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!
Sometimes I want to write about life here but I try to think what I would say and come up with nothing. I don’t know how to write about just a “part” of the many arenas we find ourselves in without feeling like I need to explain the whole background and culture so others could come close to understanding.
There is Church, which includes several bible studies a week in members homes – mixed with both “Papuan” people (Ones who originated from this land, darker skin, curlier hair, – see, I am already explaining things!) and “Pendatangs” (Indonesians who have migrated to Papua from other regions of Indonesia, usually lighter skin and straighter hair). Then there is the Bible teaching at a community a short walk away from our house twice a week. These people are another category altogether! They are from the Ketengban tribe who originate in the mountains of central/eastern Papua and have moved into the city for various reasons. They are “tribal” people. Some have only recently moved from interior to town, some don’t know a lot of Indonesian language, and culturally they are very different from most of the ones we know at Church. Then add in the “lake people”, friends who live on Lake Sentani. These would be original Papuan people (dark skin, curly hair), but culturally they are SO different from say, the Ketengban Tribe people. Imagine interacting with just these 4 groups of people (There are more but I will stop there) on a weekly basis and trying to understand each ones culture and way of thinking in order to have a meaningful relationship? It’s… interesting to say the least!
By the grace of God I have made close friends in every one of these sub groups. This really is God’s work in me since I am naturally an introvert. Even in America where we all speak English, I am satisfied with a few close friends and am not an outgoing, “get to know everyone” type person! Now plop me in a country where you HAVE to go out and awkwardly initiate friendships with people you know almost nothing about in order to learn language and culture and it’s like an introverts worst nightmare. Amazingly God has answered my prayers for close friends in both Java and here in Papua. It did take me stepping out, initiating things and being faithful to visit, contact and invest in those relationships but I have been so blessed by the results.
As I think about my closest friend that I left behind in Java, who does not know the Lord, it breaks my heart. It gets messy once you know someone. It gets personal when you have a close friend. I think about her and where she is headed for eternity and all I can do is pray. We had to move. We had to leave before I knew this language to an extent where I felt I could really share truth with her. Yeah, we text and chat on FB and sometimes talk on the phone, but its not the same as If I was there with her, able to answer her questions, able to see what she is struggling through.
As we come to another move in the next year, I have these feelings of sadness mixed with indifference knowing I will be leaving another group of people I have worked to get to know. I have purposed to be involved in this Church here, even when there is no AC or fans and no childcare for Noah. Even though family bible study starts at Noah’s bedtime and I only hear half the lesson because I am entertaining him. I have decided I will reach out and ask to join in on things that would honestly be a lot easier to avoid. These endeavors have not returned void. I don’t regret them, but I feel a sadness that once again we will leave this place that we have worked to fit into, worked to love, and start all over again. Don’t get me wrong, I am super excited to move and be involved in the ministry we have chosen, but it still hurts.
I look back and wonder if God used me here. I mean, that is my goal right? To some how make an impact for the Lord here. I DO see how God has worked in MY life, but has He used me to work in anyone else’s life? I am “done” with language study now, and up until now my “job” has been to learn it. I needed these people to teach me, to practice with me, and they did. But now what? I feel like the tables have turned and now that I am “done” with language I feel like I need to be doing something in return. I don’t need them for language study anymore (although there is still so much to learn) but I still need them. I need them because God uses them to challenge and change me. He uses them to show me how much I still don’t know. How much HE is already doing here through His body, the Church, with or without me.
I need to remind myself that while I want to be used by God to make a difference in other people’s understanding of Christ, Christ is just as concerned about MY growth as He is with theirs! Could it be that God brought me half way around the world to just change me?
