Good books change the culture — God’s book changes lives. The first Assembly missionaries working in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s were initiators of literacy- teaching methods and the production and printing of hymn books and other literature for new churches across many denominations. They were involved in the translation of the Bible into the lingua franca of the nation and were working with others in the production of Scripture Union Bible Study Notes and Christian Radio programs. To the missionaries, having already opened a Christian bookshop in 1969, it made sense to bring the various literacy and literature ministries together into a stand-alone ministry. Christian Books Melanesia Inc (CBM) was established in 1973 for the purpose of publishing and distributing material for evangelism, Bible and literacy teaching.
Under God’s hand, the work continues today. In Papua New Guinea, a developing nation, there are immense challenges facing this ministry. Coping with technology that works well in the first world is a constant battle. For people who have so little monetary wealth, it is often a cause of unimaginable conflict when they are told that buying and selling Bibles and Christian books is a ministry and not just a sanctified means to make money. For this reason, and with God’s wisdom, it is necessary to promote the ministry, run the business and grow the people.
Training staff is essential. Very few come to the ministry with anything more than a basic education and the desire for a job. CBM aims to recruit grade 12 school leavers who are taken on as 3-year interns. With on the job training, Cambridge International College and Emmaus Bible Study courses, they are enriched socially, academically and spiritually. All this is paid for by CBM. Those who do well are offered permanent jobs. All those in the training gain good experience in a Christian workplace and new skills.
We also have some wonderful and mature Christians who are working with CBM.
Nakapo Konde joined CBM as a school leaver. She took on the role of typesetter, learning the trade when printers were throwing out their boxes of fonts. Proportional spacing typewriters and floppy disks were at the leading edge of technology. Nakapo is now a proficient operator using the most modern software. Through the last 40 years she has prepared hundreds of books for publication. Nakapo brings to her work a love for the Lord and His Word. She says that in her work, having repeatedly read so many good books, she has grown as a Christian.
A later member to the team is our human dynamo, Sue Metusela. Sue is a wife, a mother and one of the bookshop managers. Sue became a Christian in 2009. Sue’s daughter was seriously ill, at the point of death. In answer to prayer, the girl was restored to health. At that time Sue turned to the Lord, committing herself to serve Him. Sue likes to tell others about Christ, letting them know that when you commit yourself to Him you will have assurance of peace, joy and His strength. Being able to serve as a bookshop manager, distributing very good books is a great match for Sue’s gifts. She serves with enthusiasm, joy, and the necessary resolve to lead her staff and confront the daily challenges. Sue is not alone but is typical of Christian people serving with CBM.
Good books are the heart of CBM’s ministry. It has been amazing to see CBM publications being distributed in the schools of Papua New Guinea. Eric Schering has written books that target the social and cultural problems confronting students. He has a unique gift in applying the wisdom of God from the Scriptures and writing in ways that engage the students. Eric writes with a pastoral heart, understanding the problems students face, knowing the culture, having been a missionary in the country for 40 years, and loving the gospel. But not only does Eric write, he has established relationships with principals in some very large secondary schools. Already this year Eric has visited ten different schools in five major cities and distributed books in 15 schools. By this means Eric distributes thousands of his books. Public schools or Catholic schools, it makes no difference. The principals love the books and some personally use the books for teaching the subject of personal development. John, a principal who teaches 800 students in grades 9 to 12, five days a week, has seen the books change the dynamic in his school, which is now ranked among the top five schools in the nation. He attributes the success of the school to the books he is using. He has said “Everyone is asking us why we are in the top five. My reply is we put Christian instruction first, and one of these is Eric’s books. You are linking Christ’s work with life character building.” The school uses books titled 10 Hot Topics and Eleven More Hot Topics. Another principal has said “These books get at the root causes of the social problems in our culture.”
We say Praise God for the power of the Scriptures.
Gutnius is another book God is graciously using. In Tok Pisin, it was written by Les Loader to explain the gospel simply. Using the typical Billy Graham outline, and replete with Scriptures, people are finding that they come to a fresh understanding of the good news. In some cases it is leading to reinvigorating churches and evangelism. Later this year, at a women’s conference, this book will be used as teaching material for more than 1000 women. The leaders are being blessed as they go through the book in preparation for the conference.
God has sustained the ministry of CBM for 57 years. Keep praying. Pray that God will raise up mission-minded people with gifts to help Carol Luttah drive the ministry into greater effectiveness and efficiency for the years ahead. On the back of the COVID-19 crisis and given the challenges in the PNG economy and the political landscape, CBM needs our prayer and help. Do you have a desire to serve the Lord in such a ministry?
By Les Loader