Pilgrims: a selection of personal stories from members of St Philip's
by Vicki Luker, 2012. (Anglican News June 2012).
The Australian Board of Mission 2011 Modawa Pilgrimage visited Dogura, in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, the first mission station of the Anglican Church in Papua New Guinea. I was one of seven Modawa pilgrims. Every Pilgrim makes a different journey, even when they travel together. For me Modawa was inwardly life-changing, but I still find the experience difficult to put into words.
What, in essence, is pilgrimage? I heard one answer the day before we made our dinghy trip to Dogura. We were all attending the 10am Mass at the Church of the Ascension in Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay Province. The building was airy and open-sided, the benches full of men, women and children, and outside the odd rooster crowed.
In his sermon, Father John Dubabagi reminded us that God sometimes speaks in a soft, small voice—very soft, very small. Because our lives are noisy, we may find it hard to hear Him. So we must move closer. Perhaps pilgrimage is that: a moving away from the noise of life to listen closer to the voice of God. Another answer was expressed in a prayer shared by a fellow pilgrim on our last day together. It thanked God for creating us 'for a lifelong journey to You'.
My Modawa Pilgrimage didn't stop on my return. I still work with the experience. In some ways it was easier to be over there than to follow up and follow through back home. Dogura was not physically luxurious (we had no electricity or running water) and some things were confronting. But this pilgrim felt deep joy.
I treasure many memories. One is of our early morning climb up Mt Aspasia behind Dogura. On its peak stands the remnant of a cross. Some of our local companions seemed just to glide uphill on bare feet or thongs. For us pilgrims in our Kathmandu gear it was more of a struggle. I really wondered whether l would make it.
From the top, though, the spectacle took away what little breath I had left. The ranges, plateau, plain, plantations, small rooftops, wide bay and islands! Our gentle guide Ninian Burorosi, a former Anglican youth leader, can speak for me. This was his home and he'd climbed that mountain before. But involuntarily he gasped, 'Ah, how beautiful God made the world!'