By Mike and Eunice Herchenroeder
We saw God get the glory during the last week of August when church leaders from seventeen different church groups came together for four days of worship, fellowship, and teaching, focusing on the power of His Word.
It started as an idea back in January, for there to be a conference to bring together church leaders from all over Madang Province to one place to be encouraged and ministered to. After much prayer, it was decided that the purpose of the conference would be twofold: 1) to strengthen and encourage church leaders in their ministry of sharing God’s Word in new and powerful ways, and 2) to help church leaders know the value of the mother tongue in communicating God’s power and love. Three Bible translation agencies and several churches in Madang town agreed to work together to host the conference. Five weeks before the conference started, to the dismay of many, we had only a bare skeleton of a program and no idea where the conference would actually be hosted. Then God began to move. In the weeks that followed, all the details fell into place. Representatives from various Christian organizations from all over Papua New Guinea agreed to come to speak or make a presentation. We were planning for up to 200 attendees, but we had no idea how many would actually come. On the opening night, which corresponded to Papua New Guinea’s national day of prayer and repentance, the meeting place was packed and there was standing room only.
I would like to share some of the highlights of the conference from my perspective:
- Church leaders from 17 different church backgrounds worshiped and prayed together.
- Attendees came from town churches, nearby rural churches, and churches in very remote, hard-to-get-to parts of the province.
- The churches of Madang town graciously found places to sleep for all of the out-of-town attendees.
- The women’s groups from several churches took turns eagerly feeding everyone.
- Everyone – the scheduled speakers and the conference attendees –taught, encouraged, and challenged each other.
- Many different methods of communicating the Word of God were demonstrated.
- Groups from various churches sang worship songs in more than a dozen languages and several different singing styles.
- There was growing consensus that somehow each one of the more than 160 language groups in Madang Province need to have the Word of God in their own language.
- I heard the attendees saying things like, “We need to do this again—every year,” “This is what we pastors need, pastors preaching to each other,” and “When is the next conference?”
This conference reminds me of the prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17.20-21, 23: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. … May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” It also reminds me of John’s vision in Rev. 7.9, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”
Mike is the branch director and Eunice assists with curriculum and various other areas in the branch.