Thursday, July 17, 2014

Healing For Hewa

In October of 2012 we moved into the Hewa tribe. Just a few months before that- June of 2012- a team of medical missionaries led by Dr. Allen Sawyer and aided by Samaritan's purse came into the village to treat medical and dental needs but more importantly to teach on pregnancy and childbirth.

What happened was unprecedented with many cultural taboos being broken. But people listened and as a result we've seen many healthy changes in childbirth practices (like not cutting the umbilical cord with any dirty thing that is relatively sharp and lying around). This was truly a blessing to the Hewa people and to us as missionaries to these people who we love so much.

Please watch and enjoy...

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/women/healing-for-hewa/http://www.samaritanspurse.org/women/healing-for-hewa/


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Faimpat Stood

These two stories are the accounts of what happened at the "witch court" according to two of our Hewa Church leaders. Thank you all so much for your interest and prayers for these women and children. Many of them are our neighbors and precious friends. Please continue to pray for all Hewa women marked as witches and for God's Word to change the hearts and beliefs of the Hewa people!

Faimpat Stood  by Jonathan Kopf

Court case #1
            The Paiela men who are threatening many Hewa women and children have set their sights on the two sisters Kentam and Sopam. Their mother had been murdered as a “witch” and then later their brothers were also killed for the same reason. Since their last brother’s death in 2010, their uncle Iso has helped them move from one place to another in the mountains, hoping to spare their lives. During that time a man named Nelison took both sisters as his wives and since then a few children have been born while they were on the run. 
            Most of the men that are hungry to kill the two sisters and their children did not consent to come to the court session held in Fiyawena, but the judges decided to allow Iso to present the cause of his nieces who are currently in hiding. Iso has never shown interest in things of the Bible so he began his argument in the traditional way, with a history lesson to shift blame from the two sisters back to the Paiela people. He said, “The Paiela men keep saying sicknesses and deaths in their villages are caused by my clan, but the fact is it all started when a Paiela woman named Akak gave human flesh disguised as sweet potato to a Hewa woman named Patiyopoya. The Hewa woman unwittingly ate the flesh and immediately became possessed by an evil spirit who caused much sickness and death. Patiyopoya in turn later did the same thing, giving human flesh to another unsuspecting Hewa woman, who in turn did the same thing, which happened again until eventually Kentam and Sopam’s mother became spirit possessed. Subsequently she and her other children were murdered as witches. So you see the reason the two young ladies are now being accused by Paiela men is because much earlier one of their own woman started this whole mess. The Paiela men cannot blame my two nieces when the problem originated with them.”
            The two government appointed court officials from Porgera listened to the case and heard the rebuttals of the few Paiela men who were present and after several hours of discussion made this offer to Iso. “We don’t really know what to say about this case but if you pay an additional 200 Kina to us we will write an official document that will make it a crime for anyone to murder the two ladies. If the men choose to ignore the document they will face time in jail.”
            The Paiela men who were present were not happy and contested the idea saying they had a right to avenge the deaths of the people of their village and to stop future deaths by killing the women. They said that the court had no business interfering by making it illegal to kill the women.
            The court officials stood their ground and said that if the Paiela wished to contest their decision they could later bring the case to a higher level court in Porgera. Iso was pleased with the outcome and purchased the court document in hopes that it will save the lives of his nieces and their children.

            So, was this a victory for righteousness and justice? Iso may have bought a little extra time for the sisters and their children but I have lived with the Hewa long enough to know that when a few more people get sick and die, in the Paiela villages, of sicknesses such as malaria or pneumonia, the Paiela men will become enraged and kill the women in an effort to stop future sicknesses and deaths. The court document will not change their belief system and threat of jail will not curb their desire to kill women, and it certainly won’t stop them from using death threats as a way to steal Hewa land.

