Papua New Guinea (PNG) is located in the Pacific Ocean, occupying the eastern part of the island of New Guinea and several islands in Melanesia, north of Australia. Although the population is relatively small (seven million inhabitants) there are 848 known languages spoken by a variety of ethnic groups in the country. Independence from Australia was achieved in 1975, but this big neighbor still is very important for the country in many ways. Most of the population (95%) still live in rural areas, following their customary ways of life. Ninety-six percent of its citizens profess to be Christian, and although we know that this fact does not mean that they all have been born again, they do fear God and respect the preaching of the gospel.
The Province and the Village
The gospel work carried on by brethren from Brisbane, Australia, is focused on the Hela Province, in the Southern Highlands of the country. About 250,000 people live in this province and, although the majority of them belong to the Huli tribe, they are divided into many clans. The door that the Lord has opened for the gospel in this province is located in a small village called Erepo, close to the provincial capital.
The Beginning of the Work in the Western Highlands
The brethren from Brisbane first went to a town in the Western Highlands province in 2004, attending the invitation of someone from that area who had professed salvation while studying in Brisbane. Although most of the first efforts were concentrated in that area, they also visited other parts of the country, preaching the gospel and distributing Christian literature. Among them was brother Alf Grant, who has faithfully visited PNG ever since them.
On one of their trips, a man called Albert was saved, some distance from Erepo. Over the years they kept in contact with him and visited his village a few times. However, the main efforts were still in the Western Highlands, but sadly the enemy of our souls used a few from there to cause difficulties and the testimony in that area suffered much because of them.
A New Beginning in the Hela Province
Brethren were discouraged with what had happened in the Western Highlands, and did not feel freedom to go to PNG for a couple of years. After Kylie and I were commended to serve the Lord in a full-time capacity at the beginning of 2013, I talked with brother Alf about the situation there and prayed for the Lord’s direction regarding a visit. In December 2013, with the support of the assembly, we went with brother Michael Chapman, spending two weeks there. We saw that the damage in the Western Highlands was serious, but went to visit Albert in Erepo. We noticed that the Lord had been working in that area through the testimony of our brother. He had a different attitude and good interest in the gospel and in gathering unto the name of the Lord alone. We went back to Brisbane and after communicating with our brethren there, we agreed that the Lord had opened a new door in PNG
The Current Situation
Visiting Erepo is not easy. We fly from Brisbane to Port Moresby (over three hours), then board a domestic flight to Mount Hagen (almost 1 hour and a half), and then hire a vehicle and drive about seven hours to reach our destination. Tropical diseases are very common in these areas, so we must be extremely careful with what we eat or drink and with personal hygiene (once brother Michael Chapman spent several weeks in hospital, very sick with Typhoid after returning from one of our trips). Consequently, we are not able to go as often as we would like. Nevertheless, it has been a big encouragement to see the spiritual development of the few believers in that village.
During our visits over the last two years, we have divided our time between gospel work and Bible teaching. In the morning, we normally go to a marketplace or close to a bridge and have an open air meeting. A good crowd normally attends these meetings and we always have opportunity to distribute many tracts. Coming from Australia, where there is little interest in the things of the Lord, the gospel outreach in PNG is encouraging, although we have to be careful of false professions, as some people will try to get financial help from those coming from Australia. In the afternoons, we gather with the believers and anyone interested and have a ministry meeting, not only to teach doctrinal principles but also to help them in their Christian lives. After the Bible teaching, there is usually a large amount of time spent answering the many questions, pointing them to the Word of God for the answers. We have found this to be a very important time to interact with the believers and local people.
On our last trip (March 2015) we had the joy of baptizing three believers (one brother and two sisters). It was a very happy day, as we saw the enthusiasm of the local believers, taking responsibility for organizing a traditional meal and getting things ready for the meeting. They don’t have a meeting hall yet, and the meetings are held in an area to the front of Albert’s father’s hut. That day, the meal was served on banana leaves placed on the ground, and we all sat in small groups around the food, using our hands to eat with. The believers have cleared a block of land in the jungle and are getting ready to start the construction of a hall, but they need support to draw up the plans and to guide the work. We are praying for the Lord’s direction in this regard. We hope to be able to visit them again in November.
Our prayer is that the Lord will help the local believers to develop their gifts, so that one day they can function as an assembly, dependent upon the Lord. However, we know that the Lord has given us the privilege of being there to help them and teach them. We would like to spend more time with them, so each visit is prayerfully planned and we try to help as much as we can. Would you pray for the work in PNG? We all are partners together in the gospel, and the Lord has given us this small corner of His vineyard to work and for which to pray.