My leg ached as we bounced through another huge rut in the road. We had passed the sign that read “Morata One SDA Church” about 50 bumps ago, and the steady stream of people dressed for church and carrying Bibles and hymnals made it clear that we were nearing our destination.
We hadn’t planned this trip to Port Moresby, but God’s leading through a chain of circumstances had brought us here. Weeks earlier in Wewak, I had fallen and badly broken my ankle. After the fracture was reduced and stabilized, we flew to Port Moresby where I had surgery at an international hospital to align the bones and add a plate and screws to hold everything in place.
A few weeks after we got home, we met Pastor Gershom of the Morata One SDA Church. Orion accepted his invitation to speak for communion Sabbath. Now we were almost there, but we weren’t sure where to find the church. In PNG, church signs are often posted at the turnoff on the main road. From there you have to know where you are going or ask directions.
Spotting a well-dressed couple with two daughters, we stopped, and I called to the woman, “Excuse me sister, are you going to the Morata One Adventist Church?”
“Yes we are,” her husband answered for her. Clearly, being greeted by white strangers in an old pickup truck wasn’t exactly normal, and he was being cautious.
“We are Adventists and want to worship with you,” I explained, and their faces softened. “But, we don’t know where the church is located. Could you get in our truck with us and show us the way?” Without another moment’s hesitation, the man walked around to get in the front seat beside Orion, the wife got in the back seat beside me, and their two daughters climbed into the bed of the truck.
Soon we pulled into the church yard, a neatly raked level area on the top of a small hill. The church was a large tin-roofed structure with open sides, with a smaller building on the opposite side for the children’s classes. Orion let me out right in front of the church door.
Being on crutches makes it difficult to carry anything, and I had a large pillow for propping up my leg. I quickly acquired a helper who took the pillow and was ready to carry my bilum (PNG purse) and help me to a seat.
“Take her to sit in the front,” I heard several people say.
In front of the pews was a section of cement floor with a few wooden support pillars. Women and children were already sitting in that section. “Please can I sit on the floor and lean on one of those posts?” I asked. My helper gave me a quizzical look. Guests are normally seated on chairs, sometimes in front of the people on the floor. “I need to sit on the floor so I can prop up my leg so it doesn’t swell,” I explained.
Soon she was ahead of me, quietly asking the woman already leaning on the post if she would give me her seat. With a smile the woman moved over so I could sit down beside her.
When Pastor Gershom introduced us, he mentioned that we were the first white people to visit their church in at least the five years that he had been pastor. We were showered with love and kindness. A girl sweetly gave me her fan, and a young deaconess sitting beside me picked it up and fanned me and herself with it for most of the service.
This church is located in one of the largest squatter settlements in Port Moresby and has not received very much attention from foreign church leaders who have come to the city to visit. Our presence told the members and the community that they are valuable and important.
When it was time for foot washing, the ladies told me to stay where I was. It would be far easier for them to bring the water to me. What a blessing it was for me to see the strong, gentle hands of Jesus in these people who went out of their way to help me be part of the service!
This Sabbath we returned to the Morata One church. Again I was given the comfortable seat where I could lean against the pole. One woman shared her hymnal with me during the songs, and the same deaconess as before sat on my other side giving me the joy of her company. A toddler drove his toy trucks up and down the post behind my head before taking a nap in his mother’s lap. Orion sat on a bench off to the side with several other men.
After the service the ladies crowded around me. “How is your foot?” “The bandage is off!” “How soon until you can walk?” I showed them that I could move my foot a little, and I explained that I am receiving physical therapy to help regain flexibility and strength so that I can walk properly again.
I don’t understand all of the reasons why God allowed this interruption in our lives. But I am thankful that we can share His love with the Morata One Church family while we are here in Port Moresby.
Please pray for our villages in the Ama Project area and for the Morata One Church. Also please pray that my ankle will heal so that I can walk well.