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.


  1. Prayers as you and others like you devote themselves to spreading the Gospel. You are bright lights in the darkness. (I'm so glad you're in town!)

  2. You truly are "bright lights in the darkness." As I once told Susan, when I pray for all of you I envision a beam of light rising up from the jungle and reaching to the heavens. I pray the light draws others to Christ. I also pray II Timothy 1:7 and Eph. 6:10 for your Hewan people.