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Visitors from New Guinea get into the swing of things

By Nathan Hardin
news@salisburypost.com
Who would have known that when Donna Prunkl visited Papua New Guinea, in 2001 as part of a “Lutheran Companion Synod” with Costa Rica, PNG, and the United States, she would be forming future foundations for friendship and introducing these friends to the American tradition of square dancing.
Pastor Gedisa Okamaisa, Titi Solomon, Nganuo Irintz, and Manao Yawising spent last night participating in a variety of different folk dances at the Salisbury City Park Recreation Center off Lake Drive. They watched several different square dances and even tried their hands at line dancing.
“I have never heard of square dancing before. But we really, really enjoyed it,” Pastor Okamaisa said after dancing.
Prunkl, who hosted the group for their visit to the NC Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), explained that “dancing is an important element of their culture because, although it is very modified, it is a part of their greeting.”
Square dancing, whose “calls” or directions are internationally in English, is just one of the many activities the group is experiencing in North Carolina. They are scheduled to attend Lutheran services and congregations across the state, finishing in the eastern region.
After eight years of constant dialogue and interactions with the New Guinean Lutheran community, the four members are attending the NC Synod Annual Assembly at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory on the first weekend in June, which will be the second of their three week trip.
The four are from the Yabim District of Papua New Guinea and Pastor Gedisa Okamaisa has been the district’s Lutheran President for over 26 years.
The Lutheran faith is the largest protestant denomination in Papua New Guinea. PNG is the second largest island in the world, located just above Australia.
“We have enjoyed meeting people and seeing new faces,” Pastor Okamaisa said.
“This is the first time we have been to the United States. The thing I have liked most is the different culture,” Manao Yawising said.
The foursome is set to leave the States on June 13 and return home.

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