I was in attendance to celebrate my friends Robert and Kauantz. Robert had completed the 3 year certificate in ministry degree and Kauantz had finished the Kristen Wokmanmeri (Christian work man and woman) program. What an amazing accomplishment for these two: Robert who is mostly blind and Kauantz who had never attended school as a child. They were so excited for this day! I snuck to the line-up to take a couple of pictures for them. Robert was dressed in a maroon shirt and graduation gown and cap. Kauantz and her fellow classmates were dressed in beautiful green meriblauses that they had sewn as a part of their schooling. And each uniform was topped off with a very bright smile.
The processional began to the words of "Here I Am, Lord," sung by the MNBC musicians. Ushers lead the way with three flags: Papua New Guinea, MNBC banner, and the Christian flag. Bible College faculty followed behind. And finally came the honored guests, the 43 members of the graduating class.
The ceremony opened with the PNG national anthem and a word of prayer. Dr. Geneva Silvernail, president of MNBC, brought greetings from around the world: Dr. Jerry Porter, General Superintendent; Verne Ward, Asia-Pacific Regional Director; Louie Bustle, Global Mission Director; and Dr. E. Lebron Fairbanks, Education Commissioner. Commenting on the theme, Dr. Porter wrote, "'Here I am, Lord' is the testimony of our hearts at each stage of the journey. That was your prayer as you came to MNBC and it is your prayer as you depart. It is amazing what can happen when God finds a fully consecrated, totally available, radically obedient partner." Reverend Harmon and Cindy Schmelzenbach gave the graduation address. They expanding on the Isaiah 6 passage and challenged the graduates to commit their lives in service to God, to their spouses and families, and their ministries.
Following the formal presentations, the students lined up to receive their degrees. Faculty directors from each of the programs presented the candidates. Dr. Silvernail and Reverend Peter Kui, the MNBC Academic Dean, presented the graduates with their degrees: 9 received a Diploma in Ministry, 22 received the Certificate in Ministry, and 12 received Kristen Wokmanmeri certificate. Together the graduates moved their tassels from right to left to signify their accomplishment. In Pidgin this is called "tanim rop" or literally "turn the rope." The ceremony concluded with the congregation singing "Mi Tok, 'Yes, God, Yes'" or "Yes, Lord, Yes" and the closing benediction.
It was a beautiful celebration in honor of these new pastors who will be taking the light of the Gospel across Papua New Guinea. I want to share with you the words to the song "Here I Am, Lord" which was written by Daniel Schutte. It is a special one for us missionaries, too.
I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Who shall I send?
I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people's pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?
I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will send the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.