In June I had the great privilege of representing New Zealand Baptists at the celebrations of 70 years of Baptist work in Papua New Guinea. Those 70 years have been a period of enormous change as PNG’s many tribes and people have worked to become a nation. It is many years since NZBMS had staff there, but I have been visiting over the last 8 years as Banzaid has worked with the PNG Baptist Union to help the coffee growers in the highlands area.
My visit started with an unexpected opportunity to join separate celebrations in Telefomin. There was a spare seat in the MAF flight that afternoon. Did I want to go? I jumped at the chance! Telefomin, the centre for the Min tribe, is accessible only by air, and is a flight of over an hour in the MAF Cessna. The highlight of the two days that I had there was the presence of the Smith family, Australians who had been based in Telefomin for 15 years in the 1960s and 1970s. They were warmly welcomed by the 600 people gathered for the celebrations and had some amazing stories to tell!
Back to Baiyer Valley on Friday evening to stay in one of the old staff houses with former ABMS staff also there for the occasion. Saturday it poured with rain, but still the celebrations went ahead. Over 150 pastors assembled at the school down the road and marched in the rain to stand in front of the open-air stage. There were songs, greetings and stories. Recognition of past missionaries, including those from New Zealand. The highlight was the presentation of a revised translation of the Enga Bible. There was special recognition of Rob and Win Thomson from Whanganui, who had been involved in the original translation. The comment about Rob was that he “must have been born of an Enga woman”.
Sunday was clear and warm. We all assembled again on the field for a communion service. Different groups were called to the front for prayer: pastors, community workers, women, students, business people and children. I was privileged to be asked to pray for the bread, and to be one of those serving the communion.
It was a great occasion. A recognition of what has been achieved, and a prayer for God’s rich blessing in the coming period.
Paul Thompson, Banzaid Manager
Article published in the New Zealand Baptist August 2019