Court case #2
            Waina and Yanis’ account of the next court session provided me with a little more hope for the future safety of Hewa women. Not long ago the Paiela men chose to blame a girl named Loreme for a few recent deaths. When she learned of these accusations she was so afraid of being murdered she deflected their accusations by pointing to a different young lady named Yamene saying, “Everyone knows she is a witch, so quit looking at me.” As pressure increased for Loreme her accusations of Yamene increased until she was leading a, “Get rid of Yamene,” crusade. Many Paiela men decided to join Loreme’s line of logic and even a few Hewa men jumped on board, calling for Yamene’s execution.
            When this case was brought before the two judges who had arrived from the town of Porgera, they questioned Loreme as to why she was accusing Yamene. “Did you see an evil spirit?” they asked. “Do you have some sort of proof she is actually possessed?”
            Loreme was unable to speak in the presence of the judges. She was so scared by having been pulled into court that after a little stammering and stuttering she got up to leave among ripples of laughter.
            The older of the two judges named Evan, spoke up. “Everyone is so eager to murder women and children.”
            The group who had gathered to listen became quiet.
            “You are acting like ignorant heathens.”
            He had everyone’s attention.
            “I realize that us Paiela people and you Hewa people share the common practice of killing spirit possessed people, but that was before we started attending church. Earlier you villagers hadn’t heard about God but now that your missionary arrived you need to quit killing your witches. Instead, bring them to church. Jesus didn’t kill people who were possessed by spirits and He didn’t tell His disciples to kill them. Instead he sent the evil spirits into pigs so the possessed people would recover. You need to bring the possessed people to church to let God help them rather than to kill them.”
            That’s when the young man Faimpat, who normally resides in our village, jumped to his feet unable to contain himself any longer. “You all act as if you have no understanding,” he said, pointing around to the crowd. “God gave us missionaries to teach us that if we turn to God we don’t have to be afraid of the spirit realm but you have continued to hold stubbornly to your ancestral ways,” he said, his face a deep crimson. “You are bent on killing women like your fathers and grandfathers did, and not one of you speaks up for the truth of God’s Word, only this judge is bold enough to remind you of stories from the Bible. You should be ashamed!”
            No one objected and it was clear Faimpat was just getting started. He was still unmarried and because of his youth did not carry much weight among the clans but his zeal for the Lord had not gone unnoticed since he left the witch doctors school in 2008 and surrendered his life to Jesus. “The missionary showed us from Mark five and nine that our ancestors were deeply mistaken when they told us our mothers and sisters were possessed by spirits, and that even if they were possessed we were not to kill them, but instead ask for the power of Jesus to set them free. He started teaching us those things years ago, and yet here we are still killing and planning to kill our own family members. Each one of you men should be deeply ashamed that you listen to these accusations instead of crushing them with the truth that we have now heard from God’s book.”
            According to Waina and Yanis, Faimpat continued for quite a while, calling for people to turn from the beliefs of the ancestors in order to save the lives of their own family members. A few of the other believers also joined in, supporting the Biblical concepts that are so foreign to the tribal way of thinking.
In the end, the court officials ruled on behalf of Yamene and demanded that Loreme and her Paiela relatives pay 500 Kina as an apology to Yamene. The judges also said that the Hewa who had joined Loreme in her accusations were to pay four pigs to settle the dispute.
            “When you have paid the money and pigs, you are never to blame Yamene for sickness and death, do you hear?” the judge said. “These accusations have to stop here and now.”

            Thank you for joining us in prayer for the sake of the Hewa women and children who are being accused of causing sicknesses and deaths. We realize this culture has been held in the grip of Satan’s lies since the beginning of their time and it will take years for the truth of God’s Word to spread to all the Hewa hamlets and villages to help change their way of thinking, but we believe that as you, God’s children, call out to Him to transform hearts, the old strongholds will fall. Please continue to pray that believers like Faimpat, Waina, and Yanis will be bold to speak for righteousness and that God’s Spirit will revolutionize this culture so that instead of the men killing women and children they will become preachers of righteousness who will bring these next generations safely into God’s family."

Faimpat teaching in church

 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Dear Mississippi

Dear Mississippi,

We love you and we promise we are coming back. We have a vast number of people and churches that we can't wait to visit! We are putting our kids in school in the Magnolia State in August, so we will be living in the Jackson area for the majority of our nine month furlough.

We planned on visiting with most of our friends and supporting churches in Mississippi when we got back from our summer tour of churches in the Southeast since we will have way more time there than any other place in America.

Our little family has just spent the last two weeks traveling through North Mississippi and Central Alabama and have had an incredible time laughing, crying, and above all eating with the friends and family that are so precious to us. We will spend the next four weeks with my mom, sister, and nephew in North Carolina.

