Overflowing with Jesus

A long and colourful procession of Lutheran women, accompanied by men, children and young people, fills the air with joyful singing. Bystanders welcome them with cheers, and shower them with flower petals as they make their way to the assembly area.

We are in the mountain region of Boana in Papua New Guinea, where women representing all the diverse parts of the country are coming together for the week-long 14th National Women’s Conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELCPNG).

Mr Peter O’Neill, the current and first Lutheran prime minister of PNG, along with other Lutheran politicians, is among the 2000-strong gathering. The crowd far exceeds the number on the invitation list—50 delegates from each of the 17 districts of the ELCPNG.

The Lutheran Church of Australia’s rich and treasured history with the Papua New Guinean church is represented at the conference by two former ‘mission’ staff: Tanna Mackenzie (LWA President) and Glenice Hartwich (LCA Mission International program officer). Both women served in PNG in the early 1970s—Tanna as a teacher on Siassi, and Glenice as a deaconess, teaching at the Tarabo Meri Wok training school.

During the week, sermons, Bible studies and presentations by invited guests—and huge arrangements of tropical flowers—build the conference theme, ‘My life is filled to overflowing with Jesus’ (based on John 10:10b), which leaps to life through spine-tingling singing, bamboo bands and colourful dances (singsings). There is much prayer. Sermons and Bible studies are greeted with applause, cheering and joyful affirmation. There is a deep and keen desire by women of all ages (and by the men and young people) to grow in their faith in Jesus Christ.

There has been careful planning by the local conference committee, supported with finance provided by local politicians. In a never-ending stream, people from the host district come to the conference daily, carrying loads of fresh vegetables, sweet potatoes, and animals. Makeshift accommodation structures and ‘huas kuk’ (kitchens) spread out across the undulating landscape, providing places for the people to gather after the sessions.

What a joy to see how God has taken the offering of service of many people (local and overseas) and grown this ministry among the women of PNG into a huge host of faithful believers. They love Jesus, and love to serve him in their homes and communities. Some are dedicated to serve without pay as teachers in the five Meri Wok (women’s work) training schools of ELCPNG.

All these women (and men and young people), overflowing with Jesus, truly are a ’cloud of witnesses’, cheering us on in our walk of faith.

This story was also published in the November 2014 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.

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/