Meet David Lamboa, an engineer from PNG, who works with a smile and has a heart for the Yolngu people
David Lamboa and his family travelled from the highlands of Papua New Guinea to serve with MAF in Arnhem Land, but the transition was made smoother because this slice of outback Australia feels like home.
The experienced aircraft engineer, who previously worked for MAF at its Mount Hagen base in PNG, is busy keeping aircraft in service at the Gove Airport hangar but his heart is to share the Gospel with the Yolngu people. “It’s a blessing we came here because it’s almost like home,” David said. “The climate, the people, the environment – having fire around the house – growing things like cassava (sometimes called tapioca or manioc), yams, pumpkin – you can cut up the leaves and fry them up, it’s so nice!
“The Yolngu people generally prefer addressing each other by their relationships than calling of names. Whenever people here see me, they relate to me as an uncle, son, brother etc. When they adopt you, the Yolngus, you’re part of the family. “We are very fortunate that within two weeks when we were in church, this young man stood up
and said I’m going to adopt this new family. Two days later he invited us to his house to introduce us to his wife and children. His wife said her dad went to PNG and did his theology studies in PNG so she called the old man up. She told her father that she now has a sister from PNG and handed the phone to my wife. He spoke to my wife in Pidgin and asked her which part of PNG she comes from. As soon as my wife said she is from Rabaul he started speaking to my wife in Kunua, which is my wife’s mother tongue or native language."
"In PNG we have over 850 different native languages, imagine a Yolngu who can speak at least one and not just any one but one that is very significant to us. His daughter became the sister of my wife. It happened that he did his theological studies at a Uniting Church Theological College in Rabaul where my wife comes from and can easily relate to us. Often my wife and I thought about this and realize that God has laid the foundation for us.”
David and his wife do a lot of work with the community through the church in Yirrkala, near Nhulunbuy, but they know the Gospel must be delivered in a relevant way. “The thing with the Yolngu, I think they will listen and make serious commitment to the gospel if one of their own preach in their own language,” he said. “There is a lady who knew about the Gospel but only comes to help with the kids and youth programmes, but last year she decided to come to church and now she’s always coming, sometimes playing music or running programmes by herself – getting the kids together and praying with them. Now she wants to go to Bible school.”
David spends his days maintaining MAF planes, but uses his talent to fix bicycles in his spare time. He thinks of offering bicycle repairs to local kids in exchange for them coming to him with a Bible memory verse. It hasn’t caught on yet, but David knows nothing comes easy. “Even though we have fostered a healthy relationship with our adopted families and can understand some of their lifestyle and I think it is because of our skin colour or from tribal background, but there are some things we still find hard to understand,” he said. “For us, the thing is we realised we don’t need to see the result – we do our job. You hear stories about people who planted seeds but they were not there to see the harvest or the fruit, and that’s how it should be.”