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38. Rebuild the wall of Jerusalem

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Sven speaks: On a Sunday, a few months into the year of 1982, pastor Peter Patterson spoke in the Assembly of God Church in Mount Isa about when the prophet Nehemiah hears that the "wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned down." (Nehemiah Chapter 1) The pastor described how the Prophet received the message of the wall being torn down and the Prophet felt a calling to rebuild it. When the pastor finished his sermon by saying, "The wall of Jerusalem is torn down and you have to go and rebuild it", it felt as if a spear was thrown into my heart. But I did not understand why I felt so strongly about this. When I a few months earlier had visited Papua New Guinea, no one had told me about the major problems that the Pentecostal churches in the Highlands were going through. I was totally focused on us not returning to Papua New Guinea so I pushed back this feeling and did not tell Marianne about it.

Next Sunday there was a visiting pastor who was preaching. He based his sermon on the exact same scripture. Again, I felt as if it was a spear piercing through my heart. I felt very bad about it, but I still didn’t say anything about it to Marianne.

The following Sunday our second pastor, Michel Mackrell, was going to preach. He had been away on vacation for a month. What scripture does he choose to preach about? Well, for the third Sunday in a row, I hear a sermon about Nehemiah and the pastor says "the wall of Jerusalem is torn down and you have got to go and rebuild it." I burst into tears and as I looked at Marianne, I saw that she was crying as well. We took each other's hands and walked up to receive prayer and said: "We are going back to Papua New Guinea."


Sven built the new church building in Warakum Mount Hagen, with the help of other missionaries and the members of the church.



Even bridges have to be re-built sometimes

But it was not as simple as just going back there. First, we needed to apply to become Assemblies of God World Mission missionaries and we also needed to raise our financial sponsorship. To become an Assemblies of God World Mission Missionary, we needed to complete an application form, in which we had to give the names contact details of our Pastor, the Manager from our work place, and another professional person in the community, such as a doctor or lawyer, with whom we had had some business. Assemblies of God World Missions would then request a character reference from all these people separately, before considering our application. The Assemblies of God World Missions sent each of these three persons a four pages long questionnaire, with a great variety of questions, which had to be completed and sent directly back to the Office. When the doctor, whom Marianne worked for had completed her questionnaire, she told Marianne, "I think I have answered all of the questions except for one. It is the question about how many people you have saved, which I cannot answer”.

We submitted all our papers and were formally approved to be Australian Assemblies of God World Mission missionaries. With the formal approval from the Assemblies of God World Mission Office, came a letter giving details of the amount of sponsorship we had to raise before we would be permitted to go to Papua New Guinea. I put the letter on my desk and prayed, "God, if you don’t arrange this sponsorship, we cannot do this."

The Swedish Pentecostal churches had previously financed us. In Australia we were only known in the Assemblies of God Assembly of Mount Isa. On top of this the requirement on the amount of sponsorship having to be raised by an Australian Assemblies of God World Mission Missionary to be able to leave Australia, was much greater than what would have been required from Sweden. Apart from our own living allowance, we had to raise money for the school fees for the children and for work funds to cover operational costs. The total responsibility was on Missionary Candidate himself to raise this money. Assemblies of God World Mission would however give you a letter of introduction to Assemblies of God Churches, making it possible for you to approach Churches and ask them whether they would consider sponsoring you. We would not be able to leave Australia for PNG until 90% of the designated sponsorship was raised.

As I was "talking to God" in prayer about our continued mission work in Papua New Guinea, I felt a clear direction for us to be back in Mount Hagen by August 1982. I wrote a letter to the Assemblies of God's mission secretary, in which I stated that I felt that we should be back in Papua New Guinea in August. He replied that this was only possible if our sponsorship was raised. I wrote another letter in which I again stressed the need to be back in Mount Hagen in August. The answer from the mission secretary was yet again, “Yes, if your sponsorship is raised”. After these somewhat strange letters, a decision was made that we would come to the Assemblies of God World Missions office in Melbourne. Marianne and I had never been there and we had never met George Forbes who was the General Director of Assemblies of God World Mission. In Melbourne we got to meet him and John Sweany, who was the Field Leader of the Assemblies of God World Mission in Papua New Guinea.

After a brief conversation, John said that maybe we should delay our departure to Papua New Guinea for a while, as there were some problems with the Pentecostal Churches in Mount Hagen. This was the first time I heard about these problems. However, they couldn’t give us a detailed picture of the problems, but they entailed people giving the Assemblies of God a bad reputation, which had led many to be against the organization. I felt something burst inside of me and I started to cry in front of these men. When I had calmed myself down, and was capable of speaking again, I said:

"You should know that if there was to be a conflict between the Assemblies of God and the churches we have established in the Highlands, we will stand by and support the side of the Churches. If you cannot accept this, please send someone else."

"We have no intention of forcing you to bring the Churches in under the Assemblies of God covering, but there are some major problems that we hope you will be able to solve and bringing the Churches into a fellowship working together. In other words, you don’t have to promise that the Pentecostal churches in Papua New Guinea's highlands join the Assemblies of God." George Forbes replied.

After having received this promise from Dr George Forbes in the presence of Ps John Sweeney, we felt released to continue our preparation to return to PNG as the Lord was leading us.

At that time our sponsorship problems were starting to be resolved, by Swedish Pentecostal Churches offering about half of our needed sponsorship while the other half was offered by Australian Assemblies of God Churches. The Pentecostal Church in Hässleholm wrote to us: "We have heard that you might return to Papua New Guinea. We are about to expand our missionary work, but we are not making any decisions until we know what you intend to do." The strange thing was that I had a few days earlier written to Sven Stromberg, the pastor in Hässleholm, and I told him that we were going back to Papua New Guinea and we were now trying to raise money for our sponsorship. Furthermore, I told him that we this time would go as Australian Assemblies of God World Mission missionaries. I finished by asking if the church was interested in participating in the financing of our sponsorship. Apparently, we sent our letters about the same time so they must have crossed each others paths halfway. Anyway, the Pentecostal church in Hässleholm took approximately a third of our sponsorship. They came to be the church that took care of the biggest part of our financial maintenance. All of the sponsorship money including sponsorship received from Sweden, went through our account at the Assemblies of God World Mission. They then paid out our monthly allowances, work funds, superannuation, insurances and a range of other things. In August 1982 our totally required sponsorship was raised and we could finally return to Papua New Guinea.

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