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USA missionaries in PNG: 'I cried for a week'

SUZANNE NOLAN WISLER | Monroe News (Michigan USA)

Regular readers will know that PNG Attitude occasionally republishes articles about missionaries, usually from the USA, who are about to embark on a Papua New Guinea journey. Frequently these people have misconceived ideas about PNG and we publish perhaps in the forlorn hope that exposure of such misconceptions may assist remedy the deficiency. The New Tribes Mission seems to be an especially persistent offender....

The Cookes are new missionaries with New Tribes MissionA MONROE COUPLE AND THEIR CHILDREN are embarking on a 25-hour journey to Papua New Guinea, an island country just above Australia.

The family first sensed a need to serve nearly three years ago.

“We felt the Lord moving overseas missions on our hearts,” said Mrs. Cooke.

As proof, things fell together.

“We found out about a need for a nurse for a clinic there,” she said.

Mr Cooke spoke to the doctor, who’s been serving PNG for 13 years. They had a good rapport. Then, after investigating several missions organizations, the couple found New Tribes Mission, which seemed a perfect fit for the position.

“God worked it all out,” said Mrs. Cooke.

Next came 2½ years of planning.

Their house had to be sold and most of their possessions had to be given away. Family pets needed new homes and all six family members had to get visas. Mr Cooke had to get a PNG nursing license, which alone took a year.

Typhoid and hepatitis A shots were necessary and money had to be raised.

“It’s been a process,” said Mrs. Cooke.

But the Cookes’ believe all the work is worthwhile, as medical personnel is greatly needed in the country.

“The medical care in PNG is limited at best. The few hospitals are located in the cities unreach­able by most citizens and are of poor quality. The majority of tribal people believe puri puri (witchcraft) can both cure and cause disease,” wrote the couple on their blog.

Mr Cooke will work with two clinic doctors, doing whatever is needed for PNG residents and its more than 300 missionary families.

“Keeping the missionaries and tribe healthy. He’ll be doing emergency things where he flies out to the tribe,” said Mrs. Cooke.

Medical problems include malaria, typhoid, hepatitis and accidents.

“Missionaries build their own churches and homes” and some­times get hurt, she added.

Mr Cooke worked for Prizm Pain Management in Canton, but had been a trauma nurse in a Detroit emergency room.

“That really prepared him,” said Mrs Cooke.

Mr Cooke will receive no pay for his work. Missionaries are fully donor-supported. Help came from local people and churches, especially Monroe Missionary Baptist.

“The church is huge supporters of the international mission board. Without them, (it would be) very hard to go,” said Mrs. Cooke. “The church gave us a generous love offering. It will get us there and sustain us.”

But, much more is needed. Although they are just at 45 percent of their goal, the family purchased plane tickets.

Their departure date is uncertain, as plans must be worked about with the embassy, but soon, the family will be living in a place vastly different than what they’re used to.

“It’s seriously the other side of the world,” said Mrs Cooke. “When I first looked into it, I cried for about a week.”

The weather is humid, and about 850 languages are spoken in the country, which is the size of California. All foods must be cooked from scratch and many fresh items must be soaked first in bleach water to avoid diseases.

“There are no road systems. All tribes are secluded,” said Mrs Cooke.

“Our home is in the absolute middle of nowhere. Food, equipment, medical, etc. all has to be flown in. It’s just like in National Geographic. Coca-Cola is there, but not the Gospel.”

But, then she learned her home, while simple and secluded in the mountainous Highlands area, will have electricity and a washer.

That news brought a change of heart.

“It’s such a blessing. We will have a lot of changes to get used to, but we won’t be in a mud hut,” said Mrs Cooke. “God will give us what we need.”

Mrs Cooke plans to help her husband in the clinic, but not full time.

“I’m going to try my hardest to work just a couple days a week,” she said.

The girls, students at Stateline Christian School in Temperance, will attend classes taught by fellow missionaries. Children for all different countries attend the school.

The girls are a bit apprehensive.

“The youngest is five and is excited. The older ones are scared,” said Mrs Cooke.

Nonetheless, the Cookes are hoping for a long-term commit­ment to PNG and its people.

“Our plan is to be there for four years, come back to Monroe for a year, say ‘thank you’ and then go back,” said Mrs Cooke.


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Jaana Pitkänen

I grew up in PNG as a missionary kid and I left 27 years ago. I still cry sometimes missing it so much.

Met some of the finest human beings on God's earth there. I had the best childhood. Pangia and Rabaul as ples. I wish the Cookes well, lucky buggers.

Jo Cooper

I'm curious why the Cooke family thought New Tribes Mission was a good fit. Are they unaware of its reputation? [It's now named NTM (CrossView Australia) here in the Antipodes.]

Most of the comments here have been positive towards missionary work. If you are a praying person I ask that you pray for this family's protection.

