The General and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries) received a traditional welcome on the tarmac at Goroka Airport in Papua New Guinea, where they were to lead 60th anniversary celebrations. Asaro mudmen, covered in mud and wearing large clay masks over their heads, danced and ‘threatened’ with spears and arrows. Exiting the terminal, the international leaders were met by hundreds of Salvationists singing 'From the Rising of the Sun' in three languages.
Following officers councils, a welcome rally marked the beginning of the PNG Northern Congress. Representatives of tribes from the North Western Division sang and danced in colourful traditional costumes. People gathered from all over the Highlands and North Coastal areas, with some travelling for as long as nine hours over difficult terrain to celebrate 60 years of God’s faithfulness to The Salvation Army in PNG, to worship and to hear God’s message.
The theme for the congress, Right at the Heart, was reflected in the location of the open-air venue, which was in the busiest part of the city of Goroka. Throughout the congress, hundreds of people responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, sometimes moving forward despite the rain, to kneel in the mud to bring their lives under the lordship of Christ. The congress included colourful, creative, contemporary and traditional dances as well as drama, timbrel and choral items.
A prominent citizen of Goroka, Dr Joio Quinn, sponsored a dinner for the General and Commissioner Cox, Salvation Army leaders, invited politicians and prominent community leaders. After a presentation that showed the activities and programmes of The Salvation Army in Papua New Guinea, the Hon Isaac Waigavara – the first Salvationist Member of Parliament in the country – praised the work of the Army and testified to his faith, sharing that his work enables him to worship in many different corps (churches). Pastor Gireva Gireve, head of the Council of Churches in the Highlands, welcomed the General and spoke of unity in Christ.
The men’s prayer breakfast, women’s rally and youth praise meeting were exciting events, full of music, with both traditional and contemporary dancing. Brightly-coloured costumes in divisional colours were worn which, along with the music drew large crowds of passers-by who stopped to hear God’s message. Hundreds of men, women and young people moved forward to pray at each event, in response to the Bible messages.
The children’s rally began with a spectacular march-past of 500 children, who saluted the General and shouted their divisional war cry.
The march of witness that followed was a magnificent public demonstration of the strength of The Salvation Army in the north of Papua New Guinea, as more than 1,000 Salvationists proudly marched through the town, stopping traffic and drawing crowds. A local boy on a horse agreed to lead the march, holding high the territorial flag for the entire two kilometres of the march. He has since joined the youth group!
Large crowds gathered to hear the final message and be challenged to receive God’s living water. An offering was collected to support The Salvation Army in the Solomon Islands.
Leaving Goroka, the General and Commissioner Cox headed to Port Moresby, the capital of PNG, for the Southern Congress. Many people travelled by boat or truck, with some even walking considerable distances to be part of the celebrations. A group of Salvationists and friends from Popondetta – including a five-month-old baby – walked the 60-mile Kokoda track for eight days before reaching Port Moresby.
The international leaders were welcomed by three different cultural groups, and the territorial headquarters car park came alive with singing and dancing as the visitors made their way to the platform, welcomed by children from Boroko Primary School.
In his Bible message the General challenged the congregation to experience the presence of God by choosing to think on the good and positive things that God gives them each day.
The General and Commissioner Cox met with the Red Shield Advisory Board, which comprised 10 of the most influential businessmen and women in the country. They also visited The Salvation Army's House of Hope, where care is provided to children affected by HIV/Aids, women who suffer domestic violence, and sex workers. During this visit the local media took the opportunity to interview the General.
At a men’s rally, the General challenged the congregation of 400 to open their hearts to the moving of the Holy Spirit, surrender everything to God and serve him wholeheartedly. During the women’s rally the hall was filled with dancing, laughter and happiness. The atmosphere was lively as Commissioner Silvia encouraged the women to allow Jesus to fill their lives with his joy. At the conclusion of both rallies people moved to the mercy seat for prayer and renewal.
The week-long celebrations included items from a combined timbrel brigade, creative dance, drama, contemporary music, singing, traditional dance and mini musicals. The march of witness, including musicians and timbrelists, was a spectacularly colourful demonstration of strength, as multiple Salvation Army flags flew resplendently in the strong breeze at the head of a procession of hundreds of Salvationists, led by the PNG Police Force.
The General and Commissioner Cox took the salute as the streets were filled with Salvationists and friends, adding to the massive crowd that had gathered for the open-air witness.