When I first met Daniel Dinan, he was a shy and somewhat skinny 18-year-old. That was back in 1985. Having just graduated from high school, he’d returned to his village near Tekin in the mountains of Papua New Guinea.
Daniel was the product of an education system that taught reading, writing and maths and promised a job, income and better life. In reality, Daniel was not one of the 20% who were fortunate enough to find a job or gain a place in a university. So here he was, back in the village where, apart from the occasional day’s work we were able to give him, he had no choice but to take up the rather unattractive life of a subsistence farmer.
On a recent trip to PNG I had the privilege of meeting up with Daniel again. At first he didn’t recognise me; he said I was looking older and had put on weight – I told him his eyesight was failing! Once he realised who I was, there were hugs, laughter, and tears as we recalled the times we had spent together at the youth group I had been trying to establish at the time (somewhat unsuccessfully, I might add), and the weekly Bible studies where he came to discover that, despite not being one of the fortunate few to get job, he was indeed a blessed young man who was loved by a God who had a purpose for him.
In the years that followed, Daniel grew in his faith and understanding of God. Eventually he was recognised as one of the leaders in his local church. A few years later he was sent to train at Christian Leaders’ Training College (CLTC) where he successfully completed a diploma in theology. When he returned to his home area he was put in charge of various aspects of the local Bible school. He spent 12 years training pastors before returning to CLTC to complete a Bachelor of Theology. Since then, he’s continued to train and supervise pastors in rural churches.
Today Daniel lives in Mt. Hagen with his wife and three of his four children. He’s the Senior Pastor of the Mt Hagen Baptist Church. He loves to preach and is recognised by the Baptist Union of PNG as being a very capable teacher and leader within the denomination.
Who would have thought?! Not me. After all, Daniel was just a young man who looked like he’d be planting, harvesting and eating sweet potato for the rest of his life – only God had other plans.
I tell you this story to encourage you to believe that the work we are involved in as New Zealand Baptists overseas, whether we go, pray, or financially support, does bear fruit. That fruit may not be seen for many years but the seeds that are planted, even in seemingly unlikely soil, can and often do produce a harvest.
Neil is Team Leader of tranzsend. With his wife, Barbara, he has served with tranzsend overseas in both PNG and Thailand.