September 12, 2023 | Imbounggu, Papua New Guinea | Juliana Muniz, Garry Laukei, Megantha Kiruwi, and Tracey Bridcutt, Adventist Record, and Adventist Review
A group of five young men from the Olgai Walile tribe in Imbounggu district, Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea, publicly gave up their addiction to marijuana and were baptized on August 26.
According to Ishmael Kera, the team leader and community advocate, the young men were heavily addicted to smoking marijuana and used to cultivate the plant alongside other crops in their backyards and gardens.After making the decision for baptism, the group decided to burn their marijuana crops. The burning was a public event, witnessed by their community, including church members, the local police force, and friends, some of whom also used marijuana.
Impacted by the group’s initiative, some of their friends who witnessed the burning event have also chosen to leave their addiction and be baptized, with a ceremony planned for September 16, on World Pathfinder Day.
The move took place just a few weeks after Adventist leaders in the country report that the number of baptized church members in Papua New Guinea has exceeded 400,000 for the first time in the history of the denomination in that country.
South Pacific Division discipleship strategy leader Danny Philip said the growth was the result of a deep commitment by members to get involved and share their faith.Since 2020, more than 6,000 new churches have started in Papua New Guinea.
As the country gears up for the April and May 2024 “PNG for Christ” evangelistic drive, more than 3,000 people from East New Britain (ENB) province marched along the main street of Kokopo on August 24 to officially launch the first steps of the initiative. The group, including Adventurers, Pathfinders, youth, and community members, were accompanied by a police escort to a central town market.
Provincial Police commander Inspector Januarus Vosovai noted the importance that churches hold in partnering with the government to provide spiritual services to the country. He said despite having different values, languages, and cultures, “we serve one God and one government.” He highlighted the importance of using diversity to impact the country and community for Jesus positively.
Andrew Opis, president of the New Britain New Ireland Mission (NBNIM), said the Adventist Church has an important truth to share with the people of ENB. He invited those in attendance to participate in the PNG for Christ campaign in 2024 to learn more about this truth and be changed by the Word of God.
Program host Peter Bebe, NBNIM youth director, thanked the church members and the public who came to the launch. “Thank you for participating in such a memorable event!” he said.
In the case of the five young men who burned their stacks of marijuana, their baptism on August 26 was a direct result of a year-long program run by the Kerenda Seventh-day Adventist Church, church leaders reported. The initiative, part of the church’s Total Member Involvement (TMI) program, focused on small group evangelism.
Now, as official members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, leaders said, the group is “focused on receiving theopneustos — or God’s inspired word — and committed to make faith a constant part” of their lives.
This story is based on several reports posted by Adventist Record.