Pastor Berthold Hager was born on August 24, 1933 in a small town of Rehau in the Upper Franconia, the first child of Hans and Marie Hager.
His father was a trained porcelain lathe operator at the Zeh-Scherzer company until he was drafted into military service in 1939.
Father Hans was a non-commissioned officer in the infantry in Russia. He was shot by a sniper on the Crimean Penisula (Krim) and lost the thigh area his left leg in the battle of Sewastopol in the cold winter of 1941/42.
When he came back from the field hospital he also had problems with his lungs. As result, he was no longer able to practice his learned profession. Luckily he found a job as a payroll clerk at Zeh-Scherzer.
It was not easy for mother Marie to rise her son Berthold on her own. The family was not well of financially and then there was inflation. Therefore she worked in the same porcelain factory and as seamstress.
His brother Willi was born as the second child, when Berthold was 12, 2 years later his sister Karola saw the light of day.
From 1939 to 1947 Berthold attended school.
In the age of nine and a half he had to join the Hitler Youth. (He was forced). The military drill was very hard and the young people felt like they being used as cannon fodder.
Once he refused an order which of course was reported. In his opinion, young people be deliberately kept away from the Christian faith and worship.
On Palm Sunday 1947, Pastor Krämer confirmed Berthold. The confirmation saying was from John 14:6.
This saying accompanied him throughout his life. I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
After that, his professional life started. After a 2-year apprenticeship, with a 45-hour an week, he completed his training as an upper leather tailor at the Rehau shoe factory Oswald.
After all this, the Bible verse would not let him go!
Berthold registered at missionary institute in Neuendettelsau and after an entrance exam he entered the 7-year mission and diaspora seminar in early 1950.
During this time he also took part in the Papua plays and shell choir. He spent his vicariate in Marktleuthen-Upper Franconia/Bavaria. (This congregation also donated the large church bell, which still rings today in the Kerowagi Church of Gods Word.)
In view of the forthcoming dispatch to PNG in autumn 1958, his classmate Hans-Günther Herrlinger made it possible for him to spend a semester at the Mission Academy in Hamburg.
Ps. Berthold held his first sermon in the small church in Reuth near Neuendettelsau-Bavaria.
The ordination took place on September 27th and 28th, 1958 at the district mission festival in the Lorenz Church in Hof. (Near the place where he was born, Rehau).
The financing of the emigration to Papua New Guinea came from donations to 5.755 Deutsch Mark. In addition, the remaining amount came from the missionary society.
Berthold took the train to Ostend in Belgium. His companion was the young master printer Matthias Lechner. On October 1958 he went by ship to England/London.
From Tilburg, the actual journey began with the old ship Strathaird. Port Said, through the Suez Canal, then Aden and Bombay with countless and unforgettable experiences until he got to Australia.
Until he came to Toowoomba-Queensland. During the 8 weeks there, Berthold was continue his English studies with the Family Böttchers (Mr. Böttcher was lay preacher in PNG).
Unfortunately, this plan didnt really work out, because the Böttchers were happy to finally be able to speak German again.
In the evening of January 23, 1959 the long awaited flight left BrisbaneAustralia for Lae in Papua New Guinea.
On January 24, 1959 at 12:00 noon Berthold Hager set foot in Lae for the first time on the island of Papua New Guinea.
There he spent the first 3 days with Missionary Helmut Horndasch. On Sunday, January 25, Berthold drove with Missionary Maurer by car to Gabmazung-Leawombas and visited a Bible School.
On January 26, 1959, he drove to Wau in a truck. A 14-day conference was held there. Then Bishop Kuder announced that Berthold should not go to Ogelbeng/Hagen as planned, but had to take over the Kerowagi mission station, since Missionary Hannemann (an American with German background), who had previously been in Kerowagi, went to Kewamugl.
On Saturday, February 7th, 1959, Berthold flew to Kerowagi with Missionary Herbert Junker. He immediately felt at home at this mission station, which was built by the Americans in 1934.
Here they stayed overnight in order to start an 8-hour hike into the Jimmy Valley to Kogl in the early morning of February 8, 1959.
Berthold was to stay here with Missionary Junker for a few weeks and visit villages and do their work there.
In PNG he met his future wife Rosemarie Lechner, the sister of his friend Matthias Lechner (No. 4) Her father was the Missionary Matthias Lechner (No. 3 on Malolo/PNG).
Then, on January 8, 1960, a double wedding took place on the coast of Madang. Here Berthold Hager married his Rosemarie Hager.
Rosemarie has worked as a nurse and midwife at Buangi Hospital since 1957.
She was born as a daughter of the missionary people Rev. Matthias Lechner No. 3 and his wife Katharina on Sattelberg and grew up in Malalo.
The second wedding couple of this double wedding were her brother Matthias and Emmy.
Bertholds fellow student Hans-Günther Herrlinger was the pastor for them. On October 3rd, 1960, the twins of Berthold and Rosemarie Hager unfortunately died during childbirth and were buried on Kranket Island off Madang.
On February 14th, 1962 the daughter Gudrun Daka saw the light of day in Yagaum/Madang. She was baptized in the Bush Church in Kerowagi by Pastor Sorenuka or Sifiou from the coast. Sorry mi no klia.
On October 31, 1963 their son Gerhard Yerr was born. Here in Kerowagi, the family Hager felt comfortable and also Berthold was able to spread Gods Word. In beginning there were only 2 bush churches.
Later his friend Missionary Junker (Kogl and Ogelbeng) drew up a plan for a solid wooden church.
Missionary Hager was then able to build a large and good church with his Kerowagi-brothers, which was then completed under his direction in October 1963.
On December 5th, 1963, a big baptism with children and adults took place here. At the same time, Bertholds son Gerhard Yerr was also baptized.
Pastor Berthold Hager was missionary in Kerowagi from February 7, 1959 to July 1974. Then the family went back to Germany. One reason for that daughter Gudrun would have had to go to secondary school in Brisbane/Australia and Gerhard was in KLS-Wau.
The parents did not want to subject their children to this separation.
From July 1974 to August 1975 Berthold went back to school and trained as a pastor. From September 1975 to August 1996 he took over the pastorate in BürgleinHeilsbronn (Bavaria) until his retirement.
Rosemarie was a great help to him over the years and did all she could to support him in his work, e.g. as parish secretary.
Berthold and Rosemarie spent their retirement in Heilsbronn. Both of them happily took care of their grandchildren. Gudrun gave birth to Manuela, Melanie, Michael and Melissa and Gerhard Yerr adopted the child Clara with his wife Angelika Hager. (Angelikas dad was also Missionary in Tapen & Logaweng).
The grandchildren made him very happy. Unfortunately, his beloved Rosemarie died on October 11, 2002 at the age of 69.
In March 2018, at the age of 84, he underwent major heart surgery, the first in his life that he survived the procedure. He also developed purulent pneumonia, which he survived as well.
After that, he could no longer live alone. He decided to move to a retirement home. From April 2018 until the day of his death on Friday January 13, 2023, Berthold lived in Rosstal about 12km from Heilsbronn.
Shortly before Christmas 2022, his health got worse. In the last 5 days he was able to say goodbye to his family with children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. Berthold wanted that Gerhard read him from the bible for several hours (on January 11th and 12th).
Gudrun accompanied her father to the end. Heilsbronn on 01/15/2023 Gerhard Yerr Hager (Son and Pikinini bilong Simbu)
by Gerhard Hager (Son), Heilsbronn, January 15th 2023.