Saturday, February 23, 2013

Running out of food

Ok, so we didn't really run out of food. We just ran out of all of our fun American food. We had no snack foods or complex carbohydrates (except rice). We also had no cheese. So, everyday we ate some combination of meat, rice, and food from our garden. And when the chopper landed on the 13th, we all pretty much looked like this with the food that came in...

I never gardened before I came to Hewa, and honestly thought I would not like it. Having to know when to plant what during which season really overwhelmed me, but when you live in the tropics there are only two seasons- rainy and not as rainy so you can pretty much plant anytime.
And sometimes when I  "planted" I simply threw seeds out in my yard. I planted pumpkin, cucumber, lima beans, black beans, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and papaya. But my greatest accomplishment was watermelons. I ended up with 27 watermelons growing before we left. We even ate some before they were ripe, because we were so hungry for fruit (our village is new, so there is not a lot of fruit because most fruit trees take years to grow).

on the way to plant sweet potato leaves

eating our unripe watermelon

Gardening here does require some hard work, though. You have to do some serious land clearing before you can plant, and there is constant weeding to be done. The jungle will easily take over your garden if you let it!

clearing some land for planting

Most of what we ate came from what my coworker planted for me months before we moved in. If she hadn't done that, who knows what we would have done! We ate greens, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes from the garden she previously planted for us. We even tried cooking the sweet potatoes in the traditional Hewa way of burying in the ashes of the fire and then eating. It looks weird, but it is actually really good!

cooking sweet potatoes in the ashes

ready to eat

picking greens for dinner
And while I still prefer to just open my freezer and pull out a bag of green beans, gardening helps me to learn the Hewa language and culture a little better, and helps me relate to the ladies that I am trying to build relationships with. Plus, there is the added bonus of finding food in your own backyard when you can't find any in your pantry!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pics from Previous Posts

While we were in the tribe, I wrote a few posts and sent them via email through our short wave radio. Most of them looked really weird and had no pictures, and well pictures are key to understanding this blog! So here are some pics from those posts...

From How to Save a Witch:

Susan and I with Tiko and her son, Wanapis

Tiko, her husband and son with our pilot on their way to safety in Mariama

From Christmas is Canceled:
We did end up having the "mumu" a few days later...

Burning the hair off the pigs before they are cut up and put into the ground

Cutting the meat to go into the ground

Susan with the ladies preparing the garden food

intestines are taken down to the river and washed before cooking and eating

From This Week in Hewa:

playing with the chicks before they were eaten

I promise Mae is happy, the sun was just in her eyes

Harry Potter, the chick who lived...but only for a week
From Torn:

huge pumpkin from our garden

five of my watermelons...can you find them all?

my house chicken named "Buckbeak" for obvious reasons...

From What a Week:
the bad weather we flew in last week

rain on the windshield of the helicopter

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mr. Despicable

Here is another amazing story from the talented Jonathan Kopf:

