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.
Our pilgrimage to Papua New Guinea in August 2015 is a real adventure and the journey of a lifetime. The 23 pilgrims are preparing to leave the cosiness of home for a journey across the world to a land of rain forests and islands.
We are a small group from three countries, the U.K. , New Zealand and Australia.
Pilgrims from the UK are from the Norwich Diocese, including myself. Others have
been before, led by the Bishop of Lynn. Bishops of
Papua New Guinea have returned to Norwich, so in some sense it is a well travelled
This travel blog will be updated throughout the pilgrimage, as we arrive,and journey on,
the places we travel to and the people we meet. It will provide a snapshot of the
journey in pictures and words.
For pilgrims it will give a record of this special time and for those at home it is a chance to follow the journey as it happens.
As we make our preparations we gather clothes, apply for visas, buy the right insect
repellant, have inoculations. We also get ready in our thoughts and prayers.
Thoughts about the New world we will visit, the people we will meet and the
chance to see how God’s world is fulfilled in different ways.
In Papua New Guinea, there are times for celebrations.
Children and families, young and old, gather together with flowers, dancing and masks! The photo of the children getting ready is one of my favourites. It was taken from the last visit to PNG from the Norwich Diocese.
This blog of our pilgrimage is just starting and our journey is yet to begin. But the preparations are well underway, the itinerary is finished and on this site you can see where we are travelling too and the things we will be doing.
With less than 3 weeks before we will be setting foot in Port Moresby, it is time to look forward and make the final preparations. For me it is the time to make sure that my case or back pack is going to be able to hold all that I am planning to take.
As well as things for myself, there are things to take for children. I have lots of ideas for stories and fun and maybe even trying on the odd mask or two!
We all arrived safely at Riverglenn, just outside Brisbane.
Three countries, three dioceses and 23 pilgrims shared time, lives and thoughts. We found out more about our journey to Papua New Guinea and the people we will meet. We learnt to say ‘ thank you ‘ tenke yu tru !
And we bought even more insect repellant for those ferocious mozzies.
At the end of the day we said Evening Prayer together and prayed for our journeys, the communities we are going too and our families that we have left behind for a while.
Tomorrow morning seems very close now and to me is unbelievable that in a few hours we will be flying to the beautiful lands of Papua New Guinea.
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.
The night had been noisy, with karaoke next door, dogs barking and some street sounds at 4.00am, so we had a sluggish start.
We went into three groups for church, St John’s Cathedral, St Martin’s and Holy Family Church. Our group went to St Martin’s with Bishop David and had an excellent Eucharist with a congregation of around 300.
Canon Sally and I wore our clerical shirts for the first time in PNG, and this was very well received. At the end of the service we were asked to talk about our work etc.
Over some cake and tea we had chance to talk and this was a parish with some good people in good jobs in the city, e.g a psychiatrist, a lawyer, an ex High Commissioner.
There were many blessings for Bishop David to give and it was with some sadness that I realised that this would be the last chance to share worship together in Papua New Guinea.The afternoon was restful and a chance to catch up on rest and writing, or even pack the case!
In the evening we had a farewell dinner at St Martin’s and the spread was enormous and we also had some wine. The warmth of feeling and a sens of a sharing of ministry and lives was clear and after some serious speeches we ended the evening with gifts being shared and in song.
Monday morning we will leave Papua New Guinea and some of us will be coming home, whilst some are continuing on their journeys.
Farewell to all those brothers and sister with whom we have met and shared this pilgrimage.