Sonoma College celebrates 50 years of service

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Pioneer students Pastor Jim Manele and Pastor John Hamura with Dr Alex Currie at the 50th reunion of Sonoma Adventist College.

Sonoma Adventist College in East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG), recently celebrated its 50th golden jubilee anniversary and school reunion.

Former students from PNG and Solomon Islands came together from September 13-18 to commemorate the special occasion. Pioneer principal Dr Alexander Currie, his wife Beverley and two sons, Gavin and Philip, were special guests.

For Sonoma, which grew from humble beginnings to a school affiliated with Pacific Adventist University, celebrating 50 years of service to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in PNG and the Pacific is a significant achievement for the institution and the Papua New Guinea Union Mission.

As Dr Currie expressed, “To return after 50 years to celebrate Sonoma Adventist College’s golden anniversary is an unexpected privilege and honour.”

Dr Currie went on to describe some of the challenges and improvements the college had seen since his time there.

“Fifty years ago in February of 1968 we commenced the college with 21 students in two courses—theology and building construction. There were no ladies among the initial students. I congratulate the administration in developing the college so that it [now] has 661 tertiary students, a third of whom are young ladies.

“The college then had no electrical supply—now you have 24-hour power. We taught students typing skills on second-hand typewriters. Today every student is computer literate. We commenced with only expatriate teachers but had the vision that the college would be staffed with only indigenous teachers. That dream has largely been realised except for three Filipino staff for whom we are most grateful for their extended service.

“Sonoma graduates have established a record of service to the Church that is remarkable. Its first small graduating class of 1968 gave the Church a combined total of over 350 years of service. May God continue to use Sonoma as a powerhouse for service.”

There were a variety of activities during the celebrations. Spiritual devotions and services on the theme “Reflecting and celebrating God’s leading for eternity” were shared by former students and staff of Sonoma, reminding everyone of God’s leading in their lives. There was not only spiritual revival but plenty of time to socialise, meet other former students and see old friends and classmates.

Despite the rain, the walk down memory lane to Vunaling—the site where Sonoma was originally established—was a learning experience. There among the remains of the old buildings, Dr Currie explained the historical significance of buildings erected in 1968.

Dr and Mrs Currie with one of the celebration attendees.

The anniversary coincided with PNG’s independence celebrations so students displayed their traditional heritage, food and songs to be judged by representatives from each province. There were school departmental displays and ball games as some participants refreshed skills from their school days.

The participants enjoyed sightseeing at the war cemetery, observatory, volcano and hot springs at Matupit.

Program organising committee chairman Joros Sawi attributed the program’s success to the assistance and commitment of all the staff members who were part of each designated committee, but above all to God who was with them in the planning.

The major project contribution for the reunion program was for a new church building.

Local media team the Kingsmen—including former Sonoma students—captured all the events on video. Copies were sold after the program.

A monument unveiled by Dr Currie now stands as a memorial of the occasion.

“Together we thank the good Lord for keeping His promises in leading, guiding and blessing Sonoma College during the past 50 years,” said Sonoma principal Dr Isako Esekia in his concluding message.

“Certainly we have nothing to fear for the next 50 years, except when we forget how the good Lord has graciously led us thus far. May the spirit of unity, friendship, respect and genuine concern for the wellbeing of one another continue to prevail as we celebrate, plan and build for another 50 years and beyond—even in the life to come for eternity!”