"I looked at him, but I couldn’t force myself to look directly into his eyes. He was despicable. The scum of the earth. Murderer. Wife beater. Child abuser. He was sitting on the log next to me under my wife’s bark roofed cooking hut. Why had he come to our village anyway? And why did he sit so close to me? Was he looking for his next victim? I lowered my gaze and kept pushing the file across the blade of the machete I was sharpening for my friend. On my right, next to the fire pit squatted the ex-axe-murderer-now-turned-believer named Fato. To my left was loin-cloth clad Kalafu the despicable. Mr. Despicable. That would be his name from now on. I would never call him by his given name again. Keep sharpening the machete, I told myself.
    On the dirt floor between me and Despicable was his axe. It was unusually small, though the handle was as long as the average axe. Probably a hatchet head on an axe handle. Then my stomach churned. I wonder how many bodies the hatchet has plunged into? Let’s see. For sure I know he led the murder raid for Mas’ wife Lut along with her baby son. Then there was Nomi and her baby boy Aisek. Then Petelin, and don’t forget Kansol’s twelve year old boy Meson. My friend Saimon and Lomaf and who knows how many others. Was it this axe or was it the weapon of one of the other raiders? Maybe an arrow or machete for some victims, but certainly this axe had seen blood. Despicable had seen a lot of blood. That’s how they always described it. “I saw blood.” When they said it like that it sounded rather casual. Surreal. But it meant cold blooded murder. Nothing casual about that.
    Then he spoke. “Give me the file,” he said in his gravely voice. “When you are done sharpening the machete, I’ll sharpen my axe. I gave a quick glance into his blood-shot eyes to show I had heard his request. Then I looked back to my work. The scraping of steel against steel made my heart shudder. Or was it the thought of letting him use my file to aid in his next victim? Would it be someone here? One of the ladies or teenage girls my wife had befriended? I had to stop my mind from wondering.
    But then a thought crossed my mind. You serve the Hewa tribal men by sharpening axes and machete’s, why not serve him in the same way?
    No way! Not Despicable’s axe. He may use it to see more blood.
    You need to humble yourself to serve him. You know, that washing of the feet idea?
With that thought I realized the Holy Spirit was nudging my conscience but it didn’t stop me from arguing. Not if it means increasing his effectiveness at slicing human flesh.
    Show him you care about him. I knew the feet I washed would soon run to bring the men that would condemn me to death.
    I turned the machete over and continued with the other side of the blade. Maybe I could sharpen his axe, and while doing it preach him a sermon. A loud and hot tongue lashing.
    Despicable was now talking with the others who had arrived to light their cigarettes at the dying fire in front of my feet. He was joking and laughing with them as if he was their best friend. Why they never spoke of the women and children who were their relatives that he had murdered was beyond me. Maybe fear of bringing the axe in their direction.
    I was just about done with the machete and struggled at what to do next.
    Despicable saw me hesitate and didn’t give me a chance to make up my mind. He grabbed the file and held it to his blade. He pushed the file across the edge one time and then another.
    “No, let me do it,” a quiet voice said from my right.
    I turned, not understanding Fato’s words.
    “I’ll do it,” he said, not waiting for Despicable to respond. Fato leaned across my legs and took Kalafu’s axe and the file. He set the wicked blade on his lap and began to sharpen. He didn’t say a word. The grinding of steel did the talking.
    No, I thought. Doesn’t he know what this axe is used for? I stared at Fato but he didn’t look at me, intent on his task. Then my mind changed. I should be the one doing it. The thought made me want to steal the tools away from Fato. No, I had waited too long and the reward would go to Fato. That’s okay, I thought. Let his act of service be a rebuke to me. But I should say something. I’ll give him a piece of my mind.
    Love him, a voice said into my heart.
    Mr. Despicable?
    Love him.
    I hesitated, but I knew the Child of God on my right was preaching a bold sermon. He had also murdered people in the past and he knew what he was doing. He pushed the file over the steal one last time and handed the axe back to its owner.
    “He served you,” I said, the words popping out of my mouth, “so now this axe is to be set apart for doing good. It can never be used for murder again.”
    Kalafu didn’t respond so I looked at him. His eyes shifted away. I felt I had said too much.
    “No, it’s true,” he finally answered. “I have used this axe for evil.”
    “Your Creator loves you and wants you to hear the story of how He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for all the evil you have done.”
    “I know,” he answered.
    I had never seen him so subdued. “When you followed the trail of your ancestors,” I said, “you murdered people just like they did, but now God wants to show you a new trail, one of forgiveness and love.”
    “I will listen. One day I will hear the story.”
    “I realize I am limited in speaking to you in your dialect, but Fato knows the story well and how to speak it in a way you will understand. It’s time for you to let him help you.”
    He looked at Fato and then at me, his eyes steady. I could tell he was considering what I was saying. His eyes were hard, very hard, but I could see through the window to the war that was raging in his soul.
    Instead of changing the subject, he took his axe and stood, making me feel vulnerable at his feet. “I will,” he said. “Someday soon I will listen to the story.” With that he walked slowly away, his shoulders slumped with the weight of a thousand miseries.
    Lord please touch him, I prayed. No one else can. Please grab his heart and draw him to yourself. Change him from a fearless murderer to a courageous preacher of righteousness."

In the last few months we have actually seen this man's heart start to soften. He has come to our village adamant that he needs to hear God's message.   This from a man who once told Jonathan that he was "working for Satan". Please join us in prayer for this man, Kalafu, and his family. His wife is also marked as a witch, so their time in our village may be short as they will eventually have to escape to some place where she will no longer be in danger.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Period House

I recently read several cute little pictures on pinterest with women complaining about that special "lady time" and I thought I would share with you a little Hewa culture on the subject. I will spare you from going too in depth as I know that there are a few men who read this blog (you're welcome, Aaron Jex).

