The Melanesian Evangelical Churches of Christ (MECOC), located in the East Sepik region of Papua New Guinea (PNG) along the Ramu, Keram and Sogeram Rivers is 58-years-old, has a membership of around 8,000 people, more than 115 churches and approximately 100 national pastors.
Some of these places are very remote – several days walk away from the Gandep Bible College (MECOC’s pastor training centre), which is centrally located among the established churches.
GMP focuses on empowering the MECOC leadership and working with them on strategies to grow their own capacities in leadership through Church Partnerships. One of the positive dimensions of their work is the natural growth of the churches. Growth is not a ‘program’. It is the by-product of their life, as churches plant churches. Key leaders are released for church planting and evangelism, and new communities are being reached with the gospel. Recently the large church at Tsumba released their Senior Pastor, Tom, to be a church planter and appointed a woman, Sophia Melkon, as their new Senior Pastor. Bunam, on the Keram River, was host to a convention in June, with many people attending. There 96 people were baptised, and another 46 in the weeks following. Baptisms are big events. Those being baptised are young adults and families that had given up on their parent’s Christian faith and had returned to traditional beliefs. They are turning from idol worship and traditional spiritual beliefs to worship the one true God. Yabru Jerry, Executive Director of MECOC continues to pray for lasting fruit of this revival movement.
In July 2016, a week long intensive leadership training was held in Banz, Jiwaka Province, at the Christian Leaders Training College (CLTC). Seventeen MECOC leaders travelled to the highlands of PNG for the training. Leaders included two students currently studying at CLTC, Cathy Fiam who is a teacher at Gandep, and Pastor Sophia Melkon. Three were young leaders who have the potential for future leadership in MECOC. For some it was their first visit to CLTC and the first time they had met some of the other pastors and leaders in MECOC. During the training, there was a good response to the input from the team from Subiaco Church of Christ and the CLTC speakers. Yabru was inspired by Pastor Ben Johnson from Subiaco Church who led the morning and evening devotions on the life of Joseph. Yabru said, “Joseph’s life challenged us with the pitfalls of leadership and God’s preparation of a leader to save his family and world of his day.” Those who took part were divided into groups of five to discuss questions related to the Bible text provided, and each group had time to give feedback on the observation of the text and how that applies to their lives. David and Lynne Hammer (SIM missionaries) also sat in on some of the training sessions saying, “The highlights of the week were that the leaders were able to see a new vision and direction for work in the next five years.” The Hammers found it encouraging meeting up again with some of the leaders they had met in 2015, and David had the opportunity to present a session teaching the History of Missions.
GMP Church Partnerships build up the capacity of local churches in a variety of areas such as evangelism and church planting, some literacy work, women's and children's ministries. The goal is for MECOC to be a self-governing and self-led indigenous church with a focus on building leadership capabilities and discipling followers of Jesus Christ. You can donate to the church and leadership development work in PNG.