Married to a church worker in Papua New Guinea, I regularly ask the Lord to "take my life and lead me to someone in need, and give me the right words and actions to make a difference in lives."
What a warm welcome awaited me earlier this year from the 27 women inside Buimo Kalabus (jail). Peggy was quick to show me our year-end holiday dates in Australia had been crossed off the calendar--they had been waiting for me. After all, I had been back in Lae three days! How was my holiday? How are the children? With questions answered, a chat, gifts given and a prayer, the visit was over.
My connection with the Buimo women began 18 months earlier. Having never been "inside" before, as the gate locked behind me at 8.30 on Sabbath morning, I wondered what lay ahead. What a surprise was in store.
We sat on the floor around the perimeter of the room for worship. Three women led out in singing, another told the mission story, and another told how the Lord had answered her prayer during the week. Eileen Joe and I gave brief talks.
The ladies asked if Suzette--a four-year-old Papua New Guinean girl, who is part of our extended family and was the first child allowed inside to visit--would say something. Without hesitation, she stood and said, "Nau harim mi olgeta meris, Jesus says in the Bible, you must love your enemies and do good to all that hate you."
As 95 per cent are in there for murder, how relieved I felt when they applauded and said, "Amen." I walked out of the kalabus with the promise I would return. I had just had one of the best Sabbaths, one I would never forget.
I had noticed only two of the women had Bibles, but most seemed keen to learn of Jesus. Having purchased Pidgin Bibles with donations from Australia, I asked if the warden could give me the names of prisoners she thought would read a Bible--not just accept one because it was free. On Tuesday I returned with excitement to see grown women--convicted murderers--crying as their names were called out. To feel their firm embrace as they showed their gratitude was unforgettable. If only those who had donated the Bibles could have felt the joy of that moment. Words cannot describe the atmosphere of the room or my feelings.
What a joy to see them using the Bibles! When sending a message, they always include a Bible verse.
In December last year, three women sang of their past life of sin and how they now were going to follow Jesus all the way. I believe the courts of heaven were ringing on January 1, 2005, as five female prisoners were baptised, with others ready for the next baptism.
What a thrill for me, when Maria said the turning point in her life was when she had received her Bible. She was admitted to hospital that afternoon with appendicitis. The following afternoon, I happened to visit the ward where she was lying. We talked of the love of Jesus and how He remembers our sins no more when we ask for forgiveness, then we prayed together. Two days later, as I walked from the children's ward, she was waiting for me. She asked me to always remember her and the other women in my prayers.
I am so pleased God made sure I had time to visit the kalabus and the hospital that extra-busy week. I did not dream that my meetings with Maria would be the means of turning her life around. I never dreamed when the warden locked the gate behind me that first time that I would play a small part in lives being given to Jesus.
As Betty wrote, "Mi yet ridim Baibel, God i opim eye bilong spirit man bilong mi na mi tok thank you long God Papa. Mi laik tok tenkyu long God Papa i bringim mi kam insait long haus kalabus. Nau mi mekim decision long bihainim Jisas olgeta taim long laip bilong mi."
Life for a modern-day missionary in Papua New Guinea is rewarding. I am thankful to those who taught me the possibilities that come with time and to God who gives me life and opportunity for service.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favour has come. Luke 4:18, 19. Margaret Davis is from Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, and lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea.