Gutnius Lutheran Church turns 70

Weekender

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8.
IT is with great thankfulness and humility that we have seen and witnessed the mighty hand of God working in the lives of the members of the Gutnius Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea.
We have, indeed walked with God in His care and love for the last seventy (70) years since 1948 (1948 – 2018).
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5.
The Light that the gospel of John is talking about in his periscope is the same light that gave light to the world when God said “Let there be light…”, in Genesis 1:3, and surely, there was light. It is the same Light that gave light to the Enga people 70 years ago and continues to do so to this day and hour.
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour is truly the Word incarnate and the light that still shines from within our hearts today. The Lord Jesus Christ will guide and lead us through the work of the Holy Spirit to our heavenly Father in heaven to eternity.

After World War II
Almost two years since the WWII ended in 1945, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia (ELCA) sent a request to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) of America to come and help in the mission field which was still not reached yet.
The Australian administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea permitted missionary activity to spread into the western part of the interior from Ogelbeng in Western Highlands.
The ELCA wrote to the LCMS in their Centennial Convention in Chicago (USA) in 1947. As the LCMS was having its convention, the request arrived and there, it agreed fully to send missionaries to the new frontier, untouched by any outside influence yet, though there was very little presence by the Australian administration.

Students turn into missionaries
Rev Dr Willard Burce and Rev Dr Otto Hintze were then students doing their extra-graduate year in Concordia Seminary in St Louise, Missouri (1943 -1948). They were confronted by the Concordia Seminary President, Dr Louis Sieck to see what their interest was in the mission field.
They wholeheartedly said “yes”, to go to the unknown. In fact Otto said, “I would be willing to serve in New Guinea….you and the Holy Spirit decided where I should serve.”
It was in the interior of the island of New Guinea (Papua and New Guinea). The two men knew nothing about their mission field but responded that they were happy to go on the calling of our Lord God, “Whom shall I send?”
They graduated in 1947 and were ordained in 1948, right after they did the extra-graduate year in the Spring of the same year.
Animism was very much a part of their lives where everything they did revolved around their spiritual world. The great Aitawe watches from the sky for the good of everyone, that order is maintained and kept at all times.
In the book written by Hintze, From Ghosts to God, he details his encounters with the people and their culture, beliefs, fears, superstitions, the departed and now living in the spirit world, revenge, and etc.
The two men, Freund and Kleinig, travelled from Ogelbeng, the mission station in WHP, with 230 local Melpa speaking carriers to Enga. They started their journey from Ogelbeng on Aug 23, 1948. They spend three cold nights on the way to arrive at Keapo, commonly known as Yaramanda within the Wauni tribal land.
They walked 60 miles from Ogelbeng to Keapo and when they arrived on Aug 26, at Keapo knoll, they both agreed that it was a strategic setting, more fitting for the ‘seed’ of the Light, the Word of God to be planted there at Keapo.
Missionary Freund and builder Kleinig agreed that if Keapo was in Europe, surely a castle could be built by a king. Looking to the south west was Tsaka valley, straight ahead in the west was Wabag, and to the north east was Lower Lai, they were satisfied that Keapo would be the starting point for the mission work.
The two men with coastal – Kate speaking evangelists and the cargo carriers (at least some) worshiped God in thanking Him for the new mission station to be build and established.

From Kerowagi to Wabag in a two engine aeroplane
It was a baptismal service in Ega, in Kerowagi, Chimbu on Oct 31, 1948. On Nov 2, a Tuesday, (1948) Willard, Otto and two others got onto a small single-engine, Stenson Trainer (airplane) to go to Wabag. They flew over Ogelbeng (WHP) to Wabag, and when they could visibly see Keapo knoll, the pilot, who reminded them of the new mission station, flew a little lower for the benefit of the two young servants of God. They could see where they were going to be stationed to start doing mission work.

Setting Foot on Enga soil by Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS).
Nov 2, 1948 was the day on which the two young missionaries (Rev Dr Willard Burce and Rev Dr Otto Hintze) set foot in Wabag. Territory kiaps or patrol officers had supervised the building of the airstrip there.
There to meet them were the Australian patrol officers and some local children who were very shy (perhaps afraid too). In the group to meet them also were, missionary Freund, with a Hagen translator by the name of Pokon and some coastal teacher-evangelists who walked the 25 miles from Keapo (Yaramanda) to Wabag.
They decided to walk down the same day. While they were approaching Yangimaus (Laiakam/Birip), night fell. There was another patrol post (where the Timothy Lutheran Seminary is located now). They spent their very first night in Enga there. Early in the morning of Nov 3, 1948, after breakfast, they started their onward journey toward the mission station – Keapo or Yaramanda.

