Papua New Guinea

Moving goal posts

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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.

Boomerang to PNG

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I feel a bit like a boomerang sometimes. Since I ‘officially’ returned from Papua New Guinea, I’ve already had the opportunity for a couple of short trips back for translation-related work and another such visit is currently looming. On Saturday, I will head back to Alotau for three weeks to help with the checking of translated scriptures in two different languages. I’m conscious that I’m a bit rusty in that activity these days, but both the languages I’ll be working with are ones I have checked before, which helps a bit.

For the first week there (27 Feb – 3 March) I’ll be checking some Old Testament portions in the Kaninuwa language, spoken on Goodenough Island. Kaninuwa were part of the VITAL multi-language programme with which I was involved for several years, so I already know the translators and it will be really good to see them again.

For the two weeks after that, I’ll have the privilege of checking the last few epistles in the Gumuwana New Testament. Gumawana is spoken on the tiny and remote Amphlett Islands, by fewer than 400 people. Clif, the SIL advisor who works alongside them, has had to be US-based for the last several years, making twice-yearly trips to PNG, so progress on the New Testament has inevitably been slowed, but the end is now in sight. I have checked with Clif and his team twice before and learnt a lot myself in the process, so I am really glad to be able to be in on the ‘home straight’ with them as well!

A huge fringe benefit of this trip is of course that I will get to spend three weeks sharing a flat in Alotau with my friend and longtime teammate, Marisa. We are both looking forward to having plenty of time to catch up with one another.

I’d love to be able to cross paths with Margaret Poynton too, as it’s looking like we both may be briefly in Port Moresby at the same time over the last weekend of my stay.

I’d value your  prayers for this time away especially along the following lines:

That I’d be able relate well to the translators and checking assistants and that together we would find any areas where the translation might need to be improved. That the translators would be encouraged, and that the village folk who come to help with the checking would be blessed by this time of hearing and reading the scriptures in their languages. That I’d be able to be an encouragement to Marisa For all the travelling arrangements to proceed safely and smoothly

Life in Two Worlds

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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.

Flexing in Kapuna

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I continue to be humbled by the kindnesses and support I’m receiving here at Kapuna. One wet day, my students ran along in front of me dropping timber on the muddy track to the classroom so I wouldn’t slip over. The local people are incredibly supportive in prayer and encouragement.

Learning about the human body has been our science focus for Term 1. The class experience of putting into practise muscles contracting and relaxing in pairs created a lot of laughter and competition between students. The test results gave me a few smiles. The jaw bone was labelled joe bone and the answer to the question ‘What organs do the ribs protect’ was ‘piss piss place,’ which is the term they use here for pee.

Pastor Mike Robb and his wife Ruth became good friends while they were here (they have since returned to Christchurch). Mike came to my rescue after I had locked my keys in the school and needed someone to climb into my house and get the spare ones. And yes, as some of you told me, this is not the first time I needed this help.

Jude, my special student with physical disabilities, had a raging infection around the hip area which was also massively swollen. I visited him regularly in the hospital and prayed with the family. We missed him a lot, so when a student suggested we go to the hospital the next day and have our devotions there, everyone got excited. They usually sing quite loud, so I encouraged them to lower the volume, as Jude was still struggling with a headache and fever, but he smiled a lot and thanked them for coming. What a privilege to have the freedom to do that here in Kapuna School. Jude is now back in school and maintaining good health.

I value your continued prayer support as you partner with me here at Kapuna.

The ‘why question’ in PNG

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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.

Back to Kapuna

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In 2014 I worked with Mary and these year 4 and 5 students at Kapuna Life School. Mary has been selected for teacher training in 2016 and I was asked if I would like to return and teach again.

