‘Focus on Jesus’: LCA bishop encourages PNG Lutherans

LCA Bishop John Henderson has urged Lutherans in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to stay focused on Jesus as they negotiate the many challenges ahead of them.

The congregation, which included Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter O’Neill and several other prominent Lutheran politicians, was gathered for the opening service of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELC-PNG) 29th General Synod. The event was held on Karkar Island in the Madang District on 12 January.

Bishop Henderson encouraged the congregation to demonstrate who Jesus Chris is: ‘By your discussions, elections, decisions and actions, show us how Jesus Christ is alive among you today and what he is doing through you.

‘Encourage us by your love, your wisdom, your compassion, your kindness, your patience, and your peace. Share with us your journey of faith, so that story of the ELC-PNG and its people may be heard around the world and we will say of you, “See how much God loves them”.’

Bishop Henderson was accompanied by his wife Valmai and Glenice Hartwich.

‘It was extremely encouraging for me and for the members of the ELC-PNG to have John and Valmai present for Synod’, Glenice said.

‘His sermon was greeted with applause throughout, and it was referred to by many people on the floor of Synod in conversations in the following days.

‘John and Valmai were welcomed in true PNG style, as the Synod procession led us along the road into the School grounds. Bishop Wenge told me he genuinely appreciated the fact that John had attended the Synod, and he too reiterated aspects of the sermon in the following days.’

Bishop Henderson’s visit further strengthened the long-standing relationship between the LCA and ELC-PNG – a relationship which has been growing since the first Lutheran mission was established in (then) New Guinea in 1886.

‘Hundreds of Christians from my church have served with you over the years’, Bishop Henderson said during his address. ‘They have brought us your stories, and the stories of ELC-PNG. We praise God for you. All the time we pray for you and your work in the gospel of Jesus Christ.’

More than 800 Australians have served in Papua New Guinea over the past century. ‘They served as pastors, teachers, deaconesses, doctors, nurses, lecturers, mechanics, builders, carpenters and in many other roles’, Glenice said. ‘At times there were over 100 Australians at any given time living and working in PNG’.

It is testimony to the growth of the church since its independence from the LCA in 1976 that there are only four Australians now working full-time with the ELC-PNG.

With its number of missionaries dramatically reduced, the LCA now offers support in different ways.

‘Our partnership support now comes in the form of scholarships for ELC-PNG pastors’, Glenice said.

‘In addition, the LCA provides consultants for the reformation of the education system of ELC-PNG’s hundreds of schools. Additional funds are provided through donors for medical mission equipment, books, literature and consulting.

‘PNG is our closest neighbour. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters there. The faith of the people, the growth that God has given in the church and the stories of God at work are all reasons for us in the LCA to remain in partnership with the church in PNG’, she said.

Bishop Henderson concluded his sermon with these same hopes for continued unity and a long future in partnership with the ELC-PNG: ‘This is my prayer and my hope for you, brothers and sisters. Whatever comes, we are in this together, one people in him, one Lord, one baptism, one Saviour who died for us and for the world, Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.’

Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray

Read more stories about our partner church in Papua New Guinea at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/papua-new-guinea/