Monday, February 26, 2007

New Tribes Mission - PNG History

Today there are over 850 missionaries with NTM-PNG working in 52 tribes. It all began back in 1950 when Chuck Driver was used of the Lord to open Papua New Guinea for the work of New Tribes Mission.

After preliminary surveys, Chuck and his family settled on the edge of the Hamtai tribe in the Watut valley of Morobe Province. At that time, many areas were designated as uncontrolled by the Australian government and women were not allowed in the interior. The Watut was the first Field Headquarters where for many years new missionaries came before moving into another work.

From the Hamtai, the work spread into the Eastern Highlands Province, beginning at Yagaria. Later, Yagaria became the Field Headquarters and an MK school was established there. Additional works began in a number of tribes over the course of the years. In 1970, Field Headquarters and the MK school moved again, this time to Numonohi (now called Lapilo) among the Benabena people where it remains today.

Works were subsequently begun in the Sepik Province along the mosquito-infested rivers where people were much more isolated. Many had not seen white men before and had little or no contact with missions. Maprik was the orientation center for all missionaries working in the Sepik Region and was the Sepik region’s headquarters. For a time Maprik was known as "tent city" until permanent dwellings were built. At the end of 2002 the Maprik base closed. Sepik Headquarters is now located in Wewak.

In July 1980 work began on the island of New Britain. Property in Hoskins, on the north coast, was obtained as a headquarters and the first tribe to be entered was the Lamogai. Works first began opening in West New Britain Province and then extended into East New Britain. A work has now begun on the island of New Ireland. A second MK school was started at Hoskins to meet the needs of the MKs from the Islands Region.

After surveys were done in the Madang Province in 1997 and 1998, a new work was begun on Manam Island in late 1999. In Jan. 2001 a land lease agreement was made for the location of a center to support missionary’s approx. 14 kilometers up the North Coast road from the town of Madang. In 2002 missionaries located in the Finisterre and Sarawaget mountain ranges.

The TAC (NTMA) program began in 1976 with the arrival of a Cessna 185 and Jim Cleveland as pilot, mechanic, and administrator, serving the Highlands and Sepik tribes. The fleet has now grown to include five Cessna 206’s, a twin engine Navajo Chieftain, two Beechcraft C-90’s and a Jet Ranger helicopter. The hangar at Goroka is headquarters for the NTMA program field-wide, with a hangar at Hoskins and at Wewak to service the regional planes.

The Fellowship of National Bible Churches (FNBC) was formed in 1980. Its purpose is to legally register the churches planted by NTM with the government so that any land or buildings might be transferred to FNBC, should NTM leave the area. The FNBC organizes annual conferences where hundreds of believers (mostly from tribes in the Highlands) gather for teaching and fellowship. Elders' workshops are conducted for those in leadership positions to help in specific areas concerning the government of a local church.


The field of Papua New Guinea is divided into five regions. Each has a Regional Committee responsible to oversee the tribal works and the support work directly related to that region.

The Sepik Region has its headquarters at Wewak in the East Sepik Province.

The Islands Region has its headquarters at Hoskins in the West New Britain Province.

The Highlands Region has its headquarters at Sobega in the Eastern Highlands Province.

The Madang Region has its headquarters at Madang located approximately 14 km up the North Coast Road from Madang Town in Madang Province.

The Lapilo Region (formerly called Numonohi) is located on 33 acres just 13 km (7 miles) from Goroka in the Eastern Highlands Province. All missionaries who live and work at Lapilo (over seventy families) are involved in support ministries that affect the field as a whole. The Field Headquarters offices are located at Lapilo. Close by Lapilo is the Interface (ITF) Campus, which hosts a College Level Missions Course.

The Highlands Region, Lapilo Region and Interface share the same address, since both are located near Goroka and use the same Post Office Box. Mail for the Highlands Region is distributed from the Mail Room at Lapilo, where it is either picked up by personnel from nearby locations within the region or delivered by New Tribes Mission Aviation (NTMA) to more remote villages.