The safety of your family (physical, spiritual, emotional) is more important than any work that you think you are doing for God. I await the time when NTM is accountable for their conduct in PNG and fully face their systemic issues.

See the second heading "PNG" under

Or Google "New Tribes Mission abuse".

My wishful prayer is that those abused would be no longer silent, fearful, or live in shame. Papa God bless them.

Lauren Copley

Good post - I think you were trying to make comment about these folks "misconceived perceptions."

We can't blame people for not understanding another country before actually living there. Many people base their perceptions of the US off of TV shows like Baywatch... but believe it or not - Americans do not run in slow motion.

Kudos to the Cookes for stepping out with a heart to help. I pray they are a huge blessing to PNG as I know that the people of PNG are sure to bless them.

NTM has built over 25 airstrips, taught countless PNG citizens to read and write, and recorded over 70 languages of PNG in written form.

Kudos to them for helping the least reached of PNG have the same opportunities as those in folks that live in towns.

The educational services alone provided for NTM are key to giving the citizens of PNG access to the opportunities the rest of the world take for granted.

David Abbott

I've enjoyed reading the comments as much as the post itself.

Many indigenous people from all over the world who have actually lived in close proximity to New Tribes Mission members have very positive things to say about them and their service to indigenous people.

Steven Gimbo

I have worked with many missionaries over the course of 16 years, and even grew up in a mission station with them in the village; and I can say this family will have it easy!

The missionaries I knew were the ones who actually carried the Gospel in their backs and walked miles in searing, swamp-infested or 45 degrees sloped mountains, and slept with villagers in their mud-houses, and ate what was given to them by our people.

These are the real missionaries!

However I must also take the opportunity to thank the Cookes, for giving in to this missionary zeal and coming over to PNG to serve our people.

Let me warn you however, that departure from this land which you aptly described will not be will cry an extra week!

Triscilla Waikasi

Thanks Mr and Mrs Cooke for the committment. I am a student of Divine Word University and I am part of the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship.

We have prayer meeting every Tuesday.And all this time God has been convicting our hearts to pray for missionaries all over the world. Just want to let you know that you're not alone, we'll be praying for you.

God Bless and God's Best in everything you do.

David Kitchnoge

Welcome to PNG the land of the unexpected!

We are not perfect, but we can give the Cookes some nice food for thought in the way we live our lives and do things here (pasin).

Even if they don't save anyone here spiritually, I'm sure they will save a lot of lives physically in answering their call.

I'm sure it will be a mutually beneficial experience.

Maureen Wari

I agree with Martin. Add one more week to 'I cried for a week' when you are finally leaving this 'seriously other side of the world' of always 21+ hours of flying time anywhere from the East Coast or Midwest to Port Moresby (PNG) via Australia one way!

It doesn't help much when popular TV programs (nat geo/wild) in the States show 'Eating with Cannibals in PNG', PNG's Cave People' and 'Lost Mummies of PNG, to name a few, but not much else on modern PNG.

To a lot of viewers, these will be the only images they associate PNG with. And it is not everything about PNG.

Trust me, real PNG has the most friendliest, always smiling, trusting and ready-to-help lot of humans one can find anywhere in this world. Get to know the simple people. You'll create for yourself an extended family.

Welcome and Blessings for the PNG chapter of your lives. Ps 23.

Martin Hadlow

Most of us cried after we departed PNG, so upset were we to have left our 'second home'...not before we got there.

Marcus Mapen

I sincerely do appreciate the work that missionaries have done in PNG over the years and continue to do today (my own dad worked with a few).

Without missionaries PNG wouldn’t be where it is today and even I wouldn’t be here writing these comments.

Not to offend anyone, but for me the 'real missionaries' arrived here more than half a century ago.

Peter Kranz

Come on people, this is yet another example of naive fundamentalist Christian missionaries claiming they are 'saving the natives'.

Surely many PNGians recognise this as the last gasp of colonialism, whipping up righteous dollars from the ignorant folks back home who are too scared to get out of their chairs and visit the jungles of Alabama.

White King-wara indeed!

Ganjiki D Wayne

Looks like they're in for a surprise when they get here. "No roads", "everyone secluded", "food soaked in bleach water" (that's a first I gotta say).

New Tribes has some of the best mission stations across the nation. I'm sure they'll be comfortable.

Bless their hearts. yes may God use them mightily.

Vero Kaupa

It is good that you committed yourself and your family to do and carry out God's word and it is also a miracle that all your plans work accordingly.

PNG is a great place and you will get use to it after you adapt to its system.

May the good Lord bless you and your family for the wonderful work you will do to help us Papua New Guineans.

Joe B Hendrix

What a commitment for the cause of Christ! I am going make some time to pray for all your plans and needs. May God use you to minister to the lost. Great testimony.

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