LAST week I started sending Easter greetings to a few friends.
One was Jim Fenton, an Australian. He was the patrol officer who in 1960established Kandep patrol post in what is now Enga Province.
The other was American missionary, Fr Jerry Gerald Theis SVD (pictured), who established the first mission station at at Pindak village, later moving to the present location at Mariant in Kandep.
I attended the government primary school but absconded when Fr Theis started Mariant Catholic Mission primary school near my village of Kondo. I didn’t like walking to Kandep every morning in the cold with barely any clothing covering my body. Fr Theis was my teacher at Mariant.
Fr Theis and Jim Fenton are two people mentioned in my book, I Can See My Country Clearly Now. They were the first to bring change to my backward people. I was privileged to meet Jim Fenton in Brisbane last year when I attended the Brisbane Writers Festival.
In 2013, at age 81, Fr Theis came to Mariant from Mt Hagen where he lived to celebrate his Golden Jubilee with my people – 50 years spreading the word of God.
I missed that special occasion but my family was there to participate in the festivities which lasted three days.
I want to share with PNG Attitude readers the Easter Message Fr Theis sent me a couple days ago.
Fr Theis’s Easter Message
We are a bit early in exchanging our greetings.
Thank you for news from my 'home' in Kandep. How have you been keeping? I hope that many people are clinging to the world view of Jesus Christ and not that of tribalism and politics.
Our USA culture 'stinks' these days and so I am still preaching Christ crucified, died, buried and risen. The mention of your sibling, Clara, brought back many memories. How is she? How is her life today? Of course I still remember Agnes Maiapu and the 'boys'.
Give my greetings to all your family and all the members of Kondo and surrounding tribes. Ask them to be forgiving of any harm I may have unknowingly caused in my youth and inexperience; pray for me a sinner.
[Signed] Fr Jerry Theis SVD (the 'J' in my formal name stands for Joseph. 'Jerry' is what my family and friends call me)
I thank him for starting the new mission school near my village. I don’t know what I would be doing today if Fr Theis hadn’t guided me along the path when I took those first uncertain steps to receive an education. Me, a boy straight from the village.
No, Father, nobody holds any grudges against you. You opened their eyes and years to the outside world. You showed my people a new way of life. Your good name still lives among them.
Of eight students you taught, one became a lawyer, one a high school headmaster, another a primary school headmaster, another a DPI Officer, another trained to be a surveyor but instead became a church pastor. The only girl, Agnes is a retired primary school teacher. And me? A radio broadcaster and journalist.
Thank you, Fr Theis. God will continue to bless you and keep you in good health to celebrate more Easters to come.