Mission trip

I asked you last week to pray for our mission trip to Yowai. It went very well– thanks so much for your prayers! It was not like any mission trip I’d ever gone on before… no team picture or prayer card or t-shirts… BUT how many of you can say that you’ve been on a missionary journey with Paul and Silas??? πŸ™‚ Actually in Pidgin you would spell that Pol and Sailas. They and Jems (James) are three of our four Kiarian church leaders (the fourth is in town since his wife just had a baby), and it was a joy to get to know them better on the trip. The rest of the team was made up of Aira, Tu, Jeff Owens, Pol’s wife Ketrin (Catherine), and myself.

It really was a short trip. We left church at about 8:30 on Tuesday morning and hiked slowly to Yowai. (PNGers walk really slowly… which at least part of the time, namely the longest up-up-up parts, I was really thankful for!) We stopped at several “waters” (streams) to rest in the shade and fill our water bottles. (The Smiths had given me some iodine– a drop in a bottle of water makes it safely drinkable after 15 min. so I had no trouble at all.) I didn’t pay attention to what time we arrived, but it was somewhere in the middle of the day. The village of Yowai is stretched all along a long ridge, and we walked all the way to the last hauslain for our afternoon service. This is when the throngs of children started gathering to look at the white meri… I don’t know if they’d never seen one before or if they’d never seen one with long hair, but they were thronging all around, touching my skin and pulling my hair and chattering in their Tok Ples (village language) and giggling… it really was kind of funny, and when I laughed at them they thought they just giggled all the more! We finally got to the end of the ridge and started our service. We sang, I gave my testimony (my first time to do that formally in Pidgin!), and one of the men preached while Ketrin and I took the children a little ways off for a Bible club-type thing. One of the things I loved about the trip was that the blackskins (their own term for themselves) were in charge, and we whiteskins (what they call us) were in support roles. My job was to lead the songs, and so I taught them Jonah and the wordless book song and some others, really emphasizing Jonah’s theme of the importance of “bihainim tok bilong God” (obeying God’s Word– which Jonah DIDN’T do) and trying to really get them to think about and learn all of the songs so hopefully they’ll remember them later. Then Ketrin taught the Bible lesson. I wish you could have heard her– she really is an excellent teacher. An additional plus was that she’s from that area and knew the Tok Ples, so she was able to switch back and forth and explain things so that the kids could really understand. She was so delighted with how well they listened. I guess on previous mission trips the kids haven’t been nearly so well behaved. What a huge blessing!

The next part was probably the hardest for me, because unbeknownst to Catherine I had by this time acquired a pounding headache from all of the excitement, plus probably from walking and sitting in the equatorial sun for so long. So, knowing how excited the kids were about the white meri, when she was done teaching she suggested that they ask me to “story” them. Whoosh– all of a sudden there was a wall of 40 kids pressing around me where I was sitting off to the side! So I thought of all the stories I could– which wasn’t many– and we sang all the songs again and as many more as I could find in the little song sheet that I knew! I talked to them a lot too and was really thrilled at the opportunity to explain all of the songs really well, work on the memory verse some more and really talk about what it meant, and generally just share the gospel in detail. I really hate that the kids were probably there more because of my white skin than any desire to hear God’s Word, but I kept thinking about Paul’s comments in Philippians 1 and doing my best to use the opportunity to proclaim Christ. After all, how many of us who are believers actually had a burning desire to hear God’s Word before we were saved? So many of us went to church for other reasons… maybe to see friends or because it was just what our family did… but God used His Word in our hearts anyway. I hope this will be the case for the children of Yowai.

Well, this is getting long so I’ll try to tell the rest quick. πŸ™‚ We had another service in the evening, and it was really neat how the sermon covered everything I had told the kids earlier and filled in lots that I hadn’t told them. Pol also picked two of the same songs I had taught them. I’m really praying that they will remember and think about the things they heard so clearly.

We were fed really well. πŸ™‚ Before the evening service we went into the building where the service was going to be held and someone brought a put lid with kaukau (kind of like a white sweet potato), kumu (greens), and little chunks of meat for all of us. Then a lady brought a bunch of bananas and Ketrin put them on the fire to fry. This kind of food is really filling, and it was all I could do to finish my portion. Then we went to the house where we were going to sleep to leave our bags, and lo and behold our hostess started passing in plates of rice with Maggi (like ramen noodles) on top. And plates in PNG aren’t like plates in America– they look more like what we would call a pie pan, and they’re always heaped up high. I was really glad to see Ketrin pass what she couldn’t eat to Pol and him pass the extra on around, and since this was a team of mostly men I didn’t have to worry about finishing everything on my plate. But then on the way to the service someone gave Ketrin a package of food for my supper, and when we got back after the service yet another lady (the mother of my language helper Susan, who I told you about last week) had brought us a pot of rice! Needless to say, I was really glad again for all of the “mountain men” (who had been joking earlier that being a mountain man means you can eat a mountain of food!) because I couldn’t eat another bite. Even they could barely finish it all!

We slept in the house of a man named Timothy. Ketrin and I had a little twin-sized foam mattress in one little room, and the rest slept in a similar small room next to us and in the little hallway where we had sat earlier to eat. I didn’t see them obviously, but it sure must have been cramped! I wasn’t uncomfortable and rested well, but I don’t remember actually sleeping. I do remember lots of other things though… like pigs moving around under the house and the rooster that started crowing at 3:20 am just outside and continued at regular intervals until daybreak! πŸ™‚

In the morning we woke early and I wish you could have seen the sun coming up over Mount Michael. I had my camera along on the trip but already had enough attention and didn’t want to attract any more by getting it out. (If you’ve ever taken a camera to a third world country you know what I mean!) We had an early service– before 7:00 I think– because people were up anyway and we wanted to catch the kids before they left for school. The numbers were much smaller though. Attention still was good, but after the service when I walked back over to where the adults had met there were all kinds of people standing around shouting at each other over various grievances… something about a guy who had borrowed some pigs to pay a bride price and never paid for them… something about an old grievance from 2003… then a guy yelled that the missionaries were still there and they should discuss all of that later. πŸ™‚ I think we left about 9 or 9:30, and Mr. Smith met us with the truck a little ways down the road. We got back to Kiari a little after noon.

Please pray for the Smiths as they head out to Goroka tomorrow to meet Karen Hall, our new team member. She’ll be doing Bible clubs and literacy work. I think they’re all coming back to Kiari next Wednesday.

You made it to the end– thanks for reading this far! πŸ™‚ Hope you have a great week.


“O use me, Lord, use even me, Just as Thou wilt, and when, and where….” -Frances Ridley Havergal

To check email in Kiari, I carry my computer about a mile down the mountain to church and stand holding it on the edge of a windy overlook where a fitful cell phone signal connects me to the outside world. ☺ Due to this limited connection, I have to limit the file size of my incoming mail. To ensure your message will reach me, please don’t send pictures or attachments. It’s also helpful if you delete the text of previous messages. In other words, leave off all the β€œextras”—but do still write! ☺