mission Partner. Margaret comes to us with a wealth of experience. For the past 13 years she has been the National Administrator for the Interchurch Council for Hospital Chaplaincy and, in addition, for 11 years, their National Training Adviser. This has meant she has travelled extensively around New Zealand visiting hospitals and their chaplaincy teams.
Margaret has been accepted to fulfil the role of Executive Assistant to Archbishop Clyde of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea. Margaret is currently finishing her Cross Cultural and Mission studies at St Andrew’s Hall and will be returning to Wellington before heading to Port Moresby at some time in the near future to take up this role.