We’ve been very blessed in Papua New Guinea with friendships with other missionaries. Most Catholic missionaries in PNG tend to be priests or nuns from a variety of countries: Poland, Philippines, India, Australia, Austria. We made friends with an American lay missionary named Nate who was working at the minor seminary on the coast, but his tenure ended last November. The only other American Catholic missionaries that we’ve befriended are bishops – that of Mendi, Kimbe, and the papal nuncio, but we don’t see them too often.
Luckily there are a number of Protestant Americans missionaries with families that we’ve been able to connect with and whom have supported us during the various struggles that come with raising a family and working in a third world country. Also, while our fellow staff members are very friendly and patient with us, PNG nationals often don’t relish the prospect of hiking (since walking over mountains is still a daily form of transportation in PNG) and boardgames are basically unknown. Thus, it is with our Protestant friends that we primarily do our recreational activities.
Foremost among our friends are Doug and Jan Hanson:
They have been working at the nearby Protestant college: Christian Leaders’ Training College (CLTC) for the past 15 years. Doug has been the dean of CLTC’s graduate program for the past few years and also runs an online Melanesian Theology Journal and organizes events for the Melanesian Association of Theological Schools. Jan works as the Registrar of CLTC. We’ve benefited a lot from their experiences of working in higher education in PNG. They also raised three children in PNG, though they are now empty-nesters.
It’s been great for me to have another academic to be friends with. Additionally, Doug and Jan are avid hikers and gamers, so we’ve done a lot of walking through the hills and playing Agricola and Settlers together. Sadly for us, but happily for them, Doug and Jan are soon leaving for Arizona, where they will both work at Indian Bible College. Perhaps one day we can take them up on their offer to show us the Grand Canyon!
Here are some pictures of a trip that Annie and I went on with the Hansons and some other missionaries from CLTC to a getaway called Rondon Ridge located on a mountain ridge near Mount Hagen. Rondon Ridge caters towards expatriates and thus has a trail system, beautiful grounds, and a western-style restaurant. Doug led us on a hike and then we all had lunch together. Accompanying us on the hike was a New Zealand family: Marcus and Ingrid and their sons Sebastian and Solomon. Rebecca and Tabitha went to a women’s luncheon and prayer meeting at the Nazarene Hospital.
Doug planned a loop hike. But the trails were not well marked and the map was rather impressionistic in nature, so before long, our trails went from being like this:
to like this:
Basically, we completely overshot the planed loop and were walking about in hunting trails in the forest about the Ridge. But we weren’t that worried. Doug kept his sense of direction and eventually made his own loop – coming out near some traditional houses and gardens. We found a man working in his garden who was happy to walk us lost whiteskins back to the lodge.
We had some beautiful views of the western end of the Waghi Valley and of the city of Mount Hagen during our return trip. Our guide turned out to be a relative of my former rector, Fr. Clement. The land around Rondon Ridge actually belongs to Fr. Clement’s mother’s tribe.
Returning to the lodge, we were met by some older missionaries from CLTC who were coming just for the views and for lunch. The service at the lodge was quite funny. There was no waitress. Ingrid went to the kitchen and the cook told her that beef, chicken, and fish were on the menu and asked her to get a count of how many dishes of each. Annie sat with Solomon and Sebastian and drank some Ginger Ale which I chatted with CLTC big-wigs. The food was quite good. All-in-all, a delightful outing!
Farewell, Hansons! Jiwaka won’t be the same without you.