Allan Tolo, a former senior public servant and a civil engineer, stepped up in faith to change his community. He used his retirement payout to establish an iconic church building in the remotest part of Hela Province–Kopiago District, Papua New Guinea.
All is deposited into the treasury of heaven and I know my God will reward me in many different ways as He has [already] done.
Allan Tolo grew up in a humble family. His father was an Adventist pioneer missionary in the Sepik River region—places like Oksapmin and Telafomin. His mother was baptised in 1966 when she was six months pregnant with Allan. In his early childhood, his mother always reminded him that he was called and baptised before birth. The evil influence of the world wanted to get him off track with his Master Jesus, but the loving, tender voice of his mum reminded him that he was born for a purpose.
Allan grew up in a very isolated highlands area known as Kopiago. Access to quality education seemed impossible. Nevertheless, through the grace of God, he made it into the University of Technology in Lae and graduated as a civil engineer. Soon after he was employed by the Department of Works. He toiled hard in his field and was promoted to works manager for the Southern Highlands Province. After serving the state for 20 years he decided to retire and be his own boss.
His civil engineering background led him into the business of real estate and God blessed him with a number of houses in Port Moresby and Mendi town. He also started a small construction company. While pursuing his business interests, he acknowledged that all good things come from God and he therefore credited it all to the Lord.
Allan and his wife, Evelyn, have five children. Evelyn was a Catholic but was converted and baptised into the Adventist faith through the influence of her husband. She retired from her position as a nursing officer in 2012 to give more attention to their children. Allan says his kids have never visited a hospital. “God has blessed them with good health. God blesses them with strength to work hard every day and we are so thankful for that,” he said.
As a token of appreciation for what God had done for him and his family, Allan decided to dedicate his government severance payout to build a church in Kopiago. For years, local Adventists had been worshipping in a structure built from bush materials and thatched with kunai grass. Evelyn took on the role of financial manager for the project. Allan refuses to reveal the amount spent on constructing the building, only saying: “All is deposited into the treasury of heaven and I know my God will reward me in many different ways as He has [already] done.” According to the local project supervisor, the cost is more than K500,000—an amount even greater than Allan’s retirement payout. But the Tolos have trusted God, confidently knowing that their money was given to a worthy project.
The construction took eight months to complete. Allan designed the building—featuring a built-in font and sloping floor—and managed the project, employing local contractors and labourers. Building materials were transported 830 kilometres from Lae. The workers were assisted by willing volunteers from the congregation who helped carry construction materials around the site and moved tonnes of earth and rocks by hand for the landscaping.
Accompanied by about half of his Western Highlands Mission executive team, president Pastor Allen Akili dedicated the church, expressing gratitude towards the Tolos for erecting the building without any funding from his office. He said the church was the best investment for the people at Kopiago—one that will lead them to eternity. “God’s purpose must become our dedication,” Pastor Akili said from the new pulpit.
The new church in Kopiago.
The Tolos are now planning another church building at Koroba, about 50km from Kopiago. They’re looking forward to seeing how God will lead them in their future ministry while also keen to divert the focus from themselves, saying that to God alone be all glory, praise and honour: “We are the vessels to be used by the Potter.”
Solomon Paul is communication director for the Western Highlands Mission and editor of the mission’s magazine, The Trumpet, where this article first appeared.