There will certainly be more short jaunts here and there, but we will pretty much be in Mississippi until January when we plan to do a "goodbye tour" before heading back to Hewa in February.

Here are just a few hightlights from our travels so far...


This is our sending church. There are no words for how much we love the people in this place!!!

Some dear friends/supporters who have been a huge encouragement to us since we were just a young engaged couple in ministry.

Slip-n-slide fun at the Hamby House. We would most certainly not be in missions today without this incredible family.

George girls with the Hamby clan.



A sweet friend and supporter who I haven't seen in over 10 years!! (ps- Jennifer you haven't aged at all!)

A BFF from our days in youth ministry in Eclectic. Don't know what I would do without this one! 


And the rest of the crew from our Eclectic, AL days (minus Jacie above) I think I have laughed more with these people than I have with all other people collectively over the course of my life.

Grandpa (my dad) seeing his granddaughters for the first time in 3 years.

All the traveling has Lucy missing her Hewa home. She drew this picture a few days ago.

Meeting the donkey "Sanchez" at Aunt Kathy's house.

All three girls got to ride this horse appropriately named "Hope". Mattie enjoyed it the most by far!

Showing off our Hewa gear.

Crazy kid fun! 




More of my sweet family (minus a few)!


As you can see we have been really busy and had more fun than should be allowed for one family in such a short amount of time. We had so much fun that I realize I missed getting a lot of pictures that I really need. So if you have some pictures of any of our time together please email them to me! I would love to have them all! (john_george@ntm.org)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ten Minutes to take a Stand

This is a recent account written by my co-worker, Jonathan Kopf. Please pray with us right now over these "court proceedings" and all the women and children who fear for their lives waiting for the outcome. This affects many ladies and children that we know and love...

"Ten Minutes to take a Stand"   -Jonathan Kopf                                                   

Ten minutes. That’s all I would have. Rain was beating the windshield of the small airplane and black storm clouds restricted visibility in every direction so the pilot told me that after landing in Fiyawena we would have to quickly take off again to head to the town of Hagen before the weather made flight impossible.
My stomach was in knots. “Lord, what should I say? I’m so frustrated and angry and disgusted at the harsh reality of the tribal way of thinking.” 



The two passengers in the seat behind me were Judges; men who were appointed by the government to preside over court cases in towns and villages of the Enga province. My Hewa friends had requested the high ranking judges come to Fiyawena because the Pela men who had moved there had been making accusations, claiming many Hewa women who were supposedly possessed by evil spirits had caused a rash of recent illnesses and deaths. They were making demands for money and pigs to pay for the deaths, or the women would be murdered. Simple as that. It wasn’t just one man making demands, and they weren’t targeting only one woman. The Pela men had banded together and brought their guns and other weapons to the Hewa village of Fiyawena and were making their intentions clear. “If you don’t give money and pigs now, the ladies will die.”



 

Now that I had met the judges as we boarded the airplane together at the airport in Kairik my mind suddenly went into a tail spin as I realized their presence in the village would not guarantee justice for the plight of the women and children. In our short time of greeting and introducing ourselves as we were getting seated, I discovered there was a terrible conflict of interest that would not be favorable for the lives of the women and in our brief chat the judges admitted to me they also held the conviction that certain women were possessed by evil spirits.


“What do you think about the accusations that Hewa women are possessed with spirits that are causing deaths in the villages?” I had asked, hoping the question was direct enough that they could easily confirm their desire to support the rights of the accused.
The older and senior judge answered quickly. “We don’t really know.”
I groaned inwardly as I had heard that answer a million times. It was the politically correct way to say, “I don’t want to disclose my position at this time.”
Then the judge continued. “Two women were recently murdered in Pela for causing death.”
“You mean the ones who were burned to death in a house in the village of Komonka last month?” I asked.
“You heard about that?”
“So, do you think they should have been killed?”
The senior official again answered quickly in behalf of them both. “We don’t know and that is the reason we are coming to Fiyawena now, to investigate into the accusations of the women there. Our ancestors believed in spirit possessed people in Paiela and in Hewa, but especially in Hewa.”



