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27. Vocational training centre

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Sven speaks: Hilding had trained some young men to help him having his cars and machinery serviced. Inspired by this, Samuel Halldorf and Hilding concluded that it would be a good idea to start a car mechanical vocational centre. The number of cars would increase and therefore the need for mechanics had to increase as well. A car mechanical vocational centre was a good way to help young people to establish a good start in their lives.

Karl Ramstrand was sent out by PMU to investigate the feasibility to start a mechanical vocational centre in Mount Hagen, and he was there when we arrived in August 1976. Karl had worked with similar activities in Africa for 30 years, thus he had considerable experience of such work. However, it was never intended that Karl would do this in Papua New Guinea – he was only there to investigate the feasibility of starting a car mechanical vocational centre in Mount Hagen. We talked about the idea, and Karl was of the opinion that I should be the one who took responsibility for the school. A few days after our arrival Karl went back to Sweden.

Petrus Hammarberg came to visit in January 1977. Petrus was responsible for the activities of the PMU (PMU InterLife). Since he didn’t know Ludvig and Hilding he had a detailed discussion with them. I had met Petrus a couple of times during my time in Stockholm and on the Mälar Islands, but he had little knowledge of me. Because of Åke Boberg, who knew me since my evangelist period on the Mälar Islands, he had some knowledge of me at least. After the talks with Ludvig and Hilding, Petrus came to me and said: "If you want PMU to assist you in your process of starting a car mechanical vocational centre you have to take the responsibility for this and the other operations, otherwise we will not participate. Assuming that you do so, we are willing to support you with 500 kina per month". Petrus's idea entailed the school being self-sufficient within six months.


Since I was not a mechanic, I could not handle the teaching. I could of course take care of the school administration, but we needed to get the help of a teacher. The solution was Lars-Erik and Ann-Britt Bernhardsson coming to our rescue. Lars-Erik was a mechanic and I think they came to Mount Hagen in March 1977.

Lars-Erik put together a curriculum and advised me what kind of tools and equipment that was required. We set up the car mechanical workshop in the old joinery workshop. We bought three old cars and took the engines and other components out of them. Lars-Erik made steel structures on which he mounted motors and other components .The idea was that the students would demount and re-assemble them and make sure everything worked. When our students finished after two years of training, they would be able to demount engines to their very smallest element and then put them together, and, most importantly, get the engines to actually work again.

We started the school a few weeks after Lars-Erik's arrival. Every course held 12 students each and the training lasted for two years. Since the students were in need of a place to stay during their education, I built a house for this purpose during the preparation time.


The criterion to become a student at the training school was a primary school education, which was six years long. It was unusual for corresponding school educations to take in pupils with such a short background of qualification. There were even car mechanical Workshop owners who said that these students were never going to get a job because they hadn’t been through the training that was required. I thought a lot about this and came to the conclusion that we must carefully document our students' skills. To do this, we established a curriculum where every part of the education was scored after the student's skills and knowledge had been tested. This arrangement meant that all students at our school would get a job as a mechanic after the completion of the 2-year-long training. Several students later started their own businesses. Also, many of them became active in our churches. Each school day began with a devotional before the teaching began. There was no requirement that you would have to be a Christian to attend the program but most of the students happened to be sons of the members of the church.

Ingrid and Hilding Eriksson had previously started a small shop in order to obtain a bit of a contribution to the evangelization activities. Now we were currently responsible for this store and its surplus contributed to the expenses of the training school. A portion of the surplus was also used for the building of churches and homes for pastors. We also hired a mechanic who repaired cars. He used the school supplies and sometimes he got help from the students. The profit from this activity contributed to the school and the churches as well. In this way, the school became self-sufficient very quickly. I reckon Lars- Erik was a teacher at the school until 1980. Between the years 1981 and 1982, Anders Olsson taught at the school. Harry Kromwyk from Australia who was there for two years replaced him in 1983. Joseph Walen took over in 1985. We had taught Joseph ourselves at the school for teachers, and it worked well regarding the actual teaching, but he often came late and even left too early at times. I warned him several times that we would have to close down trade school if he did not change his manners. When we were about to launch a new course in early 1987, he appeared for duty 14 days after the course had started. In such circumstances, it felt unsafe to operate the school so I decided to shut it down.

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