World leaders take part in colourful PNG celebrations
13 July 2016
General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox, World President of Women's Ministries, have led two congresses in Papua New Guinea to celebrate 60 years of God’s faithfulness to The Salvation Army in this country.
The world leaders visited the city of Goroka first, to lead the Northern Congress, before heading to the capital Port Moresby where they took command of the Southern Congress.
Their first experience of PNG culture came at Goroka Airport where they received a traditional welcome on the tarmac. Asaro mudmen, covered in mud and wearing large clay masks over their heads, danced and “threatened” with spears and arrows. Exiting the terminal, the international leaders were met by hundreds of Salvationists singing From the Rising of the Sun in three languages.
Following officers councils, a welcome rally marked the beginning of the PNG Northern Congress. Representatives of tribes from the North Western Division sang and danced in colourful traditional costumes. People gathered from all over the Highlands and North Coastal areas, with some travelling for as long as nine hours over difficult terrain to celebrate six decades of God’s faithfulness to The Salvation Army in PNG, to worship and to hear God’s message.
The theme for the congress, Right at the Heart, was reflected in the location of the open-air venue, which was in the busiest part of the city of Goroka. Throughout the congress, hundreds of people responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, sometimes moving forward despite the rain, to kneel in the mud to bring their lives under the lordship of Christ. The congress included colourful, creative, contemporary and traditional dances as well as drama, timbrel and choral items.
A prominent citizen of Goroka, Dr Joio Quinn, sponsored a dinner for the General and Commissioner Cox, Salvation Army leaders, invited politicians and prominent community leaders. A presentation during the dinner showed the activities and programs of The Salvation Army in PNG.
The men’s prayer breakfast, women’s rally and youth praise meeting were exciting events, full of music, with both traditional and contemporary dancing. Brightly coloured costumes in divisional colours were worn which, along with the music drew large crowds of passers-by who stopped to hear God’s message. Hundreds of men, women and young people moved forward to pray at each event, in response to the Bible messages.
The children’s rally began with a spectacular march-past of 500 children, who saluted the General and shouted their divisional war cry.
The march of witness that followed was a magnificent public demonstration of the strength of The Salvation Army in the north of PNG, as more than 1000 Salvationists proudly marched through the town, stopping traffic and drawing crowds.
Large crowds gathered to hear the final message and be challenged to receive God’s living water. An offering was collected to support The Salvation Army in the Solomon Islands.
Leaving Goroka, the General and Commissioner Cox headed to Port Moresby for the Southern Congress. Many people travelled by boat or truck, with some even walking considerable distances to be part of the celebrations. A group of Salvationists and friends from Popondetta – including a five-month-old baby – walked the 60-mile Kokoda track for eight days before reaching Port Moresby.
In his Bible message the General challenged the congregation to experience the presence of God by choosing to think on the good and positive things that God gives them each day.
The General and Commissioner Cox visited The Salvation Army's House of Hope, where care is provided to children affected by HIV/Aids, women who suffer domestic violence, and sex workers. During this visit the local media took the opportunity to interview the General.
Men’s and women’s rallies were also held, and many people moved to the mercy seat for prayer and renewal.
The General and Commissioner Cox took the salute during a final colourful march of witness, the streets filled with Salvationists and friends, adding to the massive crowd that had gathered for the open-air witness.
Report by Rhonda Lewis and Serah Abrahams