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33. The gangster who was ennobled

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It is always difficult to talk about individual people when you know that there are many people who played a big role in an organization's development. This is especially true in the church of God. But one cannot escape the fact that Kundi Pok’s conversion came to be crucial for the revival in Papua New Guinea.

Sven speaks: Kundi’s youth was stormy. He was a gangster who went in and out of prison. The leaders of his village were ashamed of him and so was his dad. As punishment for having behaved badly, his father bought Kundi a wife who had a large scar across her face. Kundi accepted this woman, Rangnem, as his wife, although he was planning to marry a second wife, a beautiful one.

One day in 1975, as Kundi was on the market in Mount Hagen to sell a pig, he suddenly heard a noise he had never heard before. It was Matti Kumpulainen who played the trumpet. Like so many others, Kundi was attracted to music and soon enough he found himself listening to Matti’s sermon about the possibility of forgiveness. Kundi entered a state of realizing the depth of his past sins. When Matti invited people for prayer, Kundi went forward, knelt in the dust in the middle of the market and asked God for forgiveness for his sins.

Kundi experienced a radical conversion, a profound salvation experience, and got to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the midst of his salvation moment. He received an urging hunger for the word of God, but his reading skills were very poor and it was with great effort that he made his way through the Bible. But this became a way for him to practice and improve his reading skills. Not only this, but in conjunction with his salvation experience, Kundi felt a tremendous love for his wife Rangnem. There was thus never any question about getting another wife. His conversion brought a lot of attention in his home village. Kundi was 23 years old when he was saved.

Kundi’s tribe, Yamaga, and the neighboring tribe, Jiga, were at war with each other. Kundi’s father had killed one of the leaders of the Jiga tribe. Because of this, Kundi was a desirable target to perform their revenge on for the Jiga strain. Despite the threat of being killed, Kundi passed the Jiga tribe almost every night as he ran from Tega, which was a tribal area of the Yamaga, to the Church in Mount Hagen to attend the church services. Kundi’s hunger for the word of God was so strong that the threat could not prevent him from going to church.

When Kundi was saved, he began to testify about Jesus and his salvation experience in his tribe. He was met with quite a lot of resistance since the Lutheran Church was strong in the area. Despite this, several of Kundi’s siblings and relatives were saved by his testimony.

During his gangster time, Kundi had, amongst other things, broken into the MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) and stolen some of the equipment. He still had some of those things in his hut. When he got saved, he felt such a bad conscience over this and knew that the Spirit of God told him that he must return the stolen goods. His brothers said that he couldn’t do this because then he would go to jail. Kundi said that he felt that God would preserve him from this and that it would be a sign from God.

When Kundi arrived at the airport and MAF, they didn’t want to let him in to see the boss, but eventually they opened the gate for him. Kundi told him that he got saved and how it had transformed his life. The MAF boss was so moved by what he heard, that he made Kundi tell him about his salvation experience three times. With tears in his eyes, the MAF boss told Kundi: "I cannot bring the police on you but I would like to offer you a job". Kundi thanked him for the offer but told him that if he went to work for the MAF, the problems would persist since other tribe members could break into the MAF. "I must preach the gospel to my tribe so that they experience a transformation. Then the theft problems will probably cease." The MAF boss then asked God to bless Kundi and let him go. When Kundi came back to the village it was a great surprise for everyone that he had not ended up in prison.

At one point, Kundi experienced that he must visit the village where Kundi’s father had killed one of the opposing tribal leaders. Kundi told his brothers that he felt that God called him to go to the dead man's son, saying that they no longer hated them but that they now loved them. I must testify to them about the importance of salvation. The brothers argued with him, saying that if he went there they would kill him. Kundi told them that if they killed him, so be it, but that he felt the spirit of God calling him to do this. A pair of brothers then decided to come along with him.

When Kundi came to the Jiga village, some people yelled: "That’s Kundi, let us kill him". Others said "Let's hear what he has to say". A third group of people thought that Kundi came to kill them, so they fled. Anyway, he got an opportunity to talk about how his life had changed and how God had given him love for them. He said that Jesus loved them and wanted them to be saved. After his testimony, Kundi prayed for the son of the man who Kundi’s father had killed. A few weeks later, Kundi returned to this village and baptized the son. The old men of the village shook their heads and thought that this could not be true. Instead of being beaten to death by the man`s son, Kundi is now his best friend. Later on, a church was planted in this village.


