AROUND 1938, A 16-YEAR OLD BUKA YOUTH, Paul, and a friend sailed from their island of Bougainville to big New Guinea with Seventh Day Adventist missionary A J Campbell to begin the adventure of their young lives.
Landing at Salamaua, they walked with a team of village-recruited carriers to the newly formed mission post of Kainantu in the Eastern Highlands where they were to serve as general helpers for the newly appointed European workers.
Buka Paul proved to be a faithful employee and felt called to become a missionary himself After attending classes at Putput (later to become Kambubu Adventist Academy), chanting arithmetic tables and absorbing Bible stories to Grade 3 level, he was sent to a village near Omarau to teach under the direction of a senior Mussau Islander.
Because Paul was single and did not speak the local language, he failed to impress the older people. But the children loved him dearly and gained an appreciation of the gospel story.
Kamito, the village sorcerer, scolded the children and threatened to poison Paul's food, claiming no one could survive such strong poison. Paul assured Kamito that God would preserve his life and there was nothing to fear.
The work of God expanded rapidly and a new mission station was established at Bena Bena west of Kainantu when Sakimau, another worker from Mussau was attacked and died on the track while bringing supplies from Madang. Then Kuka, also from Mussau, disappeared mysteriously after accidentally killing a pig. Later it was discovered he had been murdered.
In 1942 the Japanese invaded PNG and all European missionaries were evacuated to Australia. Buka Paul was commandeered as an army cook.
Then a drought lasting 18 months set in, storage water ran out and creeks dried up. The military doctor asked Paul if he and his worshippers ever prayed for rain. Paul replied that they could, and if God saw fit to send rain He would.
So the doctor requested prayer. This was Friday, the sun was still shining but as it neared the west, the church bell rang for opening Sabbath worship on Saturday. Four boys and several mothers and children filed into Kainantu SDA Church sang some hymns, read a scripture and prayed earnestly for rain.
Soon after, dark clouds rolled up the Ramu gorge and rain began to fall, continuing all through Sabbath until the tanks were full and overflowing. From then on many soldiers attended church receiving messages from natives who had previously been in darkness.
By 1945 the Japanese were being forced to retreat and the Australian government needed help to restore normal village life, so a few experienced missionaries were invited to return to PNG.
Pastor C Mitchell went to Port Moresby, Pastor C Pascoe to Omarau and my father, Pastor F Boehm, went to Bisiatabu in the foothills of the Owen Stanleys.
Buka Paul was nowhere to be found, so word was sent out amongst the villagers for him to come to the mission station. An extremely broken man turned up. Pastor Pascoe then conducted an official wedding service for Paul and Narto and baptised them both .
God blessed their union with six talented children: Ernie Robert, a building contractor; Ronga, a mission teacher; Heather, a bible worker; Ora, a high school teacher and businesswoman; John, a builder and mechanic; Jeffrey, a minister and local mission president; and Rhonda, an office worker.
In 1954, Paul and Narto moved to the Western Highlands to work with John Newman. (1963), Lou Grieve (1965 ) and Elwin Raethel where the mission provided Paul with a BSA Bantam motor bike to enable him to move into the Wahgi, Tari and Lai valleys.
At the North-East New Guinea camp meeting in 1952, Paul was ordained to the gospel ministry along with several other native workers who began to baptise large numbers of converts.
At Tetamanda, near Sopas Hospital, Paul and his associates baptised 27 new believers marking a new day for our work in PNG. But the baptism that remained most memorable in Paul's mind was one held in a mountain stream at Frank Aveling's sawmill at Tomba Pass. A bulldozer formed a rock pool at a height of 9,000ft where crusts of ice had formed on the still water
Paul was a devout family man and hated parting with his children as they grew older. During the late 1960s he was moved to the Sepik Mission to assist Pastors Les Parkinson and later Lionel Smith.
Work constantly took him away from home by small plane to the border territory with Irian Jaya and by river truck along the mighty Sepik.
Previously Paul had become a vegetarian but now on the coast fresh fruit and vegetables were hard to come by and he had to eat a lot of sago which adversely affected his health until he was hospitalised.
Fortunately doctors diagnosed his case and put him on a strict diet of mixed vegetables, nuts and fish and he regained his strength.
Thirty years after leaving Mussau, Paul returned to Bougainville in 1972 as assistant to Pastor Bob Donaldson. Two years later he became Personal Ministries and District Director of the Bougainville Mission, a position which he held until his retirement.
In this capacity he represented his people in Australia, accompanied by his beloved Narto. By this time several of his children held important positions in the church.
But trouble was brewing as civil war broke out in Bougainville. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Paul and his fellow Adventists suffered greatly under the (Bougainville Revolutionary Army.
Peace eventually returned and Paul enjoyed his remaining years until 2003 when he fell asleep in Jesus while living with his daughters in Paghui village. Thus ended the life of Pastor Buka Paul who was one of God's jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own.
Ken Boehm was born in Port Moresby of missionary parents in 1937. After completing Grade 10 in Gosford, NSW, he began an apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery in Rabaul. From 1966 he was a contractor in the private sector and also worked for the SDA church in Rabaul. He began 28 years of service for the church in the Sepik mission then worked as clerk of works, property manager and a college lecturer at Sonoma College and later at the Sopas hospital. He was involved in design and construction projects for the church's volunteer teams from Australia, PNG and New Zealand. He retired in 1997 and now lives on the Central Coast of NSW. He also wrote the story about Deni Mark which has previously featured in PNG Attitude.