Sent by God
Home Search chapter Contact details More photos


46. Papuans on the run

Svenska  sveriges-flagga.png


… or to face each day as it comes.

Sven speaks: In mid-December 1986, it was the graduation time for me at the Bible College. I had managed to complete the two-year course in one year and even got an award for being the third best student in the end of the year. I also got an award for being the student of the year. This course was just a Diploma Course, and did not give me any Tertiary Degree. To obtain one of these, I would have to pursue a Bachelor degree for a year. It turned out that I could finish that course through correspondence. I did this during the next two years in Papua New Guinea and was thus given a formal degree.

When the Bible College had finished, we had a week to empty the house we had rented. After this, we travelled south to celebrate Christmas with our relatives living in Brisbane. After Christmas, we were going to visit our supporting churches in Australia. After that, we were going back to Papua New Guinea.

The day before the graduation of the Bible College, some Papuans called from Townsville Airport, and said: "We are here now!" Normally when someone calls and says "we are here now" it's people who you are expecting but we had no idea that these friends were coming. We did not have much of a choice, so we just went to the Airport and picked them up. They were nine, so everyone but one had to sleep on the floor.

The problem for us was that we would have to vacate the house and now we suddenly had nine Papuans to take care of. When Hilding Eriksson came to visit after a few days, he offered himself to take care of them. Hilding and his wife had moved to Australia a few years before and were now living in a caravan on a farm outside of Charters Towers. The site is located 137 km southwest of Townsville. He obviously did not have any space in the caravan for the Papuans but he was planning on renting a tent for them to live in. December means the middle of summer in Australia and in Charters Towers, it was often up to 40 degrees at that time of year, so we did not like the idea about it but we did not have much of a choice.

Said and done, Hilding took care of the Papuans. When they arrived in Charters Towers, he went to a motel owned by a Danish person who had recently been saved. Hilding hoped to borrow or rent a tent from him. But when the motel owner realized that the Papuans would live in the tents in the extremely hot weather, he said that he could not allow them to sleep outside under these circumstances. Instead, they could stay for free at the motel. They got to eat three meals a day. The only condition was that they sang and played for the other guests during the evenings, which they were more than happy to do.

After a week it was time for us to depart for Brisbane. I called my relatives and told them that we had nine Papuans with us. This was not appreciated. They were happy to welcome us, but not our Papua New Guinean friends. Marianne's brother Sune promised, however, that three of them could stay with him. This was good since three of them had come especially to visit Marianne and me. One of the other six had worked with an Australian at a bank in Mount Hagen and had come to Australia to visit him. The other five had tagged along with him because they wanted to see Australia.

Finally, we were all on board on the train from Townsville to Brisbane. We met a few Christian families on the train, dark-skinned friends, thus we had very nice company during the 27-hour train journey. Our Papuan friends sang and played the guitar. When we had almost arrived in Brisbane the conductor asked me whispering as he passed by me on his way through the train, "Are these your people?" "Yes, they are." I replied. "They're different," the conductor responded. He was used to all dark-skinned people on the train being drunk, but these were not drunk. They were however full of joy in the Lord.

When we arrived in Brisbane, it was night and all the lights illuminated the city. "Oh!" one of the Papuans said. "This is heaven." "No," I said, "this is not heaven. Heaven will be much better than this." We managed to rent a caravan on a caravan Park for the six Papuans who had nowhere to stay.


Sydney Harbour Bridge

After a few days, on a Thursday, it was time for these six to go to Sydney and visit the bank. The former colleague had not had any contact with the bank official for three years, but they happily went away on the 919 km-long bus ride anyway. They thought that having a residential address in Sydney was more than enough. The bus journey from Brisbane to Sydney, including several stops, took about a day.


Sydney Opera House

On the following Saturday morning I received a phone call from the Papuans. They had returned to Brisbane and were currently at the bus station there. He told me that when they came to Sydney, there was no bank official living on the address they had gone to, so they had taken the first bus back to Brisbane. They called me because I was the only contact they had in Brisbane, and throughout Australia for that matter. Our family was just about to go to a beach together with Marianne's brother George. Since I would be gone most of the day, I suggested that they should take a taxi and go back to the Caravan Park and try to rent a caravan again. If they had any problems, they could call me in the evening, but I did not hear from them anymore that day.

The next day, a friend of mine who had been a missionary in Papua New Guinea called me and said: "I have six good friends of yours here." There was nothing else I could do, but pick them up and try to rent a caravan again. I then heard what had happened the day before. After they called me the previous day they had left the bus station to take a taxi. When they got in the cab, the driver looked at them and asked:

"Are you Christians?"

"Yes, we are."

"What church do you belong to?"

"Assemblies of God."

"So do I. You are not staying in a Caravan Park, you are coming home with me." He brought them home to his place and gave them food and a place to sleep. The following day he brought them to an Assemblies of God Church. There they met the former missionary, who after the service called me. My Papuan friends were overwhelmed by how hospitable Australians were, first the motel owner and now the taxi driver. They thought this was the normal way of the Australians but my understanding was that it was God who had kept his protective hand over them. Many times over the years, my friends reminded me about their experiences in Australia.

Previous chapter

Next chapter