To market, to market …

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Lae Main Market is in the heart of the city, drawing over one thousand sellers each day. There is constant noise from those spruiking their prices, and general chat between sellers and shoppers alike.

The majority are selling their own produce, from a mat on the ground – taro, kaukau, green leaf crops in dozens of varieties, paw paw, pineapples.

And … bananas. Forget your simple choices in Australia – Cavendish, Lady Finger, or perhaps the organics with the red mark on the end. Here there are varieties of cooking bananas – long and green with a dry, fibrous texture or short thick yellowish ones, which Keith accidentally bought and wondered why they never ripened [Our staff though that was hilarious]. What we know as “normal” are termed “mau” (ripe) bananas, which still seem to come in different sizes and colours.

Thankfully, the sellers are quite happy to give guidance to an uninformed shopper. They smile and politely respond to our queries of “Em mau banana?” or “Dispela kaikai, nem bilong em?” (Is this banana ripe?, What is this food called?)

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The quality is high, as everything is ‘vineripened’ as it were. No cold storage or gas treatments. Some comes down from the Highlands, where the cooler climate enables growing of potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and broccoli. These stalls tend to be on the tables under cover – a privilege I assume sellers pay extra for. What is available varies greatly, so we have learnt to eat what we find. It is fresh and ripe, which means we are having to go to market twice a week.

The absence of cold storage tends to make you think twice before buying fish and meat products. The sellers are constantly attentive to wave away the flies. The place is very clean overall, as everyone washes and sorts their produce, forming small piles into one or two kina lots (1 kina is around AUD 50 cents). There are no scales or per kilo pricing, and they don’t haggle – prices are clearly marked on cardboard tags, and if you want it, you buy it. Once we wanted several kilo’s of tomatoes for making relish, so asked for a “number two price” – it caused some confusion for a while. [We were given a discount, but I won’t rush to try it again! – Keith]

We enjoy the market20150501_image (3) experience. You find yourself studying the faces of the sellers as much as the goods themselves. Many are holding infant children as they work; some are attentive to each prospective customer, rearranging stock as you approach; others look resigned to the heat and bustling crowds as just part of their daily lives. Whenever possible, we buy from the ones who look like they need a helping hand – the young breast-feeding mothers or hopeful teenagers starting out with their own stall.

There are stalls for clothing and other hand-made items; bilums (woven or knitted bags) or the 1 kina alternative of a re-purposed rice bag for the careless shopper who forgot to bring one from home. [We have quite a growing collection!]

As you walk in, realising you forgot your bilum, the sellers at the gate evidently realise this too – the excited shouts of “1 kina, 1 kina” follow you all the way as they hold up their stock of bags. You try to avoid eye contact, all the while knowing that attempting to carry three days worth of vegetables, a paw paw and two pineapples around a crowded market is going to be near impossible. 20150501_image (8)

On your way out, you can buy a fresh chook for dinner – after you kill and pluck it that is – or invest in a carton of chicks a few days old and be prepared to wait. Meat in any form is expensive compared to produce, hence expatriates and locals alike tend to minimise consumption if they aren’t raising or catching it for themselves.

 This situation can make life fairly tough for those without land as a means of production. Around town there are countless roadside stalls selling manufactured goods, often trying to profit on buying wholesale and re-packaging – everything from sweets and biscuits, to fuel in Coke bottles. These are often the displaced people, who come to Lae looking for work. You really feel for them as you drive around town.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38

As always, we can learn from the example of Jesus in this – he saw, he understood the real needs, and he moved others to pray and then to get out and do something about it.

Please pray …

  • for us all to have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16) in regard to our worldview
  • for faithful harvest labourers

Lest we forget…

The Lae community commemorated ANZAC Day with a dawn service at the War Cemetary. It is a beautiful place, and represents a significant aspect of PNG history and the relationship between PNG and Australia.


Serving Australian and PNG Defence Force (ADF and PNGDF) personnel based at Lae’s Igram Barracks officiated, with an NZDF Officer representing New Zealand, and over 300 people attended. The ceremony commenced with a lone bagpiper from the PNGDF, and, of course, the Last Post and Reveille on bugle was a moving moment. It was encouraging that there were two scripture readings, followed by heartfelt prayers from two local chaplains.

A Turkish Australian spoke of the way in which the graves on the Gallipoli Peninsula are tended by caring locals. “There is no difference between Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side… After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.”

At the conclusion, a number of small wooden crosses were distributed to the children present, to be placed on some of the headstones. The crosses were sent by various Australian schools, with messages from the students acknowledging the sacrifices made.

As the national anthems of our three countries, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and New Zealand were played, I could not help but notice the contrast.

The PNG anthem features…                              New Zealanders rise to the words…        Now give thanks to the good Lord above           God of Nations at Thy feet,                                 For His kindness, His wisdom and love              In the bonds of love we meet,                             For this land of our fathers so free,                       Hear our voices, we entreat,                             Papua New Guinea.                                                     God defend our free land.

Australia, alone, makes no reference to God in her anthem. We focus on the natural wealth and beauty of our land without acknowledging the Creator who blesses us in this way. Further, we declare our intention to rise amongst the nations as we “toil with hearts and hands”. [Though, if you only hear the anthem at the opening of a footy game, you may not have caught the second verse!]

King Nebuchad20150426_2nezzar had a similar attitude;

As the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”  (Daniel 4:29-30)

A time of humbling follows, and Nebuchadnezzar comes to “praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.” (4:37)

I know that an anthem does not determine a country’s attitude to God, but ours is a fairly strong indicator of the desire of many to see God excluded from the future of our Australian society, and sanitised out of its history.

There is a lot to be said for the role Australia has played, and continues to play in PNG. Economically, politically, legally – there are strong bonds between us, and the people know it. Amongst the locals, much is also made of the positive impact the gospel has had on society, on communities, and on families. Sadly, in Australia, we seem to have largely forgotten.

Please pray … 

  • praise God for the acknowledgement of His blessing in PNG
  • pray that God raise up leaders – both in PNG and Australia – who recognise God’s authority

Faith comes from hearing…

Our staff had the opportunity to sit in on a recording session, as a Wycliffe team are producing a dubbing of the Jesus film.

The script, based on Luke’s gospel, has been a number of months in the making [we mentioned this task in our last newsletter ] and, over two weeks, 25 roles are read by 18 people from the Central Buang area. The young man pictured in the centre was reading two lines in his portrayal of the angel Gabriel (Luke 1) – a nerve-racking experience before a crowd of ‘gawkers’. The sound technician, Emos, was encouraging him to ‘tok aut strong’ (speak up), and then added a bit of angelic echo effect to add to the ambiance.

The older fellow [blue shirt] to his right is Mose, the senior co-worker who has been involved in the translation work in Central Buang over several decades. He has been instrumental in developing the script with SIL translator Bruce Hooley, and was tasked with the village casting for the recording.20150420_1

One of our Guesthouse flats acts as recording studio, editing suite, and home for the three-man technical team for two weeks. At other times, these sessions are conducted in the village, with the advantage of a steady supply of back-up vocalists. The benefit here in Lae, is that the PNG nationals involved can focus on the task away from the distractions of everyday life – the downside being that this takes them away from family, gardens, and often leadership roles in their village and churches.

It is encouraging to see their commitment to this project, and the confidence that such a resource will be used by God to turn people to Himself.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? and how are they to hear without someone preaching?….. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.      Romans 10:14,17

Please pray …

  • that the powerful ‘preaching’ of the Jesus film will see many come to know Christ
  • thanking God for the creativity of those seeking to proclaim the gospel in every tribe and language