By MALUM NALU
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELC-PNG) on Tuesday, July 12, celebrated 125 years of the arrival of the Miti (Word of God).
It was on July 12, 1886, that German missionary, Johann Flierl, sailed into the quite beaches of Simbang in Finschhafen, Morobe province.
Simbang, a village at the mouth of the Bubui (Mape) River in Langemak Bay was the first site of the first mission station.
The ELC-PNG is one of the largest mainsteam churches in PNG today, with more than 1.2 million followers.
The church has seven main departments – Evangelism, Ministerial Training, Lutheran Health Service, Lutheran Development Service, Lutheran Education Department, Land and Property Development and Finance - which are involved in bringing services to its followers.
In many cases, these services stand out, especially when government has done.
Some of the department heads were able to talk about their services as ELC-PNG celebrated its 125th anniversary.
“Core programme of the Ministerial Training Department (MTD) is training ELC-PNG church workers – ministers, evangelist, lay leaders including the women training programmes,” explains MTD Secretary Pastor Hans Giegere.
“Since the humble beginning of the mission work on July 12, 1886, one of the prime objectives of the pioneer missionaries was to train the locals to work in partnership so they can all achieve the great commission of the Lord, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations’.
“In that vision of local training, ELC-PNG is thankful that God has made possible for this church to have three pastoral training seminaries, an evangelist college, a lay training college and four women programme schools in the country.
“As we celebrate the 125th jubilee year at ELC-PNG, we remember our many pioneers both in country and abroad, those who are present and those who left us on God’s calling.”
Pr Giegere said MTD’s goal to achieve ELCPNG Vision 2020 included:
· Review of curriculum for all training institution currently in process for women programme curriculum;
· Human resource capacity building on continuation of studies through in-service and scholarships for higher degrees; and
· Re-emphasising the prime importance of the spiritual faith and life spiritually and promoting spiritual and moral standard of Christian ethics through retreats and worship.
“The Ministerial Training Department trains leaders to provide service to the people in a holistic approach,” he said.
“It helps people to know their identity, to accept themselves as gift from their creator and to love and respect their fellow neighbour so that we all can experience ‘freedom’ as stated in the National Goals of our country.”
Emphasis of the Lutheran Development Services (LDS) is on sustainable livelihood of the people, especially the marginal in many rural Lutheran communities.
“LDS believes people need not just motivation, but opportunities and knowledge,” says acting LDS Secretary Bonnie Keoka.
“It embraces God’s teaching in Hosea 4:6: ‘My people are destroyed because of lack of knowledge’.
“Food security and basic necessities are the focus in the role of LDS.
“Therefore, LDS ensures in its programmes to empower people to seek, find and live in the Kingdom of God.
“Outreach programme content of LDS is classed in three areas: Yangpela Didiman (agriculture); financial literacy (managing and living within financial means); basic infrastructure support (water supply, sanitation facilities).
“Agriculture, as the core of all LDS programmes, promotes sustainable agricultural activities and community development through Yangpela Didiman or basic agricultural projects, as well as chicken, poultry and cash cropping in cocoa.
“This programme caters for the growing population, the uncertainty of weather in climate change, and land potential to support the people’s demands.
“This programme has reached over 20, 000 farmers in the last 10 years.
“It has expanded into remote areas of Kabwum, Finschhafen, and Boana in Morobe province; Raicoast, Amele and Begesin in Madang and the highlands provinces of Western Highlands, Chimbu and Eastern Highlands, along with a savings of over K115,000 with a loan portfolio of over K60,000.”
“The Yangpela Didiman or agriculture programmes are carried out through efforts of 40 staff.
“Twenty are scattered in Morobe, Eastern Highlands, and Western Highlands.
“Chimbu branch was recently closed for shortage in funding and expertise.
“Over 5, 000 people in the marginal community were enabled to access savings facilities through the financial literacy programme also in the last 10 years.
“LDS has within the last years witnessed a different perspective of funding rural development projects with people’s participation.
“Infrastructure was lately introduced to LDS activities because of people’s needs.
“Over 100 water supply projects in Morobe province are now accessed by over 1,000 people in rural communities for clean water and sanitation aspects.
“LDS operates out of its main office at Malahang in Lae, Morobe province, about 2km from ELCPNG head office at Ampo.
“With a staff of 16, six are water and sanitation officers who are on ongoing travel to implement these projects.
“Ten other LDS staff made up of ancillary staff and management including a department secretary as the head, technical expertise and consultants are drawn locally and assisted through funding and expertise by Lutheran Overseas Church partners of ELCPNG in Europe, America and Australia.
“The community projects are managed and supervised from four regional bases for the Highlands in Banz and Jiwaka; Lae is out of Malahang; Madang at Amron; and FISIKA for Finschhafen, Siassi, and Kabwum areas are coordinated from Finschhafen.
“Over the 125 years, LDS has recently in December 2010 begun the process of restructuring and revitalising its functions to fit the demands in this changing time.
“Such changes are necessary for to accommodate requirements of the church’s strategic plan in the Vision 2020 with a household focus in achieving the church’s vision in ‘revisioning, renewing and re-vitalising the church to become missional’.
“We call on prayers, support and understanding by all Lutheran members, stakeholders and partners to walk with us in this transition into another 125 years for a better and effective service to the marginal in many disadvantaged areas of our beautiful country.
“We are grateful to the financial backing in making a difference in people lives by our donors – EED, Bread for the World, Lutheran Overseas Church partners and its back donors, European Union, AUSaid and the PNG Government.”
Setting up of schools by ELCPNG began in the year of 1886 as the Lutheran faith gained momentum after the pioneering missionary Johannes Flierl arrived in Finschhafen, Morobe province.
“The early Lutheran missionaries owned and operated schools independently from the government until 1969, with the unification of the National Education System, Teaching Service, Teaching Service Commission and the establishment of the Teaching Service Commission,” says LED Secretary Paul Omot.
“Lutheran, as the partner to the government, found its Lutheran Education Department to administer education services to the indigenous people.
“Forty-two years on, LED is stumbling in not delivering the required education services to schools and communities as expected.
“Current performance structures and processes need an urgent review.
“In June 2011, the process of implementing a review began following a May 2010 report by Dr Richard Guy, from the Lutheran Church in Australia, sponsored by the Lutheran Overseas Church Partners (LOPC) and AusAID- channeled funds through the ELCPNG Church Partners Programme.
“Dr Guy’s report gave a number of recommendations for review currently undertake by LED.
“This process is also funded jointly by LOPC and CPP, for the next two years from June 2011.”
Omot said LED continued its normal plans and programmes for 2011–2012 awaiting the outcome of the review that should establish a new way forward from 2013 onwards.
Land represents that human contact with divine relations was a factor that contributed to building ELC-PNG, according to Lands Secretary Sesengo Narengeng.
“Sharing land and establishing human relationship with the locals were the priorities of the early missionaries and evangelists,” he said,
“The association between land with locals and missionaries began 125 years ago, in Finschhafen, at the ‘Polac’ land site near Finsch habour.
“Later in October 1886, a permanent site at Simbang, the mouth of Mape River, Langemark Bay, became the permanent base to expand God’s mission.
“Several land laws by the Lutheran mission were to protect the church’s interest in land over these 125 years.”
“ELC-PNG Land and Property Department was established in 1988.
“A landmark for ELCPNG was the reorganisation for special ministry, and apart from state record, ELC-PNG records are well protected and the information is up-to-date.
“Hence, land is a very important and vital asset that should be protected and carefully looked after olsem yangpela pikinini meri.”