From Sunday-keeping Religious Leaders to Committed Adventists

Three lay pastors and elders in Papua New Guinea share their story.

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review
From Sunday-keeping Religious Leaders to Committed Adventists
General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson poses for a group photo with Paul Kongiye, Mark Simbil, Phillip Gan, and others after baptizing them in Minj, Jiwaka, Papua New Guinea, on May 6. [Photo: Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review]

A farmer by profession, Paul Kongiye used to attend a Sunday-keeping congregation in his village of Jimi, in the western highlands of Papua New Guinea. Then, in 2000, the local church pastor left, and the leadership naturally fell on him. For the next 23 years, Kongiye, now 73, would become the pastor in charge of his congregation.

Reading into the Light

One day in 2023, however, Kongiye decided to read and study his Bible, something he had never done despite pastoring his congregation. When he read his Bible, Kongiye was surprised to find out how many Bible verses talked about the seventh-day Sabbath. No verse, however, assigned to the first day of the week any sacred significance.

Trying to stay faithful to what he had learned, Kongiye talked to his members and decided to leave the church, which soon later closed its doors for good.

“Then I found out about the upcoming PNG for Christ evangelistic series,” Konyige says, “and I made up my mind and decided to attend the evangelistic meetings to get ready to be baptized into the Adventist Church.”

After learning more and more about Bible truth, Kongiye, his wife, and his adult daughter were baptized on May 6 in Minj, Jiwaka. A plus for him was the fact that General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson was assigned to baptize him.

“I feel so happy now,” Kongiye said after the May 6 ceremony. “One hundred-percent happy. And the fact that I was baptized by the church president was an extra blessing for me.”

The members of his former congregation left and joined another Sunday-keeping group. “But I intend to go back to my village, find them, and teach them about the Sabbath,” Kongiye said. “I have been blessed by all the messages I have been listening to. Not only about the Sabbath, but about the state of the dead and Bible prophecy.” He added, “In the area where I live, there are no other Seventh-day Adventists that I know of. Now I have the burden to return to my place and share these truths with the rest of the population.”

In Search of Truth

Mark Simbil’s story is, in some respects, not very different from Kongiye. Hailing from the Meginpaul village, not far from where Kongiye lives, Simbil, 54, had also been searching for truth for some time. Baptized as an infant in a Sunday-keeping church, he then joined another church, where he finally became an assistant pastor of his new denomination.

In the process of searching for truth, the now widower father of seven children — one boy and six girls, four already married — also decided almost a decade ago that he could not honestly continue pastoring his congregation. For eight years, Simbil kept studying by himself without any formal connection to another church. Meanwhile, he kept living a simple life, selling various goods to make ends meet.

“As I was reading the book of Genesis, I found out that Bible patriarchs and prophets had worshipped God on the seventh-day Sabbath,” he shared after his baptism. “I kept searching and searching, until in early 2024, I received a visit of my sister and her husband.” Unbeknownst to Simbil, his sister and brother-in-law had become Seventh-day Adventists. His sister soon shared the Bible message with him.

Simbil then began to attend an Adventist congregation near his village every week, where he learned about the upcoming PNG for Christ series. He then decided to come down from his mountain village and camp near the announced venue as he waited for the evangelistic series to start.

On May 6, Simbil was the first to enter into the pool to be baptized by Wilson.

“I am so happy,” Simbil said. “Pastor Wilson talked kindly to me, and we shook hands. I am so glad he was the one who baptized me.”

Simbil then shared his missionary plans. “I live in a place close to Mount Wilhelm, the highest peak in Papua New Guinea. I’m going to climb mountains, join hands with other Adventist believers, and together, we are going to extend the influence of the church across the mountains. We are going to share this message along.”

He emphasized, however, that before going beyond the mountains, there was something he must do. “My children are overjoyed that I became a Seventh-day Adventist. But I need to witness to my children first, then go over the mountains,” he said.

Accepting His Assignment

Phillip Gan, 42, from the Cabibuka village in the Jimi area in the mountains, had also attended a Sunday-keeping church close to his home. There, for about two years, he served as an elder in his congregation. But one day, he found the truth about the Sabbath by reading the Bible by himself. Eventually, he was told about the upcoming PNG for Christ meetings.

“I think it was a turning point for me,” Gan said. “Today, my wish of being baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church came true.”

Just like his friends Kongiye and Simbil, Gan walked for days down mountain paths to Minj, where Wilson was scheduled to preach. There they set up camp, not far from the stage.

“I have been camping here for weeks, enjoying the fellowship with other people and happy to be learning so many new things,” he says. “In my previous church, I always had doubts about its teachings, because some teachings were not based on the Bible,” Gan adds. “But now I am convinced about what I believe.”

According to Gan, after baptizing him, Wilson told him, “Now you have a job to do, which is to share what you know with others.”

“I am so happy about that assignment,” Gan said. “Now that I am baptized, I know that my first job is to reach my family and my community and tell them what’s in the Bible.”

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review