3 Reasons I felt transported to the Old Testament when in Bougainville

The #1 reason is because of the man I told you we were going to talk about in this post – Ishmael Toroama. I have never met anyone remotely like him in my life. When I stood in front of him I felt like I was standing in front of King David. I found it difficult not to weep. I was drawn to him like a magnet. My 18-year-old son, Joshua, felt the same way.

Upon arriving in Arawa, the town where he lives, I presented him with a shofar from Israel. From what I had heard and read about him it seemed a fitting gift.  (Check out his t-shirt)

His shirt says, “Jesus is the only way to heaven”

To understand where I’m coming from I need to give you some history of this man and the island.

In the late 1960s, it was discovered that Bougainville is rich in copper and gold. The 2nd richest copper deposit in the world to be exact. Lots and lots of gold comes with it. Around 1970, Rio Tinto Zinc, a British company operating out of Australia, moved into Bougainville and set up operations under the name Bougainville Copper Limited – BCL. They ran people off of their land to get to the copper and gold.

The location selected was one of the tallest mountains on the island.  This is what that former mountain looks like today after 20 years of mining. It’s hard to imagine that at one time it was unspoiled with a very tall mountain in its place.

panguna from air

BCL promised to build new houses and schools for the people they displaced. But, they didn’t. Here’s a few pictures I took of one of the villages displaced and the housing they live in. As I look at it now, I’m filled with anger at the greed it represents. Which one of the BCL executives would like one of these homes as a summer getaway do you suppose?

guana village1
guana village21
guana village30

BCL said the minerals did not belong to the island. Not sure how they came to that faulty conclusion.  Maybe it was justification to keep 80% of what they took out of the mine.It was reported that they were mining $35 million a day. Papua New Guinea kept almost 20% and Bougainville received pennies. Bougainville was under PNG territory and PNG greatly prospered on the back of the islanders.

Bougainvilleans live by the land and for the land so when BCL destroyed the waters and the land with the cyanide they used in the mine, killing the fish and killing coconut trees, the islanders had to put a stop to it. In November of 1988, a man named Frances Ona took the lead. He demanded restitution from BCL. BCL executives laughed in his face. Over a 5 month period, Frances and a group of men blew up the power that ran the plant. Long story short, a revolutionary army gathered on the island and the Papua New Guinea Defense Force was called in. PNG wanted the mine to continue for obvious reasons. This began a 10-year war that resulted in over 10% of the Bougainvilleans losing their life. This includes warriors, women, children, and men. There is still fallout today from the chemical poisoning done by BCL.

I’ll share more about the war as we go along, but for now, I want to continue with why I felt like I had stepped into an Old Testament story.  Reason #2: The church in Bougainville began to pray and go to war in the heavenlies long before Francis Ona and the other men started their campaign.  Just like the Israelites, God heard their prayer and stepped in.

Enter Ishmael Toroama.  Ishmael was only 21 years of age when the conflict started. He loved Jesus and wanted to fight for his homeland so he went to the Lord with his request.

Reason #3Ishmael told me story after story of divinely given direction and miraculous protection that he and the BRA experienced. There’s no doubt that the hand of God was on Ishmael and the BRA. God was with him throughout the war, just like He was with David in Israel. God gave them battle plans, strategies, weapons etc.  Ishmael told me they won the war when God gave them instructions on where to attack and how.

On one particular day, Ishmael and a few of his men were crossing the water in a banana boat. Ishmael was standing at the front of the boat when a PNG helicopter flew over them and opened up machine gun fire. He instructed the men to keep pressing on. The PNG soldiers sprayed them with bullets. Not one of the men were hit and the boat did not sink. When Ishmael heard the voice of the Lord say, “Now Ishmael” he picked up his gun and shot ONE bullet at the helicopter and it crashed onto the beach.

In the West, I think we often see Jesus as a tender lamb that speaks softly. In reality, He is a lamb, but He is also a warrior, a lion, a fierce defender of His people. I have never heard stories like Ishmael shared with me other than in the Old Testament. I want to share many of these stories with you because you want to hear them.

Another way Ishmael reminds me of David is that he is a worshipper. He leads the worship at his church. I watched him weep before the Lord during worship. He is a lover, a worshipper, and a king among men.

There’s so much I want you to know about these incredible people. They have experienced 6 revivals since 1960 and it’s obvious another one is on its way. These revivals were full of supernatural occurrences and outpourings of the glory of God. There’s also so many stories about the war. One thing is clear when you hear the stories —- they have paid the price to see the glory of God. That’s why they know Him in a way most of us have not experienced.

For now, here’s one last story from Ishmael about the miraculous hand of Jesus.https://player.

More stories to come about the war, the vote for freedom, and the revivals.

Please let me know what you think about these stories and what you want to know more about.

Marching together,


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