Character Sketches 5: Reverend Ron Milliner

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Photo by frozen chipmunk

What does it take to winkle a senior evangelical pastor out of a prosperous small town American church and drop him in the middle of the inhospitable Borneo jungle? And what on earth is he going to do with himself when he gets there?

Could it be the humiliation of being left by his wife, Patti, awakened from her little woman persona by the radical feminism of the early 1970s? Or a sense of degeneration from a life that had become too complacent, too easy? Or disillusionment with the public morals of American life in the wake of Nixon’s resignation? Or the alienation of his children over his inability to accept their views on the Vietnam war and the sexual revolution?

There’s probably something in each one of these catalysts. Whatever the reason, 53 year old Ron Milliner finds himself abandoning his comfortable life to run a primitive mission station in a tiny kampong kissing the Equator, a good five mile hike from the nearest link to civilisation, a camp run by one of the American oil companies.

Ron is not the only one bringing his truth to the villagers. He faces stiff competition for their hearts and minds from the oil and logging companies, with their easy money and western vices. They may be happy to kit Ron out with the medicines he needs, but has he forgotten that out here there’s a price for everything? Neither will he be allowed to forget the spectre of the communists, ruthlessly purged by Suharto’s troops, their survivors hiding in the shadows.

Will Ron be able to overcome the physical challenges, the leeches, the snakes, the oppressive climate, the physical deprivations, to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of the jungle? Or will the sheer enormity of it overwhelm him and eventually dull his evangelical zeal? One thing’s for sure; the people to whom he ministers are not the only ones who will be forever marked and changed by the experience.

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