A Stolen Bible Raises a Church

How God’s Word is transforming lives in isolated villages of Papua New Guinea

David Fletcher, Adventist Record
A Stolen Bible Raises a Church
During tribal fighting in Papua New Guinea, one of the fighters entered an Adventist church and stole a Bible. He took it home and began to read it. And that made all the difference. [Photo: Adventist Record]

In 2021, tribal fighting broke out between Kemefa, Kainava, Okipa, and Tapo and Oregé villages in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The war resulted in many houses being burned and destroyed and property looted in Kemefa. At least 16 people lost their lives on each side of the fighting. 

Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders dressed in various church uniforms went into the middle of the battle to call for peace. Adventists church members also gathered up the bodies of those who died from both sides and took them to the morgue, cleaned and dressed the bodies, placed them in caskets, and returned them to their families. This behavior by Adventists is a typical response to tribal conflict in Papua New Guinea. 

During the fighting, a fighter from Oregé entered the Kemefa Seventh-day Adventist Church. This fighter, Abuni Ane, a drug runner, stole a Bible from the church and took it to his home. When the fighting eventually stopped, Abuni began to read the stolen Bible and was convicted by the Holy Spirit. 

Several months after the fighting, Adventist pastor Dicks Neheza visited Oregé village and met Abuni. Abuni brought out the stolen Bible and explained what had happened and how he wanted to repent and commit his life to serve God. 

Neheza had recently received training in small group ministry from Peter Roennfeldt and was nurturing home groups during the COVID restrictions. Neheza and Abuni launched a small home group, and after some time, Abuni asked to be baptized.  

Abuni was baptized by Joanis Fezamo, president of the Adventist Church’s Eastern Highlands Simbu Mission. At his baptism, Abuni shared his testimony with the church members of Kemefa, where he had stolen the Bible. He told them he was sorry and returned the Bible to the elder of Kemefa church. The elder, speaking on behalf of Kemefa church, immediately forgave Abuni; he then returned the stolen Bible to Abuni along with a church hymnal. The elder instructed him to continue reading the Bible, sing praises to God, and start a church in Oregé. 

The following day, Neheza went to Abuni’s village with his carpentry tools. Abuni and his two friends went out into the bush nearby and collected timber for a semi-permanent church structure. A church company started that day in Oregé village with three church members. Since then, the church group has grown to 18 members. Amazingly, during the recent PNG for Christ meetings, eight were baptized from the Oregé church company — a church that emerged from tribal fighting and a stolen Bible.

Neheza says the semi-permanent church building is now too small, so a new permanent church will be built because of the growth from PNG for Christ. “We need your help and prayers to support us,” he added. 

The original version of this story was posted by Adventist Record. This story was told by Dicks Neheza, church pastor in the Eastern Highlands Simbu Mission. Neheza is responsible for Tuempinka church and Yasi, Arana, Karufinave, and Oregé company churches in the Kainantu district. He has served five years in the Kainantu district, raising three new church companies during this time. He is a carpenter by trade and uses his trade skills to enter new territory with the gospel.

David Fletcher is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministries director of the South Australian Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

David Fletcher, Adventist Record