More than 600 pastors and church leaders from across Papua New Guinea gathered in Port Moresby August 3 through 7 for the 10th National Pastors Conference.
The conference is held every four years on one of the country's 12 Nazarene districts.
Because Port Moresby has no road access to the rest of the nation, almost everyone had to travel at least part of the way by plane. Eighteen pastors from the Middle Ramu District walked for three days to the nearest road and then traveled by bus or truck for several hours before catching a flight to the city. Others traveled for 12 hours by bus over rough roads before catching a flight.
The conference was held in a large, gravelled open area the size of four football fields that is used for cultural shows. Meetings were held in two large tents and attendees slept on the gravel floor in one of 20 thatched houses.
In his opening prayer, District Superintendent Peter Degene prayed, “Jesus, you are our Lord and Saviour and you left heaven and came to sleep with the cows; we believe that you will feel right at home in this place!”
The South Coast District set up a makeshift kitchen and provided breakfast and dinner for the 600 registered pastors and church leaders.
The theme of the conference was “Prepare to Cross Over,” based on Joshua’s command to the Israelites:
“Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5 KJV).
The fact that everyone was camping out added to the feeling of being on a pilgrimage to the Promised Land.
The theme connected in other ways as well. This year marks 40 years since PNG was granted independence from Australia, and pastors throughout PNG believe the past 40 years resemble in many ways the wilderness wanderings, as PNG struggled to find its way in the community of nations. They also believe that God is going to open a new chapter in the history of PNG following parliament's decision to put a 400-year-old Bible on a table in front of the speaker of parliament to symbolise its importance in providing direction and life to the country.
District superintendents from PNG preached, as well as Asia-Pacific Regional Director Mark Louw and former PNG missionary Neville Bartle. Topics included holiness and mission, marriage, and family issues.
“Both nights the altars were full of pastors who were wanting to be even more like their Lord and Savior," said Jeff Myers, missionary to PNG. "God is moving in their lives!”
On August 5, pastors sang and marched to the Parliament House with their provincial flags. Although parliament was not in session, the pastors assembled on the steps and prayed, led by Church of the Nazarene National Board Chairman Yambe Sike. The pastors then filed into the public galleries and were given a brief guided tour of the legislative chamber by the official guide.
For the past 40 years, a totem pole has stood within the House of Parliament. The huge, elaborately carved pole is covered with images of people, reptiles, demonic figures, and other images linked to occult power. Many pastors and Christian leaders have been concerned about this totem pole that watches over the nation's affairs and have prayed fervently that God would change the hearts of the national leaders and that this would be removed.
In recent months, the speaker of the house, with the support of Christians, has pressed to have this removed from the building. The plan is to have the totem pole removed and replaced with a pillar symbolizing unity. The word “unity” will be written on it in each of the 700-plus languages of PNG.
At the base of the pillar will be a symbol of the Word of God. Resting on that will be another stone symbolizing the constitution of the country, and above that a covenant signed in 2007 by the founding father of the nation declaring the nation of PNG to be under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
“I believe that this is God’s timing to bring you here to our parliament today," said the tour guide. "We want you to pray for God’s blessing on the country.”
The chamber reverberated with the cries of God’s people as they joined hands in the public galleries as a sign of unity and poured out their hearts to God. All those present interceded for the nation, that righteousness would be exalted and that all evil, bribery, and corruption would be rejected and cleansed from the nation’s leadership, and that God would grant wisdom to the leaders of the nation.
“It was a powerful experience that is difficult to describe,” Bartle said.
Continued prayer is requested for attendees as they return home and for the churches, congregations, leaders, and nation of Papua New Guinea.