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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 12) – Lutherans throughout Papua New Guinea will today celebrate the 118th anniversary of the arrival of the first Lutheran missionaries.

To help them celebrate the event are two important world Church leaders — Dr. Ishmael Noko, who is the Lutheran World Federation general secretary and Asia Pacific secretary Reverend Ginda Harahap.

Both Church leaders have been visiting parts of the country, including Enga, Mt. Hagen and Finschhafen, and will this evening lead a ceremony to mark the 118th anniversary celebrations in Port Moresby.

Yesterday, thousands of Lutheran followers from within and around Lae flocked to the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium where the ELC-PNG Day was celebrated.

Noko was the guest speaker at the event, which included a Sunday service, followed by various activities by Lutherans in and around Lae.

Noko and his delegation were in Finschhafen at the weekend, where they visited Simbang, the site of the landing on July 12, 1886, of the first Lutheran missionary Reverend Johannes Flierl.

ELCPNG Head Bishop Dr. Wesley Kigasung said prior to the Lae celebrations, the Church has been through a lot in those 118 years.

"This year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea celebrates 118 years of its Ministry of Proclamation of the Gospel. It is a celebration of a success story of God’s miraculous work and wonder in the life of this Church," he said.

"The small beginning on the shores of Simbang in Finschhafen on July 12, 1886, when God led and guided his inspired and motivated servant Reverend Johannes Flierl of the Neuendettelsau Mission Society to set foot on a virgin soil to plant the first seed of the Gospel.

"The early beginning was tough and difficult and filled with doubts, but the persistence, patience, endurance and faith added with God’s guidance produced an amazing story. It is the story of the Lutheran adherents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea.

"It is the amazing story of how the Church had grown from the early missionary beginnings in 1886 to the founding of the constituted Church body — Evangelical Lutheran Church of New Guinea — in 1956 to the declaration of the autonomous church – Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG — in 1975.

Kigasung said the church has developed from a small beginning in 1886 to over nearly one million members today with 16 Church districts.

"The Church has contributed a lot to the development of this country in education, health, infrastructure and other development services, transportation through its shipping company, training of lay leaders both men and women, training of pastors, teachers and evangelists," Dr Kigasung said.

"I believe the Church will continue to grow in numbers. At present the Church is represented in almost all the provinces of this country. As it increases the task of ministering to the needs of the members of the church becomes more challenging."

He said the Church has realized and achieved its objectives and aims of proclamation but it had not by any means completed its mission of proclamation of Gospel message.

"It is an ongoing task and the ministry of teaching and healing and nurturing continues. New challenges require new insights and motivation to help the church continue to work within its objectives and aims to bring people to the kingdom of God," Kigasung said.

Asked what challenges and problems the Church faced today, Kigasung said there were challenges to the faith of the members; socio-economic problems; the threat of HIV/AIDS; and pressures from new religious groups.

There was also the question on the commitment of Church workers and the need to proclaim the Gospel message with power and the support for the Church through Christian giving.

He said the achievements over the 118 years have been many, and are in the areas of education and health services.

July 12, 2004

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