InterSections

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INTERVIEW

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Vani Igo  Evangelist, Cairns Church of Christ, QLD
Interview by Graeme Offer

How did you become a Christian?
Some people in the United States (people I don’t know) graciously donated their hard-earned money to send missionaries to far-flung countries in the late 1960s. Willie Franklin was one of those missionaries. He chose to come to Papua New Guinea. He worked at my university campus in Lae and studied the Bible with me. Willie was an American gridiron NFL footballer who gave up a lucrative sports career to preach the Gospel. He would come to the university sports field and hold a cricket bat – but baseball style – and take the blows from the cricket ball with little or no padding. I obeyed the Gospel and was baptised after studying with him for 12 months.

Where did you learn the Gospel enough to preach it?
From the moment I came up out of the water, I continued to study with Willie and a few other missionaries. This helped me appreciate the Gospel and the commitment and sacrifice of men and families who left everything to come to a foreign land. They made the Gospel known, no matter the personal cost. In my mind and heart, this set the church apart.  These people sacrificed huge portions of their lives so I could have an opportunity to obey the Gospel! I not only heard it from them, but they also showed me how to live it out.  Since that time, my wife and I have worked so we could support ourselves to preach the Gospel.

Why did you become an evangelist?
The most influential people in my early journey of faith were all missionaries. My view of the Gospel and the world was very much fashioned by these beautiful Gospel preachers.  They were my ‘fathers in the faith’ so I grew up influenced very much by their lives of faith. My heart is now in preaching the Gospel and in serving the Lord and his church in Australia, PNG, and the surrounding Pacific regions.  

When and why did you move to Cairns?
We moved from PNG to Cairns in 2015 when my wife’s Australian citizenship was approved. While she has worked to support us preaching the Gospel, we decided that I should preach full-time for the church in Cairns. God has continued to bless and support us through various congregations, individuals, and funds in Australia – for which we are deeply grateful. 

We have continued personally to support the work in PNG even as we now work with the church in Cairns. Over these last few years, moving to a new country and resettling has had its challenges. But this has enabled our faith and belief in the grace of our Lord to grow.

What challenges have you found in reaching out to others and what’s been helpful?
Finding an audience has been my biggest challenge here in Australia. There are about 15,000 PNG people living in Cairns. Whilst they tend to be spiritually minded, many know virtually nothing about the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

We’ve found an unexpected opportunity to preach during the week-long funeral wakes that follow the death of people among the PNG community in Cairns. So far, 22 people have obeyed the Gospel in baptism over our three-year ministry. This resulted from preaching at more than 6 wakes, 20 Gospel meetings, and 50 Sunday sermons – an audience totalling approximately 3,000 listeners.  

While the church in Australia is doing many wonderful things for the Lord, one of the issues facing the church here is mentioned by the Lord in Matthew 9:37 – ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’ So the issue is not with the harvest; the issue is with the workers!

Where does the future lay for the church in Australia?
The current downward trend in baptisms, the many examples of Christians leaving the faith, and the closing of several congregations are a concern for the church in Australia. We all need to understand where we’re headed if we don’t reverse this. We must shift our attention to preaching the Gospel to the people of Australia. 

Vani and his wife, Millie, serve with the Cairns Church of Christ. Vani was interviewed by Graeme Offer. Graeme and his wife, Judy, are also members of the Cairns congregation.     goffer@netspace.net.au

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Vani Igo
Cairns Church