 

Suddenly I was disturbed. No, that wasn’t the right word. I was mad. I was fed up with the many officials of the law I had crossed paths with over my years in Hewa who also feared women could cause sickness and death because of a supposed spirit inside of them. These women weren’t the kind to stir huge boiling cauldrons of secret concoctions, chanting incantations to cause death in unsuspecting victims. They were regular ordinary women who planted gardens to raise food for their families and who nursed and loved on their babies just like woman of any other country. When I had objected in the past to the accusations, pointing out that there were no visible signs that the women were possessed by evil spirits the men always answered the same. “You don’t understand,” they would say, with straight faces that betrayed their convictions. “They appear normal in the daytime, but at night when they are sleeping the spirits leave their bodies and roam through the villages looking for someone to eat. If the spirit eats a person’s insides then he will get sick and then die.”
I was just about to say something to the two judges when I was interrupted by the pilot who gave instructions about airplane exits, fire extinguishers and vomit bags. As soon as he was done he dropped to his seat, fired up the bird and we were off; the small aircraft was far too noisy to allow us to continue our previous conversation.
 

I had a few minutes of flight time to think about how to respond to the two judges. “Lord, what do I say? Help me not to spew rash opinions from anger but instead give me words that reflect your thoughts.” Anger welled up inside me through the flight and I continued to discuss it with God. The problem was that after we landed we would only have a few minutes, ten minutes at the most, since the thunderheads were already covering the mountain peaks and the scattered rain showers would soon choke out visibility making air travel impossible.
 


As soon as the plane landed on the rain soaked grass airstrip in Fiyawena I turned to face the two court judges before they had a chance to disembark. “Can we please talk for a few minutes here beside the airplane before I leave for Hagen,” I said. “I have been living with the Hewa people for 14 years and have learned their practices and seen their plight. Can I please tell you what has been happening here over these last years?”
“Sure, the younger one answered.”
We dropped to the ground, but already the oldest judge was being greeted by many smiling Paiela men, one of whom was motioning for him to come away from the plane.
“Please,” I said again, frustrated that the judge was friends with the very men who were condemning the women to death, “Can you please stand here under the shelter of the wing with me to hear what I have to say?”
They both consented so we stood there as men rushed over to the plane and opened the cargo doors to unload rice and other store goods.
“When I first built a house here and started learning the language of the Hewa I didn’t know about the ancestor practice of killing women and children. Soon though I learned of many recent killings and was surprised when a teenage boy named Anton was later murdered in a village just over that hill,” I said pointing past the foot of the airstrip. “After careful investigation I found that Hewa men often killed Hewa women believing they were spirit possessed and the Pela killed Pela for the same reason. Soon after that though, I discovered the Pela men had shifted their focus to killing Hewa women so they could steal Hewa land, pushing the Hewa off their ancestral territory. By killing or threatening to kill Hewa women for supposedly being possessed by evil spirits they were able to steal the Hewa village of Aliyalim and then Maikol and are now also in possession of Baliya. They have come here to Fiyawena with the same intent, to kill off the women and to scare the rest of us away so they can take our land. While I have been living here the Pela men decided the village of Fiyentuwa was full of spirit possessed families so they called the place a spirit camp and then made repeated raids there until they murdered everyone, except for the few that fled into the jungle.
About that time Susan and I discovered that two sisters were going to be murdered here in Fiyawena so we tried to help them find a place to escape. We were able to rush Defo away to be adopted by a pastor’s family in Wewak by while we were in that town men murdered Niti. They tied her arms with dog chains and hacked up her body with axes less than 50 meters from my house.
 


The two judges were listening but the older kept turning away to watch the bags of rice and other goods being offloaded from the plane.

“Here’s the deal,” I continued. “I am so glad you are here because you can help bring law and order to this village, but please don’t listen to the accusations of the Pela men who are threatening to kill the women here. I realize they are your relatives but please think about how to keep the ladies safe rather than cave to the pressure of their demands.”
I wasn’t sure how to proceed so I said, “I can tell that you are both men who attend church.”
They both nodded.
“When Jesus saw someone who had an evil spirit, what did He do?”
They didn’t answer.
“Did he tell his disciples to get their axes and go at night to surround the house where the accused person was sleeping to murder her quickly before she could run away?”
The older man looked at me with dropped jaw.
“No,” the other answered. “He didn’t tell his men to kill them.”
“I know,” I said, “Instead Jesus grabbed his shotgun and told the disciples to stand watch while he shot the spirit possessed women.”
Both of them answered with a resounding, “No!”
“Jesus didn’t allow women to be killed and nor can you,” I said. “It is your job to protect the women, even if they are accused of causing deaths.”
 


