Papua New Guinea (PNG) continues to face a wide range of crises, to the point where some observers question whether the nation can continue to function as such. Widespread corruption limits progress, and foreign aid meant to help local workers rarely reaches them. Difficult geography makes natural resources hard to access, and greedy foreign companies seize control of them. Cities receive migrants who seek work, but cannot support them well. Violent crime increases, and HIV infections spread rapidly, mostly through sexual immorality. The vast ethnic diversity (1,000 groups) makes the country difficult to unite. Tribal fighting and revenge killings extend back thousands of years. Pray for peace that reaches beyond non-violence to bring true unity, and for national identity that rises above ethnic ties.
Pray for long-term peace after decades of bitterness and hatred between the PNG government and the Bougainville islanders. There is still a need for forgiveness and reconciliation. The slow move towards independence is being handled cautiously, but reopening the copper mine could reopen old wounds as well.
The last 130 years of great mission success in PNG started along the coast, moved inland, reaching finally to the Highlands and almost every people. Some have seen mass movements to Christ. Over 95% of all peoples now claim to be Christian. Praise God for the presence of a living, vibrant Church today. But a deeper level of discipleship is lacking in many places, sometimes resulting in disillusionment and a turning back to ungodly traditions, drunkenness, gambling, "cargo cults" or other syncretistic groups. Revivals have come (East and West Sepik, New Britain, North Solomons and Highlands areas); more are needed to see lasting change.
The spiritual need of Bougainville is much greater than in PNG, as the evangelical presence is quite small. Pray for revival throughout the Bougainville Church, and for leaders to develop vision and initiatives reflective of Christ's mission.
Witchcraft and sorcery are on the rise again. "Witch hunts" are becoming more common wherein those suspected of black magic are tortured into a confession and killed. This gruesome trend is in part a reflection of the spiritually-attuned culture, but also a reaction to the rapid increase in AIDS. Pray for an end to occult activities and related violence; the existence of such problems in a 96% Christian nation illustrates both the failure of and challenges to the Church. Pray also for to such "witch hunts" to cease; the government is rightly trying to bring this practice to an end.
Effective discipling is the most urgent and prevalent need. Nominalism, syncretism and pollution of Christianity with spiritism and the occult are sadly widespread. Culturally appropriate ways of building biblical faith, character, lifestyle and worldview must be developed; pray for creative, insightful groups to achieve this.
The vision of sending missionaries is growing. For 30 years the Church sent out small numbers of cross-cultural workers, many through OM and YWAM. The mid-'80s formation of the indigenous PNG Missionary Association stimulated mission awareness, sending workers primarily to Indonesia. Newer indigenous agencies such as PNG World Missions and denominational groups now send to a variety of fields. Drawing on the vision and model of the Deep Sea Canoe movement (missionary movement of Pacific Islanders), CLTC runs an annual mobilizing conference (Launch Out). NTM is instrumental in training and sending nationals to serve cross-culturally at home and abroad, and CLTC offers a missions course. Papua (the Indonesian side of the island) is an area of particular interest, as PNG nationals potentially have a crucial role in helping Papuans withstand increasing Islamization. The vision for a burst of missions from PNG to the unreached world is rising.
Aircraft of missionary organizations are an essential lifeline for churches and missions. Many areas are only accessible by air and therefore highly dependent on such ministry. Flying conditions are among the worst in the world with thick forests, high mountains, dense clouds and treacherous weather. Understaffing often reduces the number of flights. Pray for the flying staff of MAF (36 expat and 120 national workers with 14 planes), of SIL/JAARS (six planes and two helicopters), NTM (three planes and one helicopter), and all who service these aircraft and travel in them.
The younger generation hangs in the balance. Modernity/postmodernity, globalization and social crises could see generations of Christian heritage all but wiped out unless young people are properly discipled. Unemployment and the snare of gangs are two of the biggest challenges. SU has good ministry in high schools. TSCF(IFES) has 66 groups comprising 10,000 tertiary student members. YWAM has valuable input in youth training and mobilizing for evangelism and missions. Camps (especially at Easter) are very significant for youth ministry.
Translation and literacy programmes and appropriate Christian literature are fundamental for acculturating the gospel. SIL, NTM, PNG Bible Translation Association, The Bible Society, Pioneer Bible Translators and other indigenous groups participate in over 260 translation projects; about 210 languages have a NT, but only 12 or so have a complete Bible. Translation teams are needed for 160 languages and possibly for a further 250. Pray for translators, for means of making the arduous task faster and more accurate and for indigenous translators/language assistants. Pray also for literacy training - the written, translated Word of God is of little help if no one is reading it. Good use of storytelling and oral forms of Scripture can also have great impact.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.