August 8, 2007

1522 Adventist News Feature

House of Prayer Opens in Papua New Guinea

BY MELODY TAN, Public Relations Officer, South Pacific Division

capAprayer house has been opened on the island of St. Matthias in Mussau, located on the northernmost part of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The opening and dedication ceremony coincided with a week of prayer organized by Mr. Benjamin Kola, prayer ministries coordinator of the Adventist Church there.

The pioneers of the Adventist Church on the island built the Prayer Power House, and Mrs. Joy Butler, keynote speaker and prayer ministries coordinator of the Adventist Church in the South Pacific officially opened it.

“This house of prayer marks the spot where God’s Spirit blessed the pioneers and will remind us of what God did for our forefathers,” Pastor Ben Kotoveke, Sabbath school and personal ministries director of the Adventist Church in the New Britain and New Ireland region of PNG, said during the opening ceremony. “Some of our pioneers have gone but they have left a legacy of prayer life. This is a lighthouse to shine through the world and help bring people back to God.”

More than 500 church members attended the week of prayer and also celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Adventist Church’s presence on the island. The Adventist Church is the only Christian denomination in Mussau. Retired pastors, teachers and church workers living on St Matthias and other islands nearby were also honoured during the week, one of whom was Pastor Wilson Stephen, retired president of the Adventist Church in PNG.

Church members either walked more than two hours each day or travelled by canoes to get to the meetings. During the week, Mrs. Butler and three other speakers from Australia and PNG conducted workshops on prayer and the praying church.

“On the first evening of my visit a woman thanked me for prayers for her son who had left the church but later returned,” says Joy. “It was lovely to receive this heartfelt [message].”

The islands of Mussau were not always friendly to Christians — or, frankly, anyone. Less than a century ago, immorality, disease, ignorance and filth had reduced the population to a few hundred depraved, cruel and deeply troubled inhabitants. The Australian government had declared the islands off limits to outsiders of any kind.

When a Roman Catholic priest went to Mussau to share the gospel despite the government’s prohibition, he was promptly clubbed to death, chopped up in pieces and buried.

On April 18, 1932, a small group of Adventist missionaries from Fiji and the Solomon Islands, led by Captain McLaren, arrived at Mussau on the boat Veilomani. As war canoes greeted their boat, they began to sing “Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.” The canoes stopped as warriors listened and they allowed the captain to come ashore and speak to their chief. 170 people were converted that year.

Shortly after that visit, Adventist pastor A.S. Atkins travelled to Mussau, intending to establish a Bible school. With the government’s approval, the school began operations on October 23, 1933.

In the last 75 years, more than 2,000 people from Mussau have gone as missionaries to other parts of Papua New Guinea and beyond. They have been and are leaders, teachers, preachers, evangelists, office workers, nurses, accountants and agriculturalists