The nation of Papua New Guinea is a land of contrasts. Approximately 330 churches belonging to the International Network of Churches are scattered through the rugged mountain ranges, along huge river valleys, in the main cities and town settlements and to the remote idyllic islands surrounding the mainland. Ministering the gospel to these areas faces many challenges. Some walk great distances to minister or go to church. Travelling by road or by sea can be dangerous. Flying is expensive. Now that some pastors have phones that can record what they are doing, we receive stories of their outreach and ministry in some of the remotes areas of this amazing country.
Over the Christmas and New Year period, Pastor Rommy & Ruth Feton (Deputy President of Christian Outreach Centre, PNG) travelled from Alotau by boat to minister to a newly planted church Lighthouse COC on one of the islands near the southern tip of the mainland. It was a time of preaching and teaching and ministering to the village people.
Ruth reported that one of the village women Nancy Douglas also organized an activity for the women which attracted extra numbers. Time was made for the older women to teach the girls some skills such as weaving baskets, making grass skirts, cooking rice balls and how to use a shell to peel the taro from the gardens.
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Nuku’alofa with a population of 24,500 is situated on the island of Tongatapu and is the capital city of the kingdom nation of Tonga. The remainder of the mostly Polynesian 108,000 population are scattered over 52 of the 176 islands of this small South Pacific nation.
Pastors Peni & Ma’ata Mafi are the pastors of the small but growing Nuku’alofa INC church, also known as Christian Outreach Centre. Recently they received a visit from Pastor Maurice and Wendy Ritchie and Pastor Ben Cherry from INC churches in New Zealand. Over the past 8 years a special relationship has developed between the two fellowships. While acknowledging the support of other friends and churches in Australia, Maurice and Wendy and the New Zealand churches have provided finances and expertise in the building of the church and have stood alongside them and encouraged them through some difficult times. And now they are seeing the fruit.
Ps Maurice sharing the Word
Musicians praising God.
Preparation for the couples night.
After a week of meetings in October with church leaders, young people, musicians, a social night with couples and a Sunday morning service which was packed and full of life, Wendy writes, “ To be part of this work is an absolute joy. It has been wonderful to see the health, growth and development of the congregation in spirit and in numbers and to see these generous, gracious people loving God with their whole heart, in the building that they have built with their own hands, with a little help from friends. Congratulations Pastor Peni and Ma’ata.”
A total of 21 students graduated at the School of Ministries at Balasuna. These students have returned to ministering in their villages or planting new churches. Since May, they have been living at Balasuna receiving teaching from local and Australian pastors in study areas of doctrine, Bible, Christian living and ministry foundations. Applications for next year’s course have already been received.
Class of 2017 Balasuna
Albert & Helen Futa from Honaiara
NEW CHURCH BUILDING AT AUKI
Several years ago, Pastors Levi and Melody Lauasi had his land, church and home buildings at Auki in Malaita taken from him by other members of the family. He graciously let them have it and set about obtaining new land and a new building with contributions from family, friends and fellow Christians some from Australia.
2014 The new beginning
2017 The final result
NATIONAL CONFERENCE AND CHURCH OPENING
In October, the attractive building was officially opened as they hosted the National Conference. A big crowd of believers celebrated with singing and dancing and praising God. The Guest Speaker from Australia Ps Kindah Greening helped to officially open the building and gave a word of prophecy for the church. Other welcome guests from Australia were Murray Townsend, INC South Pacific Chairman and Cynthia Kenzler, International Commander of KC’s International Youth Ministry and Frank Styles, Solomon Islands School of Ministries,
In December 2001, an old rundown sawmill workshop situated an hour south of Mount Hagen in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea began its transformation. It became the home of the Kaupena COC/INC congregation under Pastor Alex and Jerrie Koyaiye.
During the next 8 years it was transformed from an old kunai grass building strewn with old engine parts, oil and grease into a colourful house of God where the local Christians worshipped, prayed and celebrated.
Souls were saved, people healed and delivered and the church hosted many camps, crusades, conferences, training sessions and meetings of pastors. The church operating as a base for the Southern Highlands churches also housed musical and office equipment.
