From the PNG jungle to refugee camps: one volunteer’s incredible life of service

From the PNG jungle to refugee camps: one volunteer's incredible life of service

Alwyn has willingly volunteered to minister to our Maranatha residents by conducting our Interfaith Christian services twice a month since he and his wife, Fay, moved into an Independent Living Unit in 2011.

Fay later moved into the hostel here to receive care, sadly passing away in Easter 2020. Alwyn continues to live in their Independent Living Unit.

Alwyn was born in Marburg, Queensland in 1928. Since a child, Alwyn has always attended a Baptist Church. In his sub-Senior year, he contracted meningococcal meningitis and was rushed to hospital to the infectious ward. His family and friends thought he would not recover and the whole church earnestly asked God to save his life. He recovered, and a Rev. Nicholls told Alwyn, “You know, God has probably saved your life for a purpose. You need to start considering full-time ministry”. This was a distinct challenge to Alwyn and from then on, he began to consider God’s claim on his life for Christian service. Those words had real meaning and Alwyn believed that God wanted him to serve him. And what a life of service followed.

After high school, Alwyn trained as a teacher. He then taught at Blackall and after that at a one-teacher school. Alwyn had a desire to travel all over the world, but also wanted to follow God’s role for his life of full-time ministry. The desire for world travel had to be sacrificed. So, Alwyn resigned from the Education Department and trained in theology at the Melbourne Bible Institute for two years.

After he had been there for four years, he met another missionary, Fay, from New Zealand, whom he tutored in the Gogodala language. After falling in love with her and her sterling qualities, Alwyn asked her to marry him. They were married in October 1956 in Balimo in the Western Province of PNG with flowers from the jungle embellishing this special union.

Fay helped Gogodala women to be to be able to sew all kinds of clothing for their families, as well as training Sunday School teachers for all the villages. She was also a midwife and delivered lots and lots of
Gogodala children.

The Education Department of PNG saw the work Alwyn was doing in education where he had written many manuals, so asked him to join their department. His mission seconded him to the PNG Government where Alwyn continued working for another 21 years as a volunteer, drawing an allowance but not a salary. He rose to be the Deputy Director General and, on several occasions, acted as the Director General. At the same time, he continued his missionary work, teaching 100 odd students’ theology in six different classes, teaching one class each evening after working in the deptartment.

After being in PNG for 41 years, Alwyn and Fay retired to Brisbane. But once there, Alwyn agreed to run a project in education for Karen refugees from Myanmar in the west of Thailand. So, for nine years he visited the refugee camps – a month at a time; then for two months in Brisbane wrote teaching manuals, then went and trained Karen teachers. After nine years, he felt he had brought the education work in the six camps to a stage where he was no longer needed. This brought that project to a happy close.

One of his tasks in education in PNG was to represent the country in UNESCO work. This saw Alwyn travel all over the world where he thought he had sacrificed that dream, for ever. He visited almost 90 countries. And in his Thailand project, he entered Thailand over 80 times.

Alwyn and Fay had no children of their own, but they adopted seven children from Papua New Guinea. They have presented Alwyn and Fay with 26 grandchildren and now another 20 great-grandchildren to date. Alwyn’s children all had university education – one was a PNG ambassador to America and Canada; another a professor in education; another, a superintendent of secondary education in PNG; a senior banker; another the head who oversaw all the PNG Govt’s businesses; another a senior human resource officer in a big mining company.

Alwyn and Fay have influenced the lives of countless people from all walks of life from simple humble villagers, students, teachers, diplomats, prime ministers, and UN officials.

The name Neuendorf is synonymous in education, company laws, the justice professions, banking, medicine and foreign services in PNG, as well as in missions and churches in PNG. It is by their works that many people know the Neuendorfs, especially in education, UNESCO and the World Bank. Alwyn’s influence in the political spectrum in PNG began with the late Sir Michael Thomas Somare, the founding father of the Independent State of PNG who affectionately referred to Alwyn as “Papa”, as did many others that came to know Alwyn and Fay simply as “Papa and Mama”.

We thank you Alwyn for your love and dedication to Maranatha as a volunteer, and not letting your age stop you (93) and for inspiring us to give our lives in service for others.

Find out more information and Maranatha Village or volunteering with Christadelphian Aged Care.