Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Hardest Part

It is early Monday morning. I get up and go to the radio at 8 am to try to talk with someone in Hewa. No one comes up which is a good sign (in the jungle no news is good news). I walk back to the little apartment that has become our temporary home with beads of sweat already collecting on my forehead...at 8:15 in the morning...every drop of perspiration reminds me that I am not in my village anymore. I am not walking into my home. I am not with my people.

I walk in to see my husband already at the computer working hard to gain the ear of those in the government or police force who will listen to our plea for help. He goes back and forth in conversation with a fellow missionary who is trying to help and our co-worker who is in the States. He tries to get as much background on the people and their histories as he can to give the police the most accurate and detailed report possible. Of course, their lives and stories are just a tightly entangled as the thick jungle canopy they live under. He spends all day sorting out people, relatives, past and present events. We both vent to each other (and anyone else who will listen) about our frustrations with this tragic and twisted situation.

The clock strikes four and the other missionary who has been helping us writes John Michael to tell him that he received a call from a Hewa person in town. This person reports that Wanapi (the murderer) has killed Kalefu, a man from our village. My heart falls all the way down my body, lands on my foot, and therefore cannot get blood to my head or my fingers. My head swoons, my fingers are numb, and my lungs can't seem to breathe with my heart so far away. It is a feeling I know all too well. And because I have had a lot of practice with it, I at least knew what to do this time. I quickly told my heart to get out of my foot and back where it belongs. It made the slow climb back up to my chest and began pumping blood to my brain again allowing me to think rationally.

Stop. Drop. And Roll. 

No that's not right. I wait one more minute, then I actually have the correct rational thoughts:

Stop. Don't Panic. 

This may not be true. You know how things go in the jungle. You hear lots of crazy stories, then find out later they are inaccurate or exaggerated. Wait until you hear from the village on the radio tonight. 

Calm, rational thinking. Unfortunately, my rational thinking also reminds me that every "rumor" we've heard about someone being dead has turned out to be true. But still, this is not confirmed so I will wait to be sad or panic. Radio time is at 6:40 pm. I can wait until then. What time is it now? 4:30 pm.

Never before has two hours and ten minutes seemed so long.

I have to keep busy. I wash a few dishes. The stragglers left over from lunch. I sweep the floor. I check the clock.

4:50

I begin dinner prep. I chop onions and green peppers. I saute chicken and make sour cream. Think about Kalefu's two wives and eight children. STOP. Don't go there yet. I check the clock.

5:30

I dry and put away the lunch dishes. I wash the dinner prep dishes. I check the clock.

5:50

I call my children in from outside, get them bathed, and dressed and feel envious of their innocent and carefree conversation. I smiled and nod over stories of friends, and games, and birds, and weird bugs. I am thankful that God created lovely things for His children to enjoy in such a dark and broken world. I check the clock.

6:20

My husband gives up and just goes down to wait the last twenty minutes by the radio "just to make sure I don't miss it." Like his brain would be merciful enough to let him forget. I assemble dinner plates for myself and my children and we sit down to eat. I let one of them pray. I let my heart be thankful for the things they are thankful for and... just for a minute... not question. I check the clock.

6:50

I can't believe it!!! Ten minutes late. I run down to the radio as my husband finishes his conversation with Yanis (one of our church leaders). He says that Kalefu is alive and in the village. Yanis is totally confused about this rumor we heard, but assures us that Kalefu is there and the raiders have not come yet.

Relief and joy wash over me and I praise God that for the first time since we moved into Hewa territory death was just a rumor. I make my husband tell me every bit of the conversation. I am thankful beyond any words or explanation. I walk back to the apartment. I don't check the clock anymore, and I only realize it an hour after my kids' normal bedtime (oops). My husband and I put them to bed and I followed soon after.

Even though it ended on a high note, the day has exhausted me, so I climb into bed and contemplate my time in missionary training. I scroll through the memories of my time preparing for this job and remember thinking that my duties, my actual "job" would be the hardest part of this life. You know, the language learning, homeschooling, discipling, teaching, translating, those things. They seemed so hard. And they still are, but they are not the hardest part.

The hardest part is the loving, the caring, the relationships you have with people who struggle everyday to just stay alive. Death is their shadow. Pain is their ever present companion. And being right there beside them through it all is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.

There are certainly times I want to give up and go home. No...there are times I want to go back in time and never come in the first place. Because after having seen, heard, felt, tasted, even smelled their existence, I can't shake it from who I am now. Their world, their daily lives, their very souls, have penetrated my being so deep that there is no place that I can run that they will not be with me. And it will be that way from now until the day I die. No matter when or why God removes me from Hewa physically, we will be linked through the Holy Spirit eternally. When they hurt, I will feel it as if it were my own body just as I do now. And when they rejoice, I will rejoice with them whether I am right next to them, holding their hands or if I am 9,000 miles away.

And that is the hardest part. The hardest and most beautiful part.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Payback

As most of you know by now, we are out of the tribe (again) and back in town. This week has been a whirlwind of events that I am still trying to process.

On Friday, two men in leadership positions from our mission came in to give John Michael and I language checks. One of the men brought in his wife, one of his daughters, and a girl who is here in PNG helping them with home school (cough cough, hint hint REAGAN WEBB). They planned on staying for four days so we could do the checks, have a Thanksgiving meal (because we were going to be in the tribe by ourselves during real Thanksgiving) and just have an overall good time. And the guys helped JM get our new house batteries hooked up and about 1,000 other jobs around our house/village that will make all of our lives so much easier.

On Saturday John Michael and I took our tests. John Michael passed completely and is cleared to start helping with translation and teaching in the Hewa language. I ended up on level 7 of 9, so the plan was for them to come back in six months when hopefully (and miraculously) I might be able to finish.

John Michael "winning" his language evaluation!



Sunday, with much to be thankful for, Heidi and I started preparing the Thanksgiving meal while the guys and kids took off to the waterfall.* The guys came back after about 30 minutes because the trail had overgrown and they needed to find a Hewa guy to show them the new trail. Just as they were about to leave again, we heard shouting and wailing....the bad kind... (yelling and shouting across mountains is like their way of texting, so we have had to learn which tones and sounds to worry about and which ones are just passing information). 

I immediately dropped what I was doing and ran out of the house only to see my husband half way to place where the shouting originated. We soon found out that a man was shot in a neighboring village by the same man (along with some accomplices) who killed the last witch, Yamene. We were completely confused and had no idea what was happening or why until a lady named Rosa came crying and running into the village to tell us the story.

Four men came from the village of Fiyawena where the previous witch killings took place, to the village of Pasife (just a few hours hike away from our village) and were on the hunt for anyone in Yamene's family. A man named Apiyan found out and hid Rosa who is Yamene's cousin, and when the killers learned that he did this they shot him in the stomach. So Rosa ran to our village to tell us what happened and to warn her brother, Kalefu, that they were coming for him as well. (Many of you may remember us speaking about Kalefu this past year on furlough). 

We had the basic facts but were totally confused as to the the motive for these attacks. It made no sense for Yamene's killers to be going after her family when, as far as we knew, there had been no retaliation.

Meanwhile, our guests were witnessing all this and decided that we should not remain in the tribe. We agreed as things seemed to grow increasingly more tense and because we felt like our best chance of helping our friends get police support would be from town where we could call or even plead their case in person if need be (Our email is down in the tribe and has been for several weeks, so that is why you haven't heard from us). Because the plane that currently services us is small, all ten of us couldn't fit on one plane, so we planned two trips to get everyone out. The women and children left on Tuesday...because you know...women and children first and all that...plus the plane was bringing all the rice that we helped the people purchase for drought relief and JM needed to be there to facilitate the distribution of that.**

In the 24 hours that John Michael was there after we left he was able to get the full story. All this chaos actually started earlier in the weekend when Yamene's family started yelling at Wanapi (the man who shot and killed Yamene) from across a nearby river for killing their sister/daughter/cousin. Wanapi supposedly shot at them three times, and they fired back, killing a teenage boy who was with him. So there were actually TWO murders. Wanapi then gathered his posse and went after anyone in Yamene's family he could find in a blind rage. He, of course, feels like no one should be attacking him because he was only seeking vengeance for the death of his relative, Mifila, when he shot Yamene.

