Student donates book by pioneer missionaries

A postgraduate student at Divine Word University (DWU) donated two copies of a historical book about pioneer Christian missionary contact with the people of Ialibu in the Southern Highlands Province to the Friendship Library of the University.

Master of Leadership in Development student, Pastor Penga Nimbo from the Victory Parish of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG in Ialibu presented the copies of the book titled “The Dawning of a New Day” to the director of the library, Mr David Lloyd on Wednesday 12th November, 2014.

The book published in 2011 is the work of pioneer Lutheran missionary couple to Ialibu, Claire and Len Tscharke from Australia. The Tscharkes started the Lutheran mission work in Ialibu in 1955 and then supported the expansion of the faith to Pangia and Kagua districts of SHP. They then moved to Eastern Highlands in 1957 for Pastor Len to be the pioneer head teacher of Asaroka Lutheran High School.

The book is packed with valuable first-hand information and historical photographs about the commencement of the Lutheran mission and other churches, the work of the colonial administration led by pioneer government officer Brian O’Neill (father of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill), the contact with the indigenous people and their way of life and traditions (many of which have since died out) and mannerisms.

Award-winning PNG blogger and journalist, Malum Nalu reviewed the book on his blog thus:

“It is a book that every child of Ialibu, Southern Highlands and PNG must read because of its rich historical content, one that will make you laugh one moment, make you cry the next.”

The Tscharkes, now retired to South Australia, were among the first white people (Australian government patrol officers or kiaps and Christian missionaries) to make contact with the Ialibu people in the early 1950s. The Ialibu people, who populate parts of Imbonggu and Ialibu-Pangia electorates today, were among the last indigenous communities in the then Australian Trust Territory of Papua and New Guinea to come into contact with the outside world. The SHP is said to be the last province (then including Hela districts) to make contact with the modern world, after government and missionary expeditions further into the Highlands resumed when World War 2 (1939-1945) ended. When the government patrols resumed after the war, missionaries followed the Australian patrol officers. The missionaries went to areas like Ialibu when the colonial administration “derestricted” them for Church work to begin.

Other pioneer missionaries to the Ialibu region around the same time were the Catholics led by Frenchman Fr Alphonse Rinn MSC and two indigenous missionaries, Br Paul Idomaka and Br Felix Walaba from Yule Island mission and American Fr Henry Kusnerik OFM Cap from the St Augustine Province in Pennsylvania, Evangelical Bible Mission (now PNG Bible Church) led by American founder Rev Gerald T Bustin and Gospel Tidings Mission led by Danish couple, Pastor Jacob and Sophia Sode.

One noteworthy fact that the Tscharkes record in the book relates to the nature of the people of Ialibu. The missionaries found them to be of “a different temperament” and easily accepted the new ways. This attribute of the people were also acknowledged by the Catholic and the EBM missionaries.

The Tscharkes thus wrote:

“Through Government intervention, tribal warfare had by now (1955-1957) been reduced to almost zero.”

“According to all the reports we had received, Ialibu had not been nearly as difficult as some other new areas where Patrol Officers had sometimes faced stern opposition.”

“Here the people had responded quickly to the new order and in many ways they appeared to be already thankful that the big change had come to them.”

“The Ialibus were clearly a people of a different temperament when compared to other Highlands people who we had met.”

“They were more docile - not nearly as volatile as the Simbus and certainly much less so than the Hagens.”

“We admired this quality of theirs because it made them a fine a people to live with,” the missionary couple wrote.

Today, Ialibu remains one of a few if not the only area in the Highlands where the people have not resorted to tribal warfare to address problems among themselves since the pioneer kiaps and missionaries discouraged it 60 years ago.

The Tscharkes gave reverence to God for what happened to the Ialibu people as they accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ and changed with ease:

“What happened at Ialibu in those early years was not about us at all.”

“Nor was it about the evangelists who played a part in bringing the Gospel to those fine people.”

“It was about God and the power that He had invested in His Word.”

“We were no more than His voice that He used to create for Himself a people that now follows Him and brings honour to the name of Jesus.

“He wanted those Ialibu people to have a place in His Kingdom, together with every other tribe, nation and tongue,” the Tscharkes wrote.

Pastor Nimbo who now leads the parish the Tscharkes started said he had recommended Pastor Lens to write the book since they were the pioneer missionaries who planted the Church in the area.

He said he was very delighted when Pastor Len agreed and wrote the book with his wife, Claire.

Pastor Nimbo said: “This is an important historical record for our people for the current and future generations to read and appreciate.”

“As a student of DWU, I am pleased to donate this book to the University Library so fellow students, academics and others can read the history of one part of our country as written by pioneer missionaries who helped us come this far.”

The immediate family members and relatives of Pastor Nimbo such as the late tribal head man Kawa Wakape of the Tangiki tribe of Kendagl village who is mentioned in the book, were among the early converts of the missionary work of the Tscharkes.

Pastor Nimbo said the book is being sold in PNG and Australia and the proceeds would go towards the Ialibu Pastoral Training Initiatives to train pastors and other mission workers in his Circuit. Copies can be bought by contacting: Rev Greg Schiller at Ogelbeng Lutheran Seminary near Mt Hagen, phone: 72748311.