The first few months we were in this country we attended the New Years Eve event in the city square. As midnight neared I was surprised to see someone take the stage and do some sort of announcement. As he muttered on and on I kept looking at my watch and started glancing around to see if anyone else noticed he was going to talk right over new years… they didn’t seem to care. What? This is not how you celebrate new years! You count down from 10 to 1 and then at the exact strike of midnight you light off the fireworks and scream and shout and hug and kiss! Time ticked on and he talked at least 5 minutes past the strike of midnight. Then, like nothing was amiss they lit off the fireworks and everyone celebrated! This is not how we do it in America.
I stand in the check out lane and the store is busy. Really busy. They have maybe 3 lanes open out of the 15 in the store and there are employees sitting in the aisles giggling and chatting while organizing shelves. Can’t they open just one more lane? Seriously, there are about a bazillion people in line here! Finally a worker opens another lane and it’s not the “next in line” (which would have been ME) that gets to go ahead, its whatever person can push their way ahead of another and as long as you don’t make eye contact everything will be fine. Just act like it didn’t happen. Exhale. Don’t look like the annoyed foreigner today Abby. This is not how we do it in America.
Driving down the road dodging bikes, people, potholes, pigs, dogs, chickens, and the occasional drunk man. I think I could make an awesome video game based on traffic here. If you make it through the course without getting stopped by a drunk man demanding money, or without hitting a pig and having to pay several hundred dollars for it, you win! It would be a great hit.
Helmets. You would think racing in and out of traffic while carrying your wife and baby on the back of your motorcycle could at least be a little bit safer if you were wearing the helmets you are holding under your arm, but maybe just having them there will magically give you extra safety. This is not how we do it in America.
As this New Year starts I realize despite the crazy ways they do things (or DON’T do things) here, I am learning to love this country, especially Papua where we have found ourselves these last 6 months.
Though it pretty much looks like someone spit blood everywhere you go (from the betel nut they chew and spit), and it is so hot some days that I want to live in Antarctica, I do love this place. It is beautiful. From the people who live along the shores of the ocean and lakes to the ones who live on the mountains and deep in the jungles, there is a distinct richness to Papua.
God is doing things here. I am so encouraged by the men and women we see and hear speak in our church, who have been strongly encouraging the believers to raise their children in the Word and not forsake the next generation who will one day lead Papua. Who challenge the congregation to live according to their position in Christ – FREE from sin and fear! I am excited to see what God does here in the next few years, starting with this one, 2015! Our plans really are not our own, the Lord directs our steps. We are learning this first hand as we see doors close and new ones open. I am excited to see what God teaches us and how he will direct us in this next year. May God use our frailty to demonstrate His might. Happy New Year!!!
I have two friends who I study language with each week and sometimes it feels like I am learning two different languages! This is because one of them is a “Papuan” from this island who uses the local slang and dialect, the language of the locals who talk in a very casual or I guess you could say “laid back” manner. The other is a “pendatang” or a person who moved here from another island. She uses the more “proper” Indonesian that is easily understood throughout Indonesia. Both sides are important to learn. Even though using “proper” Indonesian is still understood by Papuans when they hear it, they don’t talk that way and obviously feel more comfortable around people who talk the way they do. They don’t care so much about grammar, which is great for me who doesn’t have that as a strong skill anyway!
I want and need to know proper Indonesian also in order to communicate with the rest of the country. If I just learn the local dialect used here, later when I talk to a person from say, Java or Kalimantan I would probably sound like a hillbilly if I said “kasih bunuh lampu itu!” (literally “give death to that light” but basically “kill that light!”) like they might here, instead of “matikan lampu itu” (turn off that light).
So each week I study with my friend who uses the local dialect to give me stories and new words and I try to use their slang. Then once a week I study with my friend who speaks proper Indonesian and she teaches me the “polite” or more general way of saying the same things!
There are at least 2 ways to say almost anything and I am trying to keep them straight in my head to be ready to use the correct dialect depending on whom I am talking to.
It would be like a Latino coming to America and learning how to speak English from a Californian and then at the same time studying English from Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty. That there is plumb crazy ya’ll!
Just a little glimpse into what we are studying these days!