On March 21st 2017, disaster struck. Motivated by jealousy, human hands set fire to the buildings which also included the pastor’s residence and vehicle. The local people stared in disbelief as an estimated five million kina worth of buildings and equipment went up in smoke.
Payback was the cry and intent of the locals and some from further afield, when they saw what happened. However, the amazing thing is that Pastor Alex by the grace of God, stepped in to prevent such action and declared his forgiveness of the perpetrators (who he knew well), and belief that God would provide even better in the future.
So at the moment the church people are having their church services under a blue tarpaulin, learning what God is teaching them through this experience and believing in the goodness of God. Pastors at the National Conference in September ministered their love and encouragement.
During the last week of September 2017 several hundred Pastors and Leaders from the far flung islands, the coasts and the highlands of Papua New Guinea gathered together at a Catholic high school property 30 minutes out of Mt Hagen for the annual COC/INC National Conference and AGM.
Hosted by the churches in the Highlands, the Conference delegates settled into the accommodation for the week. The generosity of the Highlanders was evident wherever you looked. Bags of freshly harvested vegetables were piled around the buildings. Groups of white chickens were huddled here and there ready for the cookpot and the local church women gathered in the kitchen ready to feed all the delegates. For the final meal on the final day, three pigs were also cooked in a mumu and added to the menu. Each morning, a generous couple Sam and Samantha provided and prepared a breakfast of hot coffee, bread and eggs.
Taim bilong kai
Planning time for youth conference
As is the custom in PNG, the colourful stage was loaded with beautiful flowers and bright balloons and drapes. There was an expectancy at each of the Conference meetings and in the evenings the large auditorium filled up with members of the local churches joining in as well. Praise was energetic and loud and worship times were stirring and meaningful. Times of ministry were approached with respect and hunger.
For some of the meetings, the preaching platform was shared with some of the visitors from Australia which included the Oceania INC Chairman Ross Abraham and pastoral team from the Elevation INC Church in Sydney. Director of Global Care Peter Pilt also accompanied them for their short visit. Murray Townsend and Min Tobitt representing INC South Pacific were there for the five days which included meeting with leadership as well.
Pastor Mathew Roni
Pastor Ross Abraham
Elevation pastors from Sydney
Pastor Peter Pilt
Pastors Alex, Murray & Exon
One significant decision at the AGM was the decision to pursue the establishment of the Human Development Foundation which places the movement in a position to obtain government assistance in providing services for the welfare of the local church communities.
There are an estimated 450 INC churches throughout the South Pacific, the majority of them being in Papua New Guinea with its larger population. There are also churches in Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga. Keeping track of the number of INC churches is not easy. They can spring up overnight following outreach meetings in some remote village. Or a church may be planted out from a larger church in one of the cities. And then there is the down side where some may just disappear because of isolation, young people moving to the cities and outside influences. Many still use the name of COC (Christian Outreach Centre)
Some rural churches in Vanuatu and Fiji.
Not all INC and COC churches have buildings but there is a great variety in the ones who do have their own building. Small buildings made of bush materials can be found in many villages where the people often sit on the ground and then they progress to making wooden benches to sit on. Highlands churches are closed in for warmth while coastal churches tend to allow the air flow through. In Fiji, government standards are stricter and most church buildings are of a permanent nature.
Some town and city churches in Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.
Their goal is always to build a more permanent building even if they are still quite small. Larger churches are found in the cities or towns and plastic chairs are used to provide seating. In the cities, sometimes property is rented until they are able to build their own building. Their love of colour and decoration is always evident in their buildings with flowers, banners and curtains and even to the choice of tiles for their floors.
In their church services, the love of worship and praise and the welcome given make it easy for visitors to join in, even if the language is foreign to them.
Gathering together for conferences, crusades and “boot camps” provides life, inspiration, encouragement and accountability for the INC pastors in the South Pacific nations. Many of them are isolated in the mountains or on an island; some have had to face disasters such as cyclones, droughts, tsunamis or sickness. Conferences are held yearly on a national level where guest speakers from Australia or other nations are invited. Women’s and Youth Conventions are held from time to time on a regular basis. Their regional and provincial gatherings are also valuable times where they are also able to discuss matters of importance to them and they also hold Crusade type meetings at night.
