One of the people groups we support from our town are the Moi. Missionaries moved into this isolated group about 20 years ago and after much hard work and sacrifice, God planted His Church among the Moi! Today there are many strong believers and elders are being discipled and learning to lead the Church. We had the privilege of visiting the Moi last week to witness some baptisms (lots actually!) and fellowship with these brothers and sisters in Christ.
Along with us came three local Pastors from the town where we live. Their involvement with the Moi is a huge step in seeing the interior Moi Church be connected with the Churches in town. Many Moi come out to town for work, education and medical help and part of our role and desire is to see them involved and plugged into the Churches here in town. The Pastors had a chance to recognise the Moi Church as a part of their denomination and take part in baptising many believers.
Our trip was exciting from the get-go! After circling over the village for 20 minutes waiting for clouds to clear, we finally began our descent. Just as we were about to land, a huge pig waddled onto the runway, tail happily twitching. G-force ensued as we suddenly had to pull up and circle again! It was quite the exciting ride and now we can add “almost crashing into a pig while in a prop plane” to our list of adventures. We landed safely and were warmly greeted by many as we got off the plane. Several of those who greeted us were ones Nathan had assisted when they came out to town for medical care. They remembered his kindness and were so happy to see us, especially Dogu, a young guy who Nathan hung out with in town a few months ago when he was there with a sick friend. Our awesome hosts were the Crocketts, who have been in Moi since the beginning, faithfully teaching and translating the scriptures into the Moi language.
The first day we hiked down to some honai (huts) where a “bakar batu" (food cooked with hot rocks under the ground) was being prepared. This family had graciously hunted birds and tree possums for us to enjoy with them. Its always humbling to accept food that is so precious to these people who work so hard to grow and hunt it. Noah got his own little bow and arrow and tried to master shooting it like the other kids.
Experiencing Moi Church was pretty special. To see men, women and children reading God’s word in their own language is a huge encouragement and reminder of the end goal of the work here!
After Church we all hiked down to the river to witness about 35 believers get baptised. Now, when I say “hike” what I really mean is slide down steep mountainsides, clinging to clumps of grass so I wouldn't fall head over heels and tumble into the river below. Seriously, these people are STRONG! Noah and Shem came with us and thankfully they were carried on the shoulders of men and women instead of by us. If I had to carry big ‘ol Shem down that mountain I would still be there right now. I have no idea how they so effortlessly stroll down the mountain, with heavy kids on their shoulders and not slip once on the slick mud! I have so much respect for these people. They make these trips daily to their gardens, bringing along babies, pigs, bags of produce and more. They are heroes!
Once at the bottom Shem had fallen asleep on someones shoulders and was about to fall off. Noah played happily in the river with the kids while we witnessed the baptisms. The local Pastors that had come with us got to baptise many of the Moi and it was special to see these two bodies of believers, who have very different lives, come together to celebrate such an important thing.
One sweet little girl to get baptised was Emma Grace. Emma Grace has a pretty amazing story - going all the way back to her birth. At her birth, her father (very new believer at the time) wanted her to die since he believed she had been conceived in adultery. Vines were tightly wrapped around her neck and she was left to die. One of the missionary families, the Browns, intervened and saved her life, encouraging the family to take her back as she was a blessing from God. Today she is a beautiful kindergartener who has a strong faith in Christ’s love for her. She even writes songs about God’s payment for her sins! It was a huge joy to see her baptised!
After the baptisms we had to go back UP the mountain. Yeah… I could barely make it down and now we had to go UP!!! Once again a girl about half my age and 5 times my strength ran up the mountain with Shem on her shoulders while I grasped at blades of grass and second guessed my decision to go down in the first place. But it was worth it. SO worth it.
Oh man are these kids adorable! So sweet and affectionate toward us, holding our hands and cuddling up whenever we sat down. Shem was kinda miffed whenever I held a baby other than him but he can deal with it. ;)
I got the chance to follow Carolyn around to the literacy classes where people of all ages are studying hard to read and write in their own language. Whats even cooler is that the classes are being taught by previous students who are now guiding and teaching their fellow Moi.