So we are basically breaking out into an all out tribal war because one witch was murdered and appropriate action was not taken. One murder has now turned into three which is what you'd expect to happen when there is no law, order, and justice in place to handle these situations.

We are still kind of in shock over all that has happened, but are so thankful that there was a team of wonderful people in the tribe with us when it all transpired. It was a blessing to get some outside perspective and good Godly advice on how to handle all these things that we have never personally encountered before. I know it was a wonderful blessing to my husband to have their support during these intense circumstances.

During one meeting with the Hewa believers, they asked John Michael,  

"We need your advice. You passed your test, you are one of us now. If they attack us, do we shoot back? What does God's Word say? If we kill them will God be angry with us. Our thinking is little so you tell us what to do."

He did the best he could to steer them towards peace and resolution, even paraphrasing Jim Elliot explaining that the attackers aren't prepared for heaven but they, as believers, are. Then they asked, 
"But what about our wives and kids? If they try to shoot them, should we attack?"

At that point, he threw up his hands and told the guys that they all needed to pray for God's guidance and wisdom answering with, 
"Yes, I passed my test. I can speak your language now, but I am still just a man. With a man's thinking. We need God's thinking for this. It is too big for you and too big for me to have the right answer. Only God has the right answer for all of us."

So they prayed, and we are all continually praying for God's wisdom and guidance, and most of all His peace. We need miraculous peace in this situation that can and will only come from God. 
The family of Apiyan, who have now been drug into this whole mess.
*Obviously, they never made it to the waterfall. We are terrible hosts. Instead of breathtaking sights, we give you murder and chaos. You're welcome. 
**In drought news...we have had rain everyday in the month of November and everyone's gardens are starting to come back to life. It takes sweet potato (the staple food of the Hewa) 4 to 6 months to grow, so they are still needing rice and other foods to help support themselves until the gardens really start producing again. But we are praising the Lord that he provided rain and rice for them in their time of need.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Relief

The last five days have felt like Hewa again. Our typical day starts with the surrounding mountains tucked into their fleecy white blankets of cloud and fog. They stay that way until the sun lazily makes its way to the top of our eastern mountain and cooks off those clouds and fog. You can't even think about using any power or having a plane land before 9:30 am. The sun then takes over for the rest of the day, giving us power and everyone enough light and warmth to work. Then late afternoon, the clouds roll back in and bring rain for the evening. This is daily life here. All year long. Sure there are "rainy seasons" and "dry seasons" but that usually means a little more rain than normal or a little less rain than normal. Over the last five days, that pattern has returned giving us the rain that was so desperately needed. We are hoping and praying this pattern lasts.

The typical dry season is nothing like what we have been experiencing. This isn't a dry season, it's a drought. And during this drought the sun comes up bright and strong early in the morning, lasting all day with no clouds in sight. There has been an eery haze covering everything from all the fires burning gardens and jungle all over the country. It's like we are constantly looking through our screened windows even when we are standing out on the wide open airstrip…like there are screens on our eyes.

It took four days, but now on day five, the haze is gone and we can see the crisp clear lines of the jungle again.

So, if you are praying for rain - keep it up! We truly appreciate everyone's emails of prayer and encouragement. We also really appreciate everyone who has asked about donating money to bring in relief in the form of food supplies. Right now, we are trying to figure out a good way for you to do that. So please, hold off on sending funds specifically for drought relief until we figure out the best way for you to do so.

We recently received the unfortunate news that we can no longer get tax deductions for our children if we have foreign earned income (Which according to the IRS, we do. I guess they figure that since most other countries' child labor laws are more lax than those of the U.S. our kids must be working and supporting themselves now). Our income tax for the year has significantly increased because of this. So we are trying to figure out how you all can donate for the drought in a way that does not have to come through our personal income, as we would like to have 100% of your donations go straight to providing food for the Hewa.

The greatest thing you can do for now is pray that the rains continue. We read several news articles that said the drought is supposed to last through December because of "El Niño" but we know that God is bigger than any weather patterns. He created those weather patterns and can do with them as He wishes. If the rains continue as normal, the Hewa will need outside help for just a short time until the gardens start producing again. This is the best case scenario for all of us.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Out of Control

We still haven't had any rain. We could hear thunder coming from other mountains. Taunting us. There isn't even any dew on the ground. I walk our grass airstrip most mornings for exercise and my feet usually get soaked. By the time I come to the house my shoes are squishing out water with every step and I can ring lots of water out of my socks.

This has not happened in weeks.

There are other factors attributed to this drought that are making life hard for the people here (including us). The ground is so dry and cracked that bugs are going into the ground to eat the few sweet potatoes everyone has left. I walked through the dry anemic vines of sweet potato in my own garden yesterday thinking that it is now time for what I planted six moths ago to be harvested. Normally, harvest time for me is very frustrating. The vines are so full, thick, and tangled that it takes longer to find the original mound than it does to actually dig the potato out of the ground. This time it was very easy to see the source of the vine, although harvesting did bring some disappointment. I was able to pull out a couple of decent sized potatoes, but then noticed that I only had small nubs in other places with the obvious nibble marks of an insect's pinchers. It was hard to realize that the same thing is happening to my friends, who don't have frozen veggies to fall back on stored in freezers.

Another unexpected hardship with this drought is fire. I know that sounds dumb, because drought always brings fire problems in the U.S. but I just never considered it here. I tried to burn my trash a few days ago and the flames quickly spread into my garden. Fortunately, we were able to put the fire out pretty quickly. However, a huge part of gardening here for the Hewans includes clearing land and burning it to get ready to plant. People are still doing this in order to be ready to plant as soon as rain comes. Yesterday as one of our friends was burning a garden a good safe distance away from his house, the fire soon got out of control. The flames actually travelled underground through the dried root system, up into the stumps and logs surrounding his house. My husband had to run up there with his chainsaw and cut logs that were literally in flames, so everyone could roll them down into the river and away from his house.

Everyone is getting desperate, and is constantly coming to tell my husband that their gardens are done and in one or two weeks time they will no longer have any food to feed their children. Meanwhile he is doing all he can to plan for and get help. He's writing anyone he thinks will listen and help and we are paying for flights so that our village can buy rice. It's a lot of pressure and frustration for him. Kinda like a doctor trying to save a dying man while his entire family knocks on the door of the operating room to tell that doctor, "Did you know this man is dying? Can you help him please?" And when he tells them the days the plane is coming so they can start gathering money to buy food they ask, "What about our brothers in ________ village? Their gardens are dry too." All we can do is say we're sorry. The plane is small and can only carry so much and we can't afford to pay for a flight for every single Hewa village (there are a lot of them) nor is there an airstrip in most of these villages.

Today he held a pray meeting for all the believers to remind them that they need to put their trust in God, not him, and not the government or other aid relief. He planned to have everyone read and study Matthew 6:25-27, but then realized those verses have not been translated into Hewa yet. So here we are in the middle of the jungle, desperate to help desperate people. Doing what is supposed to be our "real job" in discipling believers in times of trouble rather than just solving all their problems for them, and we can't even share meaningful, life-giving verses to the people.

It was a great reminder, though, that this IS our real job. To get the Word in their hands because we won't be here forever. We may not be here for the next drought, but if we do our jobs correctly then God's Word will be. They won't have us to turn to - only Him, and He is a much better source of help. The ONLY source of true help and comfort.

