In 1931, MBI student Albert Drysdale left for Papua to explore the possibility of a base from which to evangelise near Madiri in south-west PNG. This pioneering work was done under the name of Unevangelised Fields Mission (UFM), linking them with the mission of the same name in England. Not long after this, Albert was joined by Gordon Rogers, Theo Berger, Frank Briggs, and Leonard Twyman – all graduates of MBI. The eventual result of their commitment, and others who joined them, was the formation of what was to eventually become a strong national church – the Evangelical Church of Papua New Guinea (ECP).
Following World War II, and with considerable help from Missionary Aviation Fellowship Australia (itself having been founded by MBI students), the country quickly opened for missionary work, and numerous agencies became involved.
Throughout these early years, growing numbers of those serving in PNG and throughout the Pacific, along with national church leaders, recognised the critical need for accessible, local training of Christian Leaders within the region.
In the early 1960s, it was MBI students who set about raising money to build the first student house at the proposed Christian Leaders’ Training College. Former students of MBI, known then as the Old Students’ Association also donated library books. Soon the vision was realised.
Rev Gil McArthur was appointed founding Principal of CLTC in 1963. He had already had experience as a pioneer missionary with the Baptist Mission in Dutch New Guinea, and then at Telefomin in PNG. His dream was to bring to reality the vision of UFM leaders and the MBI Council to build this new college in a central highland location. Agricultural and technical programs would also provide practical training and an economic contribution to the community. This model of holistic theological education, incorporating agricultural businesses to support the financial demands of the College, was to become unique in the world.
After consideration by the MBI Council, a site was chosen for CLTC, 11km west of Banz, and in 1965, the first 20 students were enrolled in CLTC. The college ethos was modelled on that adopted by MBI – to be biblically based, offering comprehensive training in ministry and Christian leadership, and fostering spiritual growth in a residential community. Details of the curriculum would be drawn up in cooperation with mission groups and local Christian leaders to ensure cultural appropriateness. Additionally, it would be designed to develop community leadership skills.
In his book Live in Tents – Build Only Altars, David Price describes how, from the beginning, CLTC has brought together people of diverse backgrounds, gifts, ministry and support skills. “This interdependence of the spiritual and the material has demonstrated powerfully the reality of the Kingdom of God in action,” says David.
The Christian public in Australia, with strong developing support from New Zealand, were kept informed of the project and contributed with financial gifts, prayer and by personnel of diverse expertise, who gave sacrificially in both short-term and long-term service. It was a cause for much thanksgiving that adequate provision for all the college’s start-up needs was provided from Australia and New Zealand in such a short time.
The college rapidly became a place of great influence across Melanesia and the Pacific. “Today it is the most significant training institution in the Pacific,” David said. “As well as people from PNG, people from Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga go there for training.”
A major milestone was the handover from David to the
first Melanesian principal, Rev Dr Joshua Daimoi, in 1983.
In previous years there had been a strong missionary presence at CLTC. “MBI had planted a college in Papua, with funding and staff,” he said. “Now there are only two missionaries – the remaining staff is comprised of nationals.”
CLTC remains committed to strengthening regional Bible Colleges, bringing Christians and churches together in the evangelical interdenominational community. It operates three campuses, offering education from Certificate level through to Masters level programs. Since those early days, around 1500 graduates have moved into key leadership roles in church, parachurch ministries, and community life in Pacific nations, and around the world.
The pioneers of CLTC, and those who have followed, forged a path of commitment to the Gospel, and to the transformational Kingdom impact on the peoples of the Pacific. Now, with graduates serving in mission around the world, CLTC remains a Centre not only for the development of church leadership, but global mission. And over the years, MST students, lecturers and supporters have continued to regularly take mission trips to CLTC.