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Not forgetting to remember the Saviour

CMS missionaries Keith and Marion Birchley serve in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship. They share some of their experience with celebrating Easter in PNG.  

We have lived in Port Moresby since 2015, but there are aspects of church and community life that we are still learning. Easter is one of those times of the year where we do not have a broad perception of Christian and church practices. 

PNG Easter means a busy airport and conferences 

In our first four years in PNG we spent Easter at various locations around the country, involved mainly in the National Conference for TSCF (Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship). We would leave a busy Jacksons domestic terminal at the airport in Port Moresby on the Thursday before Good Friday to head to a regional centre of PNG. The busyness at the airport was linked to public and school holidays, with many people returning to their villages. These times at TSCF National Conference were special times getting to know people, sharing the word of life and enjoying another part of the country. However, the messages and worship were not particularly scripted or linked to the church’s Easter calendar.  

PNG Easter emphases are sometimes altered 

As in most countries, different churches in PNG emphasise different festivals. Some churches here celebrate Lent, yet the Christian students that we mix with on campus know little of what Lent might mean or symbolise. There are Good Friday services, yet the significance of Christ’s sacrifice is often assumed. The idea of Jesus bearing our sin is often not seen as significant, and therefore God’s grace is not always treasured or experienced in daily life. Rather, the emphasis lies on trusting in one’s own faith.

Resurrection day is usually joyous among Christians but can become triumphalist for many, celebrating victorious Christian lives rather than the victory of Christ over death.

Some see the fulfilment of our hope occurring in its totality now through the power of Jesus’ resurrection.  

Reminding students of God’s word 

Our ministry with TSCF on campus comprises a wide range of Assemblies of God and Pentecostal denominations as well as Lutheran, Baptist, United and Catholic. Their church experiences are quite varied. We seek to hold out the word of God for them to read for themselves that they may grow and become mature in their faith. We also try and have one or two teaching times for students each year. Our National TSCF Conference has been moved to September this year, so we have organised a one-day event on Easter Monday called ‘God’s Kingdom Journey’ which is exploring how the whole Bible fits together. The students are quite busy with their churches over Easter, but we are hoping they will engage with this event before their studies resume on Tuesday.  

TSCF students.

Not forgetting to remember the Saviour 

In the local community, school children are on holidays, the shops have sales, there are hot cross buns, and the chocolate eggs (which come in from Australia, NZ or Asia) are kept refrigerated to keep their shape. It is hard to buy chocolate chips for cooking—they are usually a solid mass. How will they go with keeping 20cm hollow eggs in their shape? The humidity in Port Moresby is not conducive to keeping chocolate in a shape.  

Our local shopping mall plays Christian music, especially Hillsong, over the speakers, yet its shopping hours over Easter will not be decreased. Business, for those expats running stores in PNG, is far more important than setting aside time to remember the Saviour of the world. 

Please pray with us that both tertiary students and the general citizens of PNG will be reminded of the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, not only at Easter but throughout the year. 

PRAY 

Despite a huge proportion of PNG citizens naming themselves as Christians, it is easy to be distracted  from the true meaning of Easter. Pray that people will not focus on personal Christian triumph, but instead on the triumph of Christ over the grave.