100k baptisms and counting: The first week of PNG for Christ

Hello and welcome to Record Wrap, the Adventist Record news podcast. It's Wednesday, May 8. I'm Juliana Muniz
and I'm Danelle Stothers
We had a short break last week, but we're back on track. On this week's episode: we have some exciting updates from PNG for Christ
Our head editor, Jarrod Stackelroth, was on the ground and will join us later to share what he saw during his special coverage of the event.
We'll also take a look into why faith leaders across Australia are concerned about a religious discrimination bill.
But first, Danelle, what's making headlines this week?

Adventists are responding to the devastating impacts of continuous rain in Rio Grande do Sul—the southernmost state of Brazil. With more than 400 cities affected and a rising death toll currently at 95, the state is facing what the Governor described as "the worst disaster ever registered in the state".
Multiple local churches are offering shelter, meals and donations to community members who have lost everything in the floods. ADRA's support truck has been sent to bring relief. The truck is equipped with washing machines, a kitchen that offers 1500 hot meals per day and space for psychological support. With the help of volunteers, ADRA is also managing four shelters across the state's capital.

According to experts, a breakthrough archeological discovery in ancient Jerusalem is proof that a Bible story is real. Archeologists identified a city wall section which was previously attributed to King Hezekiah as having been built by King Uzziah.

Carbon dating indicates that this section of the wall is older than previously thought, suggesting that Jerusalem expanded earlier than historical records have indicated. This finding adds to the understanding of Jerusalem's early history as described in the Bible.

According to a new story, improving flexibility isn’t that much of a stretch. Research reveals that as little as eight minutes of static stretching per week, accumulated over sessions lasting up to three minutes each, optimally improves flexibility. The recent findings challenge traditional notions of longer, more intense stretching sessions and demonstrate that discomfort or pain during stretching is unnecessary.

Now back to the South Pacific: A representative from the Seventh-day Adventist Church is among faith leaders who have expressed “deep concerns” to the Australian Government regarding the potential ramifications of proposed legislation on religious education institutions.
Forty faith leaders, including Pastor Kojo Akomeah, associate director for Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Adventist Church in Australia, signed an open letter addressing the government’s reported negotiations with The Greens party to implement recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission and pass a religious discrimination bill.
In the letter, the faith leaders express reservations about any potential collaboration with The Greens, citing concerns over the party’s policies.

Now let's talk about exciting news from PNG:
A four-day mega health clinic held in the lead-up to the PNG for Christ evangelistic campaign brought medical assistance to thousands in Togaba, Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
The joint effort of the 10,000 Toes Campaign and Adventist World Radio (AWR) brought together more than 500 international and local volunteers, including dentists, GPs and specialists such as cardiologists, OBGYNs, pediatricians, optometrists and an ophthalmologist.
Along with cataract surgeries, the services ranged from diabetes screenings to dental treatments, women’s health, counselling, optometry and paediatrics checks.
Dr Kyle Allen, who is vice president of AWR and has been organising similar initiatives worldwide, shared the impact of the health clinic.

At the end of the fourth day, we had seen 10,435 patients. That was the largest number we've ever done anywhere in the world. And the services were over 18,000 services. Over 10, 000 people received over 18,000 different services. We had thousands of donated glasses and some of these people have never had a pair of glasses in their life. The reality is that for a lot of folks that came to this clinic, they've never ever been able to sit down and see a physician in their life of any kind. Just that opportunity to see a physician and to be able to get some help, counsel on maybe whatever their health concerns may be, I think that there's value in that.

Performing the cataract surgeries was Dr Jacob Probhakar Chindrupu, who with the help of his team and a streamlined system, was able to operate 1500 people during the main clinic and is hoping to operate at least 500 more in Jiwaka in the coming days.

They have a system very efficiently worked out where they have two beds that are facing him and one patient lays down and is prepared by the team while he's working on the other patient. As soon as he finishes that patient, he just rotates his chair. So that he just goes right into that patient that was laid down. And when he starts working on them, then the patient that he just finished is taken up by the team. And then of course the next one comes down. It's worked out extremely efficiently so that day. Every person that comes down on that operating table, their life is being changed in a matter of two to three minutes.
According to Dr Jacob, the initiative is meeting physical and spiritual needs.

