Reflecting on Youth Ministry Mission to PNG

5 May

Reflecting on Youth Ministry Mission to PNG image

This blog entry is written by Youthworks CEO and PNG Team Member Zac Veron

The first Youthworks & St. George North Anglican Church mission to PNG has ended and it’s time to reflect on what we learned and achieved in the ‘Full Focus’ Children’s Ministry Intensive week.

I am pleased to say the team, which comprised of 13 children’s & youth ministry experts and seasoned practitioners, made a massive impact upon the ministry development of the students at Christian Leaders Training College (CLTC), and hundreds of locals in the nearby villages. The Sydney team worked extremely well together for 11 days and every individual member of the team made a huge contribution in their own unique way.

Many team members felt confronted by the poverty and living conditions we saw across PNG, as well as the needs and ministry opportunities within the church. However, something that has continued to challenge me since returning home is the call of Christ to deny ourselves and to live counter-culturally for the sake of the gospel. Let me explain.

In Sydney, I think we often are tempted to hide our faith rather than take a stand. We aren’t as radical or as intentional as we could be in how we spend our time or our money, or in the conversations we have with people.  We also are rarely confronted with persecution when we make gospel changes in our life.

  A woman in PNG who was only too happy to greet the team

A woman in PNG who was only too happy to greet the team

In PNG, however, overcoming cultural barriers to live for Jesus can have massive and very public consequences. Something as normal (to us) as a husband sharing a bed with his wife, or sitting next to her in church, is historically seen as a sign of male weakness in PNG, and opens him up to scorn and derision. Their answer is often to have a separate bedroom, or even a separate house next door! And so for a man to respond to God’s call on him to follow Christ as a husband who loves, leads and serves his family can often come at the expense of his position and standing within his clan or community. In a strongly collectivist culture where clan is king, this is not a small ask. Being in PNG has challenged me to think: how far am I willing to go against my own culture for the sake of the gospel?

If you have been following our blogs, then you will know how the students responded and performed throughout the training intensive. We found a large and diverse student body that was eager to learn, prepared to change, hungry for instruction, zealous to serve the Lord, and very thankful for our ministry to them. In turn, they taught us humility, and what a willingness to serve the Lord anywhere in the world looks like. They helped widen our perspective on what God in doing in his world.

Needless to say, we were extremely pleased and thankful to God for how the week went. Many students felt compelled to put their new skills to work and instruct others in their churches on how to teach the Bible to children; others spoke of having their eyes opened to the importance of ministering to young people.

In speaking about our visit, Ezekiel Ivihi, the Principal of CLTC, shared his hope that it sparks a new awakening of the vision for specialised youth and children’s ministry, in order to address the great need to disciple the younger generation. He also spoke of his desire for this training to become a major component of their teaching program in future! 

Here’s something that Dr. Graeme Batley, Dean of Undergraduate Studies at CLTC, wrote to me the other day:

 

“Will the impact of the Youthworks ministry stop there? Clearly no! Our students come not only from the towns and many remote areas of Papua New Guinea but from Bouganville, the Solomon Islands and other countries of the South Pacific region. They also come from many different denominations, and so upon graduation will take what they have learned to the places that you and I probably will never visit but of which Heaven will be aware …“I am sure our students will also become better preachers of the Word of God as they transpose these skills to older audiences as well …

“It is therefore our fervent hope that the good work that has begun might continue in partnership with Youthworks, so that many lives, more than we could number, might be impacted by the good news of Jesus to the glory of God for some years to come.”

 

What next? Will we go back? Probably. But ideally, the long-term strategy is to gather financial and practical resources together for two keen CLTC graduates to come to Youthworks College to be trained in Sydney, and then return back to PNG, in order to train thousands of other ministers over the next few decades. Would you join with me in praying for this?

Do I miss the insects that scream like an alarm clock, which sound off twice in 30 seconds, half an hour before sunrise in PNG? No! Am I still taking anti-malaria tablets? Yes. Was it worthwhile? Absolutely. Even though my wife, Sheree’s mother passed away, two days into our trip, she and the entire team were greatly blessed by the Lord as we served him in PNG.

I was very proud of my team. If you are a Sydney Anglican, you can be very proud of them too, since they went to PNG representing you and our Lord. I personally found the trip immensely rewarding, uplifting, and it has energised me to keep championing the importance of training people to minister to children and young people.

Visit fullfocuspng.gofundraise.com.au to read more about the team.

 

[This article first appeared on 24th April 2013 at http://sydneyanglicans.net/blogs/modernministry/reflecting-on-youth-ministry-mission-to-png] 

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