Six churches came together in Sydney’s north on March 24 for a gospel concert to raise funds for those affected by the recent devastating earthquake in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.
The concert was an initiative of the Wantok church (combined Papua New Guinean and Solomon Islands church in Asquith). The Tongan, Fijian and Southwest churches of Hoxton Park, Bankstown and Fairfield united with them in song to raise funds to help those impacted by the earthquake.
“Many of us have family and friends in the PNG Highlands,” said Pastor Joseph Talipuan, who pastors the Wantok and Enmore Fijian churches in Sydney. “We wanted to do something to help provide basic necessities. Many homes, roads and villages have been wiped out in the landslides as the sides of mountains gave way during the quake,” he said.
“In some cases, villages which survived the initial earthquake were later swept away when rivers upstream—temporarily dammed by landslides—burst their banks and flooded those below. We feel a bit helpless being so far away, but at least we can try to do something. The fundraising concert was one way to show support.”
There was a sobering start to the concert. A thunderous sound emerged from the darkened stage—imitating the terrifying rumble of an earthquake. Through the fog drifting across the stage, two women emerged, wailing and dressed in traditional mourning attire. A poignant poem, read by Lohert Talipuan, paid tribute to those suffering loss and hardship in the earthquake-affected areas. Singers and musicians soon filled the stage, sharing songs specifically chosen to bring comfort and hope.
“The Wantok, Tongan and Fijian choirs each performed a number of items, as well as soloists, small groups and a ukulele trio,” said Dr Narko Tutuo, who helped organise the concert. “We are very grateful for the support of all the groups who participated with very short notice, and to all those who helped out on the day.”
Julie Aengari, of the Wantok Choir, said the majority of the Solomon islanders in the Wantok church were born in PNG to parents who were missionaries to PNG or worked there at some stage. “Being part of the fundraising concert was a blessing as we felt like we were able to do something for those who are like family,” she said.
More than $A12,700 was raised during the 90-minute sacred concert. “The freewill offering collected during the concert will be used to purchase food and clothing; the immediate needs,” said Pastor Talipuan. “Adventist Aviation PNG will distribute these to the affected areas—many of which have no access except by air.
“Schools and churches have also been swept away, and people’s farms and livelihoods. This will be the next focus area of need—to help rebuild infrastructure and restore services once thorough assessments have been done. That will be much further down the track. For now though, it’s the immediate day-to-day needs we are trying to help with,” said Pastor Talipuan.
Pastor Talipuan ended the concert by praying for others in need. “We acknowledge there are people here today, or who are making donations online, who are themselves hurting or going through hardship. And yet they still donate to help those affected by this earthquake. We thank you and pray God will richly bless you and multiply back to you, many fold, what you have given.”
According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as of March 20, more than 125 people were killed and 500,000 affected by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck the PNG Highlands on February 26. There have been hundreds of subsequent aftershocks—some almost equal in magnitude to the earthquake—which have caused further devastation.1
To be part of the Wantok church’s fundraising efforts to support the earthquake survivors, visit: https://egiving.org.au/Wantok%20Adventist%20Community%20Group?filter=Mountains or call Pastor Talipuan on (+61) 424 733 682.
1. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia)– <https://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2018/jb_mr_180320a.aspx>.