Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape has used his address at the opening of the Papua New Guinea Union Mission’s sixteenth business session to challenge Adventists, suggesting the Church is not growing at the same rate as PNG’s population and that they should aim to reach 1 million members by the end of the next five-year term.
Mr Marape, himself a Seventh-day Adventist, was unable to attend in person during the opening program on November 29, which was live-streamed on Facebook, but shared his favourite verse, Romans 8:28, and reminded attendees that God is in control and knows what is best for each one, collectively and individually.
While the PM has no scope to influence Church strategy, his speech seemed to inspire delegates and was a highlight of the first day of the meetings.
Mr Marape encouraged the Church in PNG during this time as the newly appointed administrators take up the mantle, while commending those who had gone before.
In fact, much of the opening program was spent introducing the newly appointed administration team of Pastor Malachi Yani (PNGUM president) and Pastor Leonard Sumatau (secretary) and thanking the outgoing team, Pastors Kepsie Elodo and Henry Monape—with all four giving speeches.
Russell Strahan had already been appointed as PNGUM CFO however, Kenton Ghona was appointed as the under-tresurer and two associate CFO’s Emmanuelito Ligsay and Neil Bayeta were appointed.
Delegates in the auditorium of the Papua New Guinea University of Technology, Lae campus, joined with international guests from the South Pacific Division (SPD) on Zoom. The reports and worships for the week were also live-streamed on Facebook and aired on Hope FM for church members and those around the Pacific to join.
Outgoing president Pastor Elodo gave an overview of work in PNGUM during the past five years. Pastor Elodo said although COVID 19 had affected church work and especially the “PNG For Christ” campaign set for May 2020, it had a positive impact.
“The pandemic has grown the church through small groups and other evangelistic ways,” Pr Elodo said.
Outgoing secretary Pastor Monape highlighted some of the achievements for the past five years. These included the implementation of the Adventist Church Membership System, plotting of local mission and conference boundaries, the establishment of an archives and filing system and the introduction of lands and surveying work.
Mr Strahan reported the church experienced a “37 per cent increase in tithe” between 2015 and 2019. However, there was only 5 per cent increase in planned giving offerings, which he said was a concern.
One major talking point was the PNGUM Survey Commission, which looked at mission structure staffing and funding in-depth, to address some issues and help PNGUM’s missions mobilise for success in the field. PNGUM has appointed a consultation committee, comprising Ray Paul and Ahu Baliki, to consult with the missions and membership before working on a final recommendation. PNGUM currently has nine local missions and one conference while the government only uses four provinces to administer the country. One of the recommendations of the survey looked at the impact of adopting the model of administrative units to four.
A strong emphasis on discipleship and total member involvement shone through many of the presentations at the “Jesus is Coming, Get involved” themed session.
Pastor Yani challenged the church to be innovative to grow the church.
“God has blessed us this quinquennium. Growth has become a curse. We need to be innovative to make our church grow.
“The laity needs to work together with church to extend the Gospel. We have not improved enough,” Pastor Yani said.
He also thanked Pastors Elodo and Monape, former CFO Bob Butler, Departmental director and associates, ADRA, Adventist Aviation Services and heads of education institutions for their hard work and leadership.
Many of the mission reports testified to the effectiveness of the Discovery Bible Reading method and the small groups that have been embraced this year, even as larger gatherings and a nationwide evangelism program, “PNG for Christ 2020”, had to be abandoned due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Church planting expert and author, Dr Peter Roennfeldt, who has spent much time during the past five years running training programs throughout PNG, joined SPD president Pastor Glenn Townend in taking worships throughout the week.
PNGUM departments and nine mission administrations were also appointed during the session.* The reports are available to view on the PNGUM Facebook page.
For administration appointments, see tables below: