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Thousands stand in lines in the water waiting for Adventist pastors 200 feet from shore to baptize them. It's the custom in Papua New Guinea for people being baptized to dress in white. [photos courtesy The Carter Report ministry]
September 04, 2012 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Adventist Review staff
An evangelistic campaign in the South Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea has baptized between 4,500 and 5,000 people. Almost all of these are new to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Attendance on the final night of the series in Port Moresby was well in excess of 100,000 people, reports indicate. The high turnout may have amounted to nearly half the population of the city.
Organizers say this is the largest community audience to listen to an English-language Adventist evangelistic meeting in history. The preacher was veteran Adventist evangelist John Carter. It was by far the largest audience he has ad-dressed in his 50-year career as a public evangelist. The crowd was so large they couldn’t all fit in the giant Sir John Guise Stadium, a soccer (football) venue. Fortunately, the public address system was so powerful that many thousands were able to listen while sitting in their cars or standing outside.
A large group sat on the grass listening in the dark at another soccer field down the road. On the only night the people at this second football field were counted, there were 5,000 sitting there. The local conference hastily erected a giant screen so those at the second field could see the pictures that those inside could see. This effectively meant the program ran at two venues simultaneously. When altar calls were made, people ran from the second football field to the main stadium to make a commitment.
It was difficult to find enough pastors to baptize all these new converts. Ordained Adventist ministers who didn’t work for the local conference were called in to help. Fifty pastors stood in a line in waist-deep water about 200 feet off-shore at a shallow South Pacific beach. Then lines of baptismal candidates dressed in white walked out toward them. About 5,000 people stood in the water together.
Just as it was difficult to know how many were at the meetings, it was difficult to know how many were actually baptized. Pastors who reported so far say they baptized 100 people each. That suggests a figure of 5,000 when all reports are in.
The final program in the Carter Report series was held six hours after this baptism. At that meeting another 3,000 people requested baptism, and will be baptized later.
On August 18 the Seventh-day Adventist churches of Port Moresby could barely contain the crowds as new members attended their first Sabbath services, reports indicate.
“We had a wonderful, blessed Sabbath,” said Cameron Wari, coordinator of follow-up activities. “All the newly baptized members were welcomed by the churches as part of a big family.”
He added, “Most of the church leaders realized that there was not going to be enough room in their churches to accommodate the influx.”
The new members were given their baptismal certificates and the gift of a Bible.
—with information from the Carter Report ministry