My Life as a Married Missionary 1964 – 1967

It was December 1963 when I returned home to Australia for my first furlough.

I can’t explain why but I was expecting a huge crowd of friends and church members to greet me at the airport. After landing I couldn’t believe it as I walked out of customs, I was met by one person, my friend Les Jones.

Where was everyone I thought? I quickly realized in this business when you are out of site you are out of mind. There after I learnt not to expect too much in this lonely calling called “Ministry”.

Walking by faith requires that expectations are best served when you look only to God. I soon discovered that God always turns things around when you trust Him.

After clearing customs Les Jones drove me through the familiar streets of Brisbane to my place of residence for the next two weeks, the Commonwealth Bible College. 

Unexpectedly that night I was to meet the future love of my life.

The Principal of the College Pastor Harold Bartholomew invited me to a guided tour through the new campus. It was in the first room that we entered I saw her. For a more complete story of this life changing event read the chapter on How I met my Wife.

Elizabeth Bell or ‘Betty’  as she was known was the beautiful daughter of Home Missionaries David & Wyn Bell.

The Bell’s were amongst the early pentecostal pioneers in Australia, planting churches in north Queensland where Betty grew up.

Her parents founded the Thursday Island Assembly where Betty was born and the Bowen & Innisfail churches.

When I met Betty early in December 1963, she had just completed a very busy year of study.

Not only graduating  from the Commonwealth Bible College, but had also just graduated as a triple Certificated Nurse.

She had dreamed and trained to become a missionary from her early childhood and now the moment had arrived. 

In November 1963 Betty was endorsed in her own right as a single missionary to Papua New Guinea by the Foreign Missions Council of the Assemblies of God in Australia.

That all happened before I arrived on the scene. For me it was love at first site, so I moved quickly.

What else could I do? I had only six months furlough to find a wife, so I proposed to her within a month of our meeting  and as they say “the rest is history”.

We were married in Brisbane by Pastor Lloyd Averill who along with his lovely wife Edith, made all the arrangements for our wedding service including the reception.

After a ‘worldwind’ honeymoon  ministering in New Zealand churches arranged by Pastor Frank Houston, (AOG General Superintendent) we returned to Australia for further deputation work in the churches of North Queensland before finally returning to Papua New Guinea to serve our first term together.

Life couldn’t be sweeter!Our home in the village of Kalabu was built by missionary Ron Westbrook  in 1951. It was built out of native materials with the exception of its iron roof. 

It  had very few modern commodities, a wood stove, a bucket shower and a pit toilet out the back.

But we did have a Kerosene Fridge! The Mission Station was located in the middle of the village and each week our food supply of a loaf of bread, butter and  frozen meat were delivered by a parachute drop from a Missionary Aviation plane from Wewak.

Betty quickly went about making  it into a romantic home base as she decorating it with home made curtains for the doorless cupboard, and open windows. 

 The shelves were covered with plastic contact. It was home and we were so….. happy! Betty was a very innovative, gifted and cultually sensitive  missionary.

After all much of her childhood had been brought up amongst south sea islanders in North Queensland.

She ably adapted to the many challenges and sacrifices that is part & parcel of the missionary vocation. Hardship was never a problem to her.

She was much loved by the people and effectively communicated  the love of Christ to them in the village where we lived.

In fact, I think she was a better Missionary than me. She never complained about the minstry or the lack of equipment or support.

She quickly applied herself as a teacher in the Mission School and Literacy amongst the people.

She also brought together a group of young women from the surrounding villages to start a Women’s Bible School.

She was a very creative teacher and some of the young women she trained went on to become pastor’s wives and fruitful Christians.

One such young woman, Ilowi went on to be the Principal’s wife of the Assemblies of God Maprik Bible School. In 2010 she & her husband Pastor Paul Waikowein received a Medal of National Honour, 

The Order of Logohu Medal from the Governor General of Papua New Guinea, Grand Chief Sir Paulias Matane. 

It was for her services to the Assemblies of God’s Womens Ministry in Papua New Guinea.  

She is an amazing woman leader in the Church of Papua New Guinea.

Betty was a wonderful support to me, always unselfishly encouraging me to go out and visit the people in the surrounding villages and preach and teach the good news of the Gospel.

In those early years I encountered some unusual situations, including acting as a peace maker in tribal disputes, attending to victims of crime and escorting deranged criminals to jail before they harmed someone else.

Helping with medical needs of village people, transporting them to hospital in the mission Jeep and spiritually exorcising demon spirits from people engaged in paranormal behaviour.

Never a dull moment!

On top of that, I had the privilege of preaching the Gospel and witnessing a genuine spiritual revival amongst a people that were not preconditioned emotionally by western interpretation of pentecostal doctrine and experience.

Missionaries were called upon to be flexible in their service.

Although I was not enamoured with school teaching I actually did some at the behest of the Field Leader.

In my first year I was asked to teach a class of Grade 1 students. What a challenge!

Later I actually pioneered & founded an outstation school at a place called Bambera.

Can you believe it…..? Today it is a fully accredited school under the agency of the Assemblies of God Church with over 500 children.

It is financed by the Government and run by the Evangelical Alliance. Now that’s a partnership!

The Assemblies of God Mission went about its commitment to evangelize the Sepik district in a very methodical and practical way.

It took responsibility to not only build and provide housing for its missionary staff but also maintained their vehicles.

In the early 1960s support missionary builder Tom Reid from New Zealand dedicated two years of his life to build permanent mission houses on a number of Mission Stations. 

The houses he built were much appreciated and contributed greatly to the missionaries health as they were almost vermin proof, especially from the dreaded Malaria mosquito which seemed to invade the houses at night fall.

In 1968 a young mechanic and his wife were seconded to the Mission as Support Workers.

Bevynne & Marlene Truss were a great support to the missionaries. Marlene was engaged in school teaching while Bevynne used his skills to rebuild old war time Jeeps for missionary use.

 One such vehicle which was rescued from the jungle which I purchased for $100, I called it “Dorcus”.

It was named after a benevolent lady in the New Testament called Dorcus who was “full of good works”. Acts 9:36

As you can see the old jeep was hardly usable, so Bevynne went to work and completely rebuilt the Jeep from the chassis up.

He rebuilt eight of these old Jeeps for the use of the missionaries.

Here is the last Jeep to come off his assembly line which he completely renovated from the chassis up.

It was such a thrill to be presented with virtually a new Jeep.

Betty & I used it for many years in our Mission work. It was the last one that Bevynne Truss built.

Thank you Bevynne! Jeep travel was essential in missionary work as the terrain was impassible for normal vehicles. 

Rivers were always a problem especially flash floods.

Transportation of one kind or another was always a major consideration in missionary work.

At times one would take their life into their own hands as they travelled on precarious if not dangerous roads.

We also used motor bikes to get around in the dry season and when it was wet we endeavoured to be back at the Mission Station. 

I had a number of falls off my trusty Yamaha 125 in the wet and to this day I bare the memory of those falls.

When it was time to return home to Australia on furlough there was nothing quite like the feeling of boarding a large modern DC-6B and taking off from Jackson’s International Airport at Pt Moresby for Brisbane.

I recall the feeling of excitement, security and comfort as I put my trust in the capable hands of Australian pilots who flew me back to Brisbane.

And so ended my first term of service in Papua New Guinea.

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