In June I had the privilege of representing New Zealand Baptists at the celebrations of 70 years of Baptist work in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Those 70 years have been a time of enormous change as Papua New Guinea’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 eight years as Banzaid has worked with the PNG Baptist Union to help coffee growers in the highlands area. 

This latest visit started with an unexpected opportunity. Having been offered a spare seat on an afternoon flight to Telefomin, I jumped at the chance to join special celebrations there. Telefomin, the centre for the Min tribe, is accessible only by air, and takes over an hour in the MAF Cessna.

The highlight of my two days there was the presence of the Smith family—Australians who, for 15 years during the 1960s and 1970s, had been based in Telefomin. They were warmly welcomed by the 600 people gathered for the celebrations and had some amazing stories to tell.

I travelled back to Baiyer Valley on Friday evening, to stay in one of the old staff houses with former Australian Baptist Missionary Society staff also there for the 70th anniversary celebration. Despite pouring rain, the event went ahead.

On Saturday more than 150 pastors assembled at the local school before marching down the road in the rain to stand in front of the open-air stage. There were songs, greetings and stories, and 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 arrived clear and warm. We 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—recognition of what has been achieved, and a prayer for God’s rich blessing for the years ahead.

Story: Paul Thompson, Banzaid Manager

Read more about the work of Banzaid at banzaid.org.nz