The PNG Letters.jpg, 14kB


This compilation of my lettersis not a story, or even a re-telling of a story; it is simply mypersonal correspondence over the two year period while we were away in Papua New Guinea.

I have not re-worked the letters, apart from a little editing out of some sensitivematerial and the adding of the photos and the other extras. I havespecifically done this so that the progression through the twoyears can be seen in 'real time' as it were. The misconceptionsin the first months have been left as is, as have all thedevelopments and changes in thinking, even the rush to come home at the end. But this raw view will therefore need to be read witha little caution: many of my initial thoughts and comments werebased entirely in unreality (my Australian world view, undergoingculture shock and superimposed over a 3rd World Papua NewGuinea), my views of work practices, attitudes and the like hadyet to be tested by real life. I had yet to come to grips with this new culture and the culture of the College.

The final letter in thisseries was not the completion of our experience in Papua NewGuinea either. As all missionaries will tell you, the experience of themission field stays with you for your entire life! But thatstatement, in its simplest interpretation, is a little trite forwhat the experience, or pain, entailed; the cross-culturalexperience did not come full circle until we attended a re-entryweekend organised by PALMS. This event, run by two Nuns, helpedput our experiences into perspective and bring the process into completion.

Although I have dedicated thisCD to my family, who were brave enough to come with me, I amabsolutely indebted to just about everyone else mentioned (and sometimes not mentioned) inThe PNG Letters, for making it such a successful time(even if I didn't think it was successful at the time). From thestaff at Good Shepherd College who were brave enough to accept usinto their midst, to the local nationals who so heavily andlovingly rely on the services of Lay Missionaries and accepted uslike they accept all other missionaries. I, like every other LayMissionary I have spoken to, has come home feeling that they have received much more than they have given!

I would like to complete thissection by encouraging all those who have the tiniest inclinationto the missions – be that local, national or international– to follow Jesus on that particular journey. It is one ofthe greatest things you will do for yourself, God or the world.


It's hard to believe that this whole adventure started wayback in 1990. I had just started my TAFE course (Associate Diploma in Applied Science [Landscape]) and I realised bythe flood of good marks that I was good at this studying business.It occurred to me that not only did I have something to offer themissions, I almost had a responsibility to 'tithe' my qualifications.

I first applied to CBMI (who work with the handicapped to enable them tofarm without seeing), who very tactfully suggested that I might like to finish my course first.

I did go on to finish my course, and to gain prizes for thehighest pass over the four years and highest pass in the region.I had enjoyed revisiting education: I surprised myself in how well I could do!

We converted to Catholicism during my studies at College, andin my last year I was recommended to a project home builder… and my landscape design business was born!

I worked at my Landscape Design business for some 5 years,building it up, enjoying it; when the missions surfaced again. This time in the form of PALMS. Our Catholic Church carried a flier, and I was immediately interested.

As it turned out, we could not progress that year because oftiming difficulties with a trip to New Zealand. But the following year, after much soul searching and prayer by all the family, we decided to accept a post in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The discernment process was not all that smooth, possibly because I hadsaid to my children that if they really did not want to go, thatwe wouldn't go. I was very serious about that: it had to be adecision that each member made by themselves, each had to usetheir own faith and the family (corporately) had to use itscollective faith, because it needed to be something that the family did together.

Jesse was, Ithink, the one who didn't want to go the most, but all we said tohim was that before he made his decision he had to come to aninformation night to discover what he was making his decisionabout. We duly went to this PALMS information night and Jesse walked out of it saying, "We're going!"

Culture Shock
We were warned by PALMS at the orientation course that on the mission field culture shock can creep up on you, and affect you without warning.

We also discovered that the mission field is notsomething that you can learn about, it is something that you haveto experience. Reading back now over the letters so many of theproblems we seemed to encounter in the College were magnified byour "culture shock". We had very bad problems with some of thereligious at the College, it could be said that many people hadproblems with these people; but taking a fairly relaxed familyinto an adult religious and culturally mixed institutiongenerated some less than positive reactions. But the way itaffected us and the way we handled it, was not the way we really would havewanted to handle it, or the way we generally handled things in the past.

Looking back, it seems all too clear now. No, it wasn't allculture shock; and no, it was not all everyone else's fault, andit wasn't just the Devil mucking things up. I think culture shockcontributed by not allowing me to let pass things I should have.One of the Missionary Priests we got to know used to say that thestress of living in a close multicultural community would take 10years off your life. Good Shepherd College was no different (infact, having a high turnover of short term missionaries probablymade it worse), but the Chapel served as the central hub where weall could go for forgiveness and grace. This photo seemed toexpress in visual terms the situation: stormy clouds with the Chapel standing out like a beacon, Good Shepherd College from our House. Sometimes this process was more effective than others, see: The showdown at the O.K. Staffroom and If Jesus stood in front of you and said, "What do you want?", what would you reply?).

It's a shame that things had to be the way they were, but theywere; so what can you say? It's a problem of short term missions:you only get used to where you are, and it's nearly time to come home! Anyway, I've left most of that in here in it'snon-glorious beauty. There was a lot of constructivereconciliation before we came home, which was good, and writingthis now, some two years after leaving, it seems incredible thatthose relationships generated so much heat. But like it or not,missionary work is on the front lines, and you come underpressure in every area of your life: spiritually, culturally andeven physically. Just as a side note, I think the boys handled the problems so much better than Sandi or I!

Short Term Missions
And this is the conviction that I have come home with: That a short 2-3 year term is just too short. But that is the state ofcurrent lay missionary work. We discussed this subject often withthe Radcliffes and the Potters, who were long term missionaries with the Nazarene Church at the Hospital at Kudjip.

Lay missionaries, like career missionaries, have suffered frommissionary bashing. The world has got so much more selfish, andthe result is that people – even religious people –are not willing to commit for longer. It is such a tragedy: the fields are still ripe, and the labourers are still few.

I think that even though to go on the missions is an amazinglybeneficial thing to do – personally and spiritually – it was a very brave decision by each member of my family to make – remember each made their own decision to go. It is though a decision that I am veryproud that they had made. This compilation of my letters fromPapua New Guinea is dedicated to them: a small gift and reminder of the fun and excitement that we can have with God.
Perry Mowbray, January 2002


This CD has been one of the biggest things I have ever done, and it goes without saying that I could not have put it together without the help from many, many people.

  • My Family (again) for being so understanding while I've spent the hours putting this together;
  • Murray for burning the draft disks;
  • Independent Software Duplication for their very professional advice and services;
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