But…that doesn't mean we sit here and do nothing. We're still doing whatever we can: writing reports, petitioning - begging everyone we can, paying for flights so they can buy rice. They may be missing a lot of God's Word right now, so we must become that Word. The living verses. Showing them that God WILL provide for them, and maybe this time he is providing through some inadequate Americans pleading their case to whoever will listen.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Random Thoughts

Since I have no internet and cannot post my every random thought that I feel like sharing with the world, I thought I would do it here. I have tried to "post by email" through facebook and twitter, but it has never worked. Our email out here is set up in a weird way (too confusing and boring to explain), so I can't set up those things while we are in town and have real internet. So, I'll just do it here.

Here are my random thoughts and the dates I had them:

9/30- We're back in the tribe! Listening to my friends tell me how all our guinea pigs, some of our chickens, and one of our cats died while we were gone. This is a typical "coming back" conversation.

9/30- It's been 30 minutes of listening to village news. I have seven more minutes before my freezer goods become a melted pile of bacteria and wasted money.

10/4- Listening to a Sunday sermon on not eating food sacrificed to idols or spirits. In the literal sense. That's a first.

10/5- My husband just ran off to try to stop a fight over a bride price. Freaked out a little. Will he come home with an arrow in his leg? #missionaryproblems

10/5- No bows and arrows, just rocks and sticks. Fight is over for now. Husband is exhausted but safe. Thank you Jesus!

10/5- The fight in the village today over pigs given in a bride price makes me question how many pigs I would be worth?

10/5- Probably not very many. I am not that great at gardening/cooking/raising pigs.

10/6- I made homemade mayonnaise today and now I feel like I can accomplish anything. Also, this should make me worth at least two more pigs.

10/9- The drought here is getting really bad. I keep hearing this phrase over and over, "My garden is dry. What will I eat?" #worried

10/16- Mia is throwing up. Vomit laundry in the jungle is THE WORST.

10/17- Up all night with a sick kid. The church horn blows at 6 am. #notgoing #badmissionary

10/17- Mia hasn't thrown up since early this morning. Going to bed. Might actually sleep tonight! PTL

10/17- My husband just woke me up to tell me there is a snake in the house, and he needs to me watch the other side of the wall to make sure it doesn't slither in here. Instead, I'm trying to figure out how to purchase international plane tickets at 11:00 at night over a satellite phone.

10/17- The snake is dead. He said it was small and not poisonous. I guess I will stop looking for the gasoline and matches.

10/17- My husband says that even if it were big and/or poisonous, he wouldn't let me burn the house down. #wordsthatleadtodivorce

10/17- Snake is gone. Kids are settled back in bed. Seriously, I WILL sleep tonight.

10/18 (a little after midnight)- Mia threw up in her bed. Another sleepless night and more vomit laundry.

10/18 (a little after midnight)- My husband said he would stay up with Mia tonight, so I could sleep. #wordsthatleadtophysicalaffection #butnottonight

10/18- There is a big village discussion going on about who Lona will marry. It is between two guys...the one with the most pigs will win. Her opinion counts the least.

10/18- Keti cut off a finger in order to marry the man she wanted. I wonder if Lona prefers either of these guys enough to go that far?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Drought

It hasn't rained a drop in 13 days. And before that, there were only a few light and random showers. If I had internet out here I would google how much rainfall the rainforest is supposed to get annually… but spoiler alert…it's a lot. I mean the whole ecosystem is named because of the absurd amount of rain that falls on it. So, as you can imagine, when you take the "rain" out of "rainforest" everything sort of collapses. 

We are on the verge of collapse now. Here are some things we've heard in conversations just in the last three days…

"Everything I just planted is ruined. Nothing is growing."

"My new garden is completely dry."

"My garden isn't making food, so I am wondering, 'What will I eat?'"

A couple of days ago we walked around several gardens to see the damage, and honestly, it was frightening. We felt the impending burden of hundreds of hungry bellies placed on our shoulders. 

But the latest statement/question really got to me...

"Can you give me milk for my piglets? Two have already died because they root in the ground for food but there is nothing there."

 If/when the pigs start dying, people are gonna lose it. 

Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions for us. There are no provincial government funds to feed these people. I have no doubt, that we could raise enough money to feed our village (and maybe even a couple of others) to get them through these next few months, but that will bring a lot of trouble into our backyard. 

We could feed the Hewans, but if no one is feeding their more aggressive neighbors who are used to bullying whoever it takes to get what they want when they want it, then guess where they will come to get their food?

Right now there are some people with a large local company who are trying to raise funds/supplies to help. We're praying that it is enough help for the surrounding area so our people don't become targets/victims for their hungry, angry neighbors. And we aren't certain how much or how often this food will come. These people have no way to store food long term. Rats will eat anything not in sturdy containers (which the people don't have). There are no refrigerators, freezers, or even can openers. We're praying for answers to all of these obstacles, but most of all we're praying for rain. 

My poor husband is shouldering most of this burden. Thankfully, one of the first Hewa missionaries who is now in a leadership position here in PNG, made the contact for the company who is trying to help. So, John Michael has been emailing reports, collecting data, taking and sending pictures (not easy over a short-wave radio). All the while having to stop to listen to someone else in the village telling him how bad it is and begging for help. Between breaking up fights, listening to complaints, and writing reports, he has accomplished a lot in the last two weeks. My greatest accomplishments were making homemade mayonnaise (in the blender, not even by hand) and getting my kindergartener to successfully write the letter "e" (it's a tough one, y'all). Basically, the only support I offer him is... "I'm sorry for all that is going on, here is a sandwich (with mayonnaise) and at least you can celebrate that your child won't be illiterate for much longer."

It seems like the really difficult things always happen here while one set of co-workers is in America. While we were gone, the huge measles outbreak happened and I'm pretty sure Susan didn't sleep at all for six weeks straight. And now we're here trying to figure out how to feed people who live day to day off of the food they grow in the ground when the ground won't grow any food. 

Jesus take the wheel. And you guys take a knee…or two. 



Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Fight

We arrived back into the village about a week and a half ago. It already feels like months. When we were on furlough, a couple of people asked me, "Don't you get bored out there?" Ha! I would love a chance to get bored! I would marry bored if it ever came to visit me out here! 

When we got back there was the normal checking of the house/unpacking/catching up with the people. I have learned exactly how many minutes* I can leave boxes full of frozen goods on my floor while I visit with Hewa ladies. It always feels kinda jerkish to come back after a break, give a quick, "What's Up?" and go straight into the house to unpack. 

The house was good. Nothing broken or stolen and no rats (Please sing the Hallelujah chorus with me). And even though the spiders wrapped every single solitary thing they could in cobwebs, I outsmarted them by putting every single solitary thing I could in a plastic tub or drum, so HA Spiders! I win. Although, it didn't feel like a win as I was unpacking every single solitary thing we own. 

As I was visiting with my friend, Ofa, I found out that there had been a bride price payment right before we arrived and there would be another one in the next week. My anxiety rose slightly as I knew that this was an event where a lot of people from surrounding villages would be here and a lot of those people would be looking for a fight. It gets real around here when people start passing out pigs and money. 

A few days later I hear a one of the many yells/chants that Hewans use to communicate to the whole village. It didn't sound good, but I didn't hear the tale-tell high pitched "oooooh-WOO" at the end which usually means death, so I didn't worry too much. Then I started hearing screaming. Then there was all the running. Hewans running is never a good sign. They can out walk/hike Bear Gryllis, but they rarely ever run. My kids were in my co-workers Mulberry tree, so I yelled at them to get down and get in the house. My husband was 600 meters away at the bottom of the airstrip cutting grass on the tractor. I ran to where I knew he could see me and jumped up and down while waving my arms. Those still running toward the fight, stopped to give me a questioning look, then started running again…(an even worse sign when you don't care that the white lady is doing something weird.) John Michael drove as fast as he could on the tractor (not very fast) up to me to see what was going on. When I told him it was a fight, he jumped off the tractor and headed in the direction of the yelling. 

I went back to house with the kids, and tried to get in touch with someone on our mission base just in case things got out of hand and we needed to fly out…the next day…it was 5 pm. There would be no flying out until the next day no matter how bad it got. 

