Growth and Challenge in Papua New Guinea

June 01, 2003 | Charlotte Ishkanian

When Natalie Misikaram was asked to be women’s ministries leader in her local church in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG), she wanted to bring the women together to pray and encourage each other. She noticed that she was not the only woman whose husband did not attend church. She organized the women into prayer bands to pray daily for the 33 missing husbands.

The women prayed for each family and each husband by name. Natalie encouraged the women whose husbands did not attend church to show God’s love in every act and to avoid arguing, instead to offer to pray with their husbands if they would allow it. Within a year, the women began to see the results of their prayers. Some husbands stopped smoking or drinking; some began attending church. The women prayed even harder.

With the pastor’s help, Natalie arranged a prayer luncheon at a beautiful garden and invited couples who were both faithful church members as well as families with a missing spouse. The event built bridges and opened hearts to the love of God.

Within two years, 25 of the 33 prayed-for husbands, including Natalie’s, were attending church, and 20 of these have been baptized. Eight more husbands continue to be remembered in daily prayers.

Many adults, mostly women, cannot read or write, so the women saw a need for a literacy program for their own members. Six church women volunteered to be trained to teach others to read and write, and 34 people enrolled in the literacy classes which met two mornings a week for two years.

Some of the students told their neighbors about the classes, and some non-Adventists who wanted to learn to read asked to join the classes. One of these women chewed betel nut, even in the church. She noticed that the other women came clean and sweet-smelling and not chewing betel nut. Within a few weeks, she gave up the betel nut, bathed more frequently, and dressed better. Two non-Adventist women were baptized, both graduates of the literacy program.

A growing church is a blessing, but it also poses challenges. The church throughout Papua New Guinea is growing rapidly—far more rapidly than their ability to provide churches for the believers. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath offering will help build churches in Papua New Guinea, and an Aboriginal outreach and care center in western Australia.