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26. Goranssons, the missionary family

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It was Sven and Marianne who had received a calling to be missionaries, but it affected the whole family, as they would start a new life in a completely different culture. Australia is certainly far away from Sweden and Europe but this nation is also a Western one in terms of customs and manners. Papua New Guinea has a completely different cultural background. A big adjustment was thus awaiting them all. The family moved to Mount Hagen in August 1976. David was then just about to turn seven years old, Andrew had just turned three years old and little Sonia had three months left until her second birthday.

Sven speaks: We came, as I previously mentioned, back to Australia after our first trip to Papua New Guinea with a conviction that it was God's will that we should become missionaries there. We resigned from our jobs, sold our house, our car, and everything else that we couldn’t take with us. By selling everything we got some money to set off our missionary work. We got rid of pretty much everything in Australia, it was just our citizenships that remained. We thought that we would spend the rest of our lives in Papua New Guinea. We also began studying Melanesian Pidgin, the official language of Papua New Guinea.

After selling everything that we couldn’t take with us to Papua New Guinea, we were prepared to travel in the beginning of August 1976. But it was not that simple. There were difficulties in obtaining our permanent residence permit. The only way to get it was to get an invitation from a company or an organization. Hilding’s purchase of Highlands Timber was our rescue. The company sent us an invitation to become employees at the sawmill. Of course, becoming mill workers was never the intention in any greater extent, but we had to get our permit somehow. And I have actually worked and handled a lot of timber and planks during my missionary work.

Now, we had an invitation but we still had to wait two weeks in Cairns before we could finally get away, but we finally arrived in Mount Hagen in the middle of August 1976. When we arrived, we stayed with Ingrid and Hilding for a few days, at the sawmill. We later moved in to the detached house at the former furniture carpentry, owned by Elsa and Ludvig. It may sound pretty neat when you say that the house contained "three rooms and a kitchen" but you must remember that it was quite a small place and the standard was not exactly what we were used to. But we had not moved to Papua New Guinea to improve our standard of living, but rather to win souls for God. From the very beginning, our home was open to everyone who wanted to come and visit us. This was in great contrast to, for example, American missionaries who did not allow the nationals to visit their homes.

Marianne speaks: A week after our arrival, Sven had to go to Goroka to pick up some Bible School Students, who had attended a Bible College there. This meant that he was away for the night.

At night, as I am walking up to the house, I feel as if someone is watching me. When I turn around, I see three men standing on the drive way in front of the joinery workshop and the two apartments. When they see me turning around, they run to their car and drive away. The car has a very characteristic sound, probably because of a defective muffler. At midnight, I go to bed. Just when I'm about to fall asleep, I hear that the same car coming back. Suddenly I am fully awake. I can hear some people coming closer to the house. I get a feeling of desperation and I am thinking that my life could be at risk since it’s not particularly difficult to break into our house. I start banging on the walls inside the house and screaming at the same time. I try to make differing sounds with my voice so that they might believe that there are several people in the house. Because of the watchdog’s barking, the pastor who lives in one of the apartments in the lower house wakes up. He rushes up to our house and sees three men running from our house. It was a frightening experience.

Sven speaks: During the first six months in Papua New Guinea, I spent a lot of time in the villages and with my national friends. It was at least one open air Service every day and on Saturdays we had three. On Sundays we had worship services in the "church", in other words the former joinery workshop. In the beginning, I preached in English and as someone else interpreted the message to Pidgin or the local tribal language. After about six months, I began to preach in pidgin myself.

By spending time with the nationals in the villages, sharing their meals and sleeping in their huts, I learned the way they were thinking and acting. I became familiar with their culture and values. This was very useful in my work over the years in Papua New Guinea.

Simultaneously with the out-turned evangelical work, I was responsible for making the church in Mount Hagen into a legally functioning organisation. The church had at this time about 50 members, but not an established board. When we arrived in August 1976, the formal registration had just been completed and thus it was necessary to create a formal Church Board. Our national friends had neither experience of how to appoint such a board nor in how to conduct a Church Membership Meeting. It was my job to teach them about this. Normally the Church Membership would appoint the Board in a Membership Meeting, but to get things started in the beginning, I had to select the people who would be eligible for election to the Board, including the Pastor. The membership was then given the opportunity of accepting or rejecting the persons I had selected. In this way the Membership Meeting officially appointed the Church Board. I was focused on the nationals being responsible for all the different functions and thus not being dependent on the missionaries for decisionmaking. This arrangement made sure that it was never a question of at some point "handing over the operation" to the nationals, since they were given the responsibility from the very beginning. Of course, with the support from me and the other missionaries.

Materially it was very tough in the beginning. The first few months we had to manage on the money we had brought from Australia. In January-February 1977 we started getting some support from Sweden, through the Churches in Hudiksvall, Täby and Värsås. The first few years all our support came from Sweden.


The Goransson family in Papua New Guinea in early 1979 The children from the left: David, Sonia and Andrew

Marianne speaks: You start school at the age of five in Australia. David had thus already begun his school when we came to Papua New Guinea. The MAF, Mission Aviation Fellowship, in Mount Hagen had a school for the Pilots’ children as well as the missionaries' children. All three of our children did their elementary schooling at the MAF School. Pretty soon the kids found friends especially among the national children. Their adaptation to our new life went more smoothly than for myself. This was probably never a problem for Sven, he was, in many ways one of the nationals himself. Our national friends joked and said: "Sven may have white skin, but he has a black heart."

In the beginning we were lucky to have food on the table since our entire salaries often went to the mission work expenses. Sometimes I thought about what we had thrown ourselves into, and I almost felt like packing our bags and return to the safe circumstances in Australia. But despite all the trials with various culture clashes and fears, I knew that God had called us to be missionaries in Papua New Guinea. When we eventually adapted to the conditions of our new residence and as the support from Sweden got better, the situation improved and I felt a great joy to be a part of God's plan for Papua New Guinea.

Soon after our arrival, I began to run courses for women in about preventive health care (more of this later). For this to be possible, we needed help with taking care of our children, especially Andrew and Sonia. Veronica Bulda (later Veronica Pok after having married Lo Pok, brother of Kundi Pok) worked and lived at our place from 1977 until we went to Sweden in the middle of 1979 for a period of rest. She became a part of our family and she sees us as her extended parents today.

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