Fortunately, people were only armed with sticks and rocks, and John Michael was able to take them away from most and in one case, spike a huge rock to ground as the person holding it started flinging it towards his target. I told you, these people don't play about pigs, y'all. 

It turns out, some guys from another village got mad because no one paid them a pig in the bride price, so they circled two people's houses with guns while calling out fighting words (chants). Then they just stole the pigs they wanted. And they stole them from the two most hot headed guys in our village, so naturally a fight ensued. John Michael was able to get everyone calmed down, and some of our Bible teachers acted as middle men to get everything under control until they could all formally discuss and appropriately punish the instigators. 

Then the next day, there was another bride price. 

We attended this one as a family and listened to an impassioned speech by the groom's family telling the bride's family that a fair price is being paid, and if anyone on their side is mad about not getting a pig then you have to deal with it within your family. It seemed to work pretty well because the only fight with this bride price was between two brothers. There isn't really a way for a bunch of people to take sides in their own family so they just calmed them down and worked it out. 

And that was our week. How was yours? 

*37- this is the tropics

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Missionary Thank You Notes


I decided to follow the lead of my two very best *friends, Jimmy Fallon and Jen Hatmaker and write some of my own thank you notes to a few things that make missionary life great!

Thank you extraneous letters in the English alphabet (I’m looking at you letter c). You make home schooling a nightmare, yet meet the needs of every missionary working on creating an alphabet for an unwritten language. How could we possibly represent all these different vowel sounds without you? In fact, without you, our translations would look more like alien languages and less like a bunch of kindergarteners putting random letters together to tell Bible stories.

Portions of scripture translated into Hewa language. Don't worry, it's supposed to look like that.

Thank you missionary guesthouse kitchens for coming fully equipped with four five- inch skillets, 17 dull peelers, grapefruit spoons, and one 20-gallon pot. Frying four separate individual eggs for breakfast, making gouged vegetable salad for lunch, and enough spaghetti to feed an entire prison (just noodles no sauce) was exactly what I had written down in my weekly meal planner. I also really enjoyed remembering that grapefruit exists since I have never seen one in this country! It is amazing how well you anticipate my needs!

Thank you tropical weather for ruining so many things in my life. My peeled and rusting non-stick cookware, the mold growing in my expensive camera lens, and every now useless electronic that I thought I couldn’t possibly live without are all great reminders that I should only be storing up treasures in heaven. I also now realize why my village neighbors still live in the stone-age. I bet one of their great great-great grandfathers actually invented the iPod but after you quickly destroyed it he realized there would be no market for this device and went back to making whatever he wanted out of sticks and leaves.

Thank you also, flights in small aircraft in tropical weather. You make heaven feel nearer and my prayer life stronger with every flight!

Thank you host culture fashion for making me feel like I “blend in” but actually making me look like I am trying to celebrate Halloween all year long.

Thank you fashion of my home culture for changing so rapidly, no matter how often I come back to you I always look outdated. I love that when walking around in public my family can be easily recognized as missionaries or mistakenly pegged for people who were accidentally locked in a bunker for the last 10 years.

*imaginary

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Spirit and Truth

I have had such a hard time writing lately. I told my husband that I think I have writer's block. Although, I don't know if that is a thing only real writers are allowed to say. But basically, I have a thought, open my computer, get ready to type, have a mini panic attack, slam the computer shut because somehow the few words that I actually hammered out fell down to the bottom of the page like ashes and rose as a Phoenix that came out of the computer and tried to eat me.

Is that writer's block? Or is that something that needs therapy?

Anyway, my husband told me to just write and see what happens. He told me to look at pictures and get inspired from the things I see in them. That was actually great advice and apparently he is a genius. (He's been telling me this for years, but it is hard to recognize someone's genius when you are constantly cleaning their toenail clippings off of end tables. He actually hasn't done that in a long time which may be why the veil has been lifted and I can now see him in all his intellectual glory). 

The pictures worked, I think, because everything here in this missionary life is starting to become normal to me. I don't have quite as many feelings about every single thing that I experience during the day like I did in the beginning. And it is hard to come up with words when there are no feelings attached.

But the pictures....

The pictures make feelings. Lots of feelings.

Like this one...


This is the day that Baby Girl's heart stopped beating several times and Susan breathed for her for hours until we all thought it was over, but God decided it wasn't and she became Talitha.

In the picture Susan is actually giving the baby chest compressions while the mother holds her hand over the baby's fontanel.

Hewans believe that the spirit of the baby can very easily slip out of the infant's soft spot causing the baby to die. It sounds crazy but it is actually pretty logical from their perspective. The infant mortality rate has historically been very high (around 85%), more than any other age group. So, what is visibly different about babies that makes them so vulnerable? This little spot on the tops of their heads that after it closes seems to significantly lessen the chances that the baby will die.

If you don't know any different. It makes perfect sense.

This is a great example on why becoming very fluent in your people's belief and culture is crucial in discipleship.  Is this truly an animistic practice or is it just like that time we all thought the world was flat? Understanding must precede teaching.

Sure the word "spirit" is involved, but the baby does have a spirit or soul. That is a Biblical truth.  We do not believe that a person can prevent the spirit of an infant from leaving it's body, and therefore control life and death. God ordains life and death and only He directs a person's spirit once the flesh is no more.

But for the Hewan, the spirit is just as much a part of the body as the arm or face or lungs or heart. As Susan breathes air into those tiny lungs and pumps blood through her little body with the pressure of two fingers to keep her alive, the mother does her part to keep the spirit in the body, so it can do its function as well.

But while this seems to be a more benign act than say, sacrificing a pig so that external spirits will intercede and save the life of the child, it does display the root of the belief that spirits, all of them, can be controlled or manipulated for the benefit of people. The simple act of the hand on that tiny baby's head says, "I have some control over the spirit of this child." It shows us, the missionaries, the disciplers, that there needs to be a distinction made over the flesh and the spirit. (Many of the more mature believers do already know this, but we still see it a lot with parents and infants, so it is still an issue). Does it mean that anyone who does this is not a true believer? Absolutely not. As people from a Western culture with heavy secular humanism influences, there are probably hundreds of things we do or say everyday that come from a non-Biblical worldview and we don't even realize it. It doesn't mean we aren't saved. It means we need to be taught and to grow and this will be a need we have until we die. This is true of all people everywhere in every cultural context.

The significance for us is simply in investigating and understanding the people. From our perspective seeing this act would simply mean the mother is trying to keep the baby warm or protect that soft spot. If there is no investigation then we would have missed a significant outward behavior of their internal thought process. (Fortunately for us, our co-workers are champions of not only language but also culture study and have been steadily showing us the things as they have learned about Hewa culture over the last 15 years). 

If we simply assume that a behavior has a specific purpose based on our own background then we miss huge opportunities for understanding the cultural context in which we are trying to teach. Without that context the message gets blurred, misunderstood, and often completely rejected.

One of my (favorite) Bible professors* in college used to always say, "The context is the message." Meaning that the Bible must be understood in the context that it was originally written. And is is equally important to understand the context of the opposing culture or worldview in which you are now introducing Biblical truth.

For instance, a person with a secular humanism worldview you would have to start with the truth that there is a spirit world. You don't have to do this with a Hewan. They know the spirit world exists, but need to know Biblical truths about the spirit world and what it means in their daily lives.

And this is applicable no matter where you minister. You have to really know where people are coming from, their background, their thought processes before you can speak deeper truths into their lives. It's why relationships are so important in discipleship and why YOU are so significant to in reaching the people that surround you in life. You have the opportunity to really dig into- just like we do- their worldview. You can hear their stories, know their thoughts and feelings as certain events play out in their lives, and you can really minister to them in deep in meaningful ways.

But just like us, you have to put in the time, energy, and sometimes awkwardness and difficulty it takes to get to know and understand someone. You can't just assume they think like you do.