This is a life changing surgery. They have been blind for years. They have not seen the food that they eat. They have not seen their children. And when their eyes are open they feel they got back their sight again. This is the very ministry of Jesus. He just went to the people where they were. He ministered to them. He attended their physical ailments so it's really, really gratifying to be here in PNG to help these people.

Hundreds gathered at Port Moresby airport to welcome General Conference president Pastor Ted Wilson and his wife Nancy on April 25.

"What a privilege to be with you here in Port Moresby. I have to tell you, my wife Nancy and I are extremely impressed that so many of you would be out here at five o'clock in the morning to greet someone from an airplane. Thank you. You know, this just tells us of our wonderful bond in Jesus. The wonderful privilege that Papua New Guinea has in being an integral part of the entire world church family."

Following his arrival, Pastor Wilson had a full day of state visits, meeting the Governor General, the Prime Minister, Speaker of the House and the Chief Justice, among other parliamentary figures.

Pastor Wilson is a speaker in one of the more than 2000 locations of the PNG for Christ campaign, which started on April 26. In addition to local speakers, hundreds of church leaders and members from around the world have also come to support the campaign, with around 210 from across the South Pacific Division.
With meetings happening every day, more than 100,000 people were baptised during the first week of this reaping campaign.

To give us a better insight of what this massive evangelistic campaign looks like, our head editor, Jarrod Stackelroth is joining us. He was in PNG covering the first week of the campaign.

Hi, Jarrod. Thanks for joining us today.
Hi, Juliana. Thanks for having me.
So you've been in PNG, tell us what's happening on the ground. How excited are the people over there?
I have been in PNG it's very exciting, not just for them, but for me to be there as well. Look everywhere you go there are posters of Ted Wilson, there are posters advertising, the evangelistic campaigns. The people who are welcoming the international speakers are very excited. They will dress up in their Pathfinder uniforms there, their church best. And welcomed with open arms, all of the international speakers they've been waiting for this program for four years. So they are really pumped.

So 100,000 baptisms, in one week. it sounds like a lot. Can you give us. Some context on why those numbers are so high.

It is a lot. It's almost your mind can't get your head around such a big number. But if you break it down, if they're having 2000 sites across the country, and 49 people are baptised at each site, that gives us the a hundred thousand number, pretty much.
So. It's, and I've seen numbers from many of the sites that are one, 200, you know, 50 people here, 30 people there, but averaged out it will result in a big number like that. And again, this is a reaping campaign, so these are people that have been studied with. They've been prepared before the meetings.
These are not people that are new converts as such who have just come to the meetings and adjust, hearing about the Adventist message for the first time. These are people who have been nurtured, discipled studied with, and then now making their decision at this high event, you know, this big meeting.
So the meeting, the baptism, it's part of the celebration of them coming into the church, but it's happening at this time because there's high profile people in the country. They're excited for this program, but it's not just that they've come in last week and we're baptising them this week.
There has been preparation work in the lead up. And a lot of that comes from the lay people, the elders, the pastors, studying with people in their homes, doing the discovery, Bible, reading method, small group ministry. This has been happening since COVID when all the churches shut down. There has been growth. There has been a maximum number of baptisms coming out of Papua New Guinea. And it's, it's almost inspiring to see how that—what many of us in the world took as a real challenge—the church in PNG have utilised and maybe, or definitely God leading the church in PNG. Has used that as a real opportunity. To, okay, we'll try something different. Instead of big church services, we'll have home Bible reading groups and it's. It's just a Testament to the power of the word of God. When people are gathering in homes and reading the Bible. They're becoming convicted to become Seventh-day Adventists.

So isn't it just easy to get baptisms in PNG.

