My First Term as a Single Missionary 1961 – 1964

Papua New Guinea is a beautiful country of mountains and valleys, dense jungle and rain forests, long winding rivers and beautiful lakes. I spent 15 years in this land that time forgot. A country inhabited by colourful people with fauna & flora of amazing variety had its abode. Its tranquil coastline of villages and  tropical beaches made for a picturesque paradise.

Yet hidden in this ancient land the dark stain of fear leaves its mark upon these animistic people. 

It wasn’t long before I discovered the fear & sadness that pervaded the lives of these beautiful people in village life. Psalm 74:20.

 It was into this ancient culture I had the privilege to bring the good news of the gospel of peace.

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I was just a fresh faced boy out of Bible College when God called me to serve Him in this wonderful land.

After completing three years of theological training at the Commonwealth Bible College in Brisbane (see page relating to My Training for Ministry).

I felt I was ready to take on the world. Indeed when you feel God has called you the danger is to become so consumed with zeal that common sense goes out the window.

Well, fortunately for me I am pragmatic by nature and all the dots had to line up before I was going to take any unusual step of faith.

During my teenage years if there was any consistent prayer I prayed, it was that I might have wisdom.

 Finally the time had come to pack my bags and go. I had received a clearance from the Foreign Missions Council, Pastor CL Greenwood (the Foreign Missions Chairman) had given me his blessing and I was ready to go.

But there remained one hold up and that was, my full support had not yet come through. I needed a princely sum of $30 a week which was set as my full time support in 1961. I wrote to churches but received little encouragement. Finally the Cairns Assembly of God under Pastor Stan Douglas leadership came to my rescue and decided to be my principle supporter. I was walking on air again!.

On 24 Dec. 1960 I set sail on the tiny coastal vessel MV Malekula from Bretts Wharf, Brisbane to Wewak, Papua New Guinea. It was a small motor vessel that carried only 5 passenger. On my first day out to sea (Christmas Eve) I became violently seasick and was confined to my single birth cabin alone for two full days. I wished I was dead! On the fourth day, the journey took a turn for the better and the small boat stabilized in calmer seas.

When the Malekula finally arrived Port Moresby Harbour about 3pm 28 Dec 1960, I gladly took the opportunity to get back onto terrafirma. The streets of Moresby were hot, dirty & stained with blood red beatlenut “spit” everywhere. The expectorant made me nauseous as I avoided treading on it as much as possible. It wasn’t long before I retreated back to the relative cleanliness of the Malekula and the sanctuary of my single birth cabin feeling very much alone and wondering about my decision to become a missionary.

Leaving Port Moresby we sailed  around the beautiful coast of Papua and birthed at the island of Samarai on New Years eve. Loneliness was not something I had experienced much before, but after walking around the island & without a friend to talk to, I went back to my cabin nursing a foreboding feeling of “apprehension”. Would I be able to cope with the spiritual darkness of heathendom? Would the people accept me and my message?

My mind seemed to be consumed by fear which i knew was not from God. 2 Timothy 1:7  The next day we sailed on toward my destination, stopping briefly at Madang, Lae and finally arriving Wewak on a bright Sunday morning.

During the trip I had a lot of time to think. I wondered and prayed about life’s journey and what would be in store for me. Jeremiah 29:11. Even though my voyage had been a little uncomfortable and lonely, I remained upbeat & excited at the prospect of commencing missionary service, which I believed was the direction of God for my long term future. The MV Malekula dropped anchor in Wewak harbour early on a Sunday morning. 

As the sun rose I remember saying to myself  “today is the first day of the rest of my life”.

As I clambered down the gang plank I was assisted into a small Barge like vessel and slowly ferried across to the mainland. There was no Jetty so I had to disembark on the Wharf near the Wewak headland beach. I looked back at the MV Malekula which had been my home for the last three weeks and thanked God for a safe journey.

As my foot touched the soil I felt joy & excitement and a emotional bond to this land that was to entwine into my life’s journey. I was filled with joy at the great adventure that lay ahead of me. Upon disembarking in Wewak, I was taken to the Assemblies of God Mission Station at Wirui & was greeted by Senior Missionary James Conley the resident missionary at Wewak.

Without delay I was taken straight into the Sunday morning worship service which was underway. The church was filled with people dressed in their brightly coloured blouses and clothes. They sang heartily and their enthusiasm was palpable. I was excited beyond measure as I anticipated the future. I looked around at the congregation and felt an incredible love overwhelm me for these people, in fact tears of joy rolled down my cheeks as I recognised the love of God for these people and for me.

