By Rev SEIK PITOI
LAST week we saw why Israel is important in God’s purposes.
They were chosen to become His vessel to bring forth the Messiah to the world. Their ‘rejection’ of the Messiah saw the Gentiles receive the benefit of salvation.
But their rejection did not mean God was finished with them, as some would have us believe! Far from it (Rom 11:1, 11). God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable (Rom 11: 29) and His love for Israel His people is eternal (Jer 31:3).
God’s plan for Israel is not over yet! In being God’s ‘other people’ – the Church – we too are part of that plan.
In the early days, our closest partners in Israel conventions were from ICEJ (International Christian Embassy Jerusalem). Apart from missionaries Vic and Elsie Schlatter (ICEJ representatives) who frequented our meetings, we had Australian director Bruce and late wife Kay Garbutt fly up on many occasions, as did Jesma and John O’Hara. Programmes would be planned in centres throughout the country and we would send our speakers around, with their final spot being Port Moresby.
Later, we had the privilege of having Messianic believer, Rev Lawrence Hirsch of Celebrate Messiah Australia come up, followed by Clarence Wagner, CEO of Bridges for Peace, Israel, and then Messianic pastor (late) Rev Dr Paul Bianchini of Kehilat Sar Shalom, Jerusalem.
These speakers all preached from a Jewish perspective, teaching from a Hebrew background. That opened the understanding of many of our people.
Soon, our national evangelists began to arise. The Nipa Christians formed their own ministry called Prayer Friends of Israel and under the leadership of Pastor Peter Harut, began to move into their district and province teaching the word and starting up prayer groups.
Meanwhile their church in Hohola, under Ps Tegi, began to network with other prayer groups around the city, hosting prayer vigils at their centre and establishing a prayer mountain atop Burns Peak. On certain days, our combined prayer groups would converge on the mountain for a session of prayer.
Similar prayer meetings were held on Ensisi Valley’s mountaintops. On one occasion at Ensisi Valley, after a series of trumpet blasts by our shofar blower, John Kombeng, the heavens suddenly opened and it began to rain heavily. This was after months of drought!
I too began at that time to teach in churches around the city. In 1999, I went to Daru and spoke at a conference hosted by Ps Steven Bagari. The following year, I attended a month-long “Computerisation for Social System” course at Ramat Rachel (outside Bethlehem) under Israeli government’s Mashav scholarship. It was also a good time for me to practice my Hebrew learnt at our “Ulpan” (Hebrew school) at Tokarara, run by our Israeli friends Zipporah and Avraham Stamper.
Upon my return, I was invited to speak at Gagan, Buka Island, by Larry Hulo and my late brother, Nathan Kovoho. My next visit was to Haku in 2003, this time invited by Ps Cornelius Sawa and late Ps Samson Ritein of the CRC church there.
Their missions programme had an emphasis on Israel and I was asked to speak. I count myself blessed to have met such beautiful Christians on Bougainville who love God, and have a heart for His covenant people, Israel.
Following that, I visited Honem village in Nipa and Inu at Lake Kutubu, speaking at huge rallies organised by the leaders. One such meeting was organised by the former local member, Robert Kopaol.
Seeing the massive turnout at each rally overwhelmed me. The marches were done in style, and people were cooperative throughout the sessions. They listened intently about Israel and the great God of Israel we serve – even in pouring rain! Altar calls were responded to every time with people streaming out to give their lives to Christ. I have never seen such enthusiasm at crusades!
In 2006, my involvement stopped. I was now a student at Christian Leaders Training College (CLTC), Banz, and would be there for a five-year degree programme.
I continued to speak out and teach about Israel when invited, especially in the Jiwaka and Hagen areas, and debated fellow students and lecturers who wanted to challenge my theology. I read a lot of material by ‘evangelical Israel haters’ like Steven Sizer and others to balance my theology. It was pleasing though to have supporters like my ‘Jews for Jesus’ lecturers, Jeff and Sue Graf.
After CLTC, I did a year’s pre-ordination certificate at Rarongo, East New Britain in 2011. Upon my return to Port Moresby, I was quite amazed at what had transpired in my absence.
While I sadly acknowledged the passing of my co-leaders in Ps Bob Browne and Ps Kabanua Kama, I was surprised to see that the Israel movement had mushroomed.
Groups had started up all over, some keeping Shabbat, observing dietary laws and celebrating the feasts. Others were taking tours to the Holy Land every year.
It was wonderful to see this, and a bitter-sweet victory for me, especially when some who had given me the “heretic” label were now propagating the message themselves!
It seems our hard work was not in vain. Ps Bob, Ps Kabanua, Ps Tegi, Mr and Mrs Fuapla, Bonie Vava, Mrs Audubo, Kay Garbutt – and even our baby Ayalette-Rachel Pitoi, can all rest in peace knowing we did well.
The seeds we planted have sprouted! My only desire at this stage would be to see more cooperation amongst all groups and less of a competition spirit. After all, we’re all on the same side. Whether we worship on Shabbat or Sunday – we all stand with Israel!
After a period off the scene, I returned by leading a tour to Israel in 2013 from my church, Rev Sione Kami Memorial Church (RSKMC). When posted next to the Gordon United Church from 2015 to 2017, I ran prayer sessions and continued to teach where I could about Israel.
Then, with help from my chairman Api Leka Sr, head deacon Koupa Kila and other leaders, we were able to raise enough money to host Ps David Silver of Mt Carmel, Israel, in June 2016. Our church blessed him with peroveta songs about Israel, which he enjoyed thoroughly, and hosted him during the weekend.
We held a series of meetings around the city which were supported mainly by Rev Joseph Walters and Rev Tony Dalaka of the AOG Church. These men of God have an understanding of Israel prophetically and hence graciously contributed to our programme.
I am very grateful for the spirit of unity in them!
Many groups are running conventions on Israel today, bringing speakers from Israel for some great teaching. We are pleased at all that God is doing.
As old generals are bowing out, new ones are being raised to continue the work. However, unity, respect for one another, a lack of judgment on worship days and practices, and theological balance is needed for God’s purposes to be achieved.
In this period of restoration and revival in the church, may we have a healthy attitude towards Israel. Indeed, as we pray for our own beloved nation of PNG, let us also raise our voices for the seed of Abraham – Jew and Arab alike – to come to know Yeshua Sar Shalom, the only one who can bring true peace to the turmoil of the Middle East!
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer. For a teaching session on Israel at your church, do not hesitate to call the author on 79293896.