IMG 2671-585x438To the Border: Partnering with the CBC Church in Papua New Guinea

The plane was an old Fokker 50 dressed up in new paint and new coverings on the chairs. The spaces between seats was more comfortable than most. Everything seemed to work and as the bright orange F50 rumbled down the runway we were on our way to Madang, Wewak and then Vanimo to explore what God has in store for our Christian Brethren Churches (CBC) in terms of reaching into West Papua and other regions of Indonesia. How can our churches in NZ partner with these churches to reach into people groups that have had little or no exposure to the message of Jesus? Are we in NZ ready for this? How about the local churches in Vanimo? Are they ready? What will need to be in place for church planting to happen? Lots of questions were flying around in my mind as we traversed the rugged mountainous landscapes of central Papua New Guinea and then the undulating and rugged plains of the East and West Sepik divided by mountain ranges at regular intervals. The call had come from some Indonesian pastors who had talked to the CBC General Secretary, Barrywan Tuwai of their need for workers as they said 'the harvest is plentiful yet the workers are few'. Pray with us that God will send workers into this harvest field.


Travelling with me was Lui Ponifasio, pastor of Life Church, Manurewa. He's already been to Indonesia several times. This time he was coming back through the land where his great grandparents had been missionaries in the 1900's and early 1930's and on to the border and hopefully into Indonesia (West Papua) from Vanimo. Who would we meet that might facilitate the call and the dreams many have had of a westward wave of missions into the land of Indonesia from the land of PNG? Many Pacific Island missionaries had brought the message of the gospel to the regions of Papua New Guinea, many had died doing so. They had planted a seed and a legacy. Who will continue the westward wave? Lui's passion is to be involved in facilitating church planting. We need to listen to God's voice as we meet new people and see new places and potential.

Vanimo is a lovely outcrop along the shores of the north western edge of Papua New Guinea in the Sundaun Province. A natural harbour sheltered by reefs provides a useful location for a town an hour from the border with West Papua. We landed smoothly in the F50 and were greeted by old friends and 'Gordon's driver 'Johnny'. He took us up to the CBC guest house on the hill beside the church overlooking the town. The local market was poorer than expected with most seeming to sell 'buai' a local aphrodisiac and sago, a jelly like compound that people eat. With no fridge or stove we fought to keep our food from the rats and ants yet we were able to eat well as the local stores had most of what was needed. We learned that rice cookers can cook much more than rice!

The day we had planned on going to Jayapura (West Papua) we went to the Indonesian Consulate to get our visas. We were searched on entry and having filled out forms and paid our 70 kina (35 dollars) we waited in town getting ourselves ready for the trip. Our visa's were ready when we went back to pick them up and we began the travel to the border with Johnny, Gordon's driver. On the way the Toyota ute we were in decided to overheat! We had fourty minutes to get to the border. What is this all about? Fortunately the driver of a newish Toyota Landcruiser coming from the border stopped and asked if we need any help. We said yes and explained our situation. It turns out the drivers name is Nick and he is a customs official coming from the border. He willingly took us in his vehicle. We arrived excited at the prospect of heading over the border and meeting up with a couple of contacts. Jonathan Montrei a local CBC man had come with us. He could speak Bahasa. Lui was looking forward to brushing up on his! As we preceded to go through customs the officer processing my passport warned us that we had single entry visas into PNG and that to get a new entry visa coming back via this border was not possible. Only Jackson's airport has that facility. We had not expected this. Stunned, we wandered around a little aimlessly for a few minutes realising that we would be best to stay on the PNG side of the border. Next time we get entry visas to PNG they need to be multiple entry ones. Lessons learned! God must have a reason for this. We would have a few more days with our friends in Vanimo.

That evening we arranged a meeting with the CBC women's fellowship for the next morning (they were meeting anyway) and an evening with the church leaders. Both meetings proved fruitful and an invitation was given for us to return to give more leadership training. There are four CBC churches in Vanimo and many of the leaders were at the meeting. Because word had got out that the son of Dennis Thorp was in town, a steady flow of my father's old students turned up at the guest house to greet me and my son Elliot who was also travelling with us. We also met a couple who shared with us their vision to plant churches in Indonesia. They are a local couple who have already begun a church plant in the settlement area in Vanimo. Pray for Paul and Helen as they look towards training at Christian Leaders Training College so they are prepared for what lies ahead. Maybe the extra time in Vanimo was meant to be. The church in Vanimo needs to be prepared and ready to reach out. More work is needed. The exciting thing is that some land near the airport has been recently leased by CBC and the opportunities for a training school and some accommodation exist so that the initiative into Indonesia can be facilitated. Help is needed through partnership with NZ and Australia in setting this up.

We were meant to travel to an area that may be suited to beef farming and then travelling by truck to Wewak for the Business Summit that was to take place at the later end of our PNG trip. However, MAF were delayed in getting us out of Vanimo and due to pressures of flying out of Wewak for Lui we had to book another airline- in fact the F50 of Travel Air. This meant a direct flight to Wewak with no stops along the way.

We believe there still needs to be a visit to meet local church leaders over the border. Geoff Liddle and I may do this later in the year. We believe that Vanimo is a useful place to begin some leadership seminars. Here is an opportunity to encourage and strengthen the church in Vanimo to prepare them to reach out. Our churches can partner with them in this.

If you are interested in being part of this, contact GC3 through Russell Thorp- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Tags: CBC | Church Planting | Leadership | mission | Papua New Guinea | Partnership | Training | Vanimo

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