In December of 1987, Dr. Robert Meyer, Southeast Asia Director of Baptist International Missions Inc., Dr. Tom Wallace, who was then an evangelist, and I took a mission trip that turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We had great meetings in India, Singapore, and Indonesia. The most memorable was what we experienced in New Guinea.
One of the highlights was a service in the town of Goroka. The church house was filled with hundreds of people. Approximately fifty children sat on the floor. All three of us preached. Not one child left their seat. I still can’t believe how quiet and attentive the children were for a three-hour service.
John Owens who had been in New Guinea for many years had a great church and a Bible college. He and other missionaries had started churches in many towns and villages. On Sunday the church had a great meal for all who attended. For days they prepared for this great feast. Large holes were dug and the hogs were cooked slowly.
I shall never forget seeing flat bed trucks bringing hundreds of people for the service. We who were visiting preached in several village churches early Sunday morning then all us of went to the church in Lea.
Well over 2,000 people were present and many were saved. On Monday we had the graduation service of the Lea Bible College.
After the activities in the Lea area we left for Port Moresby. Missionary Ken Jenkins had started a church and also had a Bible college. We preached in churches in and around that city and again had a graduation service for the Bible college.
While attending Lynchburg Baptist College, Ken had come to the realization that God was calling him as a missionary. As he prayed concerning where he should go, he read the biography of James Chalmers who was a missionary in New Guinea. James had extreme success in reaching many tribes and villages in New Guinea. His first wife died in 1879 and his second wife died in 1900. In thirty-five years as a missionary he only returned to England three times. The following paragraph is from his biography: “Little did James Chalmers and his missionary colleague Oliver Tomkins know, as they waded ashore at Risk Point on Goaribari Island, New Guinea that they were walking toward their deaths. It was Easter Sunday, April 8, 1901, and the villagers rejoiced at their arrival, inviting them into the newly constructed communal house. However the festive mood was a stark contrast to the piles of human skulls nestled around the crude wooden idols in the corner of the hut. Without warning the natives attacked and dismembered their two visitors, passing the limbs to the women to be cooked, mixed with herbs. In those moments Chalmers and Tomkins passed from Easter Faith to Easter Presence.”
As Ken read this biography, he realized that God was calling him to New Guinea. On Monday before we left, Brother Jenkins took us to a village that he had said from our time of arrival that he wanted us to visit. We drove his jeep through a short distance of paved road, then on to a dirt road, and then we walked through the jungle. When we arrived at the village it was raining and all the men were in the village. They were very short. They greeted us with hugs. I could not help but see they had very sharp teeth. I was thrilled that the missionaries had been to that village before we got there. There were many little huts in the village and in the middle of the village there was a hut with a cross on top.
One of the students from the Bible college in Port Moresby was from that village and had started a church. Nearly all of the villagers had been converted and baptized. We were then told that this was the village where James Chalmers and his companion were martyred in 1901. By 1987, most of the villagers were converted to Christ.