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.
Photos: College property, College staff, 2016 graduates, 2017 students, raising pigs microenterprise.
The Solomon Islands INC School of Ministries more commonly known as the Balasuna Bible College is in session again having commenced in early May. There are 24 students this year coming from different islands and provinces from the Solomon Islands who will be trained over a 4 month period for pastoral ministry under the leadership of Principals Pastor Leonard & Elizabeth Letana with the help of Pastor Frank Styles from Australia.
Since 1989, many pastors from the South Pacific nations have been trained as pastors of Christian Outreach Centre and the International Network of Churches. The college had to close down from 1999-2005 because of civil unrest but opened again in 2005 and has been training pastors from the Solomon Islands since then. The bulk of the lecturing is carried out by pastors from Australia who pay their way and give their time to bless and impart to the future pastors. Financial support, printed materials and fund-raising projects also come mostly from Australian churches and church members and we are grateful for whatever support we get.
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