If current growth trends continue, Adventist membership in Papua New Guinea (PNG) will reach 300,000 before the end of 2017. And, thanks largely to PNG, membership across the South Pacific Division (SPD) is likely to hit the half million mark.
But Adventism in PNG is not only marked by its quantity. There’s a groundswell of enthusiasm for discipleship and the General Conference’s call for “Total Member Involvement” (TMI) has been heard in community-oriented PNG.
This enthusiasm was apparent as Adventist leaders and representatives from around the nation met in Lae, May 23 to June 2, for the Papua New Guinea Union Mission’s (PNGUM) mid-year meetings. Reports came in from various Church departments and all corners of the country, with speaker after speaker describing how TMI was becoming a reality in their jurisdiction. Youth groups are planting churches, ADRA volunteers are delivering Bibles to struggling families along with food and household necessities, classrooms are being built, free healthcare is being provided and rubbish-strewn towns are being tidied by willing helpers. “When the Church is at work, God is at work,” proclaimed Pastor Joanis Fezamo, principal at Omaura School of Ministry, during his report to the PNGUM Executive Committee. His students have been working hard in their school gardens as well as finding time to upgrade roads and help negotiate peace between local tribesmen involved in violent clashes.
"When the Church is at work, God is at work."
Apart from the administrative tasks involved in the year-end meetings, those present also took the opportunity to attend a spiritual retreat, a series of training seminars conducted by members of the SPD’s Discipleship Ministries Team and a special reconciliation Sunday program at Lae Memorial Adventist Church. The all-day meeting was a showcase of reconciliation in action as a long-standing personal conflict between church members was resolved with much prayer, expressions of hurt and confessions of wrong. PNGUM president, Pastor Kepsie Elodo, has specialised in reconciliation ministry in recent years, including reconciliation between parties recovering from the impact of Bougainville’s civil war, 1988-1998.
PNGUM general secretary, Pastor Henry Monape, said that in contrast to last year, with the sadness and disruption caused by the death of PNGUM president Pastor Geoffrey Pomaleu, the mood at this year’s mid-year meetings was positive. He agreed that Church leaders had enthusiastically adopted the focus on discipleship and TMI, describing the Mount Hagen town clean-up in April as a “highlight” of the mission reports. That initiative inspired Executive Committee delegates to vote in favour of two nation-wide clean-up days in 2018.
Another issue considered was the possibility of administrative regions of the Adventist Church in PNG being upgraded from “mission” to “conference” status—to reflect maturity in local leadership and increased financial self-sufficiency. At present only the Central Papua region, around the capital, Port Moresby, is a conference. But retired Church administrator and special consultant Pastor Peter Oli reminded the Executive Committee four other missions—Eastern Highlands Simbu, Morobe, New Britain New Ireland and Western Highlands—were recommended for conference status in 2010. He urged PNGUM and mission leaders to pursue the necessary application and auditing procedures so that these regions can gain conference status by 2020.