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Meet the Vanarias: Missionaries in Papua New Guinea

Note from’s Founder: Kathy and I first met freshman year of college as roommates at UMASS Amherst and through the years my husband Bill and I have had the privilege of being a part of Kathy, Neil and Tony’s ministry with the Mesem. There are so many stories both Kathy and I could tell about the past 35+ years we’ve known each other, many of which I hope make it on this blog. In this first blog though, I wanted Kathy to start at the beginning and explain in her own words why she choose to become a missionary. A decision that has forever impacted her life, her family’s life, and the lives of the thousands of people with whom she has shared Christ’s love. 

Kathy and Neil

Kathy and Neil

How Did a Nice Girl Like You End Up in the Rain Forest?

I’ve been asked that question dozens of times. In fact, I’ve asked myself that question a few times! Fortunately, I have a very good answer. Growing up in America almost every home had one or more copies of the Bible. There was a Bible in my parent’s home which I read, but didn’t totally understand. “Jesus died for you”, people would say. Or, “Ask Jesus into your heart”. I didn’t understand the meaning of that phrase. I joke about it, but it’s the truth that I spent almost a year trying to find an evangelical Christian who would evangelize me! After coming to understand the signficance of Our Savoir’s death and resurrection, I understood why it was really “good news”. I also quickly concluded that if it was that hard to find a Christian who could explain Christianity to me in a country where a Bible was in every home, and TV and radio shows told of Christ, what chance did people have who lived in places where they had no radio, or TV, nor a Bible in their language, nor Christians galore crowding their churches? Thus was born my desire to be a missionary.

I asked God to let me be a missionary and hoped He would say yes. He did. He sent me a husband who had an experience much like my own and also wanted others to have access to the wonderful news that Jesus came to reconcile us to Our Father. I confess, the rain forest was not the first place that came to my mind, but my husband felt very strongly that if someone wasn’t willing to go to the really hard places, how would those with the greatest need ever hear? He was right. In 1987 we left our secular employment and headed to prepare for overseas service. One year later, August 20, 1988, Neil and I left the USA for Papua New Guinea.

Last week we held in our hands a proof copy of the Mesem New Testament. It was tangible evidence of 25 years of God’s faithfulness to us and our family. During the last two decades our friends at GapFill sponsored schools, computers, translation helps, medical supplies and Bible materials for years while we worked first among the Kobon people and for the last 20 years among the Mesem. In January GapFill’s founders will join us in Papua New Guinea to celebrate what God has done.

Neil and Kathy Vanaria are Assembly of God World Missionaries. They have been missionaries in Papua New Guinea since 1988 and translators with the Mesem people of Morobe Province since 1993.

Visit their “Items Needed” tab on the website to see the current needs for Neil and Kathy Vanaria.  To receive’s blog posts automatically via email, enter your email address in the “FOLLOW GAPFILL VIA EMAIL” box on the right-hand side of the blog and click “Follow”.