An extract from Daniel’s book ‘I Can See My Country Clearly Now’, which is free online here
IN 1993, the Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea was tainted by a pastor – or was he an impostor - who was gaoled for eight months for having in his house at Wapenamanda in Enga Province an array of firearms.
Ron Conaway from Illinois, USA, was imprisoned in Baisu Gaol after being found guilty by Mt Hagen District Court of having firearms in his possession. He was also fined K3,000.
Police arrested him after he left Mt Hagen post office with a parcel containing eight pistols, ammunition and other accessories. He was attired in a Royal PNG Constabulary uniform complete with an non-commissioned officer’s cap.
Police then raided his Wapenamanda home and found two shotguns, two high-powered rifles, a .22 rifle, four pistols, an airgun, a crossbow and arrows and ammunition in large quantities.
Then police commissioner Henry Tokam said the parcel containing the pistols had been detected by customs officers in Port Moresby. Police were alerted and the consignment monitored to its destination.
The package, ostensibly an amplifier, had been sent from New Orleans in the United States. The pistols were concealed inside the otherwise empty amplifier.
Pastor Conaway told the court he did not know who had sent the package to him. He told magistrate Patrick Nasa he had no idea the weapons were in the package until he opened it in front of police at Kiminiga Police Barracks.
He also said that, of the firearms in his house, one shotgun and the .22 rifle belonged to his children and had been packed by friends without their knowledge when they were coming back from the United States.
Most of the other firearms had been sent to his address three weeks prior by an unknown person and he had been writing to America to find out who would have sent them to him. He was still thinking what he should do with the firearms when police caught him.
In connection with the firearms received at the post office, he told the court he did not know who sent them and denied the charges of importing prohibited material and possessing the firearms in the package.
The Baptist Church Union of PNG denied that Pastor Conaway had any connection or association with it, the Australian Baptist Society or the New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society.
In 1949, Baptist pastors from Australia started work in the Baiyer River area in the Western Highlands, later extending their activities to Lumusa and Kompiam in Enga Province.
By 1956 the first public baptismal services were held at Baiyer River and Lumusa. With a head office in Mt Hagen, much needed health and education services were provided for the rural people by the Baptist Church.
It was an embarrassment indeed for Pastor Ron Conaway to soil the image of the Baptist Union of PNG when he was found guilty and imprisoned for keeping an armoury in a province synonymous with tribal warfare.
Police had always suspected the guns were smuggled across the Indonesian border or across the Torres Strait Islands from Australia in exchange for high grade marijuana. They also thought guns were supplied by wantoks in the disciplined forces.
But now there was undeniable evidence that dangerous weapons could be easily smuggled through an unsecure postal system.
Why would a pastor dress himself in police uniform and possess such an impressive array of dangerous weapons? Did he need them to convert people to Christianity?
The answer is in the Holy Bible which warns the faithful to be wary of the ancient destroyer - the deceiver who roams around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).