May 15, 2024

Singing (and Learning, and Committing to God) in the Rain

Persistent drizzle did not stop thousands from attending evangelistic meetings in PNG.

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review
At quiz time, children attending evangelistic meetings in Goroka, in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG), show eagerness to answer the review questions posed by the guest speaker on May 8. [Photo: Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review]

The weather forecast for Goroka, in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG), got it right on May 8. As soon as the sun set, a persistent drizzle began to fall. A similar drizzle had fallen the night before, and there would be more to come in the following days.

For the 92 open-air venues of the PNG for Christ evangelism series across the Eastern Highlands Simbu Mission (EHSM) territory, co-sponsored by Adventist World Radio, it added an additional challenge. But audio-visual teams were prepared. They soon covered speakers and projectors with beach umbrellas and got ready to proceed with the meeting.

People came prepared too. From smaller venues with a few hundred attendees to others with thousands, those who wanted to be at the meetings continued attending despite the rain. And many decided to follow the Lord and prepare for baptism and a future life with no more sickness or pain. Or rain.

A Combined Effort

As in other sites across PNG, the success of the evangelistic meetings in Goroka did not begin with people deciding to attend. Regional church leaders, local church pastors, and the 109,000 church members across the EHSM combined their efforts so that every detail of the massive meetings planned for April 26-May 11 was taken care of.

Among the speakers were local and regional leaders, with guest speakers from other countries, working in partnership with Adventist World Radio. During the first week of meetings, thousands gathered to listen to North American Division president Alex Bryant sharing God’s Word. According to reports from organizers, 769 were baptized at the end of the first week.

Singing in the Rain

One of the Goroka sites featured guest speaker Béatrice Sainte-Rose, who preached in French. Her messages were translated to English by her niece, Morija Togiaki, who has participated in mission initiatives for AWR in several countries.

But before Sainte-Rose and Togiaki could walk on the stage on May 8, the drizzle became more intense. A group of young people gathered with their youth leader under the canopy for the audio equipment and began to sing. “I will shine my life wherever I go,” they sang. “As an Adventist, I will stand for my identity.”

With group singing, special music items, and prayer, the program went on as usual.

When Sainte-Rose and Togiako finally welcomed attendees, they quizzed children on what they remembered from the previous night’s presentation. Dozens of children vied for the speakers’ attention to answer questions on the meaning of biblical baptism.

In a Rural Zone

Driving up the mountain a few miles outside the town, the road gets dark and muddy. Only the lights of the mission truck shine as it meanders its way until reaching the Arioza site. There, in a clearing among colossal trees, at least 1,000 people sit on the wet ground, on wet rugs, or on rocks to listen to guest speaker Leroy Ramos speak about heaven. It’s been a long way to come for Ramos, a chaplain at AdventHealth in Orlando, Florida, United States.

On May 8, a whole crew is there, with cameras, a powerful sound system, and lights, all powered by a generator. The meetings are being livestreamed, so it’s difficult to know how many are following the meetings. For the previous weekend, thousands filled the place to witness the first baptisms.

Walking to the Light

Among the newly baptized is Elizah Lowari, 71, who hails from a tiny village up on the mountain. For years, Lowari was a catechist for his small Unggai-speaking Anglican congregation, the second in charge after the priest. When the priest decided to leave, Lowari had taken over. But after reading his Bible, he found out he couldn’t continue fulfilling his role and decided to stop leading the congregation. With Lowari gone, the church closed its doors for good.

One day not long ago, Lowari heard that his son Mathias, 37, had been attending Adventist meetings, studying the Bible, and had been baptized. Lowari confronted him immediately. “Why didn’t you tell me you were studying with Seventh-day Adventists?” Lowari said. “I want to study with them too.”

Now, just like his son, Lowari is happy to have also become a church member and be on the road to heaven.

“We can’t even imagine the home God is preparing so we can live with Him,” Ramos tells the crowd as the rain seems to take a momentary break. “How many want to commit to prepare yourself for that moment? I want to see you all there!”