Arrived in Port Moresby, Capital of PNG, on 21 March. It was a direct flight from LAX. We spent the afternoon and evening at the Capuchin Monastery and left the next day for Kimbe arriving around noon. Bishop Bill picked us up and delivered us to our new home on the Kimbe Diocese campus.
The next day, Friday, we headed for a remote village, Kaliai by Bishop’s Toyota pickup, an hour ride through Palm plantation and then on a banana boat, dingy, with 60 hp out board motor. Cargo, Bishop, Karen, one deacon, two seminarians, the operator, helper and me. Seven souls and a load of cargo, not sure but believe we were overweight. After five hours of being beaten up by rough seas we arrived in Kaliai which was our home for the next three nights. Rustic is the best description. We slept in the Priest house which included an office, kitchen, dining and living room, three bedrooms and two baths. Somehow we survived with no running water or lights. I was so proud of Karen, the city girl, did not complain and made the best.
Next day we launched the dingy for a 2.5 hours to arrive in Bariai another small village. Bishop Bill and Fr. Yarek, a Polish Priest recently assigned as Pastor, administered Confirmation to more than 300 children and adults.
Upon our arrival at the Diocese campus in Kimbe we were greeted by local parishioners with songs and greetings. They decorated us with flowers. It was very heartwarming welcome to our new home by our new friends. Likewise our arrival at Kaliai we were greeted in a similar fashion. Although we were included I am certain it was more for Bishop Bill than us. Our fellow Lay Mission-Helper, Danita Kurtz from Long Beach, traveled with us. Palm Sunday was celebrated in Kaliai, most beautiful ceremony. The rustic church, St. Theresa the Little Flower, in need of maintenance and expansion was packed with people sitting on the grass around the church.
One of my new responsibilities is to visit each parish in the diocese, 19 in all, and document condition and needs. After lunch I walked the grounds taking pictures, estimating building size and condition. The parish grounds includes the priest house, church, school and health center building. All of these in need of repair and a couple buildings need demolishing. The villagers will be a large part of the labor force, just not sure of their capabilities. The newest building was built in early 70's and there is no apparent maintenance, just fix as it breaks. The health center is in great need of a new building and restoration of the existing. Distance is a big issue and the fact the only way to access the village is by water further complicates the building and maintenance.
After another long boat ride we arrived back in Kimbe on Monday. Karen and I spent the day unpacking and I did a little grocery shopping. Our kitchen is very small and in need of cleaning. Spent considerable time attempting to clean to discover much of the stains were not lifting. Spent Saturday sanding and painting the kitchen walls and cabinets. Next project is to build upper shelves for storage, currently no upper cabinet shelving. Floor is bad and we will deal with it soon. Just as in Kaliai, the Kimbe buildings are in need of varying degrees of maintenance; added to my to do list.
The Bishop, Vicar General and I met with a local engineer/builder who is working from architectural plans, developed a plan to replace the sanctuary of the Cathedral. A much needed improvement as the current roof leaks and is in sad condition. Our hope is the construction will begin in a couple months or sooner and complete in eight to twelve months. The Bishop has been working on funding and it looks as if the funds received and committed will be sufficient for the construction phase. The Bishop will be travelling for the next three months so it looks as if Fr. Gabriel, Vicar General, who is a native of PNG and a most gentle person, will be managing the new construction.
Fr. Gabriel, Dcn. Simon and I travelled to Ulamona a small village about four hours north. Father gave a talk to a group from seven area parishes and I spent the time inspecting and documenting the buildings and grounds, much work needed. On the way we stopped so I could inspect the buildings at Silanga and on the return trip we stopped at the small parish in Bialla to document and inspect. Same general condition as the others.
I have visited 5 of the 19 parishes. More travel over the next few weeks. Then we will build a master plan and begin the much need maintenance and repair. Please pray that funding will be made available.
Life in PNG is a much slower pace than back home in the U.S. However, taking care of necessities, groceries, laundry, etc. takes much more of our day. The language is officially English but in Kimbe and the remote villages tok pisin is most widely spoken with some English. Tok pisin is influenced by English, German and local languages. Moning = morning, avinun=good afternoon, pikinini = child, meri = woman, man = man, mammeri = people, kaikai = to eat or food, guri = earthquake (experienced four or five since arrival and the village Ulamona sits at the foot of the largest active volcano in PNG). I am not totally longlong = crazy but close. We need merimeri = mercy.
Please pray for us as we are praying for you. May God bless you a guide you in your daily lives.