Celebrating Baptist Legacy in Papua New Guinea
Having grown up part of Boroko Baptist Church, Port Moresby, I am delighted that in June, Papua New Guinean Baptists celebrated their 70th anniversary. Another powerful reminder of the fruit that arises from the work of Australian Baptist pioneer missionaries heading into the dark valleys of the Highlands.
Geoff Cramb, recently retired as Global Interaction Consultant with the Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea, coordinated a group of 23 Australians visiting Baptists in Papua New Guinea in June. They joined in celebrating the arrival in 1949 in the Baiyer Valley in the Western Highlands the first missionaries, Albert Kroenert and Harry Orr, from Sydney.
Here is a summary of his report of the 70th Anniversary celebrations, where a crowd of over 2,000 were present. As you read this, thank God that we are part of a movement of God that took the Good News of Jesus to those in areas such as Baiyer, Telefomin, Kompiam, Lumusa, Lapalama and Tekin.
“I with 22 other visitors from Australia (mostly who had served with Global Interaction or were relatives of those earlier missionaries), were guests of honour albeit uncomfortable with the provision of seating on a covered platform. We witnessed many hundreds – pastors and their people – standing for hours in the heavy rain (it was too wet and muddy to sit on the ground), and no building large enough to accommodate them. They rejoiced to hear the Word of God.”
“In a pre-meeting to the main four-hour event on one particular day (there were five days of celebration at Baiyer and another at Telefomin), leaders explored with a few of us representing former missionaries, confession of attitudes towards each other that had not been pleasing to God, together with expressions of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
“We wish to enter the next 70 years without carrying any baggage. In the main meeting, Pastor Pita Yanda spoke for the Western Highlands Baptists – over 10,000 of them, and Rev Keith Jobberns, National Ministries Director of Australian Baptist Ministries, spoke too in a powerful and poignant segment. No more would either group flaunt or recount criticisms. In the presence of our gracious, forgiving Lord we had dealt with them all – truly a ‘God moment.’”
“I could expand on other wonderful God surprises in these celebrations. My meeting at their request, with fourteen representatives of the Mano tribe in an hour and a half pre-meeting on the last day’s massive communion service. At this meeting, leaders poured out to God confession of sin and failure as well as gratitude to God. They demonstrated to God the seriousness of their renewed commitment by giving significant amounts of money to a selection of his servants for God to use. I was one of those recipients. A moving time. I sensed their heart for global mission and the imperative sharing of the Gospel.”
“Experiencing a palpable expression of joy after the communion service as people sensed the Spirit of God was at work. Two spontaneous expressions occurred: joyous dancing, nationals and expatriates together and then the forming of a very long meandering line for we ex-pats to move along shaking each person’s hand. All were joyful, some wailing, all expressing a mutual blessing of God. That was when I saw Kiap, the elderly pastor I mentioned at the start. He is a senior pastor from the home clan of David Maini, the Bible College Dean and Coordinator of Ministry Training with whom I have worked closely for some years. As we shook hands and embraced each other, Kiap spoke in Pidgin, ‘Next time in heaven.’ We all packed up, some walked, some drove to our homes – praising God and re-telling experiences.”
“In addition to the anniversary celebrations, the dedication of the Kyaka Enga Bible took place. The arrival of the updated Bibles on a large transport truck on the afternoon of the day before the planned release proved to be a God surprise. The journey planned from June 2018 but numerous obstacles threatened the arrival like wharfage issues, rain and vehicle issues.”
We give thanks to God for the South Australian Baptists and for their contribution to the development of the Baptist work in Papua New Guinea since 1949. What a special journey they have been on.
– Global Interaction SA/NT