Expect the Unexpected

Before venturing to Papua New Guinea, I expected a few things. I’d heard about the high crime rate and poverty. I was prepared to spend 14 days virtually “slumming” it, with none of the luxuries that I take for granted.

What I didn’t expect was an incredibly rich country. Not in a financial or material sense but, rather, the fact PNG is rich in culture and generosity. I definitely didn’t anticipate how warm and friendly the people would be, or imagine we would receive huge welcomes, with hundreds genuinely happy to see our group. It was an experience I will never forget.

Papua New Guinea is a beautiful country. The scenery is breathtaking, weather is always hot, and the people are proud to celebrate their heritage, even as Western influences take over. Upon arriving in Goroka, our group of 10 was inundated with smiles, handshakes and hugs. Lei were placed around our necks and we were given traditional spears as Asaroka Mudmen danced a dance of protection around us. It was a surreal experience and, looking back, this generous greeting set the scene for what was to come.

The focus of our trip was the Asaroka Lutheran High School, founded by Pastor Len Tscharke and his wife Claire, affectionately referred to as Papa and Mama Sarki.

On our first day at the school, we were guided by a “Sing Sing” group through a guard-of-honour made by hundreds of smiling students. Flower petals were thrown at our feet, making us feel like royalty.

After a church service, the congregation was invited to shake our hands. It was amazing how many of the students and teachers approached us; the line-up was never-ending.

For the next few days we trekked out to the school to mingle with students and teachers. We toured the grounds and sat in on some classes. Obviously the school was not up to Australian standards; however, the dedication of teachers and commitment of students revealed they made the most of what little they had.

Other highlights included visiting villages to witness the traditional way of living; feasting on a mumu (food cooked in the ground); worshipping with locals; seeing the Goroka ladies who visited us in Australia, and meeting their families; eating the freshest of fruits for breakfast; the Goroka Show; experiencing the culture; visiting Asaroka Elementary School; purchasing a rainwater tank, pump and roofing paint for the schools; visiting Ialibu, where Pastor Len and Claire established a primary school; and getting to know the people.

They say that when visiting PNG, you should expect the unexpected. I tend to agree.

Golden Grove Lutheran Fellowship has a strong partnership with Asaroka High School, Papua New Guinea. During the past five years, three teams have travelled to PNG to build on this partnership. Groups stay at the Goroka Lutheran Guest House and travel to Asaroka School complex. Beginning with the high school, each visit has seen this partnership grow. We have become involved with the local primary school and, this year, our visit also included the elementary school.

One aim is to encourage one another, share faith, and pray and worship together. This involves the principals, staff, students and the community of Asoroka.

We also assist in practical ways. Containers of items such as books, gardening tools and computer equipment have been sent. A library is being set up in the high school. We have assisted with tractor repairs, providing computers for students and some staff, and providing pipes to get water to the campus. This year, we are supplying a tank, pump and pipes to help get water to the primary school.

While in Goroka, we re-connected and worshipped with the local ladies who visited Adelaide. We pray that as our partnership grows, some school staff will visit Golden Grove to enrich their faith and work they do.

Together with Christ as the centre, we walk hand-in-hand, growing in love and service for each other.

This story was also published in the April 2010 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.

If you, your school or your congregation, would like to know how you can connect to the mission of God through a LCA International Mission partnership, you are invited to phone Erin on (08) 8267 7300 or email erin.kerber@lca.org.au. For more information, go to www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/start-a-partnership/

Read more stories about congregational partnerships at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/local-partners/congregations/