Queen’s Park in Mt Hagen was very busy as local churches gathered to donate - cabbages, sweet potatoes, clothes, blankets and cash donations for those affected by the earthquakes.
Story, photos and video by Mandy Glass
MAF's Siobhain Cole witnessed the event: ‘It was a privilege to be able to be there, and see people bring even just a small bag containing one blouse or a few sweet potatoes wanting to bless other people'.
'It was humbling to see local people, who have very little themselves, giving a few clothes, a few cabbages from their garden, whatever they can spare, to bless those bush people who have even less than them. I felt like I was watching the widow at the temple from the story in the Bible (Luke 21 v 1-4).
We were able to send as much of these vegetables on flights the following day to the worst affected areas as a result of the earthquake.
Sweet potatoes from school children
The Komqui Primary School dropped five very large, heavy bags of sweet potatoes. One of their staff had this to say:
‘after the earthquake we heard that the people there, our friends in the Southern Highlands, were suffering. Then the Ministers’ Fraternal in Western Highlands drove through our school and made the announcement that they need some help. So we organised our students to donate especially kaukaus (sweet potatoes) to help our friends out there in the Southern Highlands and Hela Province.’
‘Komqui Primary School dropped five very large, heavy bags of sweet potatoes’
Applauding PNG's generosity
‘It was amazing and very touching to see people arriving one by one with a bilum full of fresh produce or other donations, as well as individual cars and buses arriving with big bags of kaukau or cabbage,’ reflects Mandy Glass, MAF PNG’s Communications Officer.
‘Everyone arriving was welcomed by some sort of cheering and hand clapping by the pastors and their wives overseeing the event.
Some men were continuously busy re-packing the fresh produce into huge bags and making sure that they are sewed together properly for safe transportation. Many different churches brought their congregation’s donations.’
Donations were flown to the affected areas straight away. The fresh produce went on flights immediately and the remaining donations the following week.
An inspiring idea
The a God-given idea to get local people assisting the earthquake-stricken areas came from an unexpected place.
Philip Brewster, who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, follows MAF PNG on social media commented on a post about relief flight. ‘That’s awesome! Can someone near Mt Hagen use a truck to collect donations of food from the local villages to give to the worst hit areas through MAF? If a church could encourage the villages to bring what they want to give to pick up areas on a certain day; could you then pack it and fly it out? Think what it would do for rural villages to work together for their own people - even though they themselves are poor.’
‘I told them that the earthquake has displaced a lot of people, their gardens and houses have been destroyed and now many of them gather at care centres in great need of help.’ Kambowa Kukuwa
The MAF PNG Disaster Response team thought about it and agreed that if someone could obtain the goods and gets them to MAF - then MAF would fly them where they were needed.
Kambowa Kukuwa, MAF PNG’s Mission and Ministry Team Coordinator was tasked with raising the matter with the towns pastors at the Ministers’ Fraternal (town pastors) meeting at the United Church.
‘The Fraternal Chairman invited me to share about the recent earthquake and what MAF was doing for the victims’ he explains.
‘I told them that the recent earthquake has displaced a lot of people, their gardens (food source) and houses have been destroyed and now many of them gather at care centres and thus they are in great need of help.’
Thus prompted the pastors decided to organise a donation gathering at Mt Hagen. ‘The ministers got excited about the opportunity,’ continued Kambowa, ‘and agreed to carry out a campaign for donations among their church congregations and the general community.’
Faith in action
One of the pastors explained, ‘When we were praying for the people at Hela and Southern Highlands we also felt that prayer isn’t good enough and we should try to help in a practical way. Hagen is the place of fresh produce, for sweet potatoes and greens. So we are facilitating this gathering for individual people to come and give whatever they can.’
Chairman, Pastor Daniel Wek, expressed how sorry they felt for their country men and women who were affected by the natural disaster refusing to entertain speculation that the quake had been caused by the wrath of God over this nation for doing evil things.
‘Natural disasters do happen and sadly this time it happened in our country,’ Pastor Wek said. ‘We as citizens need to stand up and exercise our good Christian faith and character to go out and help those affected. It is not only the food and goods we send to the brothers and sister out there, our thoughts and prayers are with the people affected. We also pass our condolences to the families who lost their loved ones.’
Reaching remote villages
Reverend Wek expressed gratitude towards the work of MAF in making it possible for the transportation of the goods to the affected communities. ‘MAF used to be based here in Hagen but we (the local churches) have never realised the importance of their existence in this part of the world until this incident happened.’ He went on to say that ‘the churches will now build on from what we do today and foster a good partnership with MAF.’
Philip Brewster, when seeing the first pictures on social media about the donation campaign, commented: ‘Yes, God gave me the idea but you wonderful people made it happen. My prayers for PNG are that the churches will lead the way in showing love and empathy outside their own village, especially to their old enemies so God’s glory and grace will be known through his people. Thank you so much doing God’s work in PNG even more than we know. I couldn’t be there but you were making it real.’
‘It was a privilege to be able to be there, and see people bring even just a small bag containing one blouse or a few sweet potatoes wanting to bless other people'.Siobhain Cole