It’s 8:30 on Friday morning. I’m standing at my computer in my office that overlooks the parking lot at THQ. Just across the way is the Roy Bungay Memorial Hall that serves as the meeting place for big events. On Friday mornings, the Boroko Primary School (what we would call K-8) holds an assembly for one of the grades. So it’s my privilege each week to enjoy hearing one form or another of a student led worship group singing praise songs.
The students all sit on huge plastic sheets that are spread on the concrete floor of the open auditorium. There’s usually an electric guitar, keyboard, sometimes bass guitar and drums. Always, a small group of students stand in the middle of the high stage with a few handheld microphones, and they sing loudly, sometimes in the close triad harmonies that are so familiar here.
Whatever work I’m doing, I stand, listening and worshipping, as the singing goes on for ten or twenty minutes. I’m blessed to absorb this Friday morning worship from afar, even though I’m cranking out some email, a report, a project proposal or any number of other mundane tasks.
It still blows my mind, even after being here for more than a year, to hear kids at school singing Christian songs. Yes, it’s a Salvation Army school on the THQ compound, but the six or eight hundred students that attend come from all over the city. Education is not compulsory in PNG but it is supported by the government. So in a sense, our school is not much different than public school. Many schools in the country are run by NGOs – most of them churches.
Parents pay fees to get their children enrolled in whatever school they choose, and every school has uniforms for their students. (I get a kick out of driving through the city in the afternoon and seeing the various uniform colors and styles as children walk or take public transportation to get home from school.)
Papua New Guinea is a Christian country. Coming from our modern, forward-thinking culture in America, it’s surprising to see and hear Christian expressions in schools, public and government meetings, workshops and seminars. A government cabinet minister came to a semi-annual CPP Forum* last spring and actively participated in the worship and prayer at the beginning of the morning workshop. He then went on, in his presentation to the group, to openly speak about his Christian testimony, and the government’s commitment to Christian principles in setting budget priorities for programs and services to the population of PNG.
Not every person in the country lives by Christian principles obviously, yet is seems that everyone is perfectly accepting of Christian expression in the public arena. There are troubles in this developing nation, many growing pains culturally as they learn what it means to be an independent and modernizing country.
My prayer for the people of PNG is that as they “modernize,” they would never lose their simple faith in almighty God and that they would always keep the praise and worship of Jesus in the forefront of all they do and who they are.
* CPP is “Church Partnership Program,” a consortium of seven church denominations here in Papua New Guinea with sister churches in Australia that share funding from the Australian government to provide community development projects like education and literacy, health and dental care, clean water and more to the people of PNG.