Hand-grenades and hallelujahs

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Korobosea Seventh-day Adventist Church isn’t your average church. When I arrived, I was greeted by Papua New Guinea’s Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Then the first secretary of the Ministry of Finance. And seconds later, by the first secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before I left, the minister of Trade & Industry and the minister of Finance greeted me. I’ve been to a lot of churches, and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people, but I can’t recall a lineup quite like this. 

Not that God is a respecter of persons. He doesn’t care if we are rich or poor, powerful or marginalised. And that is what makes this church family so refreshing. People from all works of life mix easily and with obvious affection.

The reason our church is so large is that this church family doesn’t leave the sharing of Jesus to the pastor. They love Christ and they want to pass their love of God on.

Getting to the church, however, isn’t always easy. On this particular morning, the police are in an armed standoff with the army. The police blocked off the church’s street because their headquarters is on the road and they are determined to protect it from an attack by the army. Coming to the roadblock, Dr Mark Paul, senior elder of the church, negotiates patiently and skillfully with the heavily armed police unit. The M16 toting commander who has something that looks suspiciously like hand-grenades on his belt waves us in. Either this is the safest church in PNG—or the most dangerous.

What sparked the friction between the police and army today? A drunken argument on Friday night. What a blessing to be alcohol free and worshipping with around a thousand other people who didn’t get into fruitless drunken arguments last night, didn’t wake up with a hangover, whose eyes sparkle with clarity and whose hearts are singing the praise of God.

The church family is meeting in a large Salvation Army facility. They have outgrown their church building, and now a new one is being built that will seat more than 1000 people and is costing K10 million. It is a Mission to the Cities project, supported by the South Pacific Division, the Papua New Guinea Union Mission and the Central Papua Mission.

“Our greatest goal is unity,” says Pastor Jeffery Tangea. “It’s stressful when you move locations and of course, building a new facility always has its frustration. So, unity as we go through this process is critical. The reason our church is so large is that this church family doesn’t leave the sharing of Jesus to the pastor. They love Christ and they want to pass their love of God on. Look around this church—that is why it is full to overflowing.”

Pastor Tangea is originally from west New Britain. He first graduated with a diploma from Sonoma College in east New Britain. Last year he graduated with a BA in theology from Pacific Adventist University.

“My vision is for us to have many satellite churches—we are dedicated to church planting,” he says. “We recently planted two churches—one in a village and another is in a settlement. Our young people are leading the way.”

Informal settlements are growing on the edges of Port Moresby as people move to this urban centre in order to access economic opportunities. The circumstances they live in are often quite dire. “We want our church to be light and provide practical love to our brothers and sisters in the settlements,” concludes Pastor Tangea.