PNG for Christ: what happened and what’s next?

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After two weeks of programs run across Papua New Guinea, the PNG for Christ program has officially finished. While official baptismal numbers are still being processed, the number has passed 260,000 with not all sites reporting yet.

At Minj, where General Conference president Pastor Ted Wilson presented the Revelation of Hope series, 3708 people were baptised during the 16-night program. A further 3000+ baptisms took place at Ela Beach, Port Moresby, in the Central Papua Conference, and these numbers represent just a small portion of the overall impact that was felt across the country.

Stories of drug lords burning their marijuana crops and being baptised, prisoners responding to calls, whole villages declaring themselves Adventist, healings and people understanding the gospel presentations in their own languages are just some of things that have been reported.

For the more than 200 international speakers involved from around the South Pacific Division, it was an inspiring and eye-opening experience.

While in Papua New Guinea, Pastor Wilson travelled to places such as Mt Hagen, Port Moresby, Lae, Goroka and Madang to dedicate churches and centres of influence.

“The big reason why we were looking into having international guest speakers coming into the country was for their learning—that is primary,” said Pastor Malachi Yani, president of the Papua New Guinea Union Mission (PNGUM).

“We want them to come and see why the Church is growing in PNG. We want to see Australia growing as well, New Zealand growing, Trans Pacific Union Mission growing as well. We hope to see them running another campaign like what we did in PNG, so we also will have to go to their country and learn from them. We mingle together and learn together and preach together—that was for our learning.”

“I firmly believe it’s really important for local congregations to look beyond themselves,” said South Australia Conference president Pastor David Butcher.

South Australia is the partner conference with Eastern Highlands Simbu Mission, where all the 10 preachers they sent to PNG for Christ were based.

“It’s easy just to get comfortable where we’re at and selfish,” Pastor Butcher said. “I believe the same thing with conferences, with unions and obviously the Division, which is a part of the whole world field. So for me and for our team—coming here and partnering with this province—this is wonderful because we see something bigger.

“We see something different and there is so much that we can learn from the people here. I believe when we give to others, when we support others, we’ll be blessed locally as well.”  

Pastor Miller Kuso is the Sabbath school and personal ministry director for PNGUM, and had the big job of coordinating PNG for Christ.

“I am coordinating more than 2000 sites in Papua New Guinea. And it is a great privilege and honour for me to visit different sites right across our country,“ he said.

”I would like to thank [the almost 300 international speakers] for standing together, as a movement, with PNGUM to deliver the message of hope, the message of salvation to the people of this great nation of Papua New Guinea.

“We have also all our national preachers, our local preachers, preaching in all different sites—Pacific Adventist University students and Sonoma Adventist College students and local church pastors go into all the remotest parts of Papua New Guinea,“ said Pastor Kuso.

Part of the success of this program has been the involvement of church members. South Pacific Division president Pastor Glenn Townend, who preached at Arawa in Bougainville, paid tribute to the volunteers who made it all possible.

“There are people who are staying overnight looking after the sound and the stage,” Pastor Townend said. “There’s the sound people, the visual people. We’ve been having health checks. It is teamwork. It is total member involvement, and this is really a disciple-making movement in the making and we thank God for that.”

With such a large influx of new membership, the Church in Papua New Guinea is turning its attention to nurture and integration of the new members into existing groups.

Pastor Yani acknowledges the challenges the success of this program will bring. “Growth comes with a lot of challenges,” he said. “We’re running short of leadership. We’re running short of accommodating people in terms of space. We will have a lot of challenges with converts, from other denominations.”

Part of the answer, he believes, is found in helping to serve people.

“If we are a charitable organisation, how do we utilise our resources to actually touch the lives of people? Showing what we believe in terms of caring and sharing. We preach about love, but that has not been seen in the way we touch lives. And so, one thing that the Lord opened our eyes [to] was actual ministries touching the needy people.”

The Church is doing this through Adventist Possibility Ministries (APM). “[APM] is one of the key things that we were embarking on,” said Pastor Yani. “The reason is because poverty is one of the greatest enemies in this country. And if you have people who are in this category, how can you be able to look after them?”

APM can help feed the hungry, provide necessities and serve individuals with disabilities.

PNGUM has started and hopes to continue to provide finance training and Small Medium Entrepreneurs (SME) workshops as these can help with the retention of those who rely on betel nut or pigs for an income. “We run training all over PNG to help them manage money well and the little assets they have, they can generate income out of it.”

COVID-19 proved a “blessing in disguise” to PNGUM, who were planning PNG for Christ in 2020. “We were thinking that at the time, 2019, 2020, we were ready to deliver. In actual fact, we were not,” said Pastor Yani.

“We were discouraged, really discouraged that we were not going to deliver this campaign,” he said. “But as we went on, the church quickly went into cells, church plants, under the trees and we began to have small numbers, five to 10 in every home. And this number quickly multiplied.

“We began to see the needs of people in a very personal way because you have small groups and you [get to] know individual needs, their challenges. And so we began to explore new ideas in doing evangelism, doing ministry.”

Due to a PNG-wide fuel shortage, there were some flight delays as international speakers attempted to return home, but those who took part arrived home safely, forever changed by the experience.

Young minister Michael Qiokata, from Fiji Mission, preached in Upper Bena and was excited to take part in his first foreign evangelism program. “[PNG for Christ] will have a very big impact in my life as a young minister,” he said.

“I’ve had less than two years’ experience in the field and this campaign has been teaching me a lot of lessons. When I go back to my country and to my school where I’m serving, I’ll take up the challenge of evangelising more, especially to the students that I serve.

“We are just fulfilling the word of God that His gospel must reach the whole world. And He’s coming very soon.”

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