A Day to Remember – Harverson Memorial, PNG

The Harverson family came to PNG to find closure. What they found was connection and love.

John Harverson was a MAF pilot based in PNG. John, his wife Joan and their two children, were from Christchurch in New Zealand and John had been preparing for years to join MAF as pilot/engineer.

On the morning of 23 June 1967, John took off from his home base of Wewak, and flew to Telefomin, where he picked up two Baptist Bible College students before heading for Olsobip. Radio contact was lost along the way and they were never heard from again. A massive search followed for weeks over rugged terrain, but nothing was ever found of the plane or passengers.

Fifty years later family members in New Zealand felt a growing sense that they wanted to do something to honour John. They contacted Mark Fox, MAF New Zealand’s CEO, to ask if he could help arrange a memorial service. As discussion took place, the vision grew. There was a real sense that is was past time to set up a permanent memorial, not only for John, but for all of the MAF pilots lost while serving God and the people of PNG with Mission Aviation Fellowship.

As the project developed, a number of New Zealanders made significant contributions and Mark Fox coordinated with the family as they prepared to fly to PNG and helped organise the service.

When the five family members (John’s widow, son, daughter, brother, and grandson) returned to PNG, they brought with them a plaque of remembrance. The day before the memorial service, John Harverson’s son and grandson were flown over the area where John’s plane was believed to have gone missing. It was a sombre day, a day of reflection.

The memorial service took place on 22 June. The plaque brought by the family was mounted on a beautiful rock monument, capped with a propeller. A plaque listing the names of all the pilots lost while serving with MAF in PNG was also placed on the monument.

MAF Staff, missionaries and extended families gathered for the event. Words of remembrance and hope were shared by Country Director Todd Aebischer, Mark Fox, Godfrey Sim (who, as a young boy remembered the massive search) and members of the family. Hugs and tears followed as each person connected with the words spoken.

Pastor Denis Awanim, President of the Min Baptist Union, shared the great impact on the local Min community after losing the plane—and how many young people took up the call to pursue Bible College and to carry on the mission of those who had died while pursuing their dream.

The “highlands rain” came down as umbrellas were passed around, but the spirits of those present were not dampened. As the service closed many shared their connection with other pilots who had been lost and tears and healing mingled with the raindrops that fell. The monument will be a place of remembrance for years to come.

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