Where is this school? Nestled in the dense jungle of the Wame River in the Gulf Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Kapuna was established in the 1950’s to provide health services. Partnering with Gulf Christian Services, it’s a faith-based ministry that encompasses medical care, training, leadership and community development, serving over 15000 people. Since then three generations of the Calvert family from NZ have served there long and short term. Grandma Calvert has been there over 60 years and continues to inspire many in her passion for God and all that happens at Kapuna. Out of this grew the Kapuna Life School, a place of cultural vibrancy.

Was it an easy decision for me to return? Initially my heart stirred and I was keen but then the prospect of leaving family, those I am involved with in my work places here and knowing in PNG to expect the unexpected I began to doubt and feel reluctant. With the challenge from my son, “You are being too controlling,” flowing through my mind I sought God for confirmation. Friends were praying and a picture from one helped, along with a devotion from Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore based on Genesis 22:1-19 about Abraham offering his only son Isaac. At the end of this devotion she had written a poem suggesting we allow God to speak to our heart. The first two verses were my confirmation.

Trust Me with Your Isaac

By Beth Moore

For every Abraham who dares to kiss the foreign field where glory for a moment grasped is for a lifetime tilled…

The voice of God speaks not but once but ’till the traveller hears “Abraham! Abraham! Bring your Isaac here!”

Pass the test, my faithful one; bow to me as Lord Trust me with your Isaac -see, I am your great Reward.”

It felt like God was saying “Go!” Kiss the foreign field. I’ve told you once. Now I’ve told you twice.


During that afternoon of worship and prayer I felt it was the right time and to continue trusting God so that night I emailed Barbara and said yes, yes. So with God’s help, and with prayer support from church family and friends, I’m returning for the school year in 2016 to teach year 4 and 5 students.

Praise God: my visa was approved in record time and for the support from family and church.

Pray for: my medical to be processed promptly, peace as I leave family on January 17th and for internal flights into the Gulf.

Destination: Papua New Guinea

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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!

Meet Margaret

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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.

Joanna the Master

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Many thanks to those of you who have been praying for me over the last two or three years that I have been working on my M.A. studies through Otago University. I submitted my thesis in October last year and a few weeks ago was pleased to learn that it has been accepted. I just scraped into the pass with distinction category (your prayers again!) and am currently making some required corrections and improvements before it is bound. In spite of the catchy title (‘Maisin: the Grammatical Description of an Oceanic Language in Papua New Guinea’), I am not expecting it to be a best-seller, but am still glad to have been able to contribute something to the documentation of this unique and beautiful language. I would also love it if it could be a resource that will be of some use to the ongoing translation of the scriptures into the Maisin language.  I am so grateful to NZCMS for the gift of the opportunity to undertake this study.

The Escaping Rat

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Earlier this month Carol Roger, currently in Papua New Guinea, shared the following. 

I cannot believe April has passed already. I have experienced a non commercial Christ centered Easter with reenactments, church services daily Thursday to Sunday and outreaches in front of the hospital here. On Sunday there was a dawn service with Barbara running the around the village calling “He is risen” and people quickly joining her. These people are great musicians, wonderful at drama and at the second Sunday service celebrated with face painting crosses and hearts, balloons, pancakes and cordial and then a joyful glorifying service to our risen Lord. Not an Easter egg in sight.

The rats, I am happy to say, have not been as bad as expected. But alas the other night at 5am we caught one in the live trap (as they escape other ones). I managed to pick up the trap and carry it to the verandah ready to drown it in the bucket – I was feeling all churned up inside. Segana got up said “Here, I will do it.” In the 5am confusion I thought she said “How do you open it?” I said, “No, don’t let it out”, and put my hand out knocking the opening. The rat leapt joyfully out and over the balcony. Since then rats have been heard but not seen and said cage remains set but empty. God has helped me, and my fear of rats has lessened but as yet I see no positives in having rats in the village.

Although there is a lot of English spoken here some things get confused. When helping Rosa with tea I looked at the vege and said “I don’t like pacpac“. She was rocking with laughter and then informed me it was pitpit (not sure of the spelling) and pacpac was poo. We both have a giggle now when she is cooking it for tea.