Anyway, women in general area considered "contaminating" and they have to constantly watch where they walk and make sure they never step over any person, any belongings, food, firewood, etc. But they are especially considered contaminating during "that time" and have to stay in small houses built for that purpose.

The real kicker is that childbirth is treated the same way. So, as soon as you start having contractions you are not rushed to a nice clean hospital, you run to your nearest "wano wai" and prepare for childbirth. Pictured here:

So, ladies, next time you feel grumpy and moody and like you want to kill your husband for no reason at all, just take a look at this picture and you will automatically feel better...or you will cry. But you were probably going to cry anyway, so you might as well cry at this.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Alimpu's Death

Two weeks ago, the oldest man...the patriarch of our village died. My coworker, Susan, had been treating him for a long time for COPD, and he told her that he had enough and did not want to be treated anymore. He was ready to go to be with the Lord.

Jonathan and Susan told us his testimony many times... an amazing testimony that I thought everyone should hear. Jonathan is the real writer on our team and he penned this story so beautifully that it would be tragic for you to read it through my words instead of his.

So, here is the story of Alimpu, redeemed child of God. Now in the presence of his Lord and Savior:

December 2008

"Sitting in the darkness of the smoke filled tribal hut, I shifted positions, trying to get more comfortable on the woven bamboo floor. The only light in the jungle hut was from the smoldering fire in the center of the floor, but even that light was suppressed by a thick blanket of smoke trying to work its way up through the thatched roofing. My eyes were stinging because of the smoke and I was finding the heat of the tightly enclosed space oppressive. Though I had recently arrived for a visit, I began thinking of culturally appropriate ways to excuse myself, thinking how great it would be to go outside for a fresh breath of mountain air.
Old man Alimpu interrupted my thoughts with a fit of deep chested coughing. His oldest son who was sitting beside me on the floor looked over to his father with deep concern on his furrowed brow.
Oh yes, that's why I came to Alimpu's house in the first place I thought. He had been sick for many months, and had not responded to our recent courses of antibiotics so we feared he was suffering from tuberculosis. His continual fits of wheezing and coughing had stolen his strength to the point that he seldom left his sleeping spot near the fire pit. He coughed over and over, barely able to catch a breath. Gasping for air he pulled himself to a sitting position, his bony hand holding tightly to the pole frame supporting the fire wood rack.
I moved over to where Alimpu was struggling to catch his breath, helpless to ease his pain. The sight of his frail frame and protruding ribs filled me with a sudden wave of fresh grief. From all appearances, my old friend was on his death bed, with only days left to live.
After Alimpu's fit of coughing subsided, he lay down on the bamboo floor next to the fire, and eventually his raspy breathing returned to a more regular pattern. Then, to my surprise he began to speak, slowly at first, and with obvious effort. "I can't get baptized," he managed, barely above a whisper. But then he continued with a seemingly unrelated thought. "This sickness that I am suffering from is the same one that killed that old man in the village of Wite last month".
There was a long pause, but neither I nor anyone else in the house wanted to interject, knowing that Alimpu was about to say more.
"I know that I am about to die," the old man continued weakly, "but I'm not afraid anymore. Now that I have heard God's story, I know that I don't have to fear death because I am God's child, and He is going to take me to live with Him at His ground forever."
Alimpu paused to collect his thoughts but just then his third and only living wife who was holding a toddler on her lap broke into a fit of coughing. I winced when I heard her gargled cough, wondering if she was getting pneumonia and if it might spread to others in the village. But then she sneezed loudly, and then leaning forward blew her nose into the fire, making my stomach turn. I quickly closed my eyes, partly in an attempt to delete the scene, but also because my eyes were stinging from the smoky haze hanging in the darkness. Am I ever going to get used to the bizarre harshness of this way of life, I wondered. Then my thoughts turned back to my old friend as he continued with his story.
"Before I heard God's story, I was terrified by the thought that a spirit might eat me at any moment causing my death. But now I realize that death comes as a result of my ancestor Adam's disobedience to God rather than from evil spirits lurking in the jungle shadows." The old man cleared his throat, spit into the fire and then continued. "If I had died before I heard God's story, I would have been condemned by God for the people I have murdered and for the other bad things I have done. Now that I believe in Jesus' payment for my wrongs, I understand that God will not condemn me to judgment, but rather will take me to live with him at his ground.
My back and legs were stiff from sitting on the uneven floor but my heart was soaring as I heard my old friend's words of faith. I had often wondered just how much of the Gospel message Alimpu had understood as my friends and I taught in this village over the last months. Now my heart was full as I heard him describe in his own words an unprompted account of his trust in God's Word.