It is a high calling that God has given to all believers everywhere. Because He wants us all to one day be able to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

*Big G, I dare not hope that you ever have or ever will read this blog, but if you do, please know that I consider everything I learned from you pure gold and have tried desperately to hold onto everything you taught me even though pregnancy brain and the long sleep-deprived infant years took most of my high-order thinking skills. I'm not even sure I was saved before I took your Teachings of Jesus class. I have also considered getting "the context is the message" tattooed several times. Thank you. That is all.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

You live WHERE?


This picture was taken in town last week. You read that correctly. TOWN. We were on our way back from hanging out at a local pool/restaurant with some friends (Aaron Jex- long time no shout out). And this is what we saw driving down the road next to us.

This is not an everyday occurrence in town, though. This past weekend an event occurred in the town of Goroka where several of the area tribes dress up and do cultural dances and songs. And if you so desire and have 150 Kina, then you can watch. We opted out.

Anyway, whenever we come to town in PNG, no matter what town that is, we speak to nationals about where we're from and where we live now. The conversation almost always goes like this: (I'll spare you the Melanesian Pidgin and go straight to the English translation)

National Person: "Where are you from?"

Us: "America, but we live here now."

National Person: "Where do you live? Here or in another town?"

Us: "We live in the bush. A place called Hewa in the Enga Province"

National Person- looks horrified then lowers and shakes head side to side: "That is a really bad place. Those people are lawless, violent, and stuck in the old ways."

Us: "It's not that bad." 

We were used to hearing the horror and shock from our Western friends when we told them we were moving to New Guinea, but hearing horror and shock from our New Guinea friends when we told them we were moving to Hewa was a surprise.

It is funny to us now because we are so used to it, and also because our village is the exact opposite of what they describe (thank you Jesus). Everywhere around us is a pretty accurate portrayal of that description, but our place is relatively happy and peaceful.

We also frequently hear about how far out or remote we are. When other missionaries come in they often say, "Wow you guys are really out here." Or something similar. But again, when we heard the same thing from PNG Nationals we kind of did a double take. A few Community Health developers from a national hospital came to do some instructional classes for our people last May and mentioned that all their coworkers were teasing them about coming so deep into the jungle.

Even Les Stroud "Survivorman" when asked to be sent to the most remote place in all of Papua New Guinea was sent to...wait for it...Hewa.  (Please note that if you have seen that episode of his show it is mostly...false...false is a polite way to put it)

Because the Lord has blessed us with an airstrip and an amazing aviation team, and because we joined a work that already had a young church, we don't always feel the remoteness and isolation in those ways. 

Ironically, one of the biggest reminders or eye-openers of our people group's remoteness came from a series of emails from our own mission describing the changing world and how very few untouched and monolingual tribes are left and our need to adjust our strategies for reaching people groups.

But I am sitting in the middle of one of those tribes as I read those emails. Sure there are other religious influences, but not many, and not many people have allowed themselves to be influenced. And we have a few people who speak basic Pidgin (our national language), but probably only a handful that I would consider fluent (and only one person in our village). Yet there are thousands of Hewans scattered all over the Central Mountain Range speaking their own dialect of Hewa (that is totally different from ours and neither we or our people can understand them) and only their dialect. They are constantly asking us for missionaries or to at least come teach them, but no one can. And there is no way that they could understand our translation of the Bible.

So then I realize that our people are really "out there". I am sure there are other missionaries reading this and giving me a big eye roll thinking that I am doing that thing that some missionaries do trying to prove that their work is the ______ (fill in the superlative) in the ______ (fill in the category) but I promise I am not. For us Westerners ALL these places are remote and out there. I thank Jesus everyday that our airstrip is in my front yard and I don't have to canoe down a river to get to it. Sure your people consider that a "road" but to everyone from the modern world...just no. And for those people who have an actual road, I cringe at the tales of your drives back and forth to town. So, I promise I'm not competing. We all have it rough and let's all let out a collective sigh of frustration. SIIGGHHH. There. Moving on...

So the Hewans are very isolated. It is very difficult for them to get anywhere that isn't home. Therefore they have mostly stayed monolingual, and with it being so difficult to get even to the next village, the dialects have developed into distinct languages. And that makes me worry about them. I worry because they are all called "Hewa" and yes, the "Hewa" have heard the Gospel and yes there is a "Hewa" translation in the works. But this translation will only be able to be read by a few hundred of the thousands of people classified as "Hewa." It's like handing a Spanish Bible to the Portuguese and Italians and saying, "You're welcome!" I'm terrified that there are thousands who will be overlooked simply because they bear the name "Hewa." And there is so much pressure and guilt as I post these pretty pictures of "Hewans" in church on this blog and the internet thinks, "Praise the Lord, the Hewans are reached!" while thousands still live in darkness.

Bottom line. These people are remote. Isolated. Monolingual. Animistic. They are still out there and they still need missionaries. We can't learn all the Hewa dialects. We are already a team of missionaries who speak two separate dialects. Did you read that?? We don't speak the same dialect as our own coworkers! It's crazy!

So I'm asking you now. Will you pray? Or better yet...Will you come? We need you. They need you. Sure it is an extreme place with an extreme people. But that also produces extreme change. And it is an extreme privilege and blessing to get to experience it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sick in the Jungle

When you get sick in the jungle it is really…interesting. There are several things you know to look for and several things you know how to treat and when you do those things and it doesn't work you have to get some outside help. Your goal is to get outside help via email or the short wave radio. What you don't want is to have to leave the tribe to get outside help.

Yesterday, I wanted to talk to the doctor over the radio because our email was not working very well. However, the doctor's radio was broken, so I tried to call him on our satellite phone. The satellite phone wouldn't connect. Very frustrating. Email finally worked, and the doctor asked us some questions and suggested a few things, but nothing seemed to really point to a clear diagnosis, so after much frustration I decided that we should just go ahead and plan to fly out of the tribe for John Michael to see the doctor since email wasn't really helping either of us out.

So, my husband is not and was not ever dying. I wrote a few people just to tell them that John Michael was sick, and I have given all the medicine I know to give because I am not a doctor. I asked for prayer because I didn't want to spend the money and do the work it would take to leave the village. I meant we were out of options ***IN THE TRIBE*** not out of options for John Michael's life. And because it is hard to communicate clearly over email (see the paragraph above) it got really blown out of proportion and somehow people thought my husband was dying.

He was never close to dying. Ok, maybe once after the third night of him being up all night with fevers, moaning and groaning and waking me up to tell him how bad he felt, he came close to dying…if you know what I'm saying. Wives, if you've ever treated the "man flu" then you know what I'm saying…

Anyway, he's fine. We think he has something called Dengue Fever which is not fatal, but will have him feeling like he has the flu for a few weeks.

We're still going to leave the tribe tomorrow (we were supposed to leave today, but there were issues with the plane) because I packed up this whole house, and gave all my good food away- my white potatoes, my passionfruit- it's all in a Hewa person's belly now, so we're headed out.

I promise as soon as we get out to internet land tomorrow I will post a picture of my very much alive husband!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Quick Update

We learned yesterday that the police flew into the village where the two women were recently killed and arrested one person involved in the murder of Yamene and immediately flew back into town to imprison him. Most people here are saying that he is not the actual killer- that his brother pulled the trigger that put the bullet in her chest- but the brother ran into the jungle when he heard the plane flying in. The father of these two brothers is still in the village. Most are saying that he was not actually involved but went along to try to stop his sons. Again, there is not a great way to validate this, we just have to go with what the majority are saying.

We are still uncertain as to why Yamene was killed, but most of the Hewans here still believe it was a revenge killing for the death of Mifila. Because of this, there is a lot of anger and tension that nothing was done to bring justice to Mifila's killers. It is a big mess right now, so please pray for wisdom and calm hearts and heads for all of those who feel they were wronged.

Please also keep in mind that Mifila's killers came from a village that is at least a day's hike away with no airstrip or roads in. It will be very difficult to catch and prosecute them anytime soon, if ever.

