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54. A Pentecostal movement starts to grow

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In earlier chapters, Sven and Marianne have talked about how their Mission Work began in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, and how it then grew quickly. They talked about many interesting and exciting experiences during these years, but also about the struggle to keep the Pentecostal Church Movement in the Highlands from splitting. This chapter provides a summary of the years 1986-1994, a period when the revival continued but where Sven's and Marianne's role changed slightly. During this period, Sven was the Regional Director of Assemblies of God Papua New Guinea Mission Highlands Region and thus had an overall responsibility, which also included other Missionaries' work. One should note that it was in the Assemblies of God Papua New Guinea Mission that Sven held the role as the Highlands Regional Director. The boards of the local churches and districts consisted of national people only, as we have mentioned earlier.

During this period, Marianne devoted much of her time to women's groups and especially women's worship services. This is described in Chapter 48. This work eventually helped many women to occupy prominent positions in the churches.

Sven speaks: As always during my ministry in Papua New Guinea, I preached as often as the opportunity was offered, but in the years 1986-1995, my work was mainly focused on equipping the pastors for their pastoral work in their churches. I taught them about the importance of them working together in harmony with other local churches and how to set up structures for the governance of the church. The formal documents for laying the foundation of this were the by-laws of the local church and the Constitution of Assemblies of God Papua New Guinea. Part of this was a” Statement of Faith”, consisting of the basic doctrines of the Bible.


Fairly early in our work, Kundi and I made it a habit to regularly visit the various Pentecostal Churches in the Highlands. Eventually, the number of churches became too great and made it impossible for us alone to visit all of them with any reasonable regularity. We then organized the activities into districts and sub-districts. Each sub-district consisted of about 6-10 local churches. Each sub-district elected one of its pastors to become the sub-district chairman. One of the sub-district chairmen had the responsibility to visit regularly each church within his sub-district to ensure that they all felt that they were cared for by the leadership, without having to have a personal visit from myself and Kundi Pok.

In every province in the Highlands, there was a district. Such a district ranged from a few sub-districts up to about ten of them, depending on how many churches there were in the area. Over time, the number of churches in some provinces grew to the extent that they were forced, for administrative reasons, to split the district into several districts. For instance, in the Western Highlands, there are today three districts. Each district represented in turn a region. The Assemblies of God's activities in Papua New Guinea consist of five regions today.

I mentioned earlier, we also developed a "Statement of Faith". It was basically the same one as the Assemblies of God in Australia applies worldwide. (Today it is called “What We Believe” on the Assemblies of God website). The "Statement of Faith" was not something that all the church members had to know, but it was rather a foundation for us in our teaching. Basically, it laid out the basic doctrines of the Bible. I usually taught the pastors about this, in order for them to gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of why we believe in what we believe. This in turn gave the pastors a solid foundation to stand on when they were teaching and preaching in their churches. With the nationals´ background, it was not clear that they would just "automatically" understand the biblical context, who does that anyway? But it was important that everyone knew what our faith was based on.


My teaching also included assisting pastors and leaders to understand the church´s by-laws, where I brought up the importance of the church arranging regular meetings where all members could speak their minds. Included in this, they also had to be taught in how to arrange annual meetings, how to appoint a board and so on. Things that might be obvious to us were not always clear to these people.

I also helped teaching in the Bible College or rather the Bible Colleges. I taught at our own Regional Bible College, as well as at the Assemblies of God's National Bible College in Port Moresby. The Port Moresby College was two years long and the teaching was in English. Our Regional Bible College, taught in Pidgin, was 4 x 20 weeks and lasted four years. The Bible College students, the pastors, were thus able to work in their local village church for about 32 weeks every year. The reason for this approach was that we found out that if you were to do the course without a break, keeping the students away from the village for about two years, they would find it very difficult adapting back to village life after graduation. They had, in some sense, become spoiled by the easy life in the college. This was not a specific problem to educate pastors, but also applied to all other education. Many people who have passed a higher education, such as a teacher’s degree, have had difficulties returning to the traditional village life. But there were always exceptions. A few people, who had studied at the Bible College in Port Moresby, went back to their villages and became a great blessing. Patricia was one of them. She was the senior pastor of the Kagua Assembly of God Church for decades.

I was never the Principal of the Bible College in the Highlands, but when we started it, I had to raise the funds for the buildings, as well as getting qualified builders and carpenters to help us build the necessary houses for the college. Among others, Marianne's brother helped us with most of the money required. Anders Olsson, who returned to Papua New Guinea with his wife Kristina in September 1983, became the Principal of the Bible College. The curriculum from the Assemblies of God Bible College in Maprik was used. However both Anders Olsson and I also developed some extra material in cooperation with the Assembly of God Missionaries responsible for the theological training of pastors in Papua New Guinea, such as Rev Kevin Hovey and Rev Don Badham.

