Historic church survives tribal war

By Judy Bennett on Jun 28, 2010

Pokarumb Church of the Nazarene
The Pokarumb Church was the third Nazarene church started in Papua New Guinea. Recent tribal conflict resulted in damage to the church building.

Papua New Guinea -- Each time we passed the Pokarumb church on the way to town we noticed how rundown the building looked but we understood that the cost of a gallon of paint is roughly equivalent to five months of a pastor's salary ($80 USD).
Pokarumb was the third church started in Papua New Guinea. In 1957, Syndey Knox, the pioneer missionary, worked to build a building for them to worship in. Its land has unfortunately been at the center of some terrible tribal fighting over the past six months.  The lay pastor, Pastor Ellis, tells the story of being "hands upim" (held at gunpoint) with M-16s in the front yard of the church.  

Some men cut down the huge old trees surrounding the building, stole windows from the church and tried to destroy the sign. Pastor Ellis pleaded with them not to destroy the parsonage and they left it standing, after taking everything from inside. The house of the retired pastor was dismantled and taken.

The fighting is over now. Seventeen men were killed on both sides. The church almost died, too.  It went from a sanctuary full of men and women to seven faithful women. The men had to flee the land to save their lives.

The faithful few prayed that the Lord would help them to fix the church building.  They felt it would be a new start for the small group of believers. The next day Jonathan, Sam and I talked with them about coming to help!  How sweet the Lord is.

We, along with a team of missionary kids and volunteers, spent a Saturday painting, repairing, installing new window glass and having our own tribal war with two hives of bees (they eventually lost but left wounds on many of us). A group of us went the next to day to worship with them. What a privilege it was to encourage this small group of brothers and sisters in the Lord.  We took two special pictures--one of mostly women who had stayed during the fighting and one of young men who had fled and now returned home.

Pray for this small congregation to rebuild and bring the peace of Jesus Christ to their area.

-- Andy and Judy Bennett are missionaries in Papua New Guinea, working at the Kudjip Nazarene Hospital. This story is reprinted from their ministry blog with permission.