Please continue to pray for justice, and for God's truth to shine brightly from this side of the jungle. Pray that their eyes will be opened to the truth and they will see, the same as others have seen, that even though they continually kill "witches" people continue to get sick and die. This is not solving the problem of sickness, pain, and death in the world. Pray that their ears will be opened to hear the truth that Jesus solved that problem for them- not by taking someone else's life, but by giving up His own.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Good News

After months of what seems like nothing but bad news, I'm thrilled to finally have some good news to share... 

John Michael recently had a language evaluation and even though the days before were filled with running around trying to handle every thing he could with the latest witch killing AND even though he had the beginnings of malaria at the time- his test went extremely well. 

The language rating system here goes up to 10 levels and the language consultants put him at around 9.5!! They plan on coming back in November and feel confident that he will be completely done with language study and will be able to assist our co-workers in Bible translation, lesson writing, and teaching. This is an incredible boost of encouragement for us in what has been a really chaotic return from furlough. 
 
(I still have a long way to go, for those of you who are wondering, but that is pretty normal for a mom who is just working on language part-time). 

 Now for the bad news…well, not actually bad news. I guess it is technically no news. We still don't have any solid info on the recent murder. Many people from our village left to various other villages around us to try to find some answers. As soon as we know something new, we will be sure to send out another update. 

Thank you…all of you…who continue to follow and pray for the Hewa work and ministry. Your prayers humble us, carry us, and connect us with the Father in a unique and precious way. They give us strength and hope to endure each day the Lord brings us. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Witch for a Witch

Still no "real" news about what really happened with Yamene's murder. Our people feel pretty confident, though, that because the murderer was related to Mifila (the woman who was killed in May) that this was a revenge killing. Yesterday as we talked individually with different villagers almost everyone said the same thing…

"Mifila's family asked for help from the police and told them they wouldn't kill in revenge. They would do what is right and wait for the police to come, but now they have waited for a long time and the police didn't come, so they killed Yamene in revenge."


Mifila, pictured here with two of her three children was brutally murdered on May 18th.

Revenge, vengeance, retaliation,  such an ugly words. The purpose simply to inflict the same pain on someone that they inflicted on you. Yet no one is helped or comforted. Another innocent person suffers.  

Revenge doesn't actually seek out the person who committed the crime in the first place. Revenge finds an easy target. Revenge is so easy. It is much easier to just slaughter a defenseless woman right next door than to hike around the jungle to find the actual killers who would probably harm you in the process. No, revenge is easier and safer. 

They were in need of justice. Justice brings resolution. Those who are actually responsible for the crime are held accountable. But justice is hard out here, and is in need of support. 

Of course, we know that the ultimate justice can only come from God. And only He can truly stop this madness. But it is hard to sit back and watch a people who have heard the truth and rejected it continue on in this self-destructive manner. And in all honesty, it would be hard to stay here without personally knowing and connecting with the Hewans here whose hearts have been changed by God and His Word. 

They are the little light. And this little light is slowly drawing people to its Source. People from surrounding villages slowly trickle in to see how and why these people live so differently. Their answer to that question is always, "Jisas". Jesus is why they live differently. Jesus is why they have laid down their axes, guns, bows and arrows when someone dies. Instead they pick up the sword of the spirit and read the truth about why sin and death have entered the world and what God has done to conquer them. 

Thanks to all of you who have emailed us with your kind words of encouragement during this time of frustration, chaos, and tragedy.  We draw our strength from the Lord and from the evidence of His work in this place through the Hewa believers, watching them live our their testimony of faith in this dark and difficult jungle. We hope and pray that they are an encouragement to you as well. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Another Murder

We just learned that there was another murder in our neighboring village of Fiyawena (the village where our co-workers started the Hewa work). A woman named Yamene was killed by a man and his two sons. Right now we have very little information on this and we know it will take several days for us to hear the whole story. 

But one thing we are certain of is this- we are desperate for help in this situation. The police still have not come even though we heard that they were granted the money to do so. The murderers are bolder than ever, feeling confident that they can satisfy their blood lust with zero consequences. 

We are asking you now to pray. Below is a list of the women who we know are marked as witches in that village. As you can see two names are already crossed out. In the last few months we have evacuated 3 families (around 25 people) and none of them are on this list. There are so many…TOO MANY…innocent women and children who are marked in villages all across Hewa territory to evacuate. If there is no intervention from the outside world this will only continue. 

And if anyone is able to find the articles that were posted online regarding these events, please keep sharing them. Please share them and inform people that this is STILL happening and there is STILL no help. Please share the articles again and again. Wear your "I Love Witches" shirts again and again. Be that annoying person who only posts "bad news" on social media. Because that "bad news" is actually a person. People. Many of them. Their names are written below. Help us not have to cross another name off of this list. 




Tuesday, July 7, 2015

They made it out!!!

A year and a half ago, John Michael hiked over the mountain to a neighboring village and listened to a desperate woman begging to be evacuated, tell him that she didn't want want to be murdered. Her exact words were, "I don't want to be cut up with axes and machetes". 
Her name was Usam. She was being threatened and we started making a plan to get them out. The threats kind of fizzled, so the family gave up trying to get her out. 

Then Mifila was murdered and they came running, telling us that now they are ready to leave. We were relieved knowing that Usam could finally stop living in fear, until different family members came out of the jungle demanding they stay. 

It was a very close call, so close that they didn't relent until the plane was about to take off, but everybody made it out during the evacuations of the last two days except for Mifila's children. We are sad for those children, but are very encouraged that Usam and her family (including the teenage daughter mentioned in the last post) were allowed to go.

We had to throw a Hewa style fit to get it done, but we got them out (hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right). There was a lot of yelling and I think at one point I even yelled that I was going to throw all my stuff out my window, onto the airstrip and they could just have it all, but my desperate rage has given me a little amnesia over the last two days (probably a good thing). As the plane was being loaded with the other family who was leaving we heard every excuse under the sun about why Usam and her children could not go out. They varied greatly but were all equally ridiculous. We knew the real reason was that her extended family was going to miss out on a lot of pigs and money from bride prices of her daughters. Their last excuse was simply, we don't have the money to pay for the flight, so my co-worker, runs in her house grabs a wad of cash and starts waving it in the air saying, "Here is the money. What's your excuse now???" 

And it worked. 

At that point there were only two seats left on the plane, so we put Usam's two teenage girls on it, so no one could change their minds. The next day, with the two bride prices already in the new village, they allowed Usam and all her little children to board the plane and fly away to safety. 

Thank you all so much for praying. I can't tell you what a miracle and a relief it was to see them all go. But please continue to pray for this horrible practice. We have now evacuated almost an entire village. God has been so merciful to provide us with a place to send them, but this can't go on forever. The village that takes them in has a burden for these women and feels that God really wants them to help. Please pray for them as well. It takes a lot of work and resources to take these families in, who don't speak the same language, don't build houses the same way, can't swim or build canoes, can't fish, and who are in serious culture shock. 

It is not a perfect solution, but it is good enough to save lives, so we are still doing it. As long as God allows we will evacuate these innocent women and children. Because we can't help but remember those being mistreated, as if we felt their pain in our own bodies. (Hebrews 13:3)

Sitting with Usam the day before she left

Weaving string bags with Tisam as she waits for her evacuation flight

Tisam and her her kids ready to go

Our pilots are our partners in evacuating these women and children

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Talitha Koum

The summer of 2013 was an incredibly difficult one for us…actually the whole year of 2013 was difficult, but the worst, most difficult time came that summer. We experienced two suicides of young boys in our village that summer- one of whom was my husband's language helper and best friend in the village. It was shocking and horrifying and in the center of it seemed to be one family

Was, Kai, Efoko, Nifi, Salipom, and Nosem. "Was," the father of the clan has a good heart and though he gets things wrong sometimes in his ignorance and immaturity, he seems to genuinely want to follow the Lord. He is also the father of four of our main church leaders. They have different mothers who had all passed away many years before, so he is now married to Kai, an angry woman who wants nothing to do with the Lord (even though she gave a clear testimony and was baptized years before in an outreach by one of the Hewa church leaders, who also happened to be her step-son). Kai's son Efoko had come to our village bringing with him his wife who is from another language group- a language group that is known for their violence and oppression against Hewa people. We have banned anyone from this group from coming into our village because if they get sick and die here, then their relatives will raid our village and kill one of our ladies as a witch (see the previous blog's about Mifila's murder for an example of this). Kai and Efoko became angry that his wife was not allowed into the village and started a fight with another family over it by stealing their pig. Meanwhile there is ongoing drama with their daughter Salipom.

