Preparations were well underway as we approached the 2020 “PNG For Christ” evangelistic program. Hundreds of delegates from PNG and the South Pacific Division were ready for the event. Billboards promoted the program in major towns. The country had experienced a seismic wave with entire congregations from other denominations converting to Adventism, new house groups forming, new churches being built and innovative soul-winning activities taking place. The atmosphere was close to blissful. People around the country felt that this event would be the fulfilment of Jesus’ words: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 NIV).
I was the president of the Western Highlands Mission at the time. I wanted to share the good tidings with members of the Executive Committee, so I drove to the Papua New Guinea Union Mission headquarters in Lae. While sharing the news with Pastor Matthew Kamo, we received notice that COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic and all borders across PNG were closed. I was stunned. It felt like the weight of the mighty ocean had crushed me like a minnow fish at the bottom of the deepest sea. The discouragement, loss of passion for mission, the labour without seeing its fruit and so forth really pushed me down. Yet I could hear a voice saying, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings” (Revelation 10:11 NIV).
As it turned out, COVID-19 boosted the mission of the Church in PNG. All the COVID restrictions led to people meeting in house churches and small Bible study groups. Six thousand small groups started. We were reminded of the words of Habakkuk: “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told” (Habakkuk 1:5 NIV). We thank God for COVID-19 as it turned out to be a blessing in disguise (Romans 8:28). And we are looking forward to “PNG for Christ” going ahead in 2024 and praise God that General Conference president Pastor Ted Wilson is coming for it.