By Langham Preaching Director Paul Windsor
Last month, Langham Preaching Director Paul Windsor spent a week in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to help lead a training event. The last time Paul was in PNG was for the first Langham Preaching seminar there, ten years ago.
Read about how encouraged he was by the calibre and engagement of the attendees, especially as it has been a difficult decade for the ministry there. You will also find out about his various travel mishaps and escapades!
It wasn’t a great start. The queue zigged and zagged its way back out of the immigration room, up the ramp, and back into the air bridge attached to the plane. After negotiating the queue I made my way across to the Domestic Terminal, waiting patiently for my flight to Mt Hagen – only to have it cancelled on me.
Six nights in six locations
That was when things started to get better. “Come with me”. It was Nathan, a pilot living a ‘one month in Sydney; one month in the Highlands’ routine. He had been through cancelled flights a few times.
With his help my ticket was rebooked and my overnight was spent at the Crown Hotel in downtown Port Moresby, which meant that my first six nights on this trip were spent in six different locations (and nine out of eleven overall).
Early Tuesday morning we were on our way to Hagen, only to discover later in the week that the same flight the following morning had its door blown out at 20,000 feet, traumatising a couple of Christian Leaders’ Training College (CLTC) Council members. Yikes?! I arrived at the CLTC campus just before 10am, ready to step into my first talk at 10.30am
On Thursday morning I was to take the trip to Ukarumpa by PMV (‘public motor vehicle’). ‘Why does everyone roll their eyes at me when this trip is mentioned?’ Even a google-search rolled its eyes at me! Even Nathan had rolled his eyes and told me not to do it. Apprehensive-me started to become a bit anxious.
In their wisdom (and my relief) CLTC asked their head of IT, Kuo, to travel with me. He was on his way to Lae to train students in the art of Moodle. Patrick picked us up at 7am for the short drive to the Banz PMV-stand.
After waiting for two hours for the PMV to fill up, Kuo and I were on our way along the Highlands Highway. One of the reasons for the eye-rolling was the poor quality of the road.
Only on a handful of occasions did it feel like we were driving into a pothole and then out of it. However, being a PMV and with the waiting here and there, the 5hr 27min trip on google-maps did become a neat, round figure of 10 hours.
I wouldn’t have missed the drive for anything. What a way to see the beauty of this country!
Along the way, the striking juxtaposition of social issues with numerous churches will remain with me. It suggests a nominalism reminiscent again of Northeast India (and parts of countries like the USA, for example) where a high percentage of Christians appears to have little influence-for-good on public life. It takes us back to Jesus on salt, light and yeast.
Whispers of hope
In PNG this is compounded by the intrusion of foreigners into their socio-economic life, be it the local grocery shops, or the way wealth from their mines is being taken out of the country. Scandalous. However there are whispers of hope among local people with the recent election of a committed Christian (James Marape) as Prime Minister and his stated intent to focus on issues like corruption.
Ukarumpa is home to SIL/Wycliffe, the ministry committed to Bible translation around the world. It is a totally self-sufficient community, with the circumference of about 5 miles enclosing within it as many as 500 ex-pats at one time. It is beautiful.
SIL was the venue for a Langham Preaching seminar, now into its tenth year in PNG. The last time I was in PNG was for the first one. I arrived in time to be involved just in the Friday programme (which needed to finish at 11am!) and so it was a long way to come for a minimal involvement.
Best week so far
But that is OK. Tim, our facilitator from Melbourne, has persevered with the work throughout the decade and it was so encouraging to hear him say that two local trainers – Willie and Jonathan – were involved in the teaching during the week. It has been a struggle. But this was the best week they’ve had thus far. Praise God.
It is always encouraging to see the calibre of the women who surface at seminars, even though they can be so few in number. I always try to have an affirming word with them.
I facilitated an interactive session on ‘integrity in the life of the preacher’ – and invited them to pray for each other, before concluding by reading 1 Thessalonians 2.1-12 with them.
Smile to my face
Midway through the session I had each small group contribute to a list of biblical characters with integrity – and then a list of those who lacked it and why they thought this was the case. This group is still bringing a smile to my face. I think they really, really liked the story of Daniel.
After the seminar finished it was back to Goroka, 2 hours back along the same road from whence I had come the day before, and a flight to Port Moresby.
The final day, added belatedly to the schedule, was spent with the freshly-minted Langham Scholar, George Mombi, working now at the CLTC-Port Moresby campus. So lovely to meet him and Ruby and their children, Emmanuel and Irene.
A mature group
Only on the job for a couple of months and still waiting to defend his dissertation, George had about 80 people crammed into a room for me to do abbreviated versions of three of my talks from earlier in the week, after Tim preached from Nehemiah 8. Wow.
Such a mature group – mainly pastors, rather than students – and as engaged a group as I’ve had anywhere in recent years.
Read more about Langham Scholar George Mombi’s ministry in Papua New Guinea.