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48. Women’s groups

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Marianne speaks: As I earlier mentioned, SIDA employed me to do preventive health care between the years of 1977-1980. This work in the villages was often done outside, but as churches were being established and bushmaterial church buildings were erected, we were able to use these buildings. Along with the teaching in health care, we also had courses in reading and writing, as well as in sewing, including how to use a hand driven sewing machine. Of course, we also held devotionals reading the Bible, singing and praying.


When we returned to Papua New Guinea in 1982, I continued my work among women and children, this time without any contributions from SIDA – thus the work took a slightly different direction. Concerning the children, I taught them mainly in Sunday schools. Since there were now churches in many of the villages, we gathered the women in the Church buildings to read the Bible, pray and sing. We still taught them reading and writing and gave them health education, but to a less extent. The work of these women's groups grew quickly, and soon, I could not participate in all gatherings, and thus the responsibility was taken over by national women. During the periods when there were other Pentecostal missionary ladies in the Highlands, these ladies naturally helped with the work of women's groups. During the years of 1983-89, I received a lot of help from Kristina Olsson especially, but also others.


Ingrid Eriksson teaches a Papuan woman sewing with sewing machine

The indigenous women also took a more independent responsibility for working among women in these groups. I especially remember a pastor's wife, Gitt, who often came along with me when I visited the women's groups in the villages. She also travelled by herself sometimes. By using the PMV trucks (they charge you for riding along on the truck beds), she went from village to village, and could sometimes be on the road for several days.


Marianne with a group of Papua New Guinean women

In the traditional Papuan society, men were in control of everything, and thus the women had a minor role. Women's groups came to mean a lot for the Papuan women's liberation. As they themselves got involved with sharing their testimony and singing, they grew as people. Eventually, some women even started to preach.

These women gatherings actually came to have great importance among the men as well, especially the older men. At the beginning of our mission work in Papua New Guinea, mostly women and young men were saved. With some exceptions, the older men were more sceptical. But when they saw how the Word of God made women flourish in their boldness, they began to think that there might, after all, be a God – from what other source would the women all of a sudden find their inner strength?

On one occasion, when we had a women's conference in Keminga, there were some older men, who had not yet been saved, who came and looked into the church, attracted by the song that they had heard. When they saw that there were national women who led the church service and heard how they sang and praised God, they thought that this was a miracle so great that it made them convinced of an existing and active God. And the men found salvation. “God works in mysterious ways” to save people.

We were always very careful to emphasize that the work of the women's groups was part of the overall church work, and therefore should be carried out in consultation with, and under the authority of the church e.g the pastor and the board. Of course, the women also participated in the ordinary church services.


The Women's Conference in1988 in Mount Hagen was a huge event, which gathered 2,000 women. We had pastors Marie Cartledge and Lorraine Evans from Australia as specially invited guest speakers. Long before the start of the conference, the women planted extra sweet potatoes so that there would be food for all the participants. In order to make the conference possible, we had to build makeshift huts for everyone to have somewhere to live. The conference was held in a large tent that was built by tarps. To serve food to all of the participants, a careful plan had to be made. Sven had to organize this little detail. Near the conference area, there were 40 fenced off areas where they used to display horses. In each area was a team of men cooking food to feed 50 people. Each participant received a coupon that showed which cooking he or she belonged to. Additionally to this, the men did all the cooking and served the women. Since the Papua New Guinean men never cook for their women, this in itself was a great miracle of God.


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