Its part of the family really. Papua New Guinea is only about 150 kilometres, as the crow flies, from the tip of Australia to land fall. Whereas the same crow would have to fly 200 kilometres to reach Tasmania from the Aussie mainland.
When I went to school, PNG was part of our nation. I've always imagined it as being Australia's beautiful foster daughter who grew up and left home; independent but still part of the family. So I jumped at the chance to go and visit this long lost sister.
With great excitement, I left about a month ago with six others. Our destination was Lae. Our aim was to spread the love of Father God as far as we could reach. But, unlike many who have gone before us, we weren't blazing trails through impassable jungles or climbing high mountains No, my trip was very civilised and organised. We'd been invited by a local church in Lae to teach their leaders and pastors. We travelled in cars, buses and planes. We ate good food and slept in comfort.
I was prepared for the heat and humidity, for the red gooey stains of chewed beetle nut, for dark-skinned sisters who could understand English, but would prefer to speak in Pidgin. I also knew that the Australian government recommends that one only travels to PNG if necessary. But I was only going to the two main cities, Port Moresby and Lae, so I felt confident - then surprised!
I found a sister that has let herself go. She hasn't followed the Australian way of life. Everywhere the taxi went, I could see evidence of of her temporary Aussie influence in the form of roads, bridges and infrastructure. Yet the massive potholes, broken footpaths, and decaying rubbish was evidence that she preferred her old way of life.
At night we slept secure, knowing that there was an armed guard outside, twenty four hours a day. When we asked if about going to the shops, someone always accompanied us. Our handbags were locked up in our units. It wasn't safe to carry anything that didn't fit in our pockets.
When we drove over the bridge (on the right), our driver told us of witches being burned at the stake, recently. He pointed to the hills and told us about witchdoctors.
We wished we could stop and explore these colourful markets (left) until one of our new friends in our school told us the facts. These markets are the drug and gambling markets. No wonder everyone there had vacant eyes.
The house on the right belongs to one of our students. Her family carries all their water from the river, and washes their clothes in the flowing water. All their food comes from their gardens. The stables are taro, other root vegetables, bananas and coconuts supplemented with a little canned fish.
One day there was a tribal march down the street in front of our church. Trouble was brewing. A man had been killed. The other tribe were looking for retribution. For our new friends this was normal activity. No big deal.
In the midst of all this, I was delighted by a nation of lush green trees, vibrant flowers and warm, generous, colourful people. Everywhere we looked there were wonderful mountains, flowing streams, contrasted with dust and dirt. And lots of people, travelling on foot, or loaded into the back of lorries, going shopping. After I preached at one of the churches, I was showered with gifts of fruit from wonderful loving people. This church was overflowing with worshippers, hungry to know more of God.
I believe the difference is hidden in those mountains. The people we met know God Almighty and worship Him. However most of them belong to tribes. Many of their relatives still practice witchcraft.
The Bible is very clear. We can choose blessings or curses. Its our choice. Worshipping the Lord, and no other god, brings blessing. Serving any other power brings curses. Never before have I seen such compelling evidence of this spiritual law.
I returned home humbled and subdued. What about Aussies? Is Australia still a Christian county? For generations we have reaped the blessings from seeds of faithfulness sowed by our forefathers. But soon we must start to feel the consequences of abandoning the one true God. As a nation we worship false gods like sport, addictions, comfort, abortion.... We can not flirt with our gods and stick our heads in the sand in denial, pretending there won't be consequences.
As part of the Australian church, I am challenged to humble myself and pray and seek His face so we will turn away from our wicked ways. Then He can come and heal our land.