On August 26th our party of pilgrims from three dioceses in England, New Zealand and Australia left Brisbane airport for Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
A pilgrimage of journeying in company with each other and with God to meet friends in a very different part of the world. This was not a journey of mission but of pilgrimage and we were travelling to explore and receive from fellow Christians.
A few weeks after returning home and in reflection, this was an amazing adventure, a journey of trust and of exploration, of shared fellowship and of ways to be a true Christian.
This blog gives a taste of that journey and an indication of the place and the land, the people and the customs. And perhaps above all shows that it was a journey of learning, of letting go, of finding ourselves and reaching out to others.
An early morning start for 2 parties in the group. The seven travelling to Dogouro had to leave early for their journey by plane, boat and overland vehicle. The 7 leaving for Mt Hagen left shortly and after a plane journey would in the highlands.
The nine pilgrims left were all going to the New Guinea Island of West New Britain, and had the morning to sit and talk, re pack the cases and enjoy the warm weather.
Bishop Denny joined us for an hour and talked about the Anglican church in Papua New Guinea and his life and education in a rural community. He grew up in an Anglican family of 13 children, and was the seventh child. He received a full education and trained as a teacher, then worked as a banker before being called to ministry 21 years ago.
The minibus arrived for us just after midday and after some mechanical change to the vehicle, we set off to the airport, where we caught the twin propeller plane across the island to Hoskins airport.
At Hoskins we were welcomed in wonderful style by the warriors and dancers and Bishop Alan. Greeted and 10 minutes of procession with garlands to our bus and open topped truck.
A delight for me to travel in the back of the truck and see this beautiful island as the evening approached. Walkers on the road waved and called Oro, Oro( Welcome, welcome).
We arrived at Banuale at the Franciscan Friary, a real retreat in the rain forest
, and a place of peace. We met with Father Eduardo( who was also an excellent cook) and brothers.
That night I slept under the mosquito net and to the sound of the frogs just outside.
We began the day Celebrating Mass in the Franciscan Friary at
6.30am in chapel. At the start of the day the rain forest sounds
were gentle and entrancing.
In the 2 trucks we travelled to Bialla, some 3 hours of Tarmac
road and mainly dirt tracks with very large holes. Every so often
passengers sitting sideways in the back slid uncontrollably
towards the front and this was followed by a very large series of
bumps. A thrilling journey for the scenery, the mode of travel
and the company. There were innumerable bridges, some of
which were photographed, and river bed crossings, where the
bridges had been carried away in the last rainy season.
Half way through the journey, we stopped at a roadside
market. We bought some green coconut juice, which was very
refreshing and chopped open for us by the girl with a very large
There was also a large use of Beetle nuts, which
stains people’s mouths and teeth, plus the spitting out of the
And then, somewhere in the midst of the rain forest we came
to Bialla. The entrance to the village was bedecked with flowers
Our welcome into the village was with the warriors, incredible,
beautiful and wonderfully rhythmic. The men and the Spirit Man led us ,in with the women and girls walking alongside. A very powerful entrance, based on welcome, acknowledgement
10 minutes later we arrived at our seats and were formally welcomed. In the middle of the rain forest, the remoteness of Bialla was obvious. This was a village that lived with its own resources,
food, water, toilets, and then there was the presence of The Company, the oil palm factory and plantation. There was a real benefit of being employed by the company.
There was entertainment including our own and we all talked
about our work, our homes and ourselves.
The journey home was just as bumpy and long. We stopped at
the bank in Kimbe and whilst we waited a woman carrying her
shopping came and talked with us, she was a missionary.
Back at the Friary, we ate an early meal and then In the
moonlight in the rainforest, the warriors arrived and danced for
us.One of the dances was as a snake wandering through the
Our entertainment was not quite so colourful but gave them
much chance for laughter;
Mud, mud, glorious Mud with an amazing second chorus by
Bishop Jonathan, Bishop Andrew and Ryan sang, Tutira Mai, the
four girls sang Any Dream Will Do, and Eleanor and Brian sang
Early One Morning, followed by Sue leading on Heads Shoulders
Knees and Toes. The Warriors and young dancers joined in with
all the actions, lots of laughter!
We turned in for sleep at 9.00pm, a really late night for us!
Rev’d Sue Martin
We started the day after breakfast on a drive in the
trucks to Mosa. Forty minutes only in the truck with
the cool air shreaking through the system.
The start of the journey was through the oil palms
and was on Tarmac. But we soon turned off onto a dirt track, through the plantation and carried on through the dusty road to Mosa. The village was beautiful, an open green space with flowers and plants lining our way. We were met by the warriors and led in procession a welcome into the village. A wonderful sight and experience, the sounds, the smells, the bright sunshine, the clear and strong colours.
This was our first service on the island and simply
The procession in with the bishops, awe inspiring
led in by the girls gently moving in Immaculate
rhythm to the drums and singing of the men and
This procession was repeated for the entrance of
the gospel and also the offerings.
Communion was received and blessings were given
to many many children and people, those in the
church and the children sitting in the door
entrances and on the grass outside.
The service lasted for 2 hours and followed by food
like a banquet with speeches and. entertainment.
