A seeker in Papua – the journal of a young missionary, by Rev John Kissack Arnold
Compiled and Edited by Iris Pederick (Arnold) and Philip Pope
Price $50.00 (postage paid).
Available from Iris Pederick 31 Sydenham Ave , Manifold Heights, 3218. Tel: (03)5222 8202
Review by Pat Riddel
This is the journal of a young Methodist missionary in the mid-1920s, compiled and edited by his elder daughter, Iris Pederick, from hand-written diaries in her possession. A newly-ordained minister, at 27 years of age, Rev John K (also known as Jack) Arnold was appointed to the Salamo Training Institution in Papua New Guinea in 1923. Having lived in some of the islands where Jack Arnold lived and worked in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea, I found his writing to be compelling reading.
He kept very detailed diaries from May 1923 to January 1926, often combining humour with his keen observations. Fortunately for us he was also an avid photographer. His account is illustrated by a wealth of his own photographs of local scenes and people, some of whose names are familiar to us, plus many maps and sketches. Because of Arnold’s great interest in getting to know the people and their culture, and his desire to develop their faith, he spent a lot of time visiting people in their villages.
Some of these were reached by small boat. Others were only accessible by many hours of walking, crossing mountain streams by wading or inching across log bridges. He also made voyages to distant island groups, often in very rough seas in small boats.
Attitudes of ex-patriots to the indigenous people often reflect the times in which the diaries were written. Many such attitudes have changed over time. Arnold gives recognition to the missionaries from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga who contributed during the early years of the establishment of the work.
The writer believed he had been called to be involved in the biblical training of indigenous pastors but he was denied this opportunity and required to concentrate mainly on teaching literacy and numeracy.
He dealt with his frustration by doing considerable work with the Dobuan language which had been adopted as the church language. Linguistics was one of his many talents and over several years one of his achievements was to produce a grammar of the Edugauran (Dobuan) language.
This was later printed by the government and used by subsequent missionaries and teachers. The picture I have of Jack Arnold is of a talented and energetic man of faith and courage, one who seemed eminently suited to the situation in the relatively new Methodist mission of his time.
His Journal, with photographs and appendices totalling 400 pages, reveals his passion for the faith and the adventure of living. It remains to us as a wonderful historical record, making absorbing reading whether you have been to the Papuan Islands or not. Iris deserves credit for making these writings available to us.
Pat Riddel (nee Mylrea) spent 15 years from 1957 as a teacher in Papua New Guinea, most of it spent at Salamo (Fergusson Is), Wailagi (Goodenough Is) and Bwaruada (Normanby Is), all in the Milne Bay District. She then taught at the Christian Education Centre, near Rabaul.