After a few days of orientation in Wewak I was flown  inland on and old Noresman single engined commercial aircraft that felt as uncomfortable as a flying brick. Looking down over the jungle below I wonder if the old “bus” would get us there. We did of course an hour later, arriving over the tiny government outstation called “Maprik”. The airstrip where we were to land looked the size of a postage stamp in the middle of a vast jungle. I wondered if we would make it! I was apprehensive, not just because it was my first flight in a single engine aircraft that rattled and rolled but because this is the place I was destined to serve as a full-time missionary for ‘the rest of my life’!

I was met at the airstrip by missionary Roy Short who drove me up to the Mission Station to meet my parents who were based here. My father Pastor TL Evans was the Field Superintendent of the Mission.

The Maprik Mission Station was nestled on a hill in the picturesque mountains of  the Torreseli  ranges. It was to be my base of operation for the next three years. I was initially impressed by the idyllic surroundings of the Mission Station which was the base of operation for three missionary families and a single lady school teacher Marion Blair. I received a warm welcome from the resident missionary families including my parents and my younger sister Evie who was 17 at the time.

That night as I lay down to sleep in the original bush timber home built by the  founding missionary Hugh Davidson, my heart lifted up to God in prayer with thanksgiving for this door of opportunity. I was overjoyed as I crept under my mosquito net to settle down for my first night in the heart of Papua New Guinea. In the distance I could hear the jungle drums of a heathen singsing. The sound of which was haunting as I tried to settle down for sleep. I wondered what they did in the Spirit Houses that dotted the landscape.

Later I personally reseached and witnessed the heathen practice of initiations that was carried out  in these ‘men only’ places; but thats another story! Finally emotional exhaustion set in and I drifted off to sleep.

During my first term of service as a young missionary I was inducted into some interesting challenges, which was a steep learning curve for this adventuresome novice.

Initially I was asked by the Field Superintendent who happened to be my father TL Evans,  to teach a Grade 1 primary school class in our mission school. This was my first test in submitting to authority. You see, I was not trained as a school teacher and didn’t want to do it. I wanted to get out and evangelize the heathen. However I found the grace to submit and did as I was told.

Little did I realize that I was in fact evangelizing a whole group of village children, one of whom, Percy Ganba, went on to become the first General Secretary of the Assemblies of  God in Papua New Guinea. Evangelism was my first love however and whenever I could I would get out into the villages and preach the Gospel. I loved the adventure of it all.

During my first term of service I was given a large mountainous area of ten villages to evangelize. I had the privilege of seeing hundreds of people convert to Christ. My goal was to establish and build ten churches. By the end of 1961 I had built (yes both spiritually & literally) my first village church in the Mambalip mountains near Maprik, in the East Sepik Province.

I also built myself a bush house near a mountain stream and each week I would go and live there and use it as a base for my evangelistic work. I loved the adventure of mountain climbing and negotiating mountain ridges and rivers on my motor bike or jeep depending on the weather. Village culture facinated my enquiring mind and getting to know the people by name was heart warming “stuff” as they say!

Missionary life was not all jungle work. There were times when we would get togother as a missionary family and enjoy the fellowship with other missionaries at our annual Field Conference. I used to particularly anticipate this event  as  it gave me an opportunity to meet all the new single school teachers and nurses that came to the field to serve. Just being able to fraternise and fellowship with people my own age & culture was refreshing indeed.

The 1963 field Conference was to be the last I attended  as a single man. As I drew near to the end of my first term, I felt satisfied with my achievements realizing at the same time it is all of God’s Grace.

Seven new churches had been pioneered and built. I had  started a school through my litteracy work amongst the children of the area. Today there is a fully registered AOG agency school with over 500  children attending at the Bambera Primary School.

There are churches in all the villages and thousands of souls made decisions to follow Christ and were baptised. Changed by the power of the Gospel and added to the Kingdom of God. On a personal level  my employer the Missionary Field Council whom I respected greatly led me to believe they were pleased with me although they never told me so! Of the seven Field Council member in this photo of 1963, four have gone on to their reward. James Conley, Jack Easton, Morris Hovey and Doug Gallienne. At that conference as I looked to the future everything looked bright except for one thing.

I needed a wife!

The next chapter will have to tell you that story.

 



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