News Release

Area President Organizes Sepik River District in PNG

On Monday, 13 February 2012, Elder James J. Hamula, Pacific Area President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, set out to create the thirteenth district of the Church in PNG. His mettle was tested that day as land and water were turned treacherous by heavy rain.

With him were President and Sister Fata of the Papua New Guinea Mission, several missionaries, and ten local police providing security. Their struggle began as they left Wewak at 4:00 AM in a convoy of four-wheel vehicles and a truck with seats along each side of the tray.

They were heading to Angorum, a distance of about 100 kilometers that requires four hours of travel because of the poor state of the road. PNG was in the middle of its wet season, making the many deep ruts, mud holes and corrugated sections even more difficult to traverse. On more than one occasion the missionary Elders pushed the truck up a hill as the convoy bounced and slid its way along.

Arriving in Angorum, the travelers prepared to board dinghies for going to Moim. Heavy black clouds, however, were gathering up river. President Ambuia of the new district joined the party and warned that heavy rains were imminent and that it might be better not to proceed up the river.

President and Sister Fata have faced many of PNG's difficulties--such as wading through crocodile infested waters, traveling across open seas in small boats with waves crashing over them, and being covered with swarms of mosquitoes. They were well aware that the approaching storm could deposit 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 inches) of rain in an hour, but the two considered it a minor inconvenience. Elder Hamula, also in the spirit of the early missionaries of the Church, had the dinghies loaded and told all to set off.

Then the rain came. It was so heavy that the river and surrounds were no longer visible. The dinghies disappeared from each other in the torrent until an hour later when they reached Moim.

The welcome planned by the villagers had been called off because of the bad weather. But learning of the arrival of the leaders, the waiting Saints quickly donned costumes and headed to the water's edge. There they found Elder Hamula had taken off his shoes and socks, rolled up his pant legs and stepped onto the flooded ground. Surrounded by loving members, he walked through the open mouth of a carved crocodile used to welcome important people to the village.

He then proceeded to the chapel, where he presided over the service in his thoroughly drenched clothing and created the Sepik River District--all in a day's work, and all in the line of his duty.

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