In a previous article, I introduced our parliament member, Roy Biyama, a man of few words and much action. Roy Biyama was a man who thought creatively about how to involve his local electorate in upgrading the infrastructure, including the airport, in their part of Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Sadly, as our last article was being published, we received the news that Roy Biyama had passed away from complications with diabetes. He will be greatly missed. As a memorial to someone who has assisted AFM missionaries from the start, I will include a tribute from the first AFM missionary to the Gogodala people, Jeff Bishop. Then I will conclude with a little tribute of my own.
“Roy Biyama was the one who God created to allow us to start the Gogodala project. Ever since WWII was over and Australian missionaries had started working along the Fly River, Seventh-day Adventist churches were not far from the Gogodala people. Only about 25 miles of jungle separated them from the Fly River district where, according to SDA missionary E.L. Martin, who wrote the book I Saw God’s Hand, the Adventist mission grew fantastically.
“But the Gogodala were not reached by these early mission forays into Western Province. Some years later, an Adventist pastor came to the Gogodala area to set up a mission. But the people physically forced him onto a plane, leaving their region. They wanted nothing to do with the new ‘sect.’ They had taken his Bible and all of his books and thrown them into the Aramia River.
“My family arrived in Balimo (in the heart of Gogodala territory) in July of 1997, just two weeks after Roy’s brother, who lived in Port Moresby, convinced him that he needed to close his stores on Sabbath. As soon as I met Roy, he immediately believed that we were his missionaries. He was building four new houses in Balimo and immediately gave us one of them to live in until we moved to Kotale Village six months later. When we moved, Roy used his portable sawmill to cut timber to construct our main house in Kotale. He did not charge us for our lodging in his Balimo house nor for the lumber which he milled to build it.” (Jeff Bishop)
As a current missionary still in the field, I can say that the blessings God poured out on this mission through Roy Biyama continued long after the time that Jeff and Bobbie Bishop served the Gogodala. The Cader family, the White family, the Beazley family and our family have all benefited from Roy’s generosity and the Balimo house, which he saved for AFM mission use.
For some time, Roy resisted invitations by the dominant churches of other denominations in the Gogodala region to join their congregations. But I started receiving messages from his office stating that he wanted to be baptized by an SDA pastor. Then, in 2017, Pastor Marc Coleman, the AFM International Field Director at that time, came to PNG with our field directors, Arnold and Diane Hooker, for a visit. During their visit, we had planned to have a baptismal service for people taking Bible studies. Again I received an earnest plea from Roy to be baptized. I told Marc about it, and we made a trip down the river to meet with him in Balimo.
After questioning Roy about his desire to follow Jesus and obey all of His commandments, including the fourth, Marc and the rest of us were convinced by his answers that Roy was sincere in his desire to commit his life to God. The next Sabbath, several dinghies full of men and women arrived at our mission grounds to witness their leader follow the ultimate Leader, Jesus Christ, in the watery rebirth.
The positive influence of this veteran politician will be felt for years to come, and he is already sorely missed. But we can draw inspiration and comfort from the following comments by the Apostle Paul:
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14).
I am thankful for the great hope we have of seeing our brother Roy in heaven very soon.