Kundi with family

A short time before Marianne and I came to Papua New Guinea, the church in Mount Hagen had decided to give Kundi a small financial support in order to help him start a church in Tega. Kundi built a church, a grass hut. In mid-1977, the church in Tega had grown to around 50 members. It became an independent church and Kundi became its pastor.


Kundi 2005 with the medals he received in 1998

As I told you earlier, Kundi was the one who came to stand closest to me in the mission work in Papua New Guinea. When we were in the middle of 1979 and were going to Sweden for furlough, Kundi wanted to come along with us. He wanted to see the country that we originally came from. I told him that I had to discuss it with my missionary colleagues and churches in Sweden and see what they thought. Furthermore, I explained that he had to pay his own ticket, in order to prevent the other pastors from thinking that it was unfair.

My missionary colleagues thought it was all right but when I spoke with our contact person for our supporting churches in Sweden, Samuel Halldorf, he said no. He argued that it was too many pastors who came from mission countries and were negatively impacted by their visit to Sweden. When they returned to their own country again, they had a hard time adjusting after they had developed a more materialistic way of thinking.

When I told Kundi that Samuel said no, he looked at me and said: "I have never forbidden Samuel Halldorf to come to Papua New Guinea, so why should he forbid me to come to Sweden? I called Samuel and told him what Kundi had said. He then changed his mind and told me that Kundi could come along with us.


Kundi and Sven in Stockholm in 1979

Kundi followed us to Sweden in June 1979. I think it was very useful for him. He got insight into things he never would have understood otherwise. He realized, for example, that we as a family could live much better in Sweden than in Papua New Guinea. Many nationals had the belief that the missionaries were in their country with the intention to exploit them in various ways and make themselves rich at their expense. Now it became even clearer to Kundi that we were not in Papua New Guinea to get anything out of them, but rather to preach the word of God. This came to be very important in Kundi’s future communications with other national pastors.

We as a family would be in Sweden for six months. Kundi was going home by himself after three months. The last week in Sweden, he received the terrible news that his four-year-old son Samuel (the son was named after Samuel Halldorf) had been hit by a car and died. Kundi and I sat and cried together in southern Sweden, when he suddenly said, "I have to call someone from Papua New Guinea who can go to my village and tell my villagers that I do not want any compensation from the driver, and I do not want any blood revenge. I accept that God gave me this son and I accept that God welcomed him home to heaven. When I come back to Papua New Guinea, I will summon the people, invite the police and the radio. I will then explain that neither me nor any of the believers in my tribe shall ever again seek a vendetta or charge compensation beyond the decision of the courts. (They were going to receive insurance money.) If I can do something to stop this terrible “tradition”, my son has not died in vain." I was incredibly moved by what he said. When he called, he asked them to keep his son's body in hypothermia at the hospital so that he could bury him when he came home.

When Kundi was back in Papua New Guinea, he did exactly what he had said to me. The event had a huge impact on the people around him. People from other churches, Catholics, Lutherans, etc., came to him and asked, "What is it that you have, that we do not have?" Many were saved thanks to this. Through these contacts, the gospel spread to other villages, mostly spread through lineage, in other words – they contacted their relatives and testified about Jesus. When people were saved in a place, they put up a small house church and then worked their way up from this. It proved to be very effective.

When Kundi took a stand against the blood revenge, he was the first to ever do this. It was such a momentous event that the authorities had a hard time believing it. A police officer said: "I've been a cop in Mount Hagen for 16 years and no such thing has ever happened before and it is not happening now." He did not believe in what Kundi had said. Kundi wanted to meet the driver who had run over and killed his son, but the police would not allow it because they were not sure if he would kill the driver or not. The driver was from Australia and was sent home, just in case, thus Kundi never got to meet him.

This event had a major impact, not only on the lives of the unsaved but also on other churches which had previously not had any respect for our work. But after this incident, they began to respect our work and realize that it was God who was behind it all, Sven says.


Kundi in 2009

Later on, Kundi became the regional director of the Assemblies of God in the Highlands for many years. He had other assignments, both within the Church and in society, as well. Kundi visited Sweden for a second time in 1990. Kundi’s position in the debate about blood revenge had a great influence on the whole society. This and other efforts in the community led to Kundi being awarded an OBE (A Member of the Civil Division of the Order of the Brittish Empire) by Queen Elizabeth the Second on the 31st of December 1997.

Kundi died on the 6th of May in 2010. His good friend Sven led the funeral ceremony, which was attended by thousands of people.


At Kundis grave April 2012. From left: Rode Kennerberg, Veronica Pok, married to Kundis brother Lo who died in 2005, Marianne, Sven and Veronica's son, Lo (named after his father).

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