100 years celebrated on the track

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Efogi, Papua New Guinea

More than 5000 campers gathered at Efogi, a village along the Kokoda Track (Papua New Guinea), with the 700 residents of the village to celebrate 100 years of Adventism in the district. 

The coming of the Adventist message to the Mt Koiari area transformed the communities. The story of Jesus and the Adventist lifestyle won the hearts of the people.

The theme “Tracking to Glory Land” was appropriate, as many of the campers had trekked for three or four days to attend the 12-day celebration from December 10 to 21, 2014. 

Five flame runners, grandsons of pioneer Koiari missionaries, had spent three days carrying two lighted lamps from Owens Corner at the southern end of the Kokoda Track to Efogi for the official opening. Pictured (above) are Berry Geda, grandson of Faole Adobo; Martin Otio and Geda Vame, grandsons of Timothy Baigani; Benson Morgan, grandson of Belesi Elulu; and Elisha Peter, grandson of Boloni Kelea.

Present at the celebrations were Papua New Guinea Union Mission president Dr Leigh Rice and Adventist politician and Environment Minister John Pundari, whose department oversees the Kokoda Track Authority. Also in attendance were Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other PNG government representatives, together with Mission presidents Pastor Kove Tau (Central Papuan Conference), Pastor Peter Oli (Western Highlands Mission, who was pastor-teacher at Efogi in 1976-77), Pastor Peter Yorio (North East Papua Mission, where the track ends) and Pastor Kepsie Elodo (Bougainville Mission and son of Efogi). 

In 1914, pioneer Pacific missionary Pastor William Lock extended the mission work from Bisiatabu where the Church had commenced work six years earlier. With his wife and family he settled in Launumu village and from there the Adventist Church spread along the Kokoda Track and to the surrounding villages. 

By the Second World War the Adventist message had spread north and the villages along the southern half of the track were Adventist.

“The coming of the Adventist message to the Mt Koiari area transformed the communities,” Pastor Elodo said. “The story of Jesus and the Adventist lifestyle won the hearts of the people. My grandfather happily gave land for the establishment of the mission in Efogi. This is now the district headquarters and there is a clinic and primary school here. The Church is working with the national government to see the establishment of a high school for the district.”

As part of the celebrations a new Adventist church at Launumu was dedicated. Displayed prominently in front of the church are the remains of the gaba: the original log bell (part of the Fijian connection) that Pastor Lock had made to summons the congregation to worship.

Local MP Peter Isoaimo and James Enage, CEO of the Kokoda Track Authority, unveiled a plaque commemorating the 100 years. Mr Enage is a son of Launumu and was instrumental in sourcing funding and overseeing the logistics of getting materials into this isolated site. “The costs more than double because of the isolation of Launumu,” he said. 

“The track passes right in front of the church and more than 5000 international trekkers will see it each year,” Pastor Tau said. “The influence of the church will spread around the world.”