The history of the Lutheran Church of Australia’s mission involvement in Papua New Guinea is long, complex and very detailed. The connections to mission work in PNG are tied in with the arrival on 12 July 1886 of the first German missionary to PNG: Rev Johann Flierl to Simbang. In his journey to PNG (via Australia) Flierl was involved in mission work among the Australian Aborigines in central and far north Queensland. While in Australia he met and married Louise Auricht. Prior to the establishment of the LCA in 1966, Australians from two synods (UELCA and ELCA) served in PNG in large numbers.
PNG was the recognised mission field of Lutherans in Australia and The Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea – The first 100 years (edited by Herwig Wagner and Hermann Reiner) records the names of over 800 Australians who had served in PNG from 1886 to 1986. Australian Lutherans were involved in a vast array of tasks which supported the ‘missionary cause’ and included pastors, teachers, deaconesses, mechanics, pilots, doctors, nurses, secretaries, accountants, builders … and a large number of volunteers who served in PNG for varying lengths of time and in varying capacities.
The country of Papua New Guinea (formerly an Australian colony) obtained its independence in 1975 from Australia. Subsequently the Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea became autonomous and was recognised as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELCPNG) in 1976. The country of Papua New Guinea saw great changes following independence, as the new government began to shed its colonial past and Australian leaders and workforce. The ELCPNG bishops during these times also inferred/implied that the ELCPNG no longer needed as many missionaries from overseas. This decline in the expressed need for missionaries in PNG also coincided with a movement within the LCA for a greater focus on ‘mission at home’. Gradually the number of missionaries sent as a matter of course to PNG began to decline.
From a time in this recent history when there were over 100 Australian staff serving in PNG at any one time, the number of LCA staff has now declined to just two LCA expatriate staff serving in PNG. These are Mr Michael (Mick) Hauser serving as a lecturer and mentor at Martin Luther Seminary in Lae, and Hanna Schulz serving as a Bible translator with Wycliffe/ Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). Hanna has been assigned to the Kobe people in the Gulf Province and is working to record the language and subsequently the translation of the scriptures into that language.
More about mission in Papua New Guinea
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