June 1925 – December 2009
In 1956, Charles and Pamela Craig were sent with the Australian Baptist Missionary Society to what was then Dutch New Guinea, today known as Papua, to work in a pioneering situation among the Dani people of the North Baliem Valley. They established the station at Maki and was instrumental in the establishment of the church there.
While there, they saw a wonderful movement of the Spirit of God making himself known, with literally thousands of Dani men and women turning to place their faith and hope in Jesus Christ. In true modern missiological method, Charles was part of a team of men and women who allowed the Dani the freedom to develop their own distinctive ways of following Jesus.
This is revealed by what is said in the book that he and Pam wrote about their missionary service, Sky People in a Stone Age Community: “In true Dane style the first communion service took place accompanied by specially composed chants. Pieces of sweet potato were served from banana leaves on wooded platters. Wild raspberry juice was poured from drinking gourds into folded leaf ‘cups’ and distributed.”
As a board minute of appreciation indicated: “He took a keen interest in evangelism and Bible teaching and shared in the administrative work of the West Irian field as Secretary of the Field Council.”
Charles served through the tumultuous times of transition for the people of Papua as they moved from Dutch oversight to becoming part of the Indonesian nation. He saw something of the changes that would start to lead a “stone age people” into the challenges of the modern world.
In it all he provided an example of humility and godliness that encouraged those in the leadership of the church in Papua to follow his example. Reflecting on the increased maturity of the Dani leadership of the church, Charles declared at the conclusion of their missionary service, “This was a glorious end to the most thrilling period of our lives.”
We are thankful that in God allowed Charles to be a chosen instrument of His in the work of Global Interaction to touch the lives of the Enga and the Dani. Today, there are more than 100,000 followers of Jesus amongst these two people groups.
Because of tropical illness Pam and Charles, with their four children, returned to New Zealand. He became pastor of Kumeu Baptist Church from 1968-72. This was followed by 40 years in Christchurch where they pastored at Bryndwer 1972-79 and Kaiapoi 1985-1990. Charles also taught maths at Burnside High School between these pastorates.
In their retirement years Charles and Pam have been tremendously supportive and active church members, recently at Illam and over the last seven years in Bethlehem after moving to Tauranga.
Charles will be sadly missed. His prayers, words of encouragement and warm handshake has strengthened many people. All who knew Charles are grateful to God for his outstanding commitment to mission and his example of Christian character.
– Jeff Ireland, Global Interaction (formerly Australian Baptist Missionary Society); and Craig Vernall, Pastor Bethlehem Baptist