By Rev Seik Pitoi
Christian fellowship is a very important part of the educational process in PNG.
The Government has wisely recognised that developing the spiritual lives of students is just as important as teaching them maths, commerce and science. As such, programmes like Religious Instruction (RI) are encouraged in community and high schools, while tertiary institutions have groups like Scripture Union and Campus Crusade for Christ to enhance the spiritual lives of their charges.
And for the fortunate, there is always the added blessing of the chaplaincy service.
At colleges and other tertiary institutions, when the school year commences, Christian fellowships also get off the ground. These are pivotal times when new Christian students, fresh out of high school and nervously feeling their way into a new environment, are encouraged to join up with other believing students to get support, counsel and spiritual encouragement.
Testimonies abound of how such ministries have helped kids maintain a solid moral footing as they worked their way through their academic programmes to graduation.
This year, while other denominational fellowship groups at the University of Papua New Guinea commenced their fellowship programmes, one particular group didn’t.
The small United Church congregation, made up of students and staff from the Medical Faculty and the main campus, could not begin as they didn’t have a chaplain in place.
Administrative delays in making the appointment meant that they didn’t have any meaningful fellowship for the better part of the first semester.
On Sunday April 8, however, in the cool shady backyard of the chaplain’s residence, an outdoor service was held to mark the commencement of the denomination’s yearly programme.
The programme was initially to include the induction of the new chaplain but again miscommunication in the church hierarchy meant the programme had to be held off for another week. Nonetheless, a normal church service was held and all who attended were blessed to have the programme get off the ground.
The service was run very nicely by the students. Menagu Wali led the singing of hymns while Diana Leteisim read the Bible text and Ainesa Okaipa gave the offertory prayer.
A strong message of encouragement was then delivered by the congregation chairman, Philip Konetero, who besought the young people to remain faithful to the Lord.
He spoke of developing a closer relationship with Jesus, allowing God to produce fruit in their lives so others will know of God’s love.
Fellowship elder and academic, Dr Goru Hane Nou, who offered the main intercessory prayer, also spoke at the end of the service about the need to reach into the wider university community. He challenged the incoming chaplain, leaders and students to begin to reach out to those who will need encouragement in their walk with the Lord.
He said: “We may have started late, but God is still on time. Despite being small in number, God is still with us. He has apportioned us His grace to do great things this year and beyond.”
By Rev Seik Pitoi