We left Mosa at about 1.00pm and in the burning heat made our way through the tiny and pitted track to Saraclock, a really small settlement. But the welcome was huge and we followed the children and musicians into a small areas with an awning and side covers, for the speeches and entertainment. The children were intrigued and for many of the women I talked with, I was the first white woman they had seen. Lots of people to shake hands avidly and exchange names.
More good food and although the bread became toasted in the sun it was very welcome.
We were about to leave when we asked to visit the school. This was an eye opener on to their real life. Two small rooms with wooden benches for chairs and tables, a board and 2 teachers, a husband and wife team, who managed with no resources, no paper,
no pencils, no books, nothing a part for themselves and a programme of work.
We visited the Diocesan oil palm project, a 10 acre plantation, which is now starting to be harvested. Bishop Alan has stared this project and it is aimed at enabling the diocese to create its own income. A great project idea and lots of potential.
A hot journey back to the Friary for a swim in the South Pacific!
So many stories and pictures to share. The photo above is from the islands, at a church service bringing in the gospel.
Our party started the day at 4.30am at Kimbe airport before the gates were opened. It’s quite an informal airport! But the regulations for somethings are strict, like no lawnmowers allowed on the flights.
We had a wonderful view of the island and I was sad to be leaving and wondered if I would ever be back, but know that I will be in touch with some of those we have met.
We had a long wait at Port Moresby but after about 4 hours we had all arrived back and were ready to board the flight for Popondetta. Many stories from Dogura and from Mt Hagen to follow.
We arrived at Popondetta airport to an overwhelming welcome from Bishop Lyndsley, the warriors and dancers. the evening before. There was much celebration and feasting and the evensong service in Popondetta Cathedral was wonderful. An open sided building in a community square.
We stayed at the Birdwing Butterfly Lodge, which was quite splendid and even had air conditioning. Polycarp and his family made us most welcome throughout the trip.
On Tuesday we visited Newton Theological College, to celebrate the Eucharist & Bishop David preached to sounds of gentle rain, and bird songs from the rain forest. We had chance for a tour of the college, where the students and their families live and learn and our first refreshments of the day.
Our police escort stayed with us all day and in the heat of the day we went to St Andrews church, where the whole village of Eroror had been flooded severely five years ago.
Further on we visited St Margaret’s Anglican hospital in Oro Bay, in much need of resources and help, and the staff were great.
Finally we made it, two hours late, to the Franciscan brothers and CV sisters, for evening prayer in the dark and refreshments, speeches and welcome.
By 7pm the police escort saw us back to the Birdwing Butterfly lodge. Rev’d Sue Martin
Our police escort led us to the Martyr’s School out in the country, about 30 minutes from the Birdwing Butterfly Lodge.
The campus was huge and our greeting was in traditional warrior dance welcome, which led us to the staff room at the school.
The Eucharist was celebrated in real style and dedication, about 1000 people attending, 800 of which were school students. The Papua New Guinea Martyrs were remembered and candles lit for each of them.
A whole afternoon of dances and speeches followed with gifts for us all.
In the evening we had a farewell dinner with Bishop Lynsley and his wife, Felicity and the team. We were presented with gifts, hats, large wood carvings. The bishops gave gifts from our dioceses too and all pilgrims left small gifts for the school and the women.
After lunch at Birdwing Butterfly Lodge we said farewells and went to the airport. It was a two hour check in and so in the one shed we had plenty of time! With Sister Anne, Polycarp, and other friends.
The young boys spotted the plane for the day and we set off for the 30 minute journey.
Arrived back at Lutheran Guest House for supper.
Image: Popondetta airport – Bishop Andrew and Father Benstead, Bibira and the boys…
First visit of the day was to Anglicare offices at the diocese in Waigani and the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. As well as the HIV work there are training and literacy programmes for young and older people.
Next visit was to a settlement, on the perimeter of the airport. There was a striking difference between the two. The area was incredibly dry and dusty but the houses had space and there was a good community feel. If you ignore the broken, rusty cars and see the people with their smiling faces you can see some happiness in severe poverty.
Christ the King School was a wonderful place. Set at the top of a hill we met the school children, standing waiting for us in 38C sunshine! We had gifts to give and children sang their songs, Paul played Happy Birthday to them all on the trumpet.
A tour of the classrooms and the large and cool chapel were brilliant. The teachers are largely voluntary, the classrooms varied from sheds to a container with windows, provided by Sue Ramsden. It was surprisingly cool.
Next visit was to the War Memorial Graves kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in beautiful grounds and incredible to see the headstones for nearly 4000 Australians, some Papuan’s and some British soldiers, airforce personnel and sailors. They fought to save Papua New Guinea from the Japanese army and to prevent the creation of a ‘launch pad’ for an attack on Australia.
Port Moresby Nature Park was the first stop of the day and by 10.30 it was already about 36C and we were given a tour of the Nature Park.
There was a graduation party from a primary school with 1000 people celebrating with picnics in cool boxes! Bit different from yesterday at the schoo
I was really interested in the orchids, and PNG has 3,800 species.
We then travelled to St John’s Cathedral, which was in the port area, next to the smart Grand Papua Hotel. Lunch there was very welcome and made us pretty sleepy for the two hour meeting that followed.
In the evening we had a celebration meal at the Laguna Hotel, very elegant with an enticing pool. A lovely meal and we managed a little dancing to the two musicians with Bishop Jonathan singing on the ‘mike’ for a while.