"I know that I am God's son now," Alimpu continued, "and I have heard that you are planning a baptism soon, but I can't get baptized." The words were barely out of his mouth when a dog fight erupted as two scrawny dogs had pounced, at the same moment, on a scrap of sweet potato that had been dropped by a child. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement in the darkness and turned just in time to see an old lady grab a chunk of firewood and bring it swiftly down on the back of one of the dogs, sending it scrambling out the door, yelping in pain while the other dog gulped down his prize.
"Why can't you get baptized?" I asked.
The old man slowly sat up with great effort, and leaned one arm over the vine that had been tied as a guard rail to keep children from falling into the fire and then started speaking about men who had burned their spiritual objects in a fire. I was having a hard time connecting this odd statement with the question I had asked, so I turned to his son who was sitting next to me, who often helped me understand the aged man's dialect.
Fato, seeing the confusion on my face quickly explained, "He's talking about those men you told us about when you were teaching the book of Acts who had publicly burned their books about magic and sorcery to show that they were turning from their trust in the spirits to faith in God's words.
I leaned forward with eager anticipation, straining to make sure I didn't miss anything. I realized he was referring to the Ephesian believers who boldly cut all ties with their history of sorcery to follow Jesus.
Alimpu seeing my excitement continued "I can't get baptized till I burn my dog spirit bag".
I quickly looked back to Fato for clarification saying, "He wants to burn his sorcery stuff?"
"Yes, you know, his bag of bones and dog teeth and magic plants."
I looked back at Alimpu, wanting to catch everything he might try to communicate on this subject.
"I want to burn my bag in front of everyone in this village before I get baptized so they will clearly know that I am turning my back on the customs of the ancestors to be fully devoted to Jesus."
I was amazed and elated, but at the same time wanted to make sure my friend was not confused with the idea that he had to clean up his life in every way in order to be acceptable to God in baptism. "What you are saying is so great, but please understand that God accepts your simple act of faith in baptism not because you are perfect in every way, but rather because Jesus' payment for your sins has made you acceptable in His sight. Your trust in Jesus is what makes you ready for baptism."
"I know that," he answered. "When Jesus died, His blood completely washed away the debt for my many sins, so I am clean in God's eyes. But still, I want to do what the people in the Bible did, and publicly burn my ties with my past beliefs, so that everyone will know that I am not playing games with God, taking the death of Jesus as if it's insignificant."
I was blown away by the depth and richness of Alimpu's testimony. I cleared my throat, trying to suppress the lump that was building. I was so proud of my friend and his new found faith.
The old sick man then grunted something in the direction his wife and she quickly responded by holding out a small stack of stinging nettle leaves for Alimpu to take. He gingerly lifted the top leaf covered with tiny spines and began rubbing it on the skin of his bare chest. I winced as I knew that little blisters would pop up on his skin from the fiery nettles, but I said nothing as I knew this was the common method the tribal people used to counteract the pain they were enduring.
"I want to burn the stuff publicly but I can't because I am too weak to walk up the trail to the village center" Alimpu said.
"Maybe we could ask the people of the village to come down here to your house so they will witness you burning your spirit bag in your own yard" I ventured.
"No, no" Alimpu responded emphatically. "I need to burn my spirit things in the middle of the village, where everyone can watch, but it's impossible for me to do it now. I'm not going to be strong enough to do it before the baptism."
I sat there not knowing what to say when Alimpu's wife dropped a new piece of wood on the fire. Sparks shot upward, bouncing against the underside of the drying rack.
 Then I felt the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit in my heart, so I turned to my friend and said, "We know from the stories we have been reading in the Bible that God has the power to heal you. Let's ask Him to help you recover your strength so that you can go to the village to burn your spirit bag, and then later to the creek to get baptized."
Alimpu agreed, so there in that dark and smoky house, Alimpu and Fato and I bowed our heads and made the simple request of our father. "God, one of your kids wants to get baptized but he can't because of his poor health. Will you please honor his wish to publicly burn his spirit things and to get baptized by giving him health and strength to walk the trails?"
We all raised our heads when we were done and I couldn't help but smile. Somehow I had confidence Alimpu would recover, despite the fact he looked in every way as if he was on his death bed. My heart soared as I knew God was in the process of building faith in the hearts of His jungle kids.
A week and a half later boys came running up to me with an excited announcement. "Alimpu is walking up the trail with his spirit bag!"                                         

