The Seventh-day Adventist Church in New Caledonia recently celebrated five baptisms in their church plant in Tomo, a village approximately 50 kilometres north-west of Noumea, the country’s capital. Hatsar Venkaya, pastor of Noumea church and the Tomo church plant, writes on the impact the church plant is having in the community.
Generating a church planting movement that is self-supportive, self-propagating and self-governed is part of our vision for discipleship and total membership involvement in New Caledonia. Since 2020 our church plant in Tomo served as a lab to train our lay members and expose them to the outworking of the Holy Spirit in order for them to embrace the spirit of church planters. We believe in growing compassionate leaders in the process of reaching out to the unreached.
The past two years could have been fatal to the whole endeavour due to COVID-19. Before the pandemic, our Bible study groups usually had more than 30 regular non-Adventist participants each Tuesday. Unfortunately, this effort was interrupted abruptly because of the confinement. Even though we were taken aback by the situation, our church planting team reacted promptly by listening to the promptings of the Lord to transform our blights into opportunities.
For instance, even though we were under strict confinement our lay leaders used Zoom as a virtual small group platform to maintain communion and community. On a weekly basis, we would call the people, listen to them, pray with them and enquire about their needs. If needed, in case of urgency, we had people ready to intervene on site.
Today the community of Tomo at large regards the Seventh-day Adventist Church highly as we were the only church that kept in touch with them during the pandemic. Instead of lamenting over the constraints, our leaders used creative ways to connect and minister to the people.
After 18 months of intense coaching and mentoring our lay church planters are now fully autonomous. On February 26, we had five baptisms of which two are key leaders of the church plant of Tomo. We are giving individual Bible studies to 12 other people attending our church plant who have all accepted and are experiencing the goodness of the Sabbath. Four of them have asked for baptism, however, we are not focusing on numbers, as we believe that conversion should be viewed in terms of the transformation of worldview and it is a process towards discipleship that requires time. The end goal is for the new believers to fully pledge their allegiance to Christ.
The influence of the church plant is growing beyond its borders as those who are part of the family are telling others what they are experiencing in our church plant. One evangelical pastor—leader of Bikers for Christ—has even told people around him that the Adventist community in Tomo has the truth and they are looking forward to attending our Daniel and Revelation seminar. In the coming weeks, we intend to start again our weekly Bible study group as the demands are high.
Just three years ago Tomo was considered resistant to the gospel and the Adventist Church was largely viewed as a legalistic group. Today, the Lord has changed that perception drastically. This paradigm shift was possible because our lay leaders have embraced the incarnational model of ministry and mission (Philippians 2:4-8). We not only preach the truth, but we believe that the “witnesses” entering the “world” are to live in accordance with the “Word”.
The challenges ahead are still immense as our church members move from being mere participants to actors in God’s mission. Please pray for the burgeoning church planters and all the unreached people groups in New Caledonia.