Salipom was married to Samato against her will. He bought her from her family and called her his wife even though she would consistently tell people "that is NOT my husband." Salipom wanted desperately out of this arranged marriage and she thought the best way to make her escape was by making this man who paid for her no longer want her. If he demanded his pigs and money back, then she would be free. She refused to sleep with her husband causing both the husband and her brother Nifi to beat her until she conceded. 

During all this their youngest child, a son of about 14, Nosem started having dreams. He dreamt that he died and went to heaven and his brother Nifi died and went to hell. Nosem pretty much stopped sleeping altogether, and Was became very worried about him. A month later, Nosem hung himself in the jungle just a short distance from his house. 

Salipom refused to sleep with her husband but she ran to the arms of Atipz who slept with her, impregnated her, then killed himself because of it. She lost the baby (which we believe she did on purpose) and left a wake of grief and shock behind her, but did not accomplish her goal. She was still married. 

Back to Efoko and the stolen pig…a young boy named Etike confronts Efoko about the pig he stole from his family and Efoko punches him in the face and insults him for being a Christ follower. Etike then goes out to try to earn the money he needs to bring Efoko to court to try to get his pig back. On this outing, Etike crosses a rotten vine bridge over a raging river and drowns. 

This family decides to move out of our village because it is full of "evil spirits" that are causing all this death- not their attitudes and actions. And honestly, all I can think is "good riddance'" and all I can feel is relief. (not what a good missionary is supposed to think and feel)

Back to Salipom… she continued on this path of adultery in this other village where she now lives, this time finding a 15 year old boy who was easily seduced. This time her husband did demand his pigs and money back, but when she discovered she was pregnant again (and this one stuck this time) realizing that a 15 year old boy will not marry her and help her take care of a baby, she begged this husband that she has been trying to get rid of for so long with so many devastating consequences to stay with her. And he did. 

The family decides to move back to our village. I guess all the evil spirits are gone now that this girl can no longer live in the other village with the boy she cheated on her husband with. How very accommodating of those evil spirits. (at this point you should be able to notice my bitterness and cynicism pretty easily- a good missionary would try to hide it- an even better missionary wouldn't feel it- I'm pretty much failing at this point)

Nine months later a baby girl is born. We are all cautiously watching waiting to see how this mother will care for this child. Will she truly love it and do her best to keep it alive in a very harsh environment. Will she attach to this illegitimate child or will she be glad to be rid of her? My hardened heart towards Salipom and her family told me no. Don't even begin to hope- it will only leave you disappointed. When I held baby girl on the day of her birth my heart ached for the family and situation she'd been born into and I prayed that God would intervene in her little life, so she would know love and know Him in spite of the people who would raise and influence her.

Three weeks later the baby becomes very sick as most three week old babies in this village do. Mothers are instructed to bring their babies to medical workers at the first sign of illness. Most get infections at the sight of the umbilical cord because it is not kept clean and dry. The majority of mothers do this and the babies get proper antibiotics and live. Salipom did not. She waited a day. One day. And this baby girl became so sick that she stopped breathing. I felt angry, but not surprised as it looked as though this baby would be one of the countless others in this jungle to die of sepsis in its early weeks of life. I was surprised, however to see that the mother along with other villagers are carrying the tiny body into the church to wail over her. Most of the time nobody cries for an infant that small. I thought to myself, "Salipom is just trying to pretend like she is really sad to remove the shadow of doubt that will come over her if this baby dies." But as they wail, the baby opens her eyes and starts breathing again, so my co-worker takes her and examines her thoroughly. She breathes on her own for a while, but then stops again, so Susan performs CPR until she recovers. This goes on for for six hours. All the while Was, Salipom's father is telling her that this is happening because of all the fighting between her husband and herself and tells her she needs to confess her sin(not exactly right, but he is not blaming witches* or sacrificing a pig to the spirits so it is a step in the right direction), so Salipom confesses her infidelity in front of everyone which is shockingly humble for her, and I can't help but feel a glimmer of hope that she cares for this baby. If she is willing to shame herself so publicly for the life of this child, surely she feels some love and attachment? We make a mental note that this is something we need to address in discipleship and keep praying. We spent all day at the church watching this baby stop breathing, listening to the mother wail, Susan giving CPR, baby starts breathing again, wailing stops, then it all starts over. The times I held her in my arms to give Susan a break, I couldn't help but notice her color fading. Her ashen face and blue lips made my own breath become more difficult. Eventually it gets harder and harder to bring the baby back and during a particularly long stint of Susan breathing for baby, Salipom takes the child to the front of the church and starts wailing which signifies that the baby is truly gone and it is time for the funeral to start. We all sit back, our hope exhausted and grief starting to settle in when my husband notices that the babies eyes are opened. I knew that the child would probably struggle for breath a few more times as she had done all day, but without Susan breathing for her, she would surely die. I had to get up and leave, but I just couldn't watch the child struggle for breath, and not get any help.

I walked back to my house to cry and deal with my anger at all the death and sadness that this family has caused, angry at myself for letting that lit bit of hope into my heart, but after a while I realized there was no wailing. I went back up to the church to see the mother cradling her baby who was sleeping and breathing peacefully in her arms. My husband told me that after I left, the baby was breathing, so the mother began to nurse, and the baby latched on and drank very strongly- a huge sign of life. Since that time the baby was able to breath on her own for good. The mother then took her home and she lived through the night. Over the next few days, Salipom and her husband made sure that the baby received her medicine right on time and took very good care of their very sick, but very much alive little girl. 

I started to be cautiously optimistic that Salipom was actually caring for this baby. That she was genuinely loving someone other than herself, but I there are times that I am still choking down the doubt and dislike I have for this girl and her family. I pray everyday for God to give me the strength to love them as He does even though I don't feel love for them. Even though I still feel anger and even bitterness at the hurt they have caused so many. I pray that this baby girl who God miraculously brought back to life will soften their hearts and turn them toward Him. 

God then filled my heart with supernatural hope yesterday when Susan told me that Salipom asked her to finally give this baby girl a name. Susan chose perfectly the name "Talitha" (pronounced Talita by the Hewa who do not have the "th" sound in their language) from Mark 5:41 where Jesus raises a little girl from the dead saying "Talitha Koum" which means "Little Girl, get up". 

Tears fill my eyes as I write this knowing what God can do- what I have already seen Him do- in the life of this little girl who He commanded to get up…and she did. And also knowing what He can do in my own heart. That He can give me love and hope for a family who has caused me so much pain and reason to doubt. Missionary work is messy and ugly most of the time. That is not what most people will tell you because that is not what most people want to hear, but it is the truth. But we do it because we know that God is beautiful and He brings beauty to the most degrading and disgusting things. We don't do it because we love the people, because sometimes we don't. That is the harsh truth that you probably don't want to hear from your missionary, but I am saying it anyway. Sometimes we just don't love them. We can't love them in our grief, terror, fury. Our hearts and our flesh are too weak. Too human. We don't stay because we love them, but because we love God and He ALWAYS loves them. And He ALWAYS loves us, and somehow through them causing us pain, and us building walls to guard ourselves against them, He breaks through all this sin, and hurt, and failure on both sides and does something miraculous. He tells a baby girl to "get up" and brings us all to a point where we forget each other and the hurt between us and we remember Him. We remember who He is and what He does for all of us. We stay with attitudes like Jonah begrudgingly doing our jobs. But God is faithful to move and work in our hearts, humbling us until we have attitudes like Paul's- ready to give up even his own salvation if it means that others would come to faith in Christ.


