It stands solemnly along one of Port Moresby’s oldest roads. Many historic buildings around it have been pulled down but this one remains. Although unkempt and maybe an eyesore to visitors frequenting the shoreline of the city, it is no ordinary building. It is the first Seventh-day Adventist city church building in Papua New Guinea. It was built in 1952, 44 years after the first Seventh-day Adventist missionaries arrived in Port Moresby in 1908.
When completed, the Ela Beach Seventh-day Adventist church was always packed with believers on Sabbaths. According to church records, two worship services were held every Sabbath to meet the demands of the growing congregation.
As Port Moresby grew, the church administration decided to find new locations to build more churches. From the late 1960s, new churches began to be built, including Korobosea, June Valley, Gordons, Hohola and Sabama. Many of the congregation who had originally worshipped at Ela Beach moved to the new churches. Those who continued to worship at the Ela Beach church were the Motu-speaking people. They came from Rigo, Koiari and the Aroma coastline. The Wanigela people who live a few kilometres away at the Koki settlement also continued worshipping at Ela Beach until the Koki Hill Adventist church was opened in 2001.
The Ela Beach church was decommissioned in 2008 for health reasons. It has remained that way for almost eight years. However, according to plans confirmed by the Church’s Central Papua Conference, the building will soon be refurbished and once more used for worship services by believers in the city. The refurbishment is part of the Conference’s new office building project.
Meanwhile, Seventh-day Adventist church buildings are located in almost all suburbs in Port Moresby, the surrounding settlements and in rural areas. The Conference continues to support local congregations in building churches. In recent times, new church buildings were opened in Rainbow, June Valley (Ted Wilson Memorial), Four Mile (Mango Avenue) and Nine Mile. The Korobosea Adventist church is due to open within a matter of months.
PNG Adventists are focused on growth and innovation, but they still hold the pioneers in high regard—those early missionaries from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and the United States who established the first struggling mission stations. Ela Beach Adventist church will continue to stand as a testament to their commitment and sacrifice.
Jacqueline Wari is associate communication director for PNGUM.