From 1982 to 1995 I was the Highlands Regional Director for the Assemblies of God PNG Mission. I then spent a lot of time guiding and assisting other Assemblies of God Missionaries working in the Highlands, with problem solving both in relation to their work with the Mission and also relating to their personal lives.

Much of my time was spent solving the difficulties, which arose in and around the work of the churches and mission. In a rapidly growing movement, minor and greater problems are quite frequent here and there. Sometimes, the pastor did not know how to handle a problem. Other times, it was simply because the pastor did not want to deal with the problem. Most of the times such problem solving was something that Kundi Pok and I did together.

A part of my job was to encourage our members to plant new churches. We started to keep track on some statistics regarding developments in the churches. The basis for these statistics was received by all the churches filling out a form. It included questions about how many people were saved and baptized in the past year and how many members the church had at the time. The last question on the form was: "Where are you, as a church, going to start a new church the following year?" The question forced the congregation to consider where and how they could do this. Based on what they wrote, we encouraged them to proceed and we taught them about ways to start a church as well. Mostly, the first step was to start a small house fellowship on the new location.

Sometimes, the work was enlarged in the most unexpected ways. For example, when I some time around 1983 to 1984 received a call from a totally unknown man. We had never met and he did not know me either. But he had had a dream, or perhaps we should say revelation, in which he saw me, got my name and phone number. He called and asked for us to meet. He lived in an area called Baiyer River, which was located beyond the area in which we intended to plant churches. We thought that there were other evangelical churches that worked in this area, and in addition to that, I felt that the work was too widely spread already for us to be able to take on any more work. But, like I said, he had in his dream realized that we ought to get there and so we did, of course. He showed us many villages that we did not know and in accordance with his desire, we started a work in this area. Today there are about 35 Assemblies of God Churches in this area.

On another occasion, there was a male nurse at the Mount Hagen hospital that was saved. He returned to his village that is situated in the Chimbu Province and began to testify about his salvation experience. We thought that this area was a little too far away from our work in Mount Hagen. But after a while they contacted us and wanted us to get there and arrange a baptismal service. Since I knew that there was already a Pentecostal Church established in this area through the Four Square movement, I suggested that they should ask Four Square to baptize the new believers and thus take care of the work there. But there was no interest on their part, so we arranged a baptism and today there are about 40 churches in this area.

Originally, the village church buildings often consisted of large grass huts but as the congregations grew larger, the need for more and better church buildings became greater. It was a big project for a church to build a church building with sheet- metal on both roof and walls. Mostly they tried to get financial help from external sources in order to build their church building, but I taught them that they must take a personal responsibility for building their own church building as well as the responsibility for the other work of the local church. Sometimes the landowner wanted to be paid for the land on which the church building was to be erected. He would sometimes come to me with the hope that I would arrange the money, but my response was that they had to collect an extra offering to gather the money.


Filadelfia in Mount Hagen

There were other variations on this theme. Once, there was a man who invited a pastor to erect a church building and a house for the pastor on his land. But one day the man came to see me, and wanted me to pay him 500.00 kina for his land. "You will not get a single toya (minimum coin) from me." I replied, and I continued, "It's your work and your church building. This is not something you do for me but for yourselves. If you don’t want to help the pastor, and make it possible for him to live there so that he may grow sweet potatoes on the land, I will tell him that he’ll have to move to another location." "No, no." he answered, "I shall make sure that there is a church building erected, and I will buy metal roofing for it. I will give the pastor the land so that he can plant a garden. I will also provide him with some coffee bushes so that he can sell coffee beans and thus get some cash." After this, there were never any further problems regarding the land issues on that location. With that said, I always carefully taught that financing the work of the church was the responsibility of its members and not someone outside the church paying for various things.

To prevent any misunderstandings about this, there were of course situations where outside help is required, such as when a ministry is starting out in a new location. Or in places where people are so poor that they are unable to find the necessary funds, but in time it is important that the locals are given and are accepting the financial responsibility for their own ministry. A few other little stories can help to illustrate this.

Once, I visited a place far out in the bush where they were in need of getting a small handheld megaphone speaker to be used for their open air services. Since the price was 85 kina and they only had 25 kina, I was expected to contribute the remaining 60 kina. After the service one of the church members asked me if I could help him by taking some coffee sacks to Mount Hagen. "Sure, that's fine." I said. As we were loading the coffee bags, I asked him "How much money will you get for these coffee sacks?" "Well, approximately 600 kina." the owner of the coffee bags replied. "Well! Your tithes on that will give the church enough money to buy the megaphone speaker they are after," I responded.

And so they did.

In another church, the members had been praying for money to build a church building. Suddenly, the coffee prices were raised because of a crop failure in Brazil. I urged the members to take this opportunity and sell coffee now that it would be well paid for. They did this and were thus able to erect their new church building.

At yet another place, where they were going to build a new church, the pastor urged the members to grow more crops of sweet potatoes in order for them to sell more on the market in Mount Hagen and thus get money for a church building.

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