Papua New Guinea is a country of wild beauty and warm people, a place steeped in tradition and superstition.
Tribalism and family lines invariably inform life decisions. In the midst of all of this, the Western Highland’s District Assembly again proved that the business of God’s kingdom is more important than any lines we draw or personal kingdoms we may develop.
The spirit of the crowd which gathered for the three days both inside and outside the double tents erected on the open ground in the shadow of Kudjip Hospital was celebratory. The district assembly opened Friday night with a passionate call to emotional and spiritual healing. Prayers and tears flowed freely. On Saturday, the assembly voted to change their historic name as the first district in Papua New Guinea from Western Highlands to Jiwaka South District to better represent who they are in respect to the newly established national province. Moments later, enthusiastic applause and praises broke out when delegates voted unanimously to create the new Jiwaka North District by ceding four of their circuits (zones) to this new district. This was not the idea of the moment but the culmination of years of planning and dreaming to birth a new district, as they have successfully accomplished several times before.
Later that evening, 30 men and women were ordained. On Sunday morning, over 6,000 men, women, and children gathered together under the tents and sitting in the backs of trucks and under trees and umbrellas in the hot tropical sun to celebrate the birth of the new district. David Graves, general superintendent in jurisdiction, preached a powerful sermon of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, giving us power, purity, and a witness to proclaim the name of Jesus.
Afterwards, representatives of both districts, clergy, and lay leaders humbly spoke of the process that brought them to the formation of the new daughter district and the future of both. Representatives of the mother district, Jiwaka South, spoke in terms of having protected and nurtured this new district but the time had come to trust them to lead their people in making and growing Christlike disciples. Following the speeches, four lit candles were presented by District Superintendent Andrew Akus to the pioneer leaders of the new district, who in turn passed them to the four circuit pastors of the newly formed district. In addition, a Bible was given symbolizing the centrality and purity of God’s Holy Word, reminding them to guard against heresy.
Looking around I saw looks of pride, joy, and hope on faces belonging to both the mother and daughter districts. Tears streamed down smiling faces. People from both districts came forward to hug each other, laughing and crying at the same time. I was moved to tears as I saw the Kingdom of Heaven played out in this little corner of the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea.