I first met him at a funeral.
As a pastor, I have conducted many funerals back home, but I felt nervous when asked to conduct a funeral in the Gogodala tribe. I had never even attended a funeral here and had no idea what to expect. As I sat in the local evangelical church waiting for the program to begin, a white-haired gentleman with a beautiful smile and kind eyes came and sat beside me. He introduced himself as Pastor Walter and gently coached me through what to do at the right times, translating and explaining everything. Boy, was I glad to have him by my side!
About a year later, he attended some meetings at our training center. I had heard he was interested in keeping the Sabbath, so I wanted to learn more about him and his journey. On Sabbath afternoon, he and I sat in the cookhouse to get to know each other. I learned that after serving in the military, he felt the call of God into the ministry. Eventually, he was made the village pastor for the evangelical church in Kotale, his home village. Under his leadership, the church thrived, and the people loved and respected him. Even after he transitioned to an administrative role and a new pastor was sent to the village, he was still a force for good and respected by the community.
He told me that he had one more year of service to the evangelical church, and afterward, he and his wife wanted to become Seventh-day Adventists. However, a few months later, during our weeklong prophecy seminar in Kotale Village, I stood up to preach and saw Pastor Walter and his wife at the front of the crowd. Every night, they were there, smiling, shaking their heads in agreement, and even throwing out a few loud “amens” along the way. Not only did he and his wife attend, but all his children and grandchildren also came.
At the end of the meetings, when an appeal was made for baptism and joining the SDA church, he, his wife, and the rest of his family stood in commitment to these Bible truths. He then notified the local evangelical leadership of his decision, asked to be removed from his positions and began attending every meeting he could at the local Adventist church.
His decision reminds me of a prayer request I prayed for not long after we arrived in PNG. “Lord, we need leaders in our church! Please send us men of influence to strengthen our work here.”
As Pastor Walter began telling the villagers of his decision, some of them wept at the thought of losing their faithful pastor, but he appealed to them to join him in his new journey of faith and become part of the Adventist church. He is not shy about this spiritual transition and tells everyone who will listen about what he has learned. Would you join me in praying for Pastor Walter and his family? I believe that the Lord can and will use this man and his family in a mighty way to build up the kingdom of God among His Gogodala people.