All in all it was a super encouraging trip. I feel such love for these people and its only because of Christ! I am so excited to worship the Lord with these beautiful brothers and sisters some day! Please pray for the Moi Church. For their continued growth in Him and for more to accept Him as their saviour. There are still so many who do not know.
Years ago I remember a friend of mine talking about whale sharks. He was amazed and impressed by them as he studied them online. He shared that although they had the aggressive name “shark” assigned to them, they were actually very docile animals, allowing divers and swimmers to swim up close to them and even touch them. Little did I know, a few years down the road I would have not only the opportunity to swim with them myself, but also live near enough to do it multiple times!
Our town is about 2 hours away by boat from a hot spot for whale sharks. Some friends from another part of our island were visiting our town and Nathan offered to watch the boys for the day so I could take them out to see the whale sharks. I invited my local friend Dora to join us since she had never seen them before even though she is from an island tribe.
We set out at 5am since we were going by car this time and we had a long drive. The road to the beach where the boat was waiting was about 2 1/2 hours long and half of it was on unpaved, or should I say “freshly cut” road through the jungle. It was a beautiful drive though, with the sun rising through the thick forest of green. Wild hornbills flew overhead and our driver pointed out several amazingly bright red heart plants hanging in curtains from the tops of trees all the way to floor below.
After being shaken about on the jagged road for an hour or so, we made a sharp right turn and ended up on a gorgeous secluded beach. Our driver (Pak Engel)’s family is building a little home stay/resort there and they were waiting with our boat. We quickly grabbed our stuff and got out on the water. The best opportunity to catch the whale sharks is early morning when they feed on the ikan puri (small fish) that surround the fisherman's floating platforms.
As we approached the first platform we asked “ada hiu paus kah?” (are there any whale sharks?) to which they replied no. Bummer. I was praying we would find at least one since our friends had come especially to see them! I had already seen them once before, but I didn't want them to miss out! We hit several more docks with each one telling us there weren't any there but to try further out. We headed out around a peninsula toward 2 more platforms. Finally we found the answer we were waiting for! “Ada tiga ekor!” There were three whale sharks feeding there! We all got giddy pulling on our fins and masks.
I don’t think I will ever get over the initial overwhelming moment of sinking under the water and seeing such a massive creature right there in front of me. It takes my breath away! At first you feel a bit cautious, watching them open and close their giant mouths that could easily swallow you whole if they wanted to. Hundreds of tiny fish pour into their mouths and you quickly realise that is all they really care about. Closer and closer you swim, reaching out your hand to slide it along the smooth surface of their skin. One direction feels like soft rubber and the other rough like sandpaper. Some are rather friendly, swimming right toward you, almost asking to be pet.
Having three huge animals busy feeding around you is a lot to keep track of. At one point I moved to the side a bit to let one swim by only to realise as I turned around that one was swimming directly at me from behind! Panic set in a bit and I spun in the water, trying to decide where to go. Our friend Pak Engel noticed my floundering and said “tenang, tenang” (be calm, be calm). Even though they are gentle giants, they are still enormous animals that have incredible power! Grabbing onto their dorsal fin as they pull you through the water shows you first hand just how strong they are. Amazing experience.
When we first arrived there was a real shark, maybe 5 feet long, swimming along with the whale sharks. That admittedly gave me a fright! He swam off quickly though. My friend Dora was so much fun to watch. She was absolutely terrified to get into the water with the whale sharks. What made it even funnier was that the fishermen were making fun of her, telling her that she should be embarrassed that she is from an island tribe and is too afraid to swim with the whale sharks. We all encouraged her to get in with us and after about an hour of us enjoying ourselves she cautiously got in. I gave her some goggles and she timidly poked her head under the water only to yank it out screaming “SHARK!!!!” and scrambling up the side of the fishing platform! I was laughing so hard!
Everyone kept ensuring her that they were not aggressive and this was a rare opportunity that she shouldn't miss! Finally she joined us back in the water but she wouldn't touch them. We continued our fun until she finally agreed to try and touch one. We waited for one to come semi close to her and I dragged her over before she could change her mind and placed her hand on its back (first photo on the left, below). That was enough for her, but hey, at least she did it!
What an incredible opportunity to admire one of God’s beautiful creatures. I am so thankful for His creation and the way we can learn of His creativity and power in nature!