The education director for the Papua New Guinea Union Mission kept looking at the numbers from the Imumbi Secondary School. Although the pass rate was good, and plenty of students were finishing eighth grade, most of them were boys. After the fourth grade fewer and fewer girls were enrolling. So she came to Imumbi to present a seminar and brought three other women who are Union Mission department heads. She wanted the girls in school to have solid role models, and she wanted the parents to see that it is worthwhile to educate their girls as well as their boys.
All of the parents took time to bring flowers and prepare extra food so that the visiting guests would feel welcome. This school was started in part by John Kent, and they formally thanked AFM for helping to start the school.
After sitting in the meeting for a while, I became more and more desperate to answer the call of nature. So I carefully made my way out of the church building to ask where I could go. The Sepik River was at high-water level, and the church yard was flooded. I waded through the knee-deep water to the shade trees on the riverbank. I spoke to one of the women sitting on a raised platform there, letting her know of my need. “I will get a canoe,” she told me. (In the mission field, taking care of basic bodily needs can be quite a complicated process!) Soon we paddled behind the church where we were hidden in some dense bushes. “You can go here, over the side of the canoe,” she said. “I will turn my back.” When I was finished she returned me to the church door, and I continued listening to a woman’s testimony on the value of following God’s leading and giving daughters an education.
Sitting in a church member’s house that night, we ate a simple supper of fish and sago with handfuls of nuts that Orion and I added to the menu. Then we slept on our camping mattresses under a mosquito net on the floor.
The next morning, after having my personal devotions and enjoying the Christian music one of the women was playing on her phone, I again asked for help responding to my bodily needs. She looked outside. There was floodwater under all the houses and in the overgrown garden area behind the house as well. Apparently, I should have taken advantage of the cover of darkness and easy access to several canoes. “There are some missing floorboards over here,” she suggested. “I will hold up a wrap-around skirt to hide you.”
Later that morning we went by canoe to the church for the final meeting with our church leaders. Bibles were presented to the seventh-grade class. Fourteen young men and two young women stood in line holding their precious Bibles and listening as they were challenged to read them faithfully and obey God’s word always. Afterward, all 179 students listened to the testimony of the children’s ministries department leader.
I believe this visit made a strong impact on the school, and I hope that more students will continue with their education.
During a question-and-answer time with the parents, teachers and Union officials, Orion spoke of the importance of not only supporting the teachers with regular supplies of food and firewood but of also being careful not to criticize them, especially when their students could overhear.
As I listened to the presentations and experienced some of the hardships our people experience every day, I again asked myself the question, How do we improve people’s lives and share the gospel with them in a meaningful way when they work so hard for their daily survival? Please pray that God will grant us wisdom as we seek ways to minister and help those around us.