Giving Susan a little break...

Susan giving Talita CPR for the last time...


*There are several women and children in our village right now who are preparing to evacuate to another village to avoid being killed. During the entire day of worrying about the baby, we were also worrying what would happen to these women if the baby died. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thank You

This is just a quick update to say a huge thank you to everyone who prayed for "Baby Girl" (still no name). It was a long and emotionally taxing day but she did survive. Praise the Lord! It was truly a miracle!

The baby stopped breathing and her heart even stopped beating several times during the day, but my co-worker, Susan, was able to revive her through CPR. We sat at the church all day with the family wailing, and just waiting for the time to come when breathing for the baby just wasn't enough anymore. We thought that time had come when the mother took the baby from Susan after a very long period of her giving mouth to mouth and chest compressions with the baby not responding. The mother signaling to us that she was ready to let the baby go, took her from Susan's arms went to the front of the church (the place for a funeral) and everyone gathered around to wail and mourn. We watched as a lifeless baby was being rocked and stroked and pulled on by grieving relatives. She would take a few sporadic breaths occasionally, but was not breathing consistently on her own. The mother then gave the baby her breast one last time (which is a normal act of mourning in Hewa culture) and miraculously the baby started to nurse!!!

We were all in shock, but had cautious hope as the baby's breathing seemed to become stronger and stronger. After about two hours of the baby breathing on her own, the mother took her home and she lived through the night, and is much better today as the antibiotics in her system are starting to fight off the sepsis that started all this in the first place (most babies here get sepsis at 3 weeks of age due to the mothers not properly caring for the umbilical cord). 

Thank you so much for caring and praying. Not only was the life of this precious 3 week old baby spared, but the lives of the women and children here who are marked as witches were spared as well! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

***URGENT PRAYER REQUEST***

We are asking everyone to please pray today for a newborn in our village that is very sick. She is from a family of non-believers who will very likely blame witches if she dies. We currently have a large number of women and children marked as witches in our village who are getting ready to be evacuated in early July. If this baby dies, it is very likely that one of them could be killed.

The baby has stopped breathing twice but was able to be revived by our village medical worker. The mother of the baby has not been taking very good care of this baby girl, so we are very concerned. Please pray for God to heal the baby and protect the women and children here who are marked as witches.

Please pass on this to anyone you know who would be willing to pray.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Exodus

It has been almost a month since Mifila was murdered and still no sign of the police. We heard that the airstrip in the village where she was killed was closed, so that may holding them up.

So we are just waiting. Waiting for justice for these women and children marked with the invisible "P" (P- for "pisai" the Hewa word for witch). Though invisible, it is a no less damning letter than one sewn in scarlett on a person's chest. It is sewn into the minds of everyone around them. There is no need for these women to be anywhere in sight for them the be associated with that letter…that word. They have been marked, and no one will ever forget it.

The good thing that has come from all this, however, is that there is now a mass exodus planned for many women and children who are currently marked as witches. There have been plenty of times before when they have come to us asking about leaving, then decide the threats against them are not real, and forget about it. Now, Mifila's death has them all scared, so many who were not ready before to take the giant step of leaving their homes, families, gardens, and even language to go somewhere new where they will be safe are now begging to go. 

I am not even sure what the number is up to now, but there are two flights scheduled to take those who are ready to a new village. This is the same village where we have sent the previous two families of accused witches. The families have done really well there, and we are so thankful for this group of tribal believers who feel God has called them to help these innocent women and children. 

The flights are scheduled for early July, so we are asking for prayer for these families. Please pray that they do not go back on their decision to leave. Please pray that they come up with the necessary funds to pay for the flights (we contribute to the flight costs, but cannot pay fully for the flights or that would create a huge cultural problem for us in the future).  Please also pray for the their transition into a new village, new language, and new culture. And please pray for their safety unit it is time for them to leave. If someone were to get sick and die before then, they could very easily be attacked and killed before they have a chance to make their escape. 

And as always, please continue to pray that God will change the minds and hearts of the people who make these horrible accusations and who carry out these brutal attacks. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Baby Girl





Baby girl in a string bag, born in a tiny hut made of sticks and leaves whose floor is more fire pit than anything. Your first breath filled with smoke. Your first sight a haze. You tug at my heartstrings with your too tiny fists.
I sit holding you, smiling at your newness. Chatting with your mother while in the back of my mind I wonder if the spot I am sitting in was just covered in blood. Beads of sweat poor down my face because the fire is so big and the flames so close that I wonder if my eyebrows are still there. I want to hold you longer, but I don't know if I can stand one more minute in this place where you came into the world. This place where you will stay for the first weeks of your life and then move to place exactly the same only slightly bigger. Smoke is now filling my lungs and I am having a hard time breathing. I wonder at how you sleep so peacefully.
I ask your name, but your mother does not have one for you yet. She doesn't know if you are strong…if you will make it, so she hasn't thought to call you anything yet. She doesn't know if you are anything yet. If you will just be an "it" that caused her a lot of physical pain and labor only to end up in a tiny hole in the ground.
Baby girl I pray over your life with the bittersweet realization that it will be a very difficult one no matter what. You will work hard and have few choices. You will probably never know a full night's sleep. You will probably never know complete health. It will be a life with very little comfort, very little pleasure, and probably very little love. I pray that you find Unfailing Love in spite of all of this.
I know that in twenty years when the rest of the world has holographic ipads and drones to bring them their morning coffee - you will probably be right back here, or in a tiny hut just like this, giving birth to your own baby. Your world, exactly the same as your mother's. I only dare to hope that your world will not contain the fear that someone will someday pronounce over you that dreaded name that will mark you for death- pisai- witch.
And though your world will be the same, I pray your heart is different. I pray that you know hope, peace, joy, faith, and love. I pray that you know Jesus, so that one day your world will be perfect. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Four Months

Fourth Months from when the police, missionaries, and government officials went into our neighboring village of Fiyawena to warn the people that witch killing was illegal and would carry severe consequences- four months to the day- a woman named Mifila was brutally murdered. 

I'm going to be honest I knew that the warning from the police would only buy these women time. That these people fear the spirits who live above, below, and right beside them, spirits that breathe down their necks, more than the police who are far away…who they can hear coming in the roar of the engine of the airplanes above them. But I really thought it would buy them more than four months. At least a year, I thought. I was wrong. Literally, dead wrong. 

Apparently, there are articles going all over the world about this with Mifila's picture attached and an outcry for justice (we even made the Dredge Report). But we're out here in the middle of the jungle with just our short-wave radio and email that works only half the time. So the only reports that we are reading our coming from the village itself. From the eye-witnesses. From her family. From the ones who are demanding payment because her contaminated blood flowed down into their gardens, splattered on their houses and ruined all their possessions. 

Those are the reports we are hearing. We are also hearing that the government is angry and preparing to come in and do exactly what they said they would do just four short months ago, and we are thrilled to know their plans. We are praying that with actual consequences this will be what finally sets these women free from this horrible label of oppression and brutalization. 

Knowing that the articles are being shared helps. Knowing that there are people who care and are outraged for these innocent women and children makes us feel less alone in this. So, I am asking now that  all of you who read this blog will share these articles (I imagine you can google "Hewa witch killing" to find them) as much as possible to continue to raise awareness about this tragedy. I also ask that if you bought an "I love Witches" shirt from us that you post of picture of yourself in your shirt with the articles. 

 

Please do this in memory of Mifila and all the other women and children who have been murdered as witches and in honor of those who are marked and are still in danger. 

 

It's not a bucket of ice water, but it's something. 

 

"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." Psalm 82:3-4 

 

"Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?" Isaiah 58: 6