Project Canterbury

Message to Mission Staff, 31 January, 1942 [Radio Broadcast]

Bishop Philip Strong, Bishop of New Guinea

From The New Guinea Diaries of Philip Strong, 1936-1945, edited by David Wetherell, Appendix B, pages 222-223.

Reproduced with the permission of the Editor and the Archbishop of Papua New Guinea.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of Melanesia, 2006

Now I would like a heart-to-heart talk with you. As far as I know, you are all at your posts and I am very glad and thankful about this. I have from the first felt that we must endeavour to carry on our work in all circumstances no matter what the cost may ultimately be to any of us individually. God expects this of us. The Church at home, which sent us out, will surely expect it of us. The Universal Church expects it. The tradition and history of missions requires it of us. Missionaries who have been faithful to the uttermost and are now at rest are surely expecting it of us. The people whom we serve expect it of us. We could never hold up our faces again, if, for our own safety, we all forsook Him and fled when the shadows of the Passion began to gather around Him in His Spiritual Body, the Church in Papua. Our life in the future would be burdened with shame and we could not come back here and face our people again; and we would be conscious always of rejected opportunities. The history of the Church tells us that missionaries do not think of themselves in the hour of danger and crisis, but of the Master who called them to give their all, and of the people they have been trusted to serve and love to the uttermost. His watchword is none the less true today, as it was when he gave it to the first disciples--"Whosoever will save his life will lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake and the Gospel's shall find it."

No one requires us to leave. No one has required us to leave. The reports some of you have heard of orders to this effect did not emanate from official or authoritative sources. But even if anyone had required us to leave, we should then have had to obey God rather then men. We could not leave unless God, who called us, required it of us, and our spiritual instinct tells us He would never require such a thing at such an hour.

Our people need us now more than ever before in the whole history of the mission. To give but two examples:

1. Our Native Ministry. We have accepted a big responsibility in the eyes of all Christendom in founding a native ministry. We have given birth to it. We are responsible before God and the Church for its growth and development on sound Catholic lines. It is still but in its infancy. We cannot leave it to sink back into heathenism. We must stand by that to which we have given birth.

[223] 2. Our Papuan Women. Our influence is just beginning to tell with them. How would they fare if all our women missionaries left. It would take years to recover what the locusts had eaten. Our Papuan women need the influence of women missionaries today more than ever.

No, my bothers and sisters, fellow workers in Christ, whatever others my do, we cannot leave. We shall not leave. We shall stand by our trust. We shall stand by our vocation.

We do not know what it may mean to us. Many think us fools and mad. What does that matter? If we are fools, "we are fools for Christ's sake". I cannot foretell the future. I cannot guarantee that all will be well--that we shall all come through unscathed. One thing only I can guarantee is that if we do not forsake Christ here in Papua in His Body, the Church, He will not forsake us. He will uphold us; He will strengthen us and He will guide us and keep us though the days that lie ahead. If we all left, it would take years for the Church to recover from our betrayal of our trust. If we remain--and even if the worst came to the worst and we were all to perish in remaining--the Church would not perish, for there would have been no breach of trust in its walls, but its foundations and structure would have received added strength for the future building by our faithfulness unto death.

This, I believe, is the resolution of you all. Indeed, I have been deeply moved and cheered more than I can say by letters I have received from many of our staff this week who have been in a position to communicate with me, and I have reason to believe that others who have not had that opportunity think and feel the same way. Our staff, I believe, stands as a solid phalanx in this time of uncertainty. Their influence has already had a stabilizing effect on the community, and though harm has already been done, counsels of sanity are beginning to prevail again in the territory before the damage has become irretrievable. However, let us not judge others, but let us only follow duty as we see it. If we are a solid phalanx, let us see to it in the days to come that it is a phalanx of Divine Grace, for only so can it remain unshaken.

I know there are special circumstances which may make it imperative for one or two to go (if arrangements can be made for them to do so). For the rest of us, we have made our resolution to stay. Let us not shrink form it. Let us not go back on it. Let us trust and not be afraid.

To you all I send my blessing. The Lord be with you.

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