Papua New Guinea (PNG) prime minister James Marape has used his address at the opening of the Papua New Guinea Union Mission (PNGUM) sixteenth business session to challenge Seventh-day Adventists. “The Adventist Church is not growing at the same rate as PNG's population,” Marape said. “You should aim to reach 1 million members by the end of the next five-year term.”
Marape, himself a Seventh-day Adventist, was unable to attend in person during the opening program on November 29, 2020, which was livestreamed on Facebook, but shared his favorite verse, Romans 8:28, and reminded attendees that God is in control and knows what is best for each one, collectively and individually.
While Marape has no scope to influence the Adventist Church strategy, his speech seemed to inspire delegates and was a highlight during the first day of meetings.
Marape encouraged the Adventist Church in PNG during this time as the newly appointed church administrators take over. At the same time, he commended those who had gone before.
Much of the opening program was spent introducing the newly appointed administration team of Malachi Yani (PNGUM president) and Leonard Sumatau (secretary) and thanking the outgoing team, Kepsie Elodo and Henry Monape — with all four giving speeches.
Delegates in the auditorium of the PNG University of Technology, Lae campus, joined with international guests from the South Pacific Division (SPD) who were on Zoom. The reports and worships for the week were also livestreamed on Facebook so that church members and those around the Pacific region could join.
According to church leaders, one central talking point was the PNGUM Survey Commission, which looked at mission structure, staffing, and funding in depth to address some issues and help PNGUM’s missions mobilize for success in the field. PNGUM has appointed a consultation committee, composed of Ray Paul and Ahu Baliki, to consult with the missions and membership before working on a final recommendation.
PNGUM currently has nine local missions and one conference, while the government only uses four provinces to administer the country. One of the survey recommendations looked at the impact of adopting the model of four administrative units.
A strong emphasis on discipleship and total member involvement shone through many of the presentations at the “Jesus Is Coming, Get Involved” theme of the session.
Many of the mission reports testified to the effectiveness of the Discovery Bible Reading method and the small groups that have been embraced this year, even as larger gatherings and a nationwide evangelism program, “PNG for Christ 2020,” had to be abandoned due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Church planting expert and author Peter Roennfeldt, who has spent much time during the past five years running training programs throughout PNG, joined SPD president Glenn Townend in taking worships throughout the week.