Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How To Save A Witch

This past week was a very interesting one in Hewa-land. As I mentioned in my last post, we sit in this nice peaceful village full of believers who love each other and are working together to live life in a way that honors the Lord. But all around us is chaos. Throughout the week we heard rumors of a neighboring village going to war with another tribe, a revenge killing for a murder that happened two years ago, and plans to kill a young mother and her 18 month old son because people accused her of being a witch.

The first two were far away and there was really nothing we could do about them, but the last one came to us from the believers in our village who assured us that this lady's time was up, and if we didn't help get her out soon, she and her son would surely die.

You see there are many women and young girls who have been accused of being witches. When someone young or youngish dies then someone has to be blamed. It wasn't malaria, or cancer, or the infection that the person refused to take medicine for, it was a witch who worked sorcery on you and ate your insides causing you to die. And if a lot of people are dying then the only way to stop it, is to kill the witch.

So how do you get the ugly finger of blame pointed at you? First you typically have to be from a small village that is more remote or out of the way of the other villages, so people don't visit you often. Then if you are shy, quiet or keep to yourself at all then your chances just skyrocketed. No one wants to blame their friends, people they like, or people who give them things.

Finally, someone has to call you out. This happens when a friend or relative says they "heard" the last words of a person and they said your name. Or someone has a dream that tells them you are the witch. Or you just happen to be a sister, brother or child or someone else who has been accused of being a witch. (this is why most children are killed with their mothers, even if they are small babies)

Anyway, this particular young lady named Tiko had actually been accused for a while but because of an increase in sickness and death all around Hewa territory, people decided it was time for her to die. Our coworkers previously made arrangements with another village in PNG where there are missionaries and a strong believing church (remember Mariama, where we did our bush orientation? Well, that is the place!) to send this family to live with them. The believers there agreed to love and protect this precious family. So, some of the leaders of the Hewa church went to Tiko's village to tell them that if they were ready and could come up with the money to fly out, then they would be safe and welcomed in a new place. Even though there were lots of family members arguing and fighting about this, they agreed and hiked back here with the leaders to finalize all the arrangements. They spent three days here getting prepared, and allowing our people to convince Tiko's husband that this was the best decision for his fam
ily. (Her husband's family told him to just let her go, and begged him to stay saying that they would buy him a new wife). In the end he agreed, since the believers in Mariama told him it had to be the whole family or they would not be able to take them in. (a young single woman would have a very hard time making it on her own and the people would have a hard time protecting her) It was strange to sit with this lady, to hold her baby, constantly wondering if they were going to make it out of here alive. There was no way that they (or we) could afford to fly them out on the helicopter, so our only option was for them to hike to the village that has an airstrip and our NTMA pilot would pick them up there. The problem was that the village with the airstrip was full of the very people who were planning to kill her, so our coworker, Jonathan hiked out with them to try to make sure that nothing went wrong while they were trying to get out. All of it was very complicated, but we were truly thankful that we had so
mewhere to send them.

It might not seem like that big of a deal, but after having spent time in both villages, I can tell you that it is a big deal. Tiko and her family will experience culture shock as they do not speak the language of the people there or the national language of Melanesian Pidgin. There are also different beliefs, customs, and foods they will have to get used to as well as different types of houses.

It will also be a challenge for the people of Mariama as they will have a hard time communicating with this family who are not believers and who will probably be suspicious of everything that goes on. But it is amazing to see this church body come together to save a lady and child that they have never met. To see them live out their faith in a way that is not convenient or easy. I hope and pray that this Hewan family will see that all this was only accomplished through Christ Jesus and the love He has for them.

We were all on pins and needles when they hiked out of the safety of this village, and waited anxiously by the radio to hear from our friends in Mariama if they made it or not. It was definitely a 24 hour period of praying without ceasing and during that time the Lord gave me this verse to pray over Tiko:

"Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them." Psalm 10:17-18

Honestly, there are days I wonder what I am doing here. I wonder if I will ever be able to learn this language when I am confined in my house, cooking and homeschooling for the better part of my day. I get overwhelmed with all that I am supposed to accomplish here: kids who are well fed, well behaved, and well educated, maintain nice clean house that is a comfortable home to my family and to guests, and learn a tribal language so I can minister to and disciple young believers, and help them to reach the surrounding Hewa villages. I wonder why God didn't give me more hours in the day or at least two more arms for all these plates I am juggling. But this experience taught me that if I do nothing else. I can pray. I am here. I know the people, their names, and situations. And that is saying a lot for these people who are some of the most remote in all of PNG. They are mostly unknown and forgotten. They even have diseases that they rest of the world believes to be
eradicated. But the Lord has brought me here to show me that He has not forgotten them. Even in these mountains blanketed with thick jungle they are not hidden from Him. He brought me here, and I can pray. I can call them by name to the one who knew that name before it was ever on the lips of their mothers and fathers. I can do my best to learn to communicate His love and truths to them, but until that happens (or even if it never does) I can pray.


  1. And we can pray with you! I LOVE YOU! Mom

  2. Prayer is our MOST POWERFUL WEAPON. May we wield it with great accuracy! Praying with and for you! Camille

  3. I have been catching up with your blog today. Thank you for sharing this story. Thank you for passing the names on so we can pray too. Have you heard how this family is doing lately?

  4. Melissa, the family is Tiko, Son, and Wanapis. They are now doing really well in their new village!