If current growth trends continue, Adventist membership in Papua New Guinea (PNG) will reach 300,000 before the end of 2017. And, thanks largely to PNG, membership across the South Pacific Division (SPD) is likely to hit the half million mark.
But Adventism in PNG is not only marked by its quantity. There’s a groundswell of enthusiasm for discipleship and what the Adventist world church has called “Total Member Involvement” (TMI), or the involvement of every member in the mission of sharing Jesus. These are programs that resonate well in community-oriented PNG.
Members’ enthusiasm was apparent as Adventist leaders and representatives from around the nation met in Lae for the Papua New Guinea Union Mission’s (PNGUM) mid-year meetings in late May.
Reports came in from various Church departments and all corners of the country, with speaker after speaker describing how TMI was becoming a reality in their jurisdiction. Youth groups are planting churches, ADRA volunteers are delivering Bibles to struggling families along with food and household necessities, classrooms are being built, free healthcare is being provided, and rubbish-strewn towns are being tidied by willing helpers.
“When the Church is at work, God is at work,” said Joanis Fezamo, principal at Omaura School of Ministry, during his report to the PNGUM Executive Committee. His students have been working hard in their school gardens, but they have also found time to upgrade roads and help negotiate peace between local tribesmen involved in violent clashes.
Apart from the administrative tasks involved in the church business meetings, those present attended a spiritual retreat, a series of training seminars conducted by members of the SPD’s Discipleship Ministries Team, and a special reconciliation Sunday program at Lae Memorial Adventist Church.
The all-day meeting was a showcase of reconciliation in action as a long-standing personal conflict between church members was resolved with much prayer, expressions of hurt and confessions of wrong. PNGUM President Kepsie Elodo has specialized in reconciliation ministry in recent years, including reconciliation between parties recovering from the impact of the Bougainville’s civil war (1988-1998).
PNGUM Secretary Henry Monape said that unlike last year, with the sadness and disruption caused by the death of PNGUM President Geoffrey Pomaleu, the mood at this year’s mid-year meetings was positive. “Church leaders have enthusiastically adopted the focus on discipleship and TMI, and the Mount Hagen town clean-up in April was a highlight of the mission reports,” he said. That initiative moved Executive Committee delegates to vote for two nation-wide clean-up days in 2018.
Delegates also discussed the possibility of administrative regions of the Adventist Church in PNG being upgraded from “mission” to “conference” status—to reflect maturity in local leadership and increased financial self-sufficiency. Currently, only the Central Papua region, around the capital Port Moresby, is a conference. But retired church administrator and special consultant Peter Oli reminded the Executive Committee four other missions have already been recommended for conference status. “Pursue the necessary application and auditing procedures, so that these regions can gain conference status by 2020,” he said.