Days of walking to attend a divine service

There is great excitement in Papua New Guinea as the brothers and sisters wait for the Chief Apostle to arrive. He will conduct two divine services in the island state this weekend. And many brothers and sisters will walk for days to attend.

On his one-hour flight from the country’s capital Port Moresby to the island of New Britain, which is situated off the north coast of mainland Papua New Guinea, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider will fly over 4,000-metre-high mountains, active volcanoes which are constantly belching smoke, and a stretch of ocean before landing a mere five degrees south of the equator. This is where the Chief Apostle will conduct a divine service on 7 June. The town’s name is Kimbe.

Rapid growth

In the late 1970s, the New Apostolic faith was brought to the northern part of Papua New Guinea by Canadian ministers and spread very quickly among the Christian population. A foothold was established, congregations came into being, and churches were built in a short space of time, some of which were erected in a record time of eleven days thanks to the people helping along. From the villages, the faith eventually spread to larger towns.

Meanwhile, the Australian Regional Church began to spread the faith in the south. District Apostle Andrew Andersen started to look after the brothers and sisters in the south of Papua New Guinea in 1988. And with Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber’s decision in 2005 to place the work in Papua New Guinea under the leadership of Australia, Andrew Andersen was responsible for the entire country.

Rich in natural wonders

This is why Andrew Andersen, now retired, knows his way around the country of twelve million inhabitants so well. “Most of the population of the country live in the many villages that are scattered throughout the mainland and the many islands that belong to it,” says District Apostle Andersen. A relatively small part of the population lives in the cities and towns that serve as government centres. “In the villages the gardens flourish in the extremely fertile volcanic soil and, together with fish from the rivers and the sea, adequate food resources abound for the needs of the communities. Material for housing is plentiful in the dense forests that cover most of the landscape on this tropical land.”

A trek to the Chief Apostle service

Many of the approximately 120,000 members of the New Apostolic Church live in the countryside, which is densely forested. They are presently cared for by five local Apostles and thousands of local ministers who look after the spiritual well-being of their brothers and sisters. When the Chief Apostle comes to the country from 5 to 10 June, many brothers and sisters will make their way to Kimbe. There are few roads and the main means of travel for the local inhabitants is by boat in the ocean or on the many massive rivers that abound, or on foot through dense and mountainous jungle paths. Air travel is the only other alternative, the District Apostle says.

Many of the brothers and sisters who will be travelling to the divine service will never experience the comforts of a city church or the convenience of a journey by car. “A combined service where the Apostle may visit will typically be attended by many who joyfully walk up and down mountain tracks and across bridgeless rivers for days carrying their children,” the District Apostle says. “Such journeys will often result in them being away from home for two to three weeks.”

And everyone is excited. “The brothers and sisters living on New Britain island are eagerly waiting to welcome their Chief Apostle.”

From Papua New Guinea to the entire District Apostle Area

And in the capital, too, everyone has been preparing for the Chief Apostle’s visit. After the divine service in Kimbe on the island of New Britain, he will travel back to Port Moresby and conduct a divine service there on 9 June, in which Apostle Papi Allen Pouru will be retired after 37 years as an Apostle. “Many brothers and sisters have been preparing to make the journey from throughout the country so they can be present in this service,” District Apostle Andersen says. His successor, District Apostle Peter Schulte, will also be there. Port Moresby is a modern capital city with all normal facilities except that the geographical makeup of the land means that there are no road connections to any of the other major cities in the country. So the brothers and sisters will need to use other means of transport. “The service will be transmitted to congregations throughout Australia and New Zealand from Port Moresby for the first time ever, thanks to the growing technical infrastructure in Papua New Guinea which now makes this possible.”

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