Take Up Your Cross and Paddle
Tribal People Of Papua New Guinea Launch Out
"We died before we left" was the journal entry of a Fijian missionary in 1871. Assisted by friends and colleagues, he dragged a large, especially outfitted deep-sea canoe into the warm South Pacific waters near his village. With waving hands and loud shouts of encouragement to loved ones left standing ashore, he turned bow-ward towards the island of New Guinea and began a treacherous journey across hundreds of ocean miles. His canoe never returned.Twenty of these Pacific Islands missionaries died within two years, mostly from malaria. In the following two decades 120 more succumbed to various malarial fevers or were killed and eaten by cannibals. But still they pressed on!
History is nearly silent about the heroic evangelistic exploits of these island brothers, but the fact is they did an excellent job of establishing a beach head of Christianity on the Papuan (southern/coast of New Guinea. This foundation was quickly built upon by several missionary societies and "mainline" churches during the 1920's and 30's. Then. an explosion of evangelical outreach following World War II penetrated much of the island and brought the Gospel to hundreds of isolated tribes. Though riddled with problems of nominalism and syncretism, the Papua New Guinea Church is growing and being extended to remote tribes still outside of the Gospel witness.
It's been 121 years since the first deep-sea canoe landed on the southern shores of New Guinea. We salute those Polynesian pioneers of the Gospel. We honor those nearly forgotten martyrs of the Cross. We are privileged to follow their procession.
The Birth of a Missionary Movement
While in-country evangelism was on stampede throughout the island during the early 1980's, the Lord was quietly impressing a few of His people with the truth that they too, must be missionaries for Christ. Walo Ani, William Vagi Moses and Joshua Dai-moi are three of the men who responded to the mandate of the New Testament concerning missions to the unreached. The Lord is using these men, and others like them, to thrust the Papua New Guinea Church into the missionary phase of His purpose.
As a student at the Christian Leaders Training College (CLTC) in 1982, Walo Ani was challenged for world missions by Marilyn Rowsome, an Australian missionary. There in the highlands of Papua New Guinea the two of them began a missions prayer group. This led to the formation of several prayer groups throughout the country that were focused on intercession for unreached peoples. By 1984 Walo had formed the Global Prayer Warriors. In 1991 the GPW was renamed the Papua New Guinea Missionary Association (PNGMA) which is an indigenous, interdenominational missions agency. Under the direction of Walo Ani the PNGMA operates a small missionary training center, conducts Perspectives on the World Christian Movement classes, stimulates prayer for missions through the Global Prayer Warriors, and researches unreached people groups which future PNG missionaries will target. It also provides short term missions exposure that has already placed more than 20 national missionaries in Pakistan and on the ship Doulos with Operation Mobilization
Walo believes the Lord is directing him eventually to church planting among the Sudanese people of Indonesia. For now, though, he is providing mature leadership as an equipper and mobilizer of Papua New Guineans for the world wide cause of missions.
William Vagi Moses is named in honor of an early Samoan missionary who beached his deep-sea canoe at Vabukori village. He remembers as a child singing the beautifully harmonized South Pacific tunes that the Polynesian missionaries used to convey the Gospel truth to his people.
Educated and trained as an accountant, William works in the capital city of Port Moresby. In 1982 he established a small group in his village called FIG (Family in God) who began living out their Christian commitment in practical ways among the village community. Though not well accepted in the village, William found encouragement from a new friend God had brought into his life÷Walo Ani. Under the leadership of Walo and William, an annual missions camp was held on an island belonging to William's people. Many young people were encouraged to extend the Gospel beyond the shores of Papua New Guinea. It was in the excitement of mission camp that the symbolic theme to "relaunch the deep-sea canoe" originated.
Joshua Dairnoi was chairman of a three-day consultation on missions in Fiji in December. 1989. About 150 church leaders from Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, and Papua New Guinea gathered to discuss how they could cooperate in the missionary task. Unexpectedly, the Lord began to confront church leaders with unresolved racial tensions that still existed from previous generations. Forgiveness was offered and rereceived by one another in a spontaneous reconciliation ceremony as the Lord forged an unprecedented unity among South Pacific Islanders. Joshua boldly charged those in attendance to relaunch the deep-sea canoe from a unified South Pacific region. The Evangelical Fellowship of the South Pacific (EFSP) was formed at this time to coordinate this major missions thrust from the South Pacific Islands. Michael Maeliau of the Solomon Islands is presently taking an important leadership role in keeping the EFSP on its intended course. In July, 1990 the EFSP made a commitment to target unreached tribal Muslims in their missionary outreach. An annual Prayer Assembly is held in Honiara to pray and plan for the next steps forward in the movement.
Launch Out Into Deep Waters
Every year the Christian Leaders Training College sponsors a Papua New Guinea Missions Conference called Launch Out. Joshua Dairnoi, who has served as Principal of CLTC, believes that the mission of the College for the future includes the training of a missionary force from PNG that will scatter to the nations.
The Launch Out missions festival is far more than a series of missions messages. The intent is to mobilize large numbers of Papua New Guineans into meaningful involvement in frontier missions.
This year's conference theme is based upon William Carey's exhortation to "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God." Throughout the Launch Out week (May 11-17) there will be opportunities to learn about missions through carefully prepared displays, short seminars and practical workshops. Those attending will go through a process of obtaining mock passports which will be used to "travel" to six countries. Participants will use their passports to enter six country booths that will be set to give detailed information about the people and spiritual conditions of those particular nations.
Launch Out comes to an end on Sunday in worship to the Lord of the Harvest. Symbolic canoe paddles are given to those who commit to an involvement in mission to the unreached. A life-sized replica of a deep-sea canoe is then to be refitted and symbolically relaunched to the nations.
The theme of the missions movement in Papua New Guinea is simple: "Now Is The Time To Refit And Relaunch The Deep-sea Canoe." Refitting speaks to the need of adequate preparation and training of men and women for cross-cultural missions. Relaunching is the actual sending of large numbers of Papua New Guineans into the sowing and reaping of unreached peoples. It's already happening!
The knowledge of God is beginning to cover the earth in a great tidal wave as the Lord orchestrates this final burst of worldwide witness before the end of this century.
Pray for the Church in Papua New Guinea. Praise God that they are not playing "finders keepers" with the blessings of the Gospel. Pray that a passion for God and His Kingdom, and a love for lost souls will always characterize the missionary labors of our Papua New Guinean brethren.