Christmas Eve 1932 at Tegemala: AE Brawn
Telemala is in West New Britain. The Rev. AE Brawn was the father of Eda Oakes.
We left Malalia (near Cape Hoskins) on 20 December for Walo—a five hour boat trip—and met the carriers to take our goods including food and medical supplies, which was the first box opened on arriving at a village, and salt and trade goods to pay the carriers. We started off early the next morning travelling through sacsac swamps, crossing streams again and again and a gradual climb up. Four days later we reached Tegemala.
I was the first white missionary to cross the mountain ranges and visit these mountain villages. (Pita Teu had contacted these people first.) After settling in, setting up camp, giving gifts to the people who had been carriers for the day and having our evening meal, we held THE FIRST CHRISTIAN SERVICE in the Magigi Valley at Tegemala. It was an unforgettable experience.
With the light of a couple of lanterns, and by the side of the fire (it was a bitterly cold night in the mountains) the Rabaul teachers who were with me and I sang Christmas hymns in Kuanua, read the scripture story, which Pita Teu translated into their language, and also my message, to people who had not heard before, the Christmas message. I can never forget that night, the stars were shining brightly, the teachers sang lustily, and I thought of the shepherds outside Bethlehem as they sat around their fire, listening to the angelic chorus.
The next day, Christmas Day, we set out for Kaiko, across the other side of the Magigi River, really a rushing mountain stream, which we crossed and recrossed a dozen times, the track on the mountain side was the roughest of all the areas.
We reached Kaiko at lunchtime, and settled the teacher in with a short service. Again a first for this village.
In the late evening we arrived at Ti, where after paying off the carriers, and having our evening meal, a service was held, the scene being similar to the one at Tegemala. We rested another day at Ti and, as we had done at the other villages, selected a spot for the erection of a church, and house for the teacher, also seeing the land which the people were willing for the teacher to have his garden.
Our return home took us direct from Ti to Malutu, crossing the range at another spot, then to Malusi, resting a night at each spot, then down to the coast to Walo, where the launch was waiting to take us back to Malalia.