By ZACHERY PER
ASAROKA Lutheran Secondary School in Eastern Highlands is mourning the passing of its founder Rev Len Tscharke at 87 years of age in his Adelaide home in South Australia.
Principal of the school Aki Olisagave confirmed Rev Tscharke passed away at the Golden Grove home in Adelaide last Thursday.
“We are deep in mourning and sorrow as all those who passed out of Asaroka feel part of the Tscharke family. His passing is a great loss to us as we are part of the great Asaroka family that he founded in the 1954,” he said.
The pioneer missionary (Len Tscharke) founded the then Asaroka High School, now a secondary school, in 1954 with his wife Claire. They also established Ialibu Secondary School in Southern Highlands.
After educating many Papua New Guineans who are prominent citizens in nearly all walks of life, they left in 1972.
Some outstanding ex-students of the Tscharkes are Professor Musawe Sinebare, Jerry Singirok, Sir Wiwa Korowi, Sir Peter Peipul, Himmony Lapiso, Munare Uyassi, Prof Peter Siba, Kuri Dom, John Nero, Brown Sinamoi, Dr Wesley Kigasung, Giegre Wenge, Benny Allan, Robert Atiayafa, Kerenga Kua, Mathias Ijape, Roy Yaki, Ben Ulopo, just to name a few.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is one of the products of Ialibu Secondary School and there are other prominent citizens also educated through the Tscharke iniative in Southern Highlands.
Rev Tscharke wrote in his book Seed Time in God’s Garden: “As we said good bye to Asaroka at the end of 1971 we place the school in God’s gracious hands and together we sang ‘God be with us till we meet again’.’’
Rev Tscharke paid his last visit with his wife and a group including some of their children to Asaroka and Ialibu in September 2017.
When this reporter asked Rev Tscharke whether the visit would be their last, Rev Tscharke said “It’s in God’s hands; if it is God’s plan for us to come back, we could come back perhaps in wheel chairs.
“We came to PNG in 1954, stayed at Asaroka Lutheran Mission for one year and went to Ialibu to start the Ialibu Lutheran mission station and school in Ialibu-Pangia, Southern Highlands. We came back to Asaroka in 1960 and started the school (today Asaroka Lutheran Secondary School), after spending 12 years we went back to Australia,” Rev Tscharke said.
The Tscharkes were the first Lutheran missionaries to Ialibu which was then largely unknown to the wider world, although a government kiap (patrol officer) had preceded them by some months.
Colonial administrator Brian O’Neill, became a good friend of the Tscharkes as they brought government services, education and the Word of God to the people of Ialbu.
O’Neill was the father of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
Rev Tscharke’s work in PNG has earned him one of the highest national awards, the Companion of the Star of Melanesia. One of his own local sons, Himmony Lapiso flew to Adelaide and presented the award to him before the congregation members of the Golden Grove Lutheran Church (Wynn Vale South Australia) on Dec 23, 2018.
The Tscharkes took Lapiso with them to Adelaide Australia, where he attended school in Australia and returned to PNG after three years.
Lapiso made his way up to become a successful businessman, Goroka town manager once and occupied a number of top public service positions.
“God bless the work at Asaroka and Ialibu very much and we love PNG and the people very much. We came with family members to continue the relationship with the two schools. We established a new partnership with Gama Lutheran School in Goroka that the family members and others can continue to support,” Rev Tscharke said.
His other book about his life and work in Ialibu is titled The Dawning of a New Day.
Vice Chancellor of the University of Goroka Prof Musawe Sinebare, a product of Asaroka school, was given the privilege to launch the first book in Goroka.
Rev Tscharke said a partnership between Adelaide’s Golden Grove Lutheran Church and Lutheran schools in PNG would continue.
Under the partnership Gama Lutheran Primary School had computer expert Kevin Luke cable and hook up all the computers in the school computer laboratory.
Head teacher Gibson Sikondowe was a proud man when his school was involved in the partnership.
He thanked Rev Tscharke and the team from Adelaide for the generous support not only to Gama but to other schools as well.
“We have witnessed parents and stakeholders completely re-embracing their schools as valuable parts of their communities, and these schools have also been upgraded in the PNG education system and are highly respected in their provinces.”
In 2006, Golden Grove Lutheran Church and Primary School began the partnership with the schools in Asaroka and Ialibu. There are approximately 5,000 students (elementary, primary and secondary) in both schools. There were a number of visits by Tscharkes and members of Golden Grove Lutheran Church and School to establish projects that strengthened the schools through the provision of computers and other valuable resources.
Rev Tscharke was born in 1931 and grew up in the Barossa Valley. His primary education was in a one-teacher school at Mt McKenzie near Angaston. Secondary education was at Immanuel College in Adelaide. He then embarked on his theological training of four years to become a minister. In April 1954 he married Claire who became his wife, partner and friend in his work for the Lord.
One week later they were sent to Papua New Guinea where they worked for the next 18 years. For three and a half years they worked at Ialibu. This was a very special time and had a deep effect on the couple.
In 1960 they moved to Asaroka near Goroka and began a high school which became one of the leading high schools in Papua New Guinea.
In 1972 they returned to Australia for their children’s education. Rev Tscharke served as a chaplain at Immanuel College, Novar Gardens for the next 14 years. During this time he took on the role of senior chaplain for eight years and also began a new congregation on the college campus for the benefit of boarders and the new members that were coming their way.
In 1978 he began work amongst the deaf community in Adelaide. It soon became an organised congregation and the Tscharkes had continued to support the Deaf Community Church.
Rev Tscharke drew strength from many Bible verses during his ministry including Philippians 4:13 and Philippians 3:10 : -“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
By ZACHERY PER