When we went to Papua New Guinea (PNG) in November 2019, I was expecting to visit again in May 2020. We had to wait until 2022 because Australia closed its international borders to everyone in March 2020, and they remained closed for two years.
Although the pandemic didn’t affect the daily life of most people living in the remote areas of PNG, we were concerned about the spiritual life of the believers we know there. Most of them are new in their faith, and they could be easily confused by the different religious groups around them. We had to put into practice what we had advised others to do in similar circumstances: keep praying and wait on the Lord.
First Visit Since the Pandemic: June 2022
Finally, in June 2022, Alf Grant, Jeff Walker and I travelled to PNG and visited the four small assemblies that the Lord had planted there during our previous visits. We were glad to see that most of the beloved brothers and sisters remained faithful to the Lord, but we noticed that in some places there was confusion about some of the principles of gathering unto the name of the Lord, so we spent a lot of time teaching again the fundamentals of the local church, both publicly and privately. We also met with several believers to talk about personal issues, and we advised them from the Scriptures. Even those in responsibility in the assemblies needed help, so during that visit we spent more time talking and advising believers individually than before.
During that visit, we were in Mugmap (close to Mt. Haggen) for over a week, and visited the three assemblies in Hela for a few days.
Second Visit Since the Pandemic: November 2022
I didn’t want to wait long for another visit; the Lord answered our prayers and Michael Chapman and I travelled to PNG in November 2022. Unfortunately, it was a very short visit (10 days), but we spent all our time with the small assemblies in Hela province (Erebo, Hiribi and Belova). Again, we noticed the importance of being there with the believers, listening to them and learning about their personal needs, giving them time to ask questions and being patient with their doubts and fears. What a powerful reminder that the work of the Lord is much more than preaching from the platform! As Paul wrote, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2Co 11:28 KJV).
We noticed that the work in Erebo needs our prayers more than in the other assemblies. Erebo was the first assembly planted during our visits, and the other three assemblies started after people that were saved there went back to their villages with the gospel. Although it is great that from Erebo has sounded out the Word of the Lord to other places, the local assembly has suffered because of the number of believers moving to the other areas, especially to Mugmap, where they can find employment in the tea and coffee plantations. On top of that, there were problems among some of the few remaining there, and unfortunately those issues have not been resolved. However, not everything is lost. We were encouraged by the good attendance of people from the community and by the faithfulness of one sister. She encourages the few others to keep coming, and she says that she prays that the Lord will bless Erebo with souls being saved.
In Belova the situation is different. In 2019 we baptised six new believers and all of them are doing well in the assembly. They kept the regular meetings going, including a well-attended Sunday school. The Lord has blessed their efforts and souls have been saved, and we baptised some of them during our visit; now they have been added to the small company. The hall where they had their meetings is just a simple hut, but now they are working on something more solid. I encouraged them to go to Erebo and help the believers, but travelling there is very difficult, and they said they will go once they finish the new hall.
Something that really encouraged us during this visit was that there were other brethren who were able to be our interpreters. The brother who normally helps us lives in Mugmap and came to us towards the end of our trip, so other brethren had to step in and help. One of them was Soty (from Hiribi), a short man that was saved from a very rough life. When we met him seven years ago, he only knew a few words in English, but he has applied himself to study the Bible, comparing his Bible in his local language with an English one we gave him. He was our interpreter during our meetings in Hiribi, and only a few times he had to ask us what we meant with some words or phrases. Then, in Belova, Moses did a fine job as our interpreter. He was saved when we were preaching in the high school he attended, and he loves reading the magazines and booklets we gave him every time we went. He used to be very shy but this time he was very confident. May the Lord help them to be faithful and to carry on in the things of the Lord.
Your prayers are vital for the work. We are not able to go as often as we want, so we pray that other believers will have a personal exercise in visiting PNG. Once again, the work is the Lord’s, and we trust that He will keep it, but we earnestly pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send labourers into that small corner of His field.