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The Gospel Spread Along the Huon Gulf

Along the coast of the Huon Gulf the Gospel spread like yeast, among the Kates it had been like a storm.  First the Kela people were contracted.  They were related to the Jabems.  Among the Bukawas, there were many who understood the Jabem language (p.139 GNM).  Bamler made a visit down the coast as far as Nassau harbor, half way to Morobe from Malalo.  He reports that he preached the Gospel to two thousand people.  (January 22, 1906)  Some months later Decker traveled to Kela.  He was asked for missionaries, if not white, then brown.  (p.140 GNM)

So gradually the doors for intercourse among the people opened up and the jail-like existence disappeared.  In a 1906 baptism at Pola, six hundred guests of Jabem, Tami, Taminugedo and Bukawa were present including three cannibals from the Markham.  In 1907 there were ten baptisms among both kate and Jabems.  In 1909, of three hundred and eighty one people in Jabem, only sixty were baptized.  In Deinzerhill three hundred and sixty five had been baptized by that year.  (p.141 GNM).

The Deinzerhill influence was spreading along the coast.  Requests for missionaries continued to come.  In 1900 already, a Bukawa man had sent taros weighing five pounds each to Bamler at Deinzerhill as an invitation.  Finally, in 1906, Lehner was assigned to the Bukawas were famous as warriors and cannibals.  (p.144 GNM)

A couple of months after Bamler’s trip to Nassau harbor, Flierl and Lehner landed at the main village of Bukawa to select a station site.  When they arrived, the chief first asked that a devotion be held for himself and for his people.  In 1905 the Bukawas had still laughed at and ridiculed the missionaries.  (p140 GNM).

When Lehner arrived to settle, he was welcomed by all, also by some former school boys.  People helped to build the station.  They had already prepared and carried to the building site eighty heavy Kuila posts.  The lay missionary Keppler from Australia, who had been at Sattelberg, helped with the building so the house was finished in five months.  (p. 144 GNM).

Lehner immediately began catechetical instruction.  In 1907 the same time which could hold only half of the one thousand guests.  From that time on, only those who have received one year of pre-instruction in the villages were accepted.  But still sixty new names were registered.  On Sundays the average attendance at church was four hundred.  Some people walked ten to twelve hours from the Lae area.

Mailaender and later Johann Rupert helped Lehner.  One hundred were usually in instruction.  Two hundred and fifty were usually in pre-instruction in the villages.  By 1923, two-thirds of the one thousand three hundred were baptized.  (p. 145 GNM)

For the new work among the Kela, Mailaender and Boettger had been chosen.  No School boys from there had been instructed as yet, but connections with the Tami for trade of pots continued.  Christians from Jabem and Deinzerhill stayed among the Kela for days or weeks, telling Bible stories and teaching Christian songs to the children.  Bamler visited often and spoke of a great hunger for God’s word.  The people even built small churches before the Missionaries came and held devotion.

After much searching, the missionaries settled on Samoa harbor and hill called Malalo as the first station site.  On October 12, 1907 work was begun.  While building was still in progress, instructions for baptism had to be started.  On Sundays, two to four hundred people gathered near the station. (p.146.GNM)

In 1908, instead of fifty chosen for catechetical instruction, one hundred appeared.  In 1909 a new course of one hundred and twenty-six catechumens was begun with one hundred and seventy in pre-instruction.  After two years and three months, both church and house building was over.  The understanding of what the Gospel meant was still immature.  People were very much afraid of sorcery.  Six men in one village killed their chief who was suspected f sorcery.  In 1912, when some people burnt the bullroarers of their Balum cult, people in another important village took precautions by magic against the revenge of the ancestors and encouraged young men to observe culture taboos.  But most people regarded such precautions as English.  Four to five hundred people came to Sunday services.  Johannes Flierl prepared for furlough in 1908, he visited Kela.  Three thousand people came together, shook hands with him, and gave him a coconut.  Even the sick in the villages sent coconuts as a thank offering.

In the nearby mountains were the Kai and Kaiwa people.  In 1909 Mailaender reports that these also wanted to hear the Gospel.  (p.147.GNM).  At the dedication of churches at Lababia (1910) and Laukanu (1911), the mountain people came as guests in great numbers.  Later the coastal people followed the example of the Sattelberg people and started mission work in the mountains. 