Look, there's that perception sometimes that, developed countries have a lot more trouble than some of the other parts of the world in terms of getting these mass baptisms. There's some truth to that.
I think in the idea that when we struggle in life, when we go through transition and change and hardship, that's when we seek something higher, something outside ourselves. So in our materialistic Western societies, it's very hard sometimes for people to make a decision, to surrender willingly to a power higher than themselves. But the other point, Juliana is that these people are on fire.
They're passionate for God. And sometimes we don't see that in our churches. Sometimes we struggle to find that same passion, that same spirit of sacrifice. The other thing is to be an Adventist in Papua New Guinea is actually hard. Many people use beetle nut as a recreational sort of drug. It's kind of like smoking—they're addicted to it. And it's a livelihood.
They pay for their children's education by selling these nuts that people are chewing and spitting out all over the place. When they become Adventists, they’re called to give that up. Pigs are also a really high source of income. They're used in marriage arrangements and things. So a family's wealth is determined by how many pigs they own.
Now in Adventist villages, in Adventist families, they have to give up the pigs. They don't have the pigs because we don't eat pork—it's an unclean food for Adventists. The Church still maintains those standards. And so for people to join the Adventist church in Papua new Guinea, it's not actually an easy thing, not to mention the Sabbath and some of the other distinctive beliefs that we hold.
We say, oh, it's easier over there, but you can definitely see God working in that space. And there are significant challenges for people to overcome, to become Adventist in Papua New Guinea. And yet they're doing it. And so that should inspire and encourage us to look at ways we can reach people who we think they don't want to be reached well.
People there don't want to give up their pigs. They don't want to give up betel nut. They don't want to give up alcohol and other things. But they are. Because they're encouraged by the message of the gospel that's going out in that place.

So Jared, the program isn't quite finished yet. We still have a few days to go. What happens next?

Good question Juliana, there'll be a lot of follow-up. A lot of nurturing required. The only to build more churches to house some of the new members. They'll need to stay on top of that.
In terms of the program, yes, it finishes this coming weekend. So there'll still be more baptisms and more reports and more miracles to come out of this program, there's just stories coming out all the time. And even at Record, you know, it'll take us a few months probably to tell all the stories that we'll be able to gather from this event.
So keep following Record and you'll hear more of some of these stories. But I guess the impact on the church in the south Pacific Division, I think the people who have gone and taken part in this program will bring that inspiration back to their local areas. Part of what TPUM president Maveni Kaufononga was excited about was that his region is looking at doing, “I Will Go to the Ends of the Earth” next year as their theme.
So they want to do more mission. And their pastors who have gone to this program will be equipped for that mission. They'll have experience that they can share with their colleagues. Likewise, those who have come from Australia, from America, from wherever they've traveled to. Church leaders really see this as an opportunity to inspire them, not just for them to serve the people in Papa new Guinea, but for them to bring home. A deeper relationship with God, some inspiration from their experiences there.
And they'll bring that home. And hopefully that will be infused into their local churches, their local congregations. So we will see, I think, the growth of this program will reach out down the months, down the years, the inspiration and amazement that we see what God is doing in Papua New Guinea right now. We'll change the face of the church in the south Pacific division.
I think in years to come as we hopefully become a mission-minded movement again, in this part of the world.

You've been there for about a week. Have you been inspired?

A hundred percent. Whenever I go to Papua New Guinea, I'm inspired, you know? It's the land of the unexpected. So it can be easy to get frustrated by things not going to plan.
Events happen that aren’t expected and can be stressful. But at the same time, every single time I go up there, I come back inspired by the passion of the church members, the stories they share with me about what they're doing, the commitment and the willingness to sacrifice is still alive and well in Papua New Guinea.
So for me, whenever I come home, my faith is inspired. It grows from that experience because. I just am in or of what God does in all the various and diverse parts of our division.

And that wraps up this week's episode of Record Wrap. Thank you for tuning in.
Don't forget to visit our website at record.Adventistchurch.com and follow us on social media for more updates and stories. You can also receive news straight to your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.
We'll be back next week with more news from around the south Pacific division. See you then.

100k baptisms and counting: The first week of PNG for Christ
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