In 1626 the Portuguese explorer Jorge de Meneses and his crew became the first Europeans to see the island of New Guinea. The eastern half of that island is now Papua New Guinea, a place near and dear to my heart.
On a related point, when my twins were born on September 16th, 1976, someone at the hospital suggested that I name the boy Pendence, instead of Kurt, and the girl Inde, instead of Heidi. Those might seem to be strange names, but there was a reason behind it.
The island of New Guinea is divided into western and eastern halves. The western portion is now part of Indonesia. This portion was part of the Dutch empire until until as recently as 1961. The eastern half was at one point divided into German New Guinea (the north-eastern quarter of the island) and the south-eastern portion was administered by the British Empire. After World War I, all of eastern New Guinea became a protectorate of Australia, and it remained that way until 1975.
It was determined that this territory would gain it’s independence in that year, and so there were many preparations to be made. One of these was to create a national flag. There are a couple of stories about how the flag was designed. The first I discovered was that the flag was designed by a school girl after her school held a contest. This girl, Susan Kareke (or Karike), is given credit by most as the designer of the PNG flag. As I dug deeper, I found this story to be partly true, but there was something missing.
It seems that Susan designed a flag from a “test” flag originally created by Hal Holman, an Australian designer. He and a group of local PNG people had worked up a design, but since Mr. Holman wasn’t a Papua New Guinean, there was political pressure to have a local become part of the process. Thus, the contest was held and Susan altered the flag somewhat, with her final version being the one adopted by Papua New Guinea. You can read that entire story here.
We were in Papua New Guinea during the independence celebrations, and it was a festive time. We even have some film footage of the events. Jonathan was six years old and Dietlinde was just three. The twins hadn’t been born yet. In the video you can see the Papua New Guineans celebrating, and the Australian flag being lowered and replaced with the new PNG flag. Edmund had the sense to film the occasion. After all, it’s not every day that you get to witness a new nation being born!
A few months after the celebrations, however, I found out I was pregnant again. Aside from my carrying twins, there was little remarkable about this pregnancy. The interesting part happened when they were born on, you guessed it, September 16th, 1976. Papua New Guinea was celebrating it’s first anniversary of independence, and that was why a woman at the hospital suggested I name the twins Inde and Pendance. I’m sure Heidi and Kurt are glad I didn’t listen to her suggestion, but it’s made for an interesting story all these years.
Papua New Guinea celebrates its 40th year of independence this September 16th. There are many great things that have happened in PNG over those 40 years. Many of the languages now have a Bible translated for them, and many are well along the way. But the country has faced many difficult challenges as well. They greatest of these is probably a significant law and order problem, coupled with substance abuse, unemployment and high child mortality rates. This beautiful island could use your prayers!
In spite of the troubles, this anniversary will be an important date, and the people of PNG have a right to be proud. Please join me in celebrating Papua New Guinea’s independence, and praying for health, growth and stability in this beautiful island nation!