The journey didn’t begin well for us. The ship from Lae to Umboi Island, between the Papua New Guinea mainland and New Britain, was scheduled to depart on August 16. But there were some mechanical problems that delayed our departure for 10 days. The original group of 31 Two Mile Adventist Church members who had been approved by the church board was reduced to the 20 members who were able to embark on August 26. The team was mostly women from the congregation’s Community Services department under the leadership of Rhoda Sokoripa with Minister Enoch Kitum and myself, representing the Morobe Mission office, as assistants.
Two Mile church members first travelled to Gomlongon Village in the heart of Umboi Island in 2015. At that time there was no established Adventist presence there but the visitors found a number of villagers who were interested to learn more about the truths of the Bible. Two Mile took a step of faith and decided to sponsor a pioneer missionary, Minister Caleb, to live in Gomlongon full-time and cultivate the young, green shoots of faith. Now it was time for us to return in order to see if the harvest was ready.
The overnight voyage was uneventful and we arrived safely on Sabbath morning at Umboi’s port of Bunsil. To our surprise the people from Gomlongon who we’d heard were growing in faith were so serious with their Sabbath commitment that they did not make themselves available at Bunsil to help us carry our bags and equipment. There was just one man waiting for us who we remembered from our previous trip.
Needing a solution, our leaders made an arrangement with the logging company at Bunsil Station—they generously provided us with a tipper truck and driver to take the one-hour journey up rough mountain roads to Gomlongon. This was our first time to travel in a vehicle so high above our heads and we found it difficult to jump on. When we got in the back we had nothing to hold on to but held each other for support, “cowboy style”.
At one point while driving we noticed the driver was using a screwdriver and a hammer to hit the gearbox to change gears. We were told that he was the only one who knew how to handle this truck. We kept silent because it’s not normal to pass your driving test to get a licence to drive like that! We continued to climb the mountain.
Thankfully we arrived safely at Gomlongon. As it is elsewhere in in Papua New Guinea, the churches were in the centre of the village, in this case a Catholic church, a Lutheran church, a Baptist church and the newly constructed Seventh-day Adventist “lamb shelter” built out of bush materials by Minister Caleb and his 57 Sabbath school members. We’d arrived at the close of the worship service and were soon in the presence of the shining faces of the villagers who had been seeking truth under the guidance of Minister Caleb. The smiles on their faces on that Sabbath day were like the lilies in the three lakes that I’ve seen at Pacific Adventist University.
We were welcomed to Gomlongon with songs and speeches as we prepared to deliver our series of meetings. A local councillor invited people from the nearby villages of Opai and Tarawe to attend and support. Our theme for the nightly presentations was “God’s Final Call”, with Minister Enoch Kitum preaching from the book of Revelation. I spoke during the morning meetings, focusing on the theme “Jesus is Coming Soon” and elaborating further on the subject matter presented the previous night.
The meetings were concluded with the first Adventist baptisms in the history of Gomlongon. On September 3, 2016, we baptised a local man, Jacob, as well as Mary, who was part of our group from Two Mile. Jacob declared that he would do his very best to work alongside the missionary, Caleb, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to his contacts in the local area so they can understand why he was baptised as the first Seventh-day Adventist member from Gomlongon.
When the appeal was made after the baptism, we had 18 people indicating their commitment to be baptised soon. Praise God! Many of these people are from Opai and Tarawe villages.
Returning home to Two Mile in Lae was not that easy after our blessed week at Gomlongon. We were told that the ship would arrive on Sunday, September 4 so we had our last farewell speeches and gifts. I was really convinced that we would definitely depart on Sunday because the Baptist pastor told me that the ship was confirmed and members of his congregation were also ready to travel with us on the same trip from Bunsil to Lae.
" . . . when we were again told the boat would not come . . . this delay become a blessing."
Upon receiving this news, I gave all that I had to our friends at Gomlongon. My towel, my sleeping bag, my shoes, thongs, shirts, trousers, coat and torch. Some of the other Two Mile members did the same. But then we were told that the ship was delayed and would arrive on Monday. On Monday we were told it would be on Wednesday, but not from Bunsil. Instead the departure point would be Lablab, a five-hour walk and two hours by truck along the coast.
This gave us an opportunity to visit the Adventist congregation at Yangla, which is near Lablab. So when we were again told the boat would not come until Friday this delay become a blessing. We held a further series of night and morning meetings for two days, as well as seminars during the day. At last the ship arrived on Saturday, September 10. Hallelujah! What a test for the patience of the saints!
During this second missionary journey we saw the harvest being multiplied. The door is now open in new villages and we look forward to the third missionary journey later this year when we hope to see the numbers of disciples increase and perhaps even the dedication of a new church building.