Benjie Hornales with villagers in Agarabi.

Mission appeal: in our words

Friday, May 10, 2024
Highlights from a PNG for Christ WhatsApp chat

Our seminarians are using WhatsApp to share stories of their experiences in Papua New Guinea, where they are baptising, preaching and teaching as part of a nationwide evangelistic campaign. Here are the highlights from their messages.

Cynthia Barlow (Master of Ministry student): I prepare my sermons before leaving for Papua New Guinea. Silly me! I re-write all of them. I ask students at Omaura School of Ministry for feedback to ensure illustrations are relevant. I realise how much I need God to do the talking.

Dr Wendy Jackson (Head, Avondale Seminary): Here at Omaura, we have cold showers and only three hours of electricity a day. When the generator starts, we scramble to plug in all of our devices. We take so many things for granted that our hosts have learned to live without. I’ll return home with a new sense of gratitude for what I have and an enhanced support for mission.

Pr Neil Thompson (Lecturer, Avondale Seminary): We’re at 1600 metres above sea level at Aiyura and it still feels like the wet season. Mist rolls in like a thick cloud and sometimes it rains, but the people sit under umbrellas on the ground through it all.

Joshua Contaoi (Master of Ministry student): Benjie [Hornales, a Master of Ministry student] and I are supposed to be at Agarabi Primary School but another site doesn’t have a preacher. I don’t want to preach a full series of sermons. I want the easy way—half the job. Benjie wants to go to the furthest site—Aiyamontenu. I want to stay at Agarabi—the easy way. Then comes a divine hijacking. I go to the furthest site and preach double the number of sermons. By God’s grace, I create memorable children’s activities, shorten sermons and present appeals that lead to baptisms.

Benjie Hornales (Master of Ministry student): Raised in the Philippines, which has similar food and culture, I feel at home at Agarabi. It helps learning Tok Pisin and the local dialect, even just the greetings. Some of the older people speak freely to me even though I understand little of what they say. I used to preach to prove how Seventh-day Adventists are right and others are wrong. But here, it’s important to preach more the “why” than the “what” of our doctrines.

Cynthia Barlow: The local mission president wants to take Mark [Pearce, Ellen G White Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre director] or me away to another site, but a near riot ensues. The size of the audience initially terrifies me. Now, it energises me. I’ve lost some of my inhibitions. I preach more boldly.

Davison Munhenga (Master of Ministry student): A minister from another denomination and members of his congregation are among the people we baptise at Norikori. He’s been encouraging his members to attend our meetings, saying these are not local but international preachers.

Neil Thompson: I present a devotional on the power of words early one morning. To illustrate, I tell the story of an anointing in India. One thing leads to another and the local pastor asks if anyone wants prayer for healing. He asks because he sees a woman rub her knee. The woman comes forward along with two-thirds of the crowd. [Master of Ministry student] Lindsey [Birch] and I offer a group prayer and promise to return after breakfast. Delayed, we return at 10.30 am. If not for Lindsay’s insistence, we would have missed praying for about 50 people over two hours. Her leadership impresses me. We anointed Lindsey for healing just days before. Now, here she is training local pastors and elders to do the same for their members.

Falepau Aumalaga (Master of Ministry student): About 2000 people attend the campsite where I preach in the remote and mountainous Kimi district. Among them are members of three tribes. Because each tribe speaks its own language, we need translators. We conduct three mass baptisms, the last of which includes a large number of candidates who renew their vows. A minister from another denomination and members of his congregation are among the candidates who respond to my final appeal. I thank God for the opportunity to share his love.

Photograph: Avondale University Master of Ministry student Benjie Hornales poses with villagers in Agarabi, Papua New Guinea, after his health presentation.

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