Elinor Magowan, who is women’s pastoral worker at UFM Worldwide, talks to Rosie Crowter. Rosie is a UFM missionary in Papua New Guinea. Her sending church is Hambro Road Baptist Church in Streatham.
Can you tell us where you are living and working, and a little about your personal circumstances?
My name is Rosie Crowter and I live in Papua New Guinea (PNG), close to the border with West Papua. We are in the middle of a jungle, with a few houses dotted here and there, and the occasional road winding its way. This is my home since 1997 and feels normal to me.
I live on a mission station, where there is a hospital, community health worker (CHW) training school, primary school, Bible school and the Mission Aviation Fellowship.
I live on my own in a wooden house on posts about 7ft from the ground. The white ants, cockroaches, rats and stray dogs also think they live here!
When you first went out to PNG, what were you doing? How has your ministry changed over the last 18 years?
I first went to Rumginae to work as a community doctor, with a passion for holistic medicine and education about preventable diseases. I believe prevention is the way to improve the health of the population. I soon realised health is a spiritual issue in PNG.
My wonderful drama about mosquito nets protecting from malaria was lost on a population that knew that sanguma (magic) had made them sick! So I soon started to teach what God says about sickness and health, and how God is in control of life and death.
I enjoyed visiting our 12 aid posts in the remote villages and teaching our health staff, following up on the radio with patient advice and spiritual encouragement. After about five years I was doing a fair amount of Bible teaching, so I started working half time in health care and Bible teaching with women and CHW students and staff.
Then, in 2009, I completed the transition and began working full time with the Evangelical Church of Papua New Guinea. I am involved with ministry and training for church leaders and women, and now youth leaders.
So my ministry has really changed from what I and everyone else anticipated. I never thought I’d end up in a full time Bible teaching role, but am so thankful to God for the great privilege and opportunity, and for his amazing enabling.
What would you say are the biggest challenges about where you live and work?
PNG is the land of the unexpected. So, great flexibility is needed. Plenty of challenges come from living in a culture with different values and world view. There is a strong and synergistic holding to animistic beliefs, with God’s Word not penetrating life.
I am task-, time-, planning- and honesty-focused; they are relationship-focused and do not like being asked many questions, as that is intrusive!
Work happens when ‘needed’. So, if a relative dies, they do not come for their work shift. Misunderstandings are plenty — there is a hidden meaning to try and hear — and they read hidden meaning into what I say. This can lead to misunderstanding of why I am here, with jealousy and suspicions; and misunderstanding of where we get our things, and expectations to get ‘things’ too.
How have you seen your needs of all kinds provided for?
God is faithful in every way. He does not always provide what I want, but always what I need. I would have loved a prayer partner, but instead have prayed with many different people over the years. I have learned to depend more on God and look more to him than to others. Financially, I never had to ask for money; my support has been wonderfully provided.
What encourages you the most about your work?
It thrills my heart to see people understanding more of God and his Word, and to see lives changing. I love the many opportunities I get to pray with people and encourage them from God’s Word.
How do you seek to keep your relationship with the Lord fresh and vibrant?
The best thing I’ve done is to spend ‘Mary moments’ sitting at Jesus’ feet, reflecting, journaling, praying, reading. I thought I was too busy, but it’s a great investment.
I start each day on my veranda, singing, reading and praying, rejoicing in my Creator as I look at the beautiful river and see the sun rise (maybe!). I try to read helpful books, currently on the joy of fearing God and on prayer. I like to re-focus at lunch time.
You have a number of short-termers coming to work with you as part of the team at Rumginae? How do you try to support them while they are with you?
God brings many different people to us, for example, from the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. There is a richness and diversity in God’s family that it is a privilege to be part of. We are encouraged by different insights and experiences that people bring, whether for three weeks or two years.
Many find they are out of their comfort zone. Sometimes this means that issues surface and need to be worked through. Many find they learn different things than they expected, usually about God and their relationship with him, rather than the tropical medicine they thought they came for. Many have gone away stronger in Christ. I am surprised how significant Rumginae has been in so many lives, and is remembered fondly as a growing time, even if challenging.
The changing dynamics as people come and go, and continual forming of new relationships can be draining. But we are thankful for the privilege of enabling others to see God at work in a different context.
We have Mission Aviation Fellowship here, usually two pilots who stay about two years (currently from Switzerland, and South Africa). We also have a US/Swiss couple from SIL/Wycliffe, who are involved in ‘Bible story telling’ in the North Fly villages.
What would you say to a young woman wanting to do a similar work to yourself?
Wonderful! You will learn many things, especially about yourself! And you will be moulded and shaped in unexpected ways. Be a good learner. Listen and pray. Live close to God. It is not about what you do, but about who you are in Christ. That shows in your life and is so much more important than anything you may do.
We gain more than we can ever give in the richness of God’s worldwide family and in his purposes through them to us.
What kind of support have you appreciated from people at home, especially during times when communication (such as internet) has been difficult?
Communication has greatly improved over the years. There was one shared phone at the hospital when I came and no internet. So email has made a huge difference, and now I can sometimes Skype.
Some people still send ‘snail mail’, which is always good to have. Most of all, I appreciate faithful prayer; that is what I need most of all. And even if I don’t hear from people, if I know they are praying, that is great. I am humbled that some pray for me every day, even people that hardly know me.
What prayer requests do you have at the moment?
My number one prayer request is to become more like Jesus. That seems to be a slow process.
Pray I will be more gentle, more compassionate, more patient, and that Christ’s love will fill me and overflow from me.
Pray for our working together with respect and cooperation, especially among the leaders at the hospital and community; people do not seem to want to take responsibility. Pray for wisdom in my use of time and energy. I want to be salt and light.