Missionaries on a mission

The National,Monday June 20th, 2016

CRAIG Jessop of Balclutha in New Zealand is on a mission in the true sense of the word.
A Christian mission has been taking him to Papua New Guinea twice a year since 2014, where he volunteers for an ongoing upgrade of the Kapuna Rural Hospital in Gulf.
This remote jungle hospital is on the Wame River, about 320km south of Port Moresby.
However, his association with PNG goes much further back, to when he was just a teenager, when his parents ran a hostel and mission in Wewak, East Sepik.
“Being a missionary is in my blood. I do it because I can and because there is a need.”
South Otago has strong missionary connections in Papua New Guinea.  Former Clutha doctors the late Peter Calvert and his wife Lin Calvert, now 92, became missionaries at Kapuna in 1954.
Their youngest son, Colin, and wife Barbara are continuing this work, to improve the hospital, through Gulf Christian Services.
During the past 60 years, the connections have kept growing through Balclutha’s St Mark’s Anglican Church in New Zealand, with local teacher Carol Roger deciding to take up a teaching post at the Kapuna school.
The problem was she had no classroom to teach in, which is why Craig was roped-in to go over in 2014, to put his building and mechanical skills to use.
“That’s what started it and I’ve been going over twice a year since then.  I’ll be returning in September to carry on what we’ve been doing.”
On that initial trip, and on the latest mission, he was joined by carpenter Phil Canning, originally from Clinton.  They are members of a five-strong volunteer working party, which has just returned  from Kapuna. Among them was local electrician John McKenzie, also with strong connections to this community, having looked after the hospital in the mid 1990s, to give the Calverts a break.
“I went for eight weeks and I stayed 15 months,” he laughs.
Jessop and McKenzie’s strong ties to the people and place has inspired others, including linesman Barry Woodrow, of Balclutha.
“It was my first time in PNG, but not the last time.”
This is despite coming down with gastroenteritis for the first eight days of the group’s three week mission.
“Let’s just say the place is infectious,” he jokes.
Balclutha electrician David Hall also took his first trip, and possibly not his last, during April-May.
Craig says Kapuna definitely leaves a lasting impression on people. It feels good to be helping people, many who would otherwise die, being so far from critical-care medical assistance, he says.
“When you take someone over there, something happens to them. You’re going there to give something but you receive so much more. The people give so freely of themselves when they have so little.”
He is also raising funds to build or buy a barge to transport supplies and to possibly purchase a digger. – The Southland Times.