Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meri Bung

Ladies from Jiwaka Province (here)
If you spend much time in Nazarene churches around PNG, you will catch on that one of the most exciting times in the life of the church here is the semi-annual "Meri Bung", literally women's meeting.  In English it's the Church of the Nazarene National Women's Conference.  Ladies go to extraordinary lengths to raise the money and plan the time.  They sell vegetables at the market, make extra bilums (string bags) to sell or find odd jobs.  Then they plan with their sisters, husbands, older children or neighbors to care for their small children for the week.

Ladies from Port Moresby
Ladies from remote areas usually have to walk out, as flying is prohibitively expensive for them.  For some of them this is their first time out of their isolated mountain villages.  For some, it is the first time to see a car or truck, a paved road or large western-style building.  They come in groups, with a few husbands and pastors coming along for protection.  They created uniforms, different for each district, consisting of matching "meri blaus", a piece of clothing that is sort a combination blouse/dress.

25-passenger buses lined up and ready to go
They come to key gathering places and then buses are chartered to take them to the meeting.  This year, it's being held in Mendi, Southern Highlands Province.  Kudjip was on of the gathering points.  I counted 48 vehicles in all, some 15-passenger vans, 25-passenger busses, open-backed trucks and a few Land Cruisers (a big sort of SUV that is very popular here).  They were meet an unknown number of additional vehicles in Mount Hagen on the way to Mendi.  Some vehicles were packed in so tightly with ladies and all their baggage that I don't see how they could move.  Most Westerners would feel pretty claustrophobic. 

Some were settled in the busses 2 hours in advance!
Departure was Sunday morning right after the church service at Emmanuel Church.  Excitement was in the air, for sure.  There has never been a bunch of junior high kids leaving for Summer camp any more excited and giddy then these ladies.  Some groups were singing.  Some were just laughing and smiling.  There were all ages, all socioeconomic groups, all degrees of education.

The meetings are being held on the grounds of a school, with the classrooms being used as dormitories.  I'm sure that the organizers also build dozens of temporary bush houses.  Many ladies are staying in local churches of many denominations.  The men who go with them patrol the grounds all night for security.

The buses head out
It's now been four days since they left.  A few missionaries went along for the first couple of days, and have returned.  In addition, Judy got a call today from a friend who is attending, who reports times of the moving of the Holy Spirit, with many receiving spiritual help.  Interestingly, she said that there were 38 street boys who have given their hearts to Jesus.  What were street boys doing at a Nazarene Women's Conference you ask?  Well, any big meeting in PNG is bound to attract a lot of locals.  I'm sure that these young men, almost certainly criminals, just heard the music and saw the lights and came out of curiosity.  But they heard and responded to the gospel message!  Praise the Lord!

1 comment:

  1. Well-written, Andy. I loved reading about this, and seeing the photos. Wish I could have gone. Praying for the ladies, as the conference closes and they return home.