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PNG owes much to its missionaries (Mr Pato please take note)

Rimbink PatoDANIEL KUMBON

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato should be ashamed of himself if he gave the approval for lay missionary Douglas Tennent to be deported from Papua New Guinea.

Missionaries appear to be his targets for deportation. There have been a number of other cases.

The minister should know that Catholic and Lutheran missionaries were the first to bring essential services like health and education to his own Enga Province in the late 1940s.

Rimbink (pictured here) himself attended St Paul’s Lutheran High, the first to be established near his village in Wapenamanda by missionaries.

The very first two Lutheran missionaries to set foot in Enga were Reverend Dr Otto Carl Hintze Jr and Rev Willard Burce who settled at Yaramanda near Rimbinks village.

Dr Hintze, who died recently aged 93, had to beg Rimbink Pato from his wheelchair to reverse a decision he made to deport missionaries working in Enga Province.

The following is an excerpt from my book ‘I Can See My Country Clearly Now’, tells of this incident.

For those interested to read more about this saga, the book is available free online. It is also sold at the University of Papua New Guinea Bookshop in Port Moresby.

So they came to Enga and established the first church at Yaramanda near Wapenamanda on 2 November 1948. From there they established congregations in the Tsak Valley, Sirunki in Laiagam and in other parts of the province including the establishment of their headquarters at Irelya - a few kilometres from the Wabag government patrol post.

They successfully preached the Word of God to the people after learning their language and began to understand the people.

“Today’s missionaries need to be trained also in learning and working with the mother tongue of those to whom they are sent. They need a course in cultural anthropology,” said Dr Otto.

“They are to approach (the native people as a whole person, male and female, family by family, in loving Christian relationships to the community as a whole, especially to tribal people.”

Dr Otto and fellow Lutheran missionaries worked hard to improve all facets of life for the Enga. A book he published ‘From Ghosts to God’ tells how the people’s education system, agriculture and economy all improved as they embraced the Gospel.

They built schools, hospitals and health centres, set up co-operative businesses, introduced animal husbandry and livestock, and built a hydro system to provide power to Mambisanda Hospital and the first high school in Enga Province at Pausa.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, Foreign Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato, former acting Prime Minister Sam Abal, Grand Chief Sir Peter Ipatas KBE, former Lagaip-Porgera member Philip Kikala, Provincial Administrator Dr Samson Amean, Provincial Planner and former Administrator the late Kundapen Talyaga were some of the people educated there.

In his book, Dr Otto recalled the challenges, missteps and even dangers he and his wife, Janelle, overcame in faith amid the austere, foreign conditions of the region and how those conditions improved significantly over time.

“God chooses very ordinary people who have strong faith in Jesus to be missionaries,” said Dr Otto. “God blesses whatever is done in love - even mistakes - to enable people to listen and have faith, created by the Holy Spirit, in their hearts. Even in dangerous circumstances, God’s angels protect and provide what is needed.”

After 17 years in PNG, Dr Otto taught at Concordia Theological Seminary (then located in Springfield, Illinois), served on the staff of the LCMS Board for Mission Services, was pastor of Inreach and Outreach at Ascension Lutheran Church, St. Louis and was chaplain at the LCMS International Centre in St Louis.

Just before he passed on, confined to a wheelchair in his home in Missouri, he summoned all his strength and wrote to Rimbink Pato, to reconsider his stand to ban American Lutheran missionaries from going to Enga Province to help people.

He wrote the letter on 3 July 2015 when he learnt that Mrs Julie Lutz and her son Anton Lutz were to be deported. And wife of Highlands Lutheran International School Chaplin, Dr Todd Luedtke, Jane was told to go back to Washington DC to get her visa because she had been in the province on a tourist visa.

But when she tried to get her visa in Washington, she could not get it because there was a problem at the Immigration Office in PNG. Chief Migration Officer Mataio Rabura confirmed later that they had been banned from coming into the country.

The ban appeared to be in relation to a long standing power struggle within the Gutnius Lutheran Church between the followers of David Piso and Nick Ayane for the post of Head Bishop.

Concerning the deportation ordered against Mrs Julie Lutz and her son Anton, Rev Hintze said deportation was usually reserved for those who have broken the law.

“Julie and Anton broke no federal laws, but instead they tried to follow the laws of PNG and did many good things for the people of PNG,” he wrote.

Julie’s husband and Anton’s father, Dr Steve Lutze was a veteran medical doctor at the Lutheran Church -run Mambisanda Hospital for many years and died working there. Julie and Anton wanted to continue to serve the people in Enga Province.

“Also, for what reason has Mrs. Luedtke been denied a visa to return to PNG in order to help the country through teaching children good things?”

I wonder what logging companies have done for Papua New Guinea?

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