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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Papua New Guinea Mission Society Meeting

Worship Folder for PNG Mission Society
Yesterday and today, the Papua New Guinea Mission Society met at Timothy Lutheran Church in Saint Louis, MO. Gathered together were about 75 to 100 people, most of whom were LCMS missionaries who served in the Enga Province in Papua New Guinea between 1948 and the early 1990s. The special guests at the PNG Mission Society Meeting arrived from PNG last evening, including Peter Ipatas, the Governor of the Enga Province for the past 14 years.

Governor Ipatas Address The Group
In his address, Governor Ipatas rehearsed the LCMS' role in Papua New Guinea, particularly in the Enga Provence, over the past 63 years (since 1948 when the first LCMS missionaries arrived). He noted in particular the contributions that the LCMS made to Papua New Guinea particularly in the areas of theological education, general education, and health care, as the LCMS placed literally hundreds of missionaries between 1950 and 1970 in the Enga Provence. He also with some sadness noted the vacuum left in PNG when the LCMS pulled out the majority of her missionaries in the early 1970s. This corresponds to the massive decline of LCMS career missionaries described by Rev. Dave Birner in the May 2011 issue of The Lutheran Witness, when the LCMS had about 350 missionaries around the world, a good portion of them being located in Papua new Guinea. As Rev. Birner noted in the Lutheran Witness, a variety of reasons led to the decline of LCMS missionaries worldwide, including a change in LCMS mission philosophy and policy. These changes left LCMS partners such as Papua New Guinea wondering why the LCMS left. Currently, the LCMS has three career missionaries in Papua New Guinea according to the LCMS website. Governor Ipatas challenged the LCMS to return to Papua New Guinea with 20 missionaries next year, a fraction of the hundreds of missionaries the LCMS formerly sent. He noted that theological educators who could train pastors and general educators as well as medical teams were in particular need. He pledged to assist in any way he could. Among the former LCMS missionaries to Papua New Guinea, his speech was met with a standing ovation.

LCMS Career Missionaries from 1970 to 2010
Image taken from May 2011 Lutheran Witness
The first LCMS missionaries, Rev. Otto Hintze and Rev. Bill Burce, arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1948 at the invitation of a Wauni tribal leader in Yaramanda, Enga Province. Rev. Hintze and his wife were able to attend the Mission Society Meeting at Timothy Lutheran Church. While Rev. Dr. Willard (Bill) Burce was not able to attend.

Rev. Jerry Burce Preaching on
compassion [σπλάγχνα (splanchna)]
 His son, Rev. Jerry Burce was there and led the morning service, preaching on Matthew 9:27 - 10:1; 20:29 - 31. He preached on how Jesus had compassion [σπλάγχνα (splanchna)] on the blind men in the Gospel reading, on all of us, and on the people in Papua New Guinea.

First Page of Saturday Morning Worship

Second and Third Pages of Saturday Morning Worship
The Enga Provence is unique in Papua New Guinea for being in the highlands (Enga people are referred to as mountain men) and for being predominately the same ethnic / tribal group. The predominate religion in Enga is Lutheran (due to LCMS missionaries, about 1/2 of the population of the provence) and Roman Catholic. In 1960, the LCMS via the work of Dr. Willard Burce founded Timothy Seminary in the Enga provence. This seminary is the primary education for pastors of Gutnius Lutheran Church. Martin Luther Seminary (MLS) is another seminary located in Lae.

Flag of Enga Provence

Enga Provence Shaded in Red

Governor Ipatas brought greetings to the LCMS, particularly to President Harrison and LCMS Mission personnel. His administrator Ezekiel Peter gifted LCMS personnel with a hat and a bilum. A bilum is a string bag handmade in PNG.

A Papua New Guinea Hat and Bilum
Although I was not able to attend the entire event at Timothy Lutheran Church, the time I spent with former LCMS missionary and the delegation from Papua New Guinea was very enlightening and provided me with much foder for thought, particularly how the LCMS might be able to answer the challenge Governor Ipatas presented to send more missionaries to PNG.

-- Rev. Dr. Albert Collver

1 comment:

  1. I always learn something new from your post!Great article. I wish I could write so well.

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