In the River District of one of our nearest neighbours, Papua New Guinea, a father and son are graduating together from high school. They’re a five day walk from the nearest proper township, but today they’re the centre of the universe.
“This school was closed twenty-five years ago,” says Bena Seta, Manager of Programs and Community Services with the United Church in Papua New Guinea. “The father was just a boy at the time and forced to give up his education, so he never learned to read and write. A few years ago, the church began to raise money to get the school re-opened and helped supply the teaching staff.
Both father and son were able to attend school together; the boy can now go on to university and his father has the education he always wanted.” The story is one of Bena’s favourites. After years working with the United Nations on water projects, he acknowledged the grace of God in his own life and felt called to serve the church. “I felt that call all through my body, in my bones, and I said yes I’m ready to serve,” Bena recalls. “It was no ordinary voice speaking to me, it was something much deeper.”
Today Bena has a passion not just for providing people like this father and son with life-changing education, but for raising up new leaders in the church and teaching the Bible. “When you value people, you do all the good you can for them,” Bena says. “There is so much life-giving work to do among my people and I’m always encouraged by a verse I learnt as a child: “The Lord is my shepherd – I shall not want… surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”
Bena oversees work that includes collaborating with six other mainline churches not only to deliver health and education services, but to embed gender equality into the fabric of life and empower Christians to hold the government accountable for corruption and Papua New Guinea’s welfare. This project represents UnitingWorld’s biggest global collaboration.
“We value the partnership with Uniting Church people through UnitingWorld because you teach us by example the values and virtues we want to create in our leaders,” Bena says. “As Melanesians, the relationship is very important to us – when we see what you believe in and how you live, it motivates and inspires us.”
UCPNG runs schools, a teachers’ training college, a theological college for the formation of its pastors, and a lay leaders’ training institute as well as Bible schools in each region of the country. Equipping people for mission is a big priority.
They run several health services for communities in remote parts of PNG.
UnitingWorld supports UCPNG’s clean water and sanitation projects, as well as supporting a seven-church denomination national collaboration in disaster preparation, gender equality, poverty alleviation and leadership projects throughout the country
Please pray for an increase in vaccination rates, especially among people living in remote areas. Scepticism about the vaccine is very widespread and education messages travel slowly.
For the next generation of leaders within the church. Leadership is an influential part of Papua New Guinea’s culture, and training is critical for future directions.
For those who implement the water and sanitation programs in communities – that they will continue to find ways to communicate important health information and save lives.
What could you achieve if the Christian denominations in your area decided to work together? Gather some friends from your church to visit another local church in your area over a few Sundays. See if you can get people interested in a little project to bless your community.