PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Salesian Missions Lay Missioners begin their work in Salesian programs in Port Moresby
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian Lay Missioners program through Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, has sent three lay missionaries, one from Ecuador and two from the U.S., to work in Papua New Guinea. The Salesian Lay Missioners program began sending lay missionaries to the country in 1993 but stopped in 2005. This is the first year since 2005 that Salesian lay missioners from the program have been back in Papua New Guinea.
Salesian Lay Missioners make a one to three-year commitment and are assigned to a Salesian mission, typically a school, youth center or parish, in one of the 132 countries where Salesian missionaries are active around the globe. Missioners spend time teaching, guiding and counseling children and their families as well as learning about different cultures and communities. They become part of a close-knit team of Salesian missionaries, volunteers and lay staff working together to bring hope to poor youth and their families.
This year, Stephen Stafstrom who is 21 years old and from Florida, and Matthew Nguyen, also 21 years old and from Texas, are part of the Salesian Lay Missioner program working in Papua New Guinea’s capital city of Port Moresby. Both are committed to carrying out God’s message through volunteerism and answering the call to give to youth in need.
Stafstrom says, “I graduated last May 2018 from the University of Central Florida. All my life I have been surrounded with witnesses of ‘yes’ to God’s call in their lives. From my mother’s example as a youth minister at my parish to the name of my parish itself “Annunciation,” the theme of choosing God’s will for your life has always been apparent; I have tried to live my life accordingly.”
Nguyen who graduated from St. Matthews University in 2017 notes, “My parents immigrated to America during the Vietnam War when they were very young, and consequently, I was raised in America, learning English and assimilating into the culture. I speak no Vietnamese and many times would have to learn a little Vietnamese here and there to communicate with some of my peers. This taught me what it means to be unable to communicate efficiently with others, yet I have also learned the joy of being able to communicate at all.”
Salesian missionaries in Papua New Guinea provide primary and secondary education as well as technical skills training to prepare youth for the workforce. Missionaries also help to ensure that basic needs like shelter, food and water are met so students are able to focus on their studies.
Papua New Guinea has a population of approximately 7.5 million. It is a resource-rich country with oil, gas and gold reserves as well as fertile land capable of producing high crop yields. Despite this, an estimated 40 percent of Papua New Guinean’s live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day, according to the World Bank.
Close to 50 percent of adults are illiterate and 25 percent of children are unable to attend school in the country. Part of the problem with getting to school, work and hospitals has to do with the country’s infrastructure. In rural areas where nearly 88 percent of the population resides, there are few roads or means of transportation to get to schools or places of employment.
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World Bank – Papua New Guinea Poverty