By ZACHERY PER
TWO young medical specialists first met at Kudjip Nazarene hospital Jiwaka in 1968 working in their respective fields as laboratory technician and general nursing.
Two years later in 1970, Neville and Joyce Burtle got married while serving the PNG Nazarene Church’s biggest hospital at Kudjip.
Dr Neville Burtle came from New Zealand while Joyce came from Scotland.
Joyce then started the Kudjip Nazarene School of Nursing in 1971 and it is still in operation today.
The newly wedded couple deviated from their medical work and moved into doing missionary work for the newly established Nazarene Church in Jiwaka.
“In 1970, we started the Nazarene Church in Banz town in Jiwaka; during the weekends I would take a motor bike ride to Kundiawa and Chuave in Chimbu. I also visited schools to preach the good news,” Dr Burtle said.
The Burtles moved to Kundiawa town in Chimbu in 1979 and started the Nazarene Church there but they had a much smaller space than they needed.
Dr Burtle said the Government wanted to move the church out of the current location at Wara Market because the church could not afford the money to secure land and expand.
“But with God’s mercy someone from overseas just came in time to rescue the church with the much needed money to secure the land and the much bigger land space, currently the properties of the Nazarene Church,” he said.
The pioneer missionaries then went off to Fiji and stayed there for three years then went back to settle in their Auckland home in New Zealand.
The Burtles returned early this month with their grandchildren Aaron and Caitie Jackson and joined Nazarene Christians in Jiwaka, Chimbu and Eastern Highlands to celebrate the church’s 40th anniversary in Chimbu.
“The church has grown dramatically in 20 years, the number of pastors has increased, the church buildings are much bigger and better, God’s blessing is upon the church,” Dr Burtle said.
He said after 40 years of the Nazarene Church being in Chimbu, the pastors today were the second generation which showed that the church was growing stronger and stronger.
“We want to come back but we might not have any more strength to come back. It depends on God alone,” Dr Burtle said. He said their children David, Catherine and Sizie Burtle who grew up in Chimbu sent greetings to the Christians.
Grandchildren Catie and Aaron Jackson came as representatives of the family to be part of the happy 40th anniversary celebration.
The anniversary celebration started with a long march from the church’s base at Wara Market in Kundiawa through the main streets of Kundiawa town to the Dicksons Oval.
Nazarene Church faithful in Eastern Highlands, Chimbu and Jiwaka which make up one district under a district superintendent gathered in celebration.
Labour and Industrial Relations Minister Jeffrey Kama who is a church member praised the good work of successive church leaders to strengthen the work of the church.
He urged pastors and elders not to write to Members of Parliament like himself asking for financial donation.
“Stop writing letters asking for money; many of you write and get money but nothing was present to show for where the money is spent. I do not want you to write to MPs asking for money or donation,” Kama said.
District Superintendent Peni Fakaua congratulated the Nazarene church for clocking 40 years in Jiwaka, Chimbu and Eastern Highlands.
He said for the church to be 40 years old meant that it has matured and would move into the next 40 years as an adult.
Fakaua said he would continue to give undivided support to them and will ensure the church continued to deliver its objectives and hold God close to their heart.
Kundiawa town church pastor Reverend Mundi Dama said in 1979, the Burtles came to Chimbu from Jiwaka after 23 years in Papua New Guinea.
He said Chimbu, Jiwaka and Eastern Highlands came under one administration, but on the special occasion of the 40th anniversary Eastern Highlands was separated to be on its own.
Rev Dama said the Nazarene Church came to PNG in 1956 through
America missionary couple Sidney and Wanda Knox.
“After searching for a place to settle, they found Kudjip in Jiwaka, the church building infrastructures including the current Kudjip Nazarene Hospital was established,” Rev Dama said.
“The special occasion during the celebrations to be held at the Dickson’s field in Kundiawa will be the separation of Eastern Highlands to have its own administration and management to be on its own.
“It is like the church will give Eastern Highlands province independence or greater autonomy to be on its own to run its own affairs,” he said.
Rev Dama said the Kundiawa Nazarene Church building that was extended, refurbished is now named ‘Neville Burtle Church’ making the 40th anniversary more meaningful.