Highlands Youth Conference, Kundiawa
Photos: Youth Conference in Highlands of PNG; National Conference Fiji; Youth Conference, North Vanuatu; Women heading to a Regional Women’s Conference in PNG.
INC Fiji held their Biennial Conference in May 2017 where they gathered at the Navua Garden of Joy church. Guest speakers were Oceania Chairman Pastor Ross Abraham, International Director of Global Care Pastor Peter Pilt and Pastor Iliesa Tamaniyaga from New Zealand.
Fiji National Conference May 2017
Coming Conferences for INC South Pacific are:
August 16 FIJI National Women’s Conference
September 4-7 VANUATU (Southern Provinces) at South Tanna.
September 26-29 PAPUA NEW GUINEA at Mt Hagen, Western Highlands Prov.
October 3-6 SOLOMON ISLANDS at Auki, Malaita Province.
December 8-12 VANUATU (Northern Provinces) at Luganville, Sanma Prov.
Following a previous missions trip to Vanuatu when outreach meetings were held and many age including the villager chief came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, a relationship has been established between the mission team members of the Shellharbour Community Church and the village of Olan Nambuga, which is essentially a slum area only 10 minutes away from the centre of Port Vila in Vanuatu. The living standards for most people in the village are quite low and unemployment is high. Many children can’t afford to go to the regular schools.
Desiring to further this relationship in a practical way, a team of 10 people from the INC church at Shellharbour ages ranging from 16 to 70 followed up with another visit in July 2017. The aim of the visit was to build a marketplace in the village. The vision is that this market would bring tourism, provide employment, create a central space for purchasing goods for those in the village and would create income that will send local children to school.
According to team members Rachel and David Imisides : “ God really took care of the team over the trip and we saw His hand in so many things! God led us to unexpected ministry and missions opportunities. The team worked very hard over very long hours and the market place went up successfully in just 6 days! We built an open market, an office and a store room. The villagers were so pleased with the market and many of them expressed what a difference it would make in their community.”
God opened up an opportunity for the three women in the team to start a Scabies Clinic in the village. Many children in the village are affected by this horribly uncomfortable disease that leads to open sores on different parts of the body. Over 50 children and adults were treated as well as teaching them some basic health principles such as the importance of cleaning and covering wounds to avoid infection and much improvement in the patients.
The medical equipment was left with a local teacher who will continue the work. Rachel writes, “We also had a language student on our team who was able to translate into the local language the process for treating the disease. They were so impressed by the accuracy of the translation! We put the poster up around the village to facilitate ongoing treatment of the disease. We are hoping and praying it will make a big impact in the village.”
Developing a servant heart was the theme of the day for the children at the Gateway INC church at Nasinu. Washing each other’s feet was part of the lesson. Several weeks later it was learning about the armour of God.
Nasinu church has been the home of the Christian Outreach College in Fiji for the past 5 years, having spent 12 years at its previous venue at Nausori. Under the leadership of Ps Jona & Lucy Waqairagata, the College has produced many fine young Christian people. There are 117 students enrolled this year. They use the biblically based ACE curriculum purchased from Australia and in secondary years it is adapted to Australian or New Zealand programs in preparation for tertiary studies. Despite excellent results, they receive no funding from the government and the curriculum is barely covered by the school fees but God has provided in different ways over the years since the College started. This includes Lucy and her family coming to Australia in their holidays to earn money fruit-picking. The students have great opportunities to participate in conventions and sporting events against other children in the South Pacific. Great dedication to educating children to a high standard of Christian living is evident in their lives and in the church at Nasinu.
Photos: Nasinu children, College classroom scenes, student group attending convention in Australia in 2016
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Photos: Church building, visiting speakers with the church pastor
Tonga, previously known as the Friendly Isles is our smallest INC South Pacific nation and the furthest east. We only have one church there in the capitol city of Nuku’alofa. But in this isolated situation they have been blessed by help and encouragement from Fiji, Nowra in Australia and New Zealand over recent years.
Over the past months, there has been plenty of activity, when a team from City Church Nowra finally put the finishing touches to their church building by putting in the ceiling. Pastors Peni and Ma’ata Mafi were ready then to celebrate their Conference with visiting speakers Fiji National Chairman Pastor Sevuloni Cakau and his wife Iva and Pastor Jason Smith from Australia.