When the missionaries came, they did not notice much population on either side of the mouth of the Markham.  An early German prospector, named Dammkoehler, had reported a population of ten (10) thousand up the Markham.  One day’s walk inland lived the Laewomba whose blood thirsty warriors decimated the coastal people.  The 1907 missionary reports mention three such bloody attacks.  Once seven were killed, then thirty, and the third time twenty-eight.  The Lae people whose village was on the North Side of the Markham mouth, were in danger of being wiped out completely.  During a 1907 visit Lehner found villages without people.  The Labus lived south of the Markham mouth (p.148,GNM), protected there by water canals and swamps.  Their existence was pitiful.

All of these villages have contact with the mission at Cape Arkona and begged for the protection of the mission.  Flierl spoke to the officials of the German Government proposing a police station near the Markham.  Since the Government has no adequate resources he sent instead two punitive expenditures did not find any people so pacification remained a problem for the mission.  This was fortune.

On April 23, 1909, Lehner, Keysser, Mailaender and Prof. Neuhaus went up the Markham in two Labo canoes.  The river was in flood and the party could only go 20 kilometers in two days.  They also saw no Laewombas.  Then Lehner tied some presents on a tree as a sign of friendship, started a small grass fire, and then the party left.  In two hours the current took them back to the mouth of the river.

On May 9th, after services at Cape Arkona (p.149.GNM) a brought a Laewomba spear as a sign of peace by the Laewombas.  In five days a peace two Labos and one Lae went along as advantages to Laewomba and three Laewombas went to Labo.  Lehner received a present and an invitation to visit Laewaomba. 

On June 3rd, Lehner, Prof. Neuhauss and the Lae leader Wogang, who went along as translator, went to the Lewombas.  In the evening the party reached the chief Laewomba village numbering two to three hundred people.

The next step was to establish a station.  Missionary Rupert was assigned.  On January 27, 1910 he landed at Lae.  There Oertel met him and they built a shed at Lae.  They made a trip and saw three well-occupied villages.  Other villages of the valley were partly destroyed or deserted.  The next tribe, named Zifasin, had made war and killed some men taking both women and children captive.  The missionaries succeeded in getting two boys to help in learning the language.  (p.150.GNM)  Rupert, however, could no longer make trips due to a chronic cancer on his foot.  So he was assigned to do business work at Finschhafen.

In the meantime Gottfried Schumutterer had been assigned to the task o beginning work at Lae.  He had helped Lehner at Cape Arkona.  Near the end of 1911 he arrived at Lae.  Five hundred people were there to welcome him.  The scattered Lae people slowly gathered together again.  Now they trusted the peace with the Laewombas.  (Letter of January 21, 1912).  The Missionary seemed to be a rescuing angel to the people.  There was no question of whether they wanted to become Christians.  Everyone took it for granted.  In 1912 the first thirty-four were baptized.  Then it became necessary to start several new classes.  In the first school, sixty boys enrolled.  The next year saw a girl’s school with twenty-six girls established.  Mrs. Schummutterer was the teacher.  Now it appeared that there were one thousand and six hundred people in the Lae villages. 

Also the Labo people came out of the swamp and built on dry ground.  But the labos were hesitant about the Gospel.  The Jabem language was very difficult for them.  And the Labo sorcerers had threatened anyone who might accept the Gospel.  The young people in Labo decided to kill the sorcerers but the Missionaries advised against this step.  (p.151.GNM).  So the young people caught the two sorcerers, tied then to poles, carried them to the shore and threatened to leave them for the waves if they did not renounce their sorcery.
The result of this action was that the two were subdued and later asked for baptism.  One became an evangelist to the Laewomba.

The Labos had reviously also been a terror to the Laewombas.  Mailaender reported in a letter of March 8th 1910, that the Labos had attacked a Laewomba village, carried away both the dead and the living, tied them like animals in their canoes, and butchered them after arriving at Labo.  The meat was then smoked.  The Lae people had participated in similar deads.

The leader of Lae, Wogang, who became a pillar of the congregation, told his missionary of thirty-six people he himself had killed and eaten.  Schmutterer reported that the Labos were the wildest heathen but became the best Christians and sent many workers into mission work.  Both the Labos and Laes brought the Gospel to the nearby mountain people.  In 1915 the first station was established among the Musom.  Soon after a station was established among the Musom.  Soon after a station was established among the Waing at Kwalis.  Three other stations were then started on the tributaries of the Busu.  By 1920 Lae supported ten evangelists on five stations.  In 1921, 1025 shilling were collected at Lae for the support of their workers.  (p.152.GNM)

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Last Updated on Friday, 08 July 2011 13:31

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