FIA in Papua New Guinea
After making repairs on a missionary home, a text comes in to help a stranded missionary with a flat tire. To resume their broadcasting, the Christian radio station in town calls for an adjustment to their generator. After devotions with our national Wewak workers, it’s time to demonstrate how to fix some broken machinery.
Showing up when things are falling apart is what FIA’s team in Papua New Guinea (PNG) does. It’s through the brokenness and the necessary repairs that we have a platform to share Christ. With every repair, we reenact how God takes what is broken and remakes, restores, and redeems without cost through Jesus.
Learn About Papua New Guinea
We also have the privileged of providing partial support to educate the nationals’ children. In PNG, there is no free, public education. Local workers struggle to pay for schooling as even the bus transport can cost up to 1/3 of their yearly wages! Knowing these precious little ones have a chance at reaching their God-given potential is another amazing way FIA shares God’s love and Word in practical ways.
PNG is an Oceanian country that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and its offshore islands in Melanesia, a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia.
The country’s geography is diverse and, in places, extremely rugged. A spine of mountains, the New Guinea Highlands, covered with tropical rainforest runs the length of the island of New Guinea. Dense rainforests can be found in the lowland and coastal areas, as well as very large wetland areas surrounding the Sepik and Fly rivers. This terrain has made it difficult for the country to develop transportation infrastructure with some areas accessible only on foot or by helicopter. FIA’s construction and infrastructure projects are always well-received by locals and missionaries alike.
The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the point of collision of several tectonic plates. There are a number of active volcanoes, and eruptions are frequent. Earthquakes are relatively common, sometimes accompanied by tsunamis. From April to March 2018, a chain of earthquakes hit Papua New Guinea, causing various damages. Papua New Guinea is one of the few regions close to the equator that experience snowfall, which occurs in the most elevated parts of the mainland.
There are 852 known languages in the country, of which 12 now have no known living speakers.
With over 820 indigenous languages (12% of the world’s total), Papua New Guinea has more languages than any other country, but most have fewer than 1,000 speakers. The most widely spoken indigenous language is Enga (~200,000 speakers) followed by Melpa and Huli.
Indigenous languages are classified into two large groups, Austronesian languages and non-Austronesian (or Papuan) languages. There are four official languages for Papua New Guinea: English, “sign language” (which in practice means Papua New Guinean Sign Language), Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu. With an average of only 7,000 speakers per language, Papua New Guinea has a greater density of languages than any other nation on earth except Vanuatu.
English is the language of government and the education system, but it is not spoken widely.
There were five physicians per 100,000 people in the early 2000s. Malaria is the leading cause of illness and death in New Guinea. Papua New Guinea has the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS in the Pacific region and is the fourth country in the Asia Pacific region to fit the criteria for a generalized HIV/AIDS epidemic. Lack of HIV/AIDS awareness is a major problem, especially in rural areas. In Papua New Guinea the number of midwives per 1,000 live births is 1 and the lifetime risk of death for pregnant women is 1 in 94.
Although the majority of those polled in governmental records report Christianity as their religion, many people in Papua New Guinea remain unreached by missionaries. Of those who claim Christianity, there is confusion through works-based salvation and inclusion of traditional animist practices to following Christ.
28.3% identified with ‘Other’
16.4% chose ‘no religion’
12.3% as Anglican
10.8% as Uniting Church
Traditional religions are often animist. Some also tend to have elements of Veneration of the dead. Prevalent among traditional tribes is the belief in masalai, or evil spirits, which are blamed for “poisoning” people, causing calamity and death, and the practice of puripuri (sorcery). Mediums may be called on in various instances to help the spirit of a person, such as when someone is near death or has suddenly died, when someone is ill, or when a child is misbehaving.
Forty percent of the population lives a self-sustainable natural lifestyle with no access to global capital.
Agriculture, for subsistence and cash crops, provides a livelihood for 85% of the population and continues to provide some 30% of GDP. Mineral deposits, including gold, oil, and copper, account for 72% of export earnings. Oil palm production has grown steadily over recent years and is now the main agricultural export. In households participating, coffee remains a major export crop, followed by cocoa and coconut oil/copra from the coastal areas.
The most fully documented instances of cannibalism as a social institution come from New Guinea, where head-hunting and ritual cannibalism survived, in certain isolated areas, into the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies, and still leave traces within certain social groups.
It is estimated that more than a thousand cultural groups exist in Papua New Guinea, each with their own forms in art, dance, weaponry, costumes, singing, music, architecture and much more. The people typically live in villages that rely on subsistence farming. In some areas people hunt and collect wild plants (such as yam roots) to supplement their diets. Those who become skilled at hunting, farming and fishing earn a great deal of respect.
The traditional diet of Papua New Guinea is largely vegetarian with the population relying heavily on taro roots, sweet potatoes and sago (a starchy substance taken from sago palms). Fruits are also considered a staple of the diet with bananas, coconuts, guavas, pineapples, watermelons, papayas and mangoes often accompanying meals. Pigs and chickens are usually cooked on special occasions while those who live on the coasts enjoy fish, crab and crayfish.
FRIENDS IN ACTION INTL-USA (FIA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization firmly committed to good stewardship. Our work is supported by and dependent on the continued faithfulness of God’s people. Tax-deductible donations can be made using this secure site.
You can volunteer and get engaged in the work that God is doing in Papua New Guinea. For more information and future dates, email Paul Brosey