Alimpu burning his Spirit bag

 I ran over to the bank at the edge of the village clearing and looked down. Sure enough, there was my frail friend leaning heavily on a walking stick, slowly working his way up the hill! It was Saturday, one day before the baptism, and I couldn't contain my excitement. "Lord, one of your kids is making a huge step of faith" I said in praise.
The spirit bag burning ceremony was simple but profound. I got goose bumps as I listened to Alimpu and two other village men face the entire village and declare their decision to permanently abandon the trail of the ancestors in order to walk on the new trail that Jesus had cleared. I had to quickly brush away tears as the three men dropped the bag full of bones and teeth and also a few spirit plants into the flames, demonstrating their faith. My heart was bursting with gratitude to the Lord the next day when these same three men and seven other villagers took a huge step of faith in public baptism. "Father, may you build deep trust in the lives of these people of the jungle, so they will be faithful to honor You, and so they will be incredibly bold to take your word to the many tribal people scattered over these mountains."                                                                   - Jonathan Kopf

Aimpu getting baptized

God allowed him to get well to be a living testimony for Him for five more years. As for me, I will forever remember the old man with the sweet smile and raspy laugh. The man, who when given a pair of shorts,  preferred to loop them through the strings tied around his waist and use them as a loin cloth rather than stepping into them the Western way because that is what was more comfortable to him. And I can't wait to see him again in heaven!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What a Week

This week started with me watching a newborn baby die as my coworker tried to give her CPR to give the poor baby girl a chance. And by newborn I mean like minutes old.

It was devastating to me to watch, even though the baby's mother had no desire to help her. "Just let it die, " she said. It was her third girl and she knew her husband wanted a boy.

It was hard to be angry at this mom, though. She is a second wife (meaning the man has two wives- not divorced) and the first wife has already given this man a son. She is also hated so much by the first wife that she has been marked as witch, had to leave her home, and now has to live in fear of her life every day.

Oh, and did I mention that her husband is one of most evil people in Hewa? He once told our coworker to leave him alone because he was working for Satan., I couldn't really be mad at Mom. In fact, I wasn't really mad at anyone. Just sad. It was the second death in two weeks, and I just really wanted to escape. Our break couldn't have been timed more perfectly.

We spent the last two days shuttling food and some preparation materials for our other coworkers who will start building their house in March. It was very fun, but also very exhausting, so we couldn't have been happier to hop on the helicopter this afternoon to start our break.

If I had known what that ride would entail, I would have just stayed in the tribe- no matter what. We flew out with beautiful blue skies, but not long into the flight we were hit hard with rain, wind and dark clouds.

Our pilot quickly made the call to land in a village with some clear areas to wait out the storm (I now love helicopters for their amazing abilities to land almost anywhere). The villagers came running up with axes and machetes (and later we saw some homemade shotguns). I knew we were in an area that was notorious for bold, sometimes violent people, but after we got out and explained that we needed to land because of the rain, they were very kind and took us inside one of their buildings while we waited. They even told us we were welcome to spend the night if the rain didn't clear up. And honestly, when you have a fear of flying and things get sketchy in the air, you would rather land in the middle of a field of hungry lions and take your chances with them.

Soon the skies cleared enough for us to take off again, so we said goodbye to our new friends. Not long after, we ran into more scary rain and thought we were going to have to land again. The pilot looked for a good place, but couldn't find one. At this point I am yelling at my kids to stop what they are doing and "PRAY TO JESUS, RIGHT NOW!" After we prayed, there was still no place to land, but the sky opened up enough for us to go safely through. Jesus knew what He was doing, because Mama may not have gotten back on the chopper if we landed that second time.

Anyway, the rest of the trip was pretty scary for me, with a lot more rain and wind, but our amazing pilot had everything under control and got us to our destination safely. I am pretty sure that I am going to have to adopt a baby boy now, just so I can name him after this pilot! My oldest daughter even told the first person we saw when we landed, "Mr. Ray saved our lives!"

So, I am writing this post to tell you that I will now be living in Goroka forever. I am sorry for all the money that all of you put into our tribal house. And I am sorry, Mom, that I will not be bringing your grandchildren to visit you in America ever again. From now on, I stay on the ground. FOREVER. That is, unless my husband tranquilizes me first.

Forever Flying Medicated in the Future,

The Tribal Wife