What an amazing privilege to be part of the first tour of Australian Lutheran teachers to Papua New Guinea! When I first heard about the visit to PNG I jumped at the chance. I had never experienced a country such as this and had heard so many stories that I had to see it for […]
What an amazing privilege to be part of the first tour of Australian Lutheran teachers to Papua New Guinea!
When I first heard about the visit to PNG I jumped at the chance. I had never experienced a country such as this and had heard so many stories that I had to see it for myself. The tour was a result of the work over a number of years of Executive Director of Lutheran Education Australia, Dr Adrienne Jericho. In the past, Lutheran schools in Australia and PNG have been very closely connected, both geographically and through ties between the churches. We need to re-establish this connection in order to let the people of PNG know they have not been forgotten.
PNG is a very beautiful country. After leaving our ‘flat’ country, it was amazing to see the mountainous land as we were flying in, and then the forests of palm trees and such lush green land. I had no idea what the next ten days would hold and was overwhelmed with mixed feelings of excitement and a sense of wariness. We travelled to Madang, Lae, Goroka and Port Moresby. Everywhere we went the scenery was breathtaking. Not only this, but in the first couple of days I began to experience the beauty of the people who lived here, and to spend time with them at first hand was incredible.
PNG people are wonderful, welcoming people. They opened their arms to us in so many ways. We were blessed beyond believe to meet with them, understand their hurts and needs and to learn from them. I am still amazed at how warmly we were received everywhere we went and at how giving they are. They are people who love God. They live their faith openly and genuinely. Everyone on tour was moved and inspired just by who they were.
One of the most personally and rewarding moments of the trip was when I spent a day in a school, teaching the children, talking to staff and learning not only about their education system but also about their passion for teaching and living. During the lunch-time break I sat at a child’s desk with just a handful of teachers in the room. We began to talk, and the topic changed to what it had been like for me to visit a country where I am very obviously in the minority. One of their teachers responded in a way that took me by surprise. The opinion that she has had of white people is that we think we are more superior and better off than they are. She said, ‘Here you are, sitting at a child’s dirty desk in a classroom with a broken concrete floor, with no lunch (they couldn’t provide it) talking to us like we are your old friends’. She had changed her opinion of white people. What a privilege!
We visited many schools, colleges and offices, and met teachers and principals as we explored ways to make new connections. It was inspirational to see such clever, resourceful teachers in under-resourced schools. They provide worthwhile and exciting education with very, very little. For example, they make classroom decorations from empty aluminium cans. Forty-five students study from one book. In classes where there is no paper, the children do all their written work on a shared blackboard. The junior primary children have no desks and sit on dirt or coral floors.
They are passionate, dynamic people who are crying out for culturally-appropriate resources. One school had an entire shipping container in their front yard. It is full of gift books from ‘us’ and it has been there for 2 years! They have been unable to unpack it because they have no storage space in the school. Many schools have no windows and are not secure from weather or burglary. Sometimes our best intentions don’t meet the people’s needs.
I’ll never forget walking into that first school – seeing classrooms with dirt floors, broken desks (or no desks), and no books! That was the moment I yearned to be part of this ongoing-partnership. I believe that God is leading us on an exciting journey as we re-establish contact with our neighbours. We have so much to share with them, and just as much to learn from them!
This story was also published in the October 2007 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.
If your school would like to know more about how they can connect to the mission of God through a LCA International Mission service-learning and ministry partnership, you are invited to phone Erin on (08) 8267 7300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/service-learning/
Read more stories about school partnerships and school service-learning at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/local-partners/schools/