Finally, at Keapo Knoll, the first mission station (Yaramanda)
It was the same day that the two men set foot at Keapo where the mission into Enga was going to start. At this time, most of the Melpa carriers had already returned, however, only few stayed on to see what unfolded in the new mission station.
Nov 7, 1948, was the first Sunday in which the missionaries and the local people, about 40 of them, (man only) met for the first time to hear the Good News about Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God.
And so, a church was planted by the Holy Spirit through the missionaries, especially Hintze and Burce. Hintze died when he was 92 years old, while Burce continues to live at 95.

Church expansion
The first Lutheran baptism took place at Irelya (near Wabag) on Jan 6, 1957 when a group of 79 were baptized. These men, women and children were baptised by missionaries Willard Burce and Victor Heinicke.
Burce was the founding principal of Martin Luther Seminary in Lae. He retired in 1989 (after 41 years in PNG) and now lives in his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He is almost 95 years old and to this day speak fluent Enga.
Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 1957 was when the second Lutheran baptism in Enga took place at Yaramanda when 298 men, women and children were baptised. This was administered by American missionaries Otto Hintze, Willard Burse and Lee Strachbein. Among those baptized was Sir Pato Kakaraya (MP for Wapenamanda 1972-1987), now a committed senior member of Concordia Lutheran Church at Korobosea, NCD.
On June 8, 1957 a day before the baptism the church funded Timina hydro power plant became operational. Symbolically this was interpreted by the Engas that light has finally come to Enga. The hydro power plant is still in operation today, supplying electricity to the church-run Immanuel Lutheran Hospital at Mambisanda.

Education
The Highlands Lutheran School was opened on Feb 5, 1958. The school was a gift from the LCMS Women’s League of USA. It was established to meet the growing needs of missionaries’ children. It is estimated that more than 150 missionaries were based in Enga during the formative years of the Lutheran church there, thus met the need for their children’s education. Today the school now operating as Highlands Lutheran International School catering for both local and foreign students.
In 1957 work commenced for St Paul’s Lutheran High School Pausa. Classes began in February 1958 with 70 boys and three girls. The founding teachers were, headmaster Ken Bauer (US) and Dale Busse (Canada). The school was officially dedicated on Oct 23, 1960. The Australian school inspectors were astonished to see/hear Enga students speaking English with a ‘Yankee accent’, a notable example is Bishop David Piso.
Among the notable graduates of the school are retired doctor Timothy Pyakalyia, Enga’s first medical doctor, Col Paul Mai the such army officer from the province, incumbent governor Peter Ipatas, forming acting PM Sam Abal, Justice Lawrence Kanguia, Jacob Luke, Capt Ted Paki, Dr Sergei Bang, Dr Uke Kombra and Ambassador Andrew Yamanea.

Health
As modern health services were almost nonexistent in Enga, the LCMS Women’s League of USA, as a gift financed the Immanuel Lutheran Hospital at Mambisanda, near Wapenamanda.
Construction was carried out by seven men from the LCMS Walther League of USA, volunteers who gave their time, skills and witness without pay from 1955 to 1957.
The first doctor of the partially completed hospital was Dr Eric Hoopman who returned to Australia in 1956.
With the new mission doctor Dr Alfred Klomhaus, mission and government officials dedicated the hospital on June 22, 1957. Immanuel Lutheran Hospital was blessed with good reputation that some considered it to be among the top 10 rural hospitals in the world during the1960s and 70s. It became the ‘provincial hospital’ for Enga, the only church operated hospital to operate in that capacity in PNG.

Agriculture
Apart from health and education, the missionaries also started agricultural work in Enga. The first tractor was flown in a Hercules aircraft to start large scale farming.
The story is still being told that the locals, seeing the huge noisy “bird” landing at Wapenamanda airstrip, were stunned that what came out of her belly was nothing like her – it had no wings unlike its mother!
It was from working with machinery like this tractor under the tutelage of missionaries that the young Jacob Luke learned his trade and today runs of one of the country’s largest transport companies, Mapai Transport Ltd.

  • Article and pictures supplied by Ps Patrick Minato, chairman Andui Koralyo and deputy chairman Ricks Tanda, Concordia congregation of the GLC in Port Moresby.

Leave a Reply