By @Adventist_News, special to A Sabbath Blog
About 2,000 young people have been baptized in a mass baptism in the Pacific Ocean. It is likely history’s biggest Adventist baptism of young people in the English-speaking world.
They’d been attending an evangelistic campaign by Californian-based pastor John Carter. In total, 5,000 people were baptized at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in a Sabbath morning beach service.
Then, just six hours after this giant baptism, at the last meeting in the series, another 1,000 young people also requested baptism.
Organizers took special efforts to bind these new converts together. There are 60 Adventist churches in Port Moresby, just north of Australia. Most of the new members were told to assemble behind signs that gave the name of their nearest church. By having all the converts from one church area baptized together, they would bond together right from the start.
However, the youth assembled separately on the sand at Ela Beach. Young women were in one line, young men in another. That way the young people would bond together to launch their Seventh-day Adventist experience.
Young people waiting together for their turn to be baptized.
The evangelistic campaign was one of the largest in 2,000 years of Christian history. The first night, there were “only” 70,000 people there. But word-of-mouth made the attendance increase rapidly. About 150,000 attended the closing program, double the opening night's attendance. The meetings ran at the same time as the Olympic Games. And every night these Adventist meetings had more people in their stadium than there were spectators in any Olympic Games stadium on the same night.
The final night's attendance was almost half of the city’s total population. It was amazing.
You might think these figures are unbelievable – because they are! But they are accurate. We couldn’t count the crowd every night because the task was so big that it took too many people away from running the meetings. But on the last Tuesday night, the local conference had a special task force counting the crowd. They counted 120,000 at the stadium. (Not bad for a meeting on the Mark of the Beast!) Plus, there were thousands more listening while sitting in their cars or sitting on grass in the dark in nearby fields.
Between five and ten thousand non-Adventists came forward at an altar call on the final night of the program.
By coincidence, a local newspaper counted the crowd that same night. And they published an attendance figure of 120,000 – the same amount our church officials had counted. That dramatically confirmed the church’s own attendance figures. About 40 percent of those attending were young people.
A good example of how popular the program was with young people is what happened at Pacific Adventist University. On the first night, one busload of students came to the meetings from the university on the outskirts of the city. But the meetings quickly became the hottest ticket in town for students at the uni. They almost immediately increased the number of buses from one bus to ten.
This young man was carried 200 feet from his wheelchair to where the water was deep enough to baptize him.
Ela Beach has shallow water. While it’s part of the Pacific Ocean, it is not a surf beach. The pastors had to walk about 200 feet from the shore to have water deep enough to baptize. The pastors stood in a long line parallel to the shore. Then straight lines of candidates walked through the water to the pastors.
This created giant square of human beings in the water. It was 200 feet long, by 200 feet wide. You can see it in the photographs. It was amazing! Feast on the photos, because you’ll probably never see anything like them again.
One of the poignant moments was a young person in a wheelchair who wanted to be baptized. His friends lifted him out of his wheelchair and carried him 200 feet through the water for a pastor to baptize him. Wow!
One major innovation of this campaign was reporting it on the Internet. There were daily stories about it on Facebook. In fact, the Carter Report Facebook page often had two or three stories per day keeping people in touch.
Facebook reporting grew more and more popular as the evangelistic program continued. Before the Port Moresby stories started, the Facebook page stories were being seen by 2,400 people. But four weeks later, the Facebook “reach” meter said 77,000 people saw the reports about the baptism. Big, huh!
Pastor John Carter preaching during the evangelistic series.
The Carter Report team brought their own $200,000 public address system from the United States for the program. (You would have loved to play with it!) It was so powerful, you could clearly hear the preacher a mile away. And that’s just as well: There were so many people there, they could not all fit in the giant Sir John Guise Stadium.
Thousands listened in darkness outside the football stadium. They could hear the message, but couldn’t see the preacher. A lot of these people started sitting on the grass at another football field nearby.
The Carter Report had brought five giant projectors with them to provide pictures for the screens in the stadium. The fifth projector was a spare in case one projector broke down. Since there were so many people at this second football field, they decided to use the spare projector there.
Young ladies waiting together for their turn to be baptized. In Papua New Guinea there's tradition for baptism candidates to dress in white.
The local conference built another giant screen for people at the second football field. (It’s no small feat to build such a huge screen in a day or two!) And the people down the road could then see live pictures of the preacher and his PowerPoint presentations. The audience sitting on the grass there cheered when the projector was first turned on.
There were 5,000 people at this second venue – which is pretty small compared to 120,000+ in the stadium itself. Of course, for most evangelistic campaigns, 5,000 people would be a pretty big audience. Here, it was just an overflow audience!
When a call was made for people to be baptized, young people from that second football field literally ran to the main stadium to make their commitment.
50,000 Adventist Church members and friends stand on the shore as they watch the baptisms.
If you loved what God has done in Papua New Guinea, be sure this story with your friends! Who knows, maybe it'll encourage or bless them in some way! You can share this story with your friends on Twitter and Facebook by using the buttons below.