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25. Mission or administration?

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As I previously mentioned (see Chapter 23), Ludvig Eriksson was already in Papua New Guinea back in 1960. He visited the Assemblies of God's missionary operation in the Sepik Province, among other things. This chapter is not about the Assemblies of God’s evangelical activities but I want to provide a little "glimpse" into what different questions you had to face as a part of a missionary organization in Papua New Guinea in the mid-1900s. This is especially interesting, given the central role the Assemblies of God eventually played in Sven and Marianne's missionary activities.

After World War II, the United Nations gave Australia the task to administer Papua New Guinea. The committee was to hand over the administration to the nationals when the "time was right". This happened when Papua New Guinea became an independent nation on the 16th of September in 1975.

When the first missionary, Hugh Davidson from the Assemblies of God in Australia, came to Papua New Guinea in 1948, Australia was in the midst of creating a state administration. The missionary was not only seen as a missionary, but also as an asset in the effort of building the country. Thus, the Assemblies of God was given a great amount of area to be responsible for. The missionaries and their mission operations were responsible for building roads, schools, health clinics and other institutions such as a local administration, with all that this implied. The missionaries were, simply put, employed by the Australian government. The missionary, responsible for a certain area (field officer) was also the Australian contact with the United Nations. This meant that he quite regularly received visits from various delegations of the UN as they inspected how Australia was doing in terms of taking care of their mandates. After the inspections were finished, a report was drawn up with instructions that had to be followed and given to the local administration.


In order to fulfill its task, the mission needed people from Australia with various skills and one did not always manage to get hold of people who were Christians. The people who were not believers had slightly different habits than the missionaries, which, for example, meant that they smoked and drank alcohol. Traditionally, there were no alcoholic drinks in Papua New Guinea, but now the nationals saw Westerners drink something that made them revived and happy. The nationals were not allowed to taste because the missionaries did not allow them to consume alcohol.

One day, when Pastor Jack Easton was responsible for the work of the Assemblies of God in the Sepik Province, a UN delegation came to Maprik to do one of their inspections. Maprik was the center of the administration in the Sepik Province. He and a number of tribal chiefs responded to various questions posed by the UN delegates. The UN delegations were generally satisfied with what they had heard and seen, and therefore ended the conversation by asking if the nationals had anything to complain about. One of the chiefs told them that the white people withheld the source of their knowledge and wisdom from them. When the UN people asked the chief to clarify what he meant, he replied that the white man had bottles of medicine that he regularly drank. This was the white men’s source of knowledge and wisdom. The white man did not allow the nationals to drink this and therefore they did not get any of this medicine. Now, the UN people understood that it was beer and other alcoholic beverages the chief was talking about. Hindering themselves to let a wide smile cover their faces, they gave the orders that the drinks had to be made available for the nationals from now on.


Later, this decision led to a lot of alcohol-related problems accompanying a rising amount of crime. The problems evolved to such a standard, it made several provincial governments (almost like state governments) legislate a prohibition against drinking alcohol, excluding some special bars that were exceptions. After these prohibitions were imposed, the crime rate lowered by 75%.

When Sven in 1977 first contacted the Assemblies of God with the intention to explore possibilities to collaborate (see later chapters), Cyril Westbrook was the field officer. He was also one of the pioneers of the Assemblies of God's missionary work in Papua New Guinea. He came to the Sepik Province already in 1950. Even at the age of 86 years (2012), this man still travels to Papua New Guinea riding on truck platforms to visit his friends.

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