From Europe to Papua New Guinea: looking beyond the horizon

Christian has been living in Lae, the second-largest city in Papua New Guinea since February 2017. Born in Graz, the Austrian is only now becoming acquainted with a completely different world. Here his report: looking beyond the horizon.

Advertisers call Papua New Guinea “the land of the unexpected”. “Now that I am experiencing it for myself, I can only agree,” is Christian’s impression. Familiar European protocols and manners are completely different here in his new home. The people are impressive on account of their warmth, friendliness, and willingness to help, however, it takes some time to become accustomed to the restricted freedom of movement resulting from the high crime rate and violence, says the Austrian. “Every day I discover something new and get to take a new look beyond the horizon. For this I am very grateful.”

Land of diversity

Papua New Guinea is a land of diversity. The third-largest island state of the world is home to no less than 800 different ethnic groups, each with their own culture, language, and tradition. The landscape is incredibly varied: mountains as high as 4,500 metres, volcanoes, vast expanses of grasslands, rainforests, and beautiful beaches with coral reefs in the South Pacific. The wildlife is extremely diverse. However, there is a high risk of contracting malaria in Papua New Guinea. “This is something I have already had to experience rather painfully on several occasions,” relates Christian.

Divine service in the settlement

Attending New Apostolic divine services provides a sense of home, says the Austrian. “Apostle Hungito, who also lives in Lae, picked me up from home and took me to my first divine service in April. We drove to the congregation together. It is located in a settlement, which is the term used to describe the many semi-legal groupings of Quonset huts in Lae.” His visit was a surprise for the congregation, says Christian. Before that, no European had ever visited the congregation. “The familiar choir hymns moved my heart, and the well-known liturgy, along with the celebration of Holy Communion, gave me the feeling of being at home. So it was that I came into contact with brothers and sisters who have the very same faith, even though they live very differently—a very nice experience for me.”

Great distances — great commitment

In the meantime, Christian has already had the opportunity to accompany the responsible Apostle Zuhuke Hungito to other congregations in the surrounding area. One experience of many: “Among others, we visited a congregation in the highlands. The trip there was challenging, but our SUV brought us through the rugged terrain quite reliably. Many of the congregation’s members, on the other hand, undertook a day-long—and rather arduous—trek on foot in order to participate in the divine service. For me it is incredibly impressive to see how the members practise their faith so joyfully—and go through so much effort to attend a divine service—despite the often difficult living conditions, such as poverty, high unemployment, high violence.” There were over 700 participants in the divine service, recalls Christian. A total of 41 children received the sacrament of Holy Sealing. “There is no need to worry about the next generation of New Apostolic Christians in Papua New Guinea.”

Working with the youth in Lae

Christian’s passion for youth work did not remain hidden for long. He had already worked as youth leader in his congregation in Austria. Apostle Hungito thus approached him with the question of whether he might be interested in working with the youth in his new congregation too. “The first youth event was an interesting and beautiful experience for me. The daily matters that move young people in this part of the world are different than in Europe. Yet our faith connects us even beyond continents.”

Chief Apostle Schneider visits the country

At the conclusion of his report, Christian becomes emotional once again: “The international Pentecost divine service 2017 took place in my homeland. I would have loved to be there, and indeed, I felt a little homesick for the first time since leaving. But the Chief Apostle’s visit to Papua New Guinea at the start of October more than made up for this. Together with other members from Lae, I was able to fly to Port Moresby and enjoy the Thanksgiving Day divine service there—an extraordinary experience for me! God willing, I will stay a little longer in Papua New Guinea. I am excited about all the things I will still experience here. But what I can already take with me now is the warmth and joy of the members, and I am very grateful that they have accepted me so warmly in their circle. There is a well-known saying that states: ‘Home is where the heart is.’ It is not difficult for me to find a bit of home among my brethren in faith here in Papua New Guinea.”

About the person:

Christian Hiris is 36 years old. Born in Graz, Austria, the development worker has been living in Lae, Papua New Guinea since February. His primary task is to ensure that people living in the rural and remote areas of Papua New Guinea, where there is no public health care available, have access to doctors and medical care.

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