The journey of preparing people for Churches of Christ ministry in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a challenging one. With limited resources, churches scattered in one of the more isolated regions and low levels of literacy, the process of education is challenging. Ministry preparation often starts with a focus on further developing basic literacy.
This past year has been complex due to COVID-19. In PNG, the vaccination rate is extraordinarily low and the rumours about the ‘dangers’ posed by vaccines are hard to challenge. This results in confusion and creates a greater risk of the potential impact of the pandemic in village communities.
The focus of ministry preparation in the Melanesian Evangelical Churches of Christ (MECOC) is the Gandep Training College. Courses taught at Gandep are often based on curriculum from the Christian Leaders Training College (CLTC) located near Mt Hagen. The sharing of courses reflects the strong partnership between CLTC and Gandep.
Each year Gandep has a Commissioning Service for the graduating students. This happened on November 28 and the faculty washed the feet of the graduands and prayed with them. Students are released to preach and teach the gospel. The following day featured a reconciliation program. Teachers and students were reconciled with each other. Failures were acknowledged and disappointments forgiven. A college meal, where everyone was invited, featured a pig purchased from a neighbouring village.
The 2021 Graduation happened on December 8. For the first time in Gandep’s history the Conference Chairman, Vice Chairman and Community Development Director were present. The guest speaker was Vice Chairman Ps Edward Samol, speaking on the theme of “Guard the Truth” (1 Timothy 6:20).
About 400-500 people witnessed the graduation, and were challenged and blessed with the official speeches from the MECOC leaders. It greatly benefited the teachers to hear from the MECOC leaders that the Bible College is important for the future.
During the ceremony, the outgoing Principal Steven Yamok was thanked for his service and the incoming Principal Caleb Dankro was inducted into his new role.
There are challenges ahead for Gandep. Several teachers at Gandep are at the same time leaders in one of the District Conference.
It is also an encouragement to see what has come from humble and basic beginnings and to know that the churches are being well led.