By MALUM NALU
A powerful new book by Lutheran missionaries Claire and Len Tscharke tells of how they brought the Word of God into remote Ialibu, Southern Highlands, in the 1950s.
The book, ‘The Dawning of a New Day’, launched at Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG headquarters at Ampo in Lae in July this year, is a wonderful account of God’s leading, His blessing and of the turn-around of many Papua New Guineans to go God’s way instead of Satan’s.
Cover of ‘The dawning of a New Day’
Here were two young novice missionaries taking God’s promises at face value and proving them true in their lives.
The Tscharkes were missionaries in PNG from 1954-1972, Len fondly remembered by many as the founding principal of the famous Asaroka Lutheran High School in Eastern Highlands (that is another story).
The Tscharkes being welcomed home Asaroka Lutheran High School outside Goroka in July this year.
For a period of four years, from 1955-1958, they were the first Lutheran missionaries into the then highly-restricted area of Ialibu.
At the time, Ialibu was quite unknown to the wider world, although a government kiap (patrol officer) had preceded them by some months.
This kiap, Brian O’Neill, became as good friends of the Tscharkes as they brought government services, education and the Word of God to the people of Ialbu.
O’Neill was the father of one Peter O’Neill, who just last month, became Prime Minister of PNG.
“The young patrol officer, Brian O’Neill, who had been sent there by the Government to open up this new region for others to follow, was an Australian man in his mid-20s, full of energy and enthusiasm,” they write.
“We pictured him to be a busy man, conscientious in all that he did.
“The fact that he had already completed the airstrip seemed to suggest that he was a man of action, as only a person with drive and initiative could have achieved what he had done in such a short time.”
One of the most amazing things in the book is that the Tscharkes, who built the first school in Ialibu, wondered if a future prime minister of PNG would come out of Ialibu.
“How long would it be for someone to emerge from a school such as ours to be ready to fill a meaningful role in the forums of the worldwide Church of God or in the halls of the nations of the world?” they write in ‘The Dawning of a New Day’.
“Was there perhaps a future Prime Minister sitting in one of our wooden benches out there in forgotten Ialibu?
“These thoughts did come to us.”
God must have listened to them, albeit more than 50 years later, as Peter O’Neill became Prime Minister of PNG and represented the country “in the halls of the nations of the world” such as the United Nations.
When the Tscharkes entered Ialibu, no other white person had entered this area until then, where the people were still living in the Stone Age.
The Tscharkes lived amongst these people, got to know them well and helped them to a new, a better life, where they know Christ as their Savior.
A good friend of mine, Rebecca Ogann Kiage, who is studying at university in Adelaide and whose guardians are the Tscharkes, recently gave me a copy to read and I couldn’t put the book down until I had completed it this week,
In fact, I was invited to meet the Tscharkes when they came over in July for the book launch as well as visit their old stomping grounds of Asaroka and Ialibu, however, I just missed their flight.
It is a book that every child of Ialibu, Southern Highlands and PNG must read because of its rich historical content, one that will make you laugh one moment, make you cry the next.
The story begins in 1955 when the Tscharkes and their one-year-old son, Terry, got on board a Mission Cessna 172 VHF- AMO and flew off to their new assignment.
Much of what is written in the book is written in diary form, where days and events have been recalled in the order they happened.
It is one big Christian adventure from start to end!
It starts with their arrival, first impressions, settling in, starting a new school, Ialibu becoming a derestricted area, Ialibu becoming a circuit, expansion, changes, consolidation, visit of Claire’s parents, plans for self-government and independence, Ialibu tradition, Kagua becoming a derestricted area, first mission trip to Kagua Valley, growth of Ialibu, first trip to Wiru Taru, Len’s final trip to the Pangia-Tiripini region, and the heartbreak of leaving Ialibu in 1959.
Their first-hand experiences with the people of Ialibu make for fascinating reading.
Many people have, over the years, asked the Tscharkes to record their unque experiences, however, they always said “no” until recently when they decided to publish the book.
“What happened at Ialibu in those early years wasn’t about us at all,” they write.
“Nor was it about the evangelists who played a part in bringing the Gospel to those fine people.
“It was about God and the power that he had invested in His Word.
“We were no more than His voice that he used to create for Himself a people that now follows Him and brings honor to the name of Jesus.
“He wanted those Ialibu people to have a place in His Kingdom, together with every other tribe, nation and tongue.
“And so it happened that He asked us to go there for Him.
“Like almost everyone else at the time, we hadn’t even heard of the place called Ialibu before we were asked to go there.
“In fact, it had only just been listed as a future centre, because of a young patrol officer (Brian O’Neill) who had gone up there to open up a station for the government.
“Before that, there wasn’t even a village there!”
This amazing book is on sale in Port Moresby for K50 from Delma Yore, who can be contacted on mobile 71097679.
In Lae, copies can be obtained from Pastor Greg Schiller at ELCPNG head office, Ampo.
All proceeds from book sales will be used for the Ialibu Pastoral Training Initiative.