The National, Thursday December 5th, 2013
ALMOST 30 years ago a young bank manager in Sydney, Australia, volunteered to work three nights a week at the Sydney City Mission’s Youth Crisis Centre in Kings Cross.
During that time, Larry George got a call to open a City Mission branch in Papua New Guinea.
He had previously worked as a banker in PNG and was well aware of the rising law and order problems in Port Moresby caused by urban drift, unemployment and other social issues.
City Mission PNG, formerly known as Port Moresby City Mission, started operations on Nov 30, 1993, and celebrated its 20th anniversary last Saturday with a gala dinner in Port Moresby, which was attended by the who’s who of the corporate, political and business sectors.
Special guest and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill presented K100,000 through the PM O’Neill Foundation – a fitting gesture to an organisation that has been changing the lives of individuals and giving them better opportunities to improve their lives.
The PM O’Neill Foundation now joins many others organisations and individuals who have been selflessly supporting City Mission PNG over the past 20 years through their generous donations in cash and kind.
City Mission started its operation in an old rented trade store on the site of the existing Koki headquarters.
Within six months it was accommodating and feeding more than 100 young men at the Koki store and at night the floor of the shop was a mass of bodies.
Speaking at the anniversary function George recalled their humble beginnings.
“I had no idea how big and how fast the mission would grow,” he said.
“I think I would have run a mile had I been able to look into the future and see the many areas of work that the mission encompasses today.
“In the early days a lot of my strength came through the encouragement of my late wife Ruth, who passed away with cancer on Nov 28, 1995.
“Ruth had spent more than 30 years serving the people of PNG as a school teacher before we started City Mission.”
The next stage of the expansion came with the opening of Haus Ruth, a women’s refuge named on April 28, 2003.
This centre was named after the late Ruth George and caters for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, rape and incest.
In 2004, with the growing law and order problems in Lae, the City Mission board decided to expand operations to the country’s second largest city.
A plantation at 11-Mile Lae was eventually located and purchased with the support of a major donor and they settled for the property in December 2005.
City Mission then opened its doors to the youth of Lae on January 3, 2006. At that time, George was engaged to Bonnie Evans from Atherton, North Queensland, and following their marriage in April, 2006, she joined her husband and had been a wonderful partner and blessing to the work on the mission in Lae.
Over the past 20 years more than 15,000 youth have passed through City Mission in Port Moresby and Lae.
The majority of the young men who have persevered with the programme, have learned to read and write, gained valuable life skills, vocation and agricultural training and left the mission programme with permanent employment.
The mission has plans to expand to other cities and towns as well.
Madang has already been identified and work on securing a plot of land is under way.
Around about this time when the Christian Christmas, the Hindu Diwali and the Jewish Hanukkah are celebrated, it is quite fitting that City Mission PNG marks 20 years of operations.
To adherents of these world religions, these festivals of light spiritually signify the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair.
City Mission PNG is testament that darkness and evil in whatever degree can never snuff out the tiniest flicker of light or the smallest deed of goodness.
We salute City Mission PNG on achieving 20 years of “spreading the love of God and meeting human needs”, as its mission statement declares.