That’s when I noticed the pilot pacing back and forth near the open door of the airplane, waiting for me to climb aboard. I quickly shook hands with the two judges and waved to the others as I jumped up the ladder into the plane. “Lord, please rescue the accused women. Lord please do miracles in the hearts of these people so they can see the truth. Please rise up Godly men who will stand for righteousness rather than yield to the brutality of their ancestral belief system.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

We made it!

John Michael's aunts made us this sweet sign!


Well, we are back in America. It is weird. And good. And fun. And overwhelming. And exciting.

Furlough so far is a lot of things.

We were certainly blessed by a little "cold front" in the South when we arrived. I think Jesus just wanted to give me an extra special little gift after I spent ten days in Wewak sweating so much that my neck became a waterfall cascading down my chest and creating a wading pool in my bra.

I have been nice and dry since we left PNG on May 11th. Hashtag blessed.

We are currently staying with my in-laws so things are pretty laid back for us right now. We did have to get new drivers' licenses since ours were expired and new credit cards since those were immediately stolen when we got into the country (that was a nice welcome home). But all of that went relatively smoothly. Not like in a third world country where we had to wait two weeks to get our drivers' licenses because the camera at the office was out of film, and no one had any idea when they would be getting new film.

Along with not sweating I am also not cooking, so we haven't had to do heavy duty shopping yet. We have been to a few stores and bought very little each time so we wouldn't be overwhelmed, and that has worked very well.

The first time I went to Wal-mart the cart was so big that I could barely handle the stupid thing. I can't imagine having to steer it around full of junk.

It very much reminded me of when the guys taught our Hewa men to drive the big lawn mower for the first time.

I pretty much looked exactly like this
We skipped church on Sunday because we are horrible missionaries most of our veteran missionary friends told us to.  In fact the director* of all of NTM PNG told us to, so if you have problems with this just email him. We were only following orders. :) Most people told us that church is the biggest culture shock you will have on your first furlough, so you kinda want to ease back into it. That was definitely a good call as we all still have jet lag pretty bad and my kids are sleeping until 9 or 10 everyday. I am gonna milk that for as long as it will last!

Right now we are just enjoying the simple luxuries like ice and water just coming out of the refrigerator door with the push of a button, and me not having to go through 14 steps to get a glass of cool drinking water.

And the fact that there are virtually no bugs. Anywhere. We are even sitting outside in the evenings and maybe see one. Normally I have so many crawling on me when we are outside that it is really only worth it to brush off the big ones.

We got the van we had before furlough back and even though I haven't driven in 3 years it felt pretty natural to be behind the wheel. I guess it is just like "riding a bike"...except that I ride a bike like a drunk orangutang so that analogy is lost on me.  JMG had more trouble than me because he has been driving on the left side of the road for the last three years and now has to get used to the right side again. 

I guess our biggest struggle so far is trying to get back on a regular sleeping/eating schedule. I forgot that when you have seasons and daylight savings time the sun doesn't go down until almost 9 o'clock. On the equator the sun pretty much sets at the exact same time EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. The sun only moves slightly to the left or right throughout the year in our village and we all got used to that consistency. 

But by far the best thing about being home is seeing the faces and hugging the necks of the people we love and have missed so much. My family all lives out of state but being with John Michael's parents has been amazing and I have been blessed with seeing some of my closest friends.

Barbara, one of my best and oldest friends!

Tahya, a sweet friend and kindred spirit.
The main event will be when I get to see my mom in 12 days! I can't even think about it without tearing up!!!!!

Overall I think we are adjusting pretty well. The key for us has been just taking it slow. I am very thankful for the advice I got from my co-worker and other missionaries who told us not to over do it- especially at first. We are following that advice and loving every minute of it!

*His name is Keith Copley. Feel free to email him with any problems, concerns, theological debates, complaints, or just general thoughts on life. He also loves forwards...especially ones about cats.