A Bible school is held an- nually at the Arawa High School on the island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. It is generally held in the first week of January and this year went from Saturday 2nd until Sunday 10th.

For Brothers Neville Rice and Michael Scerri, Sister Bronte McLean and her son James, it was their first visit to this mission area. The remainder of the group, Brother Greg and Sister Bronwyn Hagen, Sister Suzy Hagen and Brother Paul Duke were old hands.

Demanding travel

Papua New Guinea advertises itself as the Land of the Unexpected and it didn’t disappoint. In retrospect, travelling to Buka, then across the Buka Strait on to the main island of Bougainville on New Year’s Day was not a good idea. All the transport drivers had been celebrating the New Year and were in no fit state to take us to Arawa, which is a four-hour trip on a demanding road.

‘Accommodation’ was found which was a least a roof over our heads, even if the sleeping arrangements and toilet facilities left a lot to be desired.

An early start the next morning saw us join the Hagen family at the Women’s Training Centre in Arawa and this, to the arriving group, seemed like five star accommodation compared to the night before.

Start of the Bible School

The Bible School always starts with a social night and as usual, paper hockey and the balloon bursting games were favourites.

The majority of the brothers and sisters live in the mountains and it is a four-hour walk down and a truck ride to get to the High School. They have to carry down bedding and cooking equipment plus anything else they might need for the week. By 10.45 on the Sunday morning a substantial number of the group had not arrived. Brother Kevin Nason, the capable secretary, thought that they were only half an hour away. An impromptu soccer match was arranged for the young and energetic (and those who thought they were) to fill in time.

In the more than 30 degree heat and 100 percent humidity, the crowded classroom was an interesting sight when the meeting finally got underway about three-quarters of an hour late.

Public lectures

The two themes of study through the week were the Patriarchs from Abraham to Joseph and the Book of Chronicles. The evenings were a mixture of educational videos and two special public lectures by the local brothers in Tok Pisin. One lecture was on the need for baptism and the other on prophecies concerning the Kingdom of God. Excellent material was presented in these two lectures as well as some wonderful lessons from the lives of men and women in the Genesis and Chronicles records.

An opportunity to fraternise

The annual Bible School presents a great opportunity for the local members and their families to fraternise at close quarters at the Arawa High School, where they spend the week. They sleep on the wooden floors in the classrooms and cook over an open fire. There were no complaints about the tuna on bread slices prepared by local sisters for lunch. Neither were there any complaints about the volleyball and soccer games organised in the afternoons, particularly by the young people, who greatly outnumbered the brothers and sisters.

The final Saturday afternoon was the traditional concert and the highlight was probably the play about Pharaoh (Brother Pius) and the ten plagues. The young Sunday School scholars were all able to be part of the plague of frogs – a standout Sunday school performance.

Memorial Meeting

During the week there were probably 100 attendees of all ages and at the last Memorial Meeting there were 28 local brothers and sisters and eight visitors who took the emblems. The sleep deprived local families maintained their enthusiasm and were all smiles for the traditional group photo at the conclusion of the school.

We climbed aboard Brother Chris Asiop’s Toyota ten-seater and set off for Buka, wondering whether 2016 will see our Master’s return and a joyous reunion of brothers and sisters of all countries and ages.