Returning to the mission field


TWO descendants of pioneer missionary to Papua , Rev Henry Percy Schlencker, are expected to arrive in Port Moresby today to help the Gotaka United Church, Boku Circuit, celebrate the life of this great Australian who helped establish the church there.
He was among the first missionaries to bring the word of God into the area in the early 1900s.
His grandsons, Charles Rodney Schlencker and Anthony Gould Schlencker are travelling in from Australia. In this first part though, we look at the life and travels of this brave man of God.
His is a very special story that began in 1901. Henry, or Percy as he is popularly known, was a London Missionary Society (LMS) pastor when he first brought Christianity to Boku in the inland Rigo area of Central.
After setting up mission there, he continued to introduce the word of God and recruit students for further pastoral training at Kalaigolo (Karekodobu) and Saroa. The land on which Rev Schlencker set up house continues to be the mission station for Boku United Church Circuit to this very day.
Apart from planting the first church in Boku, he also established an LMS church in Orokolo, Gulf and contributed also to the LMS churches in Kalaigolo and Kwato Island on Milne Bay.
The LMS churches would later become the United Church of Papua New Guinea.
Percy was born in Sydney, Australia in 1866 and later spent much of his young life in Brisbane. There he frequented the Brisbane Congregational Church.
Sometime in the 1800s he applied to the London Missionary Society (LMS) asking to serve as missionary.
He was soon to travel to London to study at the Hackney Bible College where he also did a short course at a hospital on tropical diseases, something that would come up handy later on in his life.
In 1885, he travelled to PNG on a LMS mission boat “John Williams” and his first posting was to Kwato in Milne Bay, where, a year later he opened Isuleilei.
Percy remained there until 1901 when he offered for pioneer work in inland Papua. His first stop was Kaligolo, which is about 60kms from Gabagaba village.
In April, 1901, Percy took over the work of Rev James Chalmers (Tamate) after he was murdered at Goarbari Island.
It was originally intended that Percy should be the one to accompany Chalmers on that fateful journey but plans were altered and another man was chosen instead. The man also lost his life. In 1905, Percy married Mary Elizabeth Sarah, fondly called Bessie, in Sydney. It was the mission vessel John Williams that brought the newly married couple back to Kwato on February 24, 1905. The trip took a week. Between 1906 and 1910, the couple had three children, the first a girl, Lucy, and two boys, Harold and Charles, followed.
In 1912, the family moved to Orokolo district, in Gulf, where they established a new station at Auma.
There they continued evangelizing the people in the Gulf of Papua. While there, Percy worked with a team to translate part of the New Testament into the Orokolo language.
It was arduous work on a typewriter. In 1926, Percy contracted a severe bout of malaria and was not expected to live. His wife Bessie was back in Papua and had selected a spot for his grave.
It was through providence that the mission boat, John Williams, was passing by the Bay of Orokolo at that time. Canoeists rowed out to notify the Captain that Seneka, as he was affectionately known, was ill.
The boat waited till he was brought out, and was subsequently taken to Brisbane. He recovered, but retired from the London Missionary Society.
In 1927, he was appointed minister of the Brighton Road Congregational Church in Brisbane, where he served for nine years. After retiring from Brighton Road Church, he served with Woody Point Congregational Church.
The family later moved to Woody Point, at Tygalgah where they lived until Bessie’s death in June 1948, and his retirement from the church at almost 80 years of age.

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