Positioned on the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire” the people of Papua New Guinea are not strangers to earthquakes and tremors. Over the past year there have been 400 earthquakes ranging from 1.5 to 7.5. Over the past week the earth has been shaking in the West New Britain area up to 6.9 magnitude with warnings of tsunamis. But life generally moves on as the people adapt to each situation.
However, on February 25 this year a 7.6 magnitude earthquake near Tari in the Southern Highlands has had a disastrous effect on a large area. Huge landslides have changed the shape of the mountain ranges as they slid down into river valleys covering village homes, burying many people and polluting the water supply. During the following weeks there were a reported 59 aftershocks of over magnitude 5. This has created fear, displacement of an estimated 35,000 people, roads being damaged and unemployment with the closing down of Oil and Liquid Gas companies until they assess any damage to their facilities.
Food, water and medical supplies and water have been the priority with PNG, Australian and International Aid flowing in mostly by air transport. This has been made more difficult with limited communication and long standing deadly tribal fighting in some areas. On March 15, UNICEF estimated that 275,000 people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance including 125,000 children. Some disturbing reports are now emerging concerning the health and welfare of women and children who have had to flee their villages.
The INC South Pacific Office in Australia has had limited communication with the pastors in the region and is in a position of waiting to assess what is being done and what their most urgent needs might be. Some reports from Pastor Ben Solu in Mendi, which is 100 kilometres away from the epicentre, spoke of a number of people in that town being buried by landslides and damage to housing. The foundations on his own house are all cracked and every time there is another tremor they wonder if the house will fall down. He has been told that two COC/INC churches in the Kutubu area have collapsed.
Pastor Ben Luke Solu
Pastor Alex Koyaiye from Kaupena sent through the following photos of road damage in his area which is a long way from the epicentre so it demonstrates the savage force of the earthquake.
Any further reports will be added to this INC South Pacific blog site. In the meantime pray for them.
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.
Albert & Helen Futa from Honaiara
Class of 2017 Balasuna
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.
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.