Learning a tribal language has proven to have many difficulties and setbacks. Progress for me has been slow and sometimes not as steady as I would like. I knew it would be this way. Our training had prepared us for much of its hardships, but there were somethings that no amount of training could ever be sufficient for. A large part of being a tribal missionary (or at least a decent one) is simply living life with the people you are there to reach. Now this sounds nice and quaint, but life in a tribal setting is extremely hard, and dirty, and lonely, and a hundred other things that make “living life” a struggle. One of the toughest things about this is that death is a very common part of the tribal life. In just the first year and a half of living in our tribe we, unfortunately, had to see many of our Hewa friends die…many who died horrible deaths. Living life with our people helps to create strong bonds and deep friendships. These meaningful relationships make losing someone all that much more difficult.
In order to thoroughly learn the heart-language of our people we must be willing to even learn the things that tear at our hearts and make our emotions pour out. To watch a good friend die hurts…to have to record/transcribe/and translate the story of their death and then read and study it hundreds of times over can be crushing. But these are necessary hardships. How can we ever begin to comfort our friends if we skip over the things that cause them pain. How can we share of Father God’s compassion and understanding if not for enduring things such as this.
The following is a transcription and translation about the death of my sweet young friend Etike. He was only 16 years old when he died. I share this story only so that you may better understand the pain of learning a language in hopes of reaching a people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have chosen this particular one because I believe it illustrates my point, but without being overly morbid or gruesome, as many of my stories like this are. Please pray for us and other missionaries. Pray that as we relive these stories over and over again in order to learn the language that God would guard our hearts. Thank you.
Etike’s Death/Drowning in the Taiya River…
Tue nzfa Etike zte mema kukai mowa
Now we will talk about Etike going to the water (drowning)
Tina mema Etike na Kutuwaf lefe
It went like this…Etike and Kutuwaf, those two
Pasife olo mema
Before went over to Pasife (name of village)
Pasife olo ifa lefe awe Kot olz kwe Pasife olo
Went over to Pasife, they two went to the garden. God’s talk over to Pasife
Kutuwaf cle olo wamzfi eyeyau mowa mema
Kutuwaf went to teach the people God’s Word.
Le wai mctuwofa awe me mzma
They two wanted to build a house, garden trees cut.
Zfa olzfa cle Taiya uwe’i su lefe Etike lifiye
Cut and at that time the two of them went to wata Taiya (Lagaip river) shore/riverbed.
Gol antcteyai mema
Went to pan for gold.
Ifa lefe alama, zte alama fale
Go and the two of them at “Alama fale” (fale is where rivers join)
Olo Taiya uwe’i ifa gol antcte mema
There at Taiya river shore go and panned for gold.
Gol antcte Yanis lzfa gol antcte mema
They went with Yanis to pan for gold.
Gol antefa Yanis cle isc ufuliya Pasife mema
Panned for gold and later Yanis returned to Pasife
Kutuwaf Etike lefe cla lefe cla zte Taiya, Taiya cla uwe’i
Kutuwaf, Etike they two at the Taiya river, Taiya shore
Uwe’i su makaima pon (“makaima pon” bihainim sait-Laimond) (1:02)
The shore followed the riverbed.
Su kai makaima
Lefe kaifa Mosbi falomcn
They two followed and came up to “Mosbi Faolmcn.” (Mosbi Falomcn=Uf ki, name of place to camp near Fiyc’s house.)
Mosbi ki olo kaifcnzfa
Arrived at Mosbi’s flatground there …
Kaifa olo mcki pcme
Go over to but did not sleep.
Lefe Taiya zpi mcnaima naifa
They two crossed the Taiya river bridge, crossed and
Cla Wite mzfi Fiye (nem bilong em) cla nomzla mckima
Slept with a man from Wite named Fiye.
Kifa lefe ki nunai Kot olz kwe manoma
Slept and in the morning they two heard God’s talk (listened to the Bible being taught)
Kot olz kwe wanofa manoma
They wanted to hear God’s talk.
Manoma olz Etike olz ni upe cla
Listened and Etike’s body, it
Cle nzlipai me pcme mckima wa’i (bed) su mckilzma
It was not strong, so he slept in the bed, slept there.
Wa’i su mckima Kutuwaf Kot olz kwe wamzfi wa’tanz(harim) eyeyau mema
Slept in the house and Kutuwaf taught them (the people at Fiyc’s house) God’s talk.
Eyeyaufa eyeyau molzma alele mema alele me napicla
Taught them and they became hungry, hungry therefore
Cla Wita mzfi cla Fiye cle
The Wite people, Fiye he
Alele mcna tauma fayai mema
Were hungry so gathered sweet potatoes.
Mema tauma fayai mema isc olo lefe Kutuwaf Etike lefe molzma
Gathered sweet potatoes and later there they two, Kutuwaf and Etike, they two stayed.
Olzfa lefe cle Etike, Etike cle inicfa (kirap) tina mcnaluma
At that time they two, Etike got up and said this…
Tue tei zte Taiya tei fzni gol antcteyai meyo
Now you and I will go to the side in order to pan for gold.
“Let’s go,” He said.
Ana memcna Kutuwaf tina mcnaluma
“I’m not going,” Kutuwaf said.
Tue me puwa
Let’s not go now
Tei tizta kol ante
You and I can pan for gold here.
Mofi (mzfi) tizta lofz kol antcte molzyawa
The people will work here for gold.
Tei antcte mowa mcnaluma
You and I will work he said
Mcnaluma Etike cle mano pcme
He said, Etike didn’t listen
Tei tcfzn Taiya tclaifzni antctemowa wasi
You and I will go to this side and work, let’s go
Lefe a’na mcnaluma (2:40)
They two of them talked like that.
Mcnalu Etike cle kwe a’na mcnalu Kutuwaf wanofa
They talked and Etike he said this and wanted Kutuwaf to listen
Lefe Kutuwaf wanofa wasi mcnaluma anefa zwa
The two of them Kutuwaf heard and said get your string bag
Kisau maimbz mema
Carry some things
Ifa yao Kutuwaf yao zwa maima
They went and Kutuwaf carried his dog in his string bag
Zwa aifa Cle uwe zpi olo miuma
Carried his string bag and came to the bridge there.
zpi yofa miuma
Came to the bridge
Zpi paiyai mema Etike topa yao zwamai olzfa zwa mofzfa miuma
Went to the middle of the bridge and Etike carried his dog in the string bag
Miuma Kutuwaf cle tcfon mema
Came and Kutuwaf came to this side
Tcfzni mema Etike zpi paiyai
Went to this side and Etike went to the middle of the bridge
Cla zte Kaf paiyai fau
He didn’t come to the middle of water
Zte kaf cla zpcli (3:20)
Went close to
Mema zpi cla wali, wali me
Came to the bridge and put his leg down
Wali meka zpi su mowinama minznuma
Put his leg down and the wood broke
Anulawefa inaputzfa zte mema
The wood broke and he fell through into the river
Zte mema memcla
He went inside the river.
Faimpat cle, ah Kutuwaf miyctima
Kutuwaf saw this happen
Kutuwaf cle miyctima Etike miuma pewa mema miyctima
Kutuwaf saw this happen. Etike ???
A’na me olzfa zte kaf cla
At this time it went like this in the middle of the river
Olo mzwofoma Etike olo mzwofoma miyctima
There he fell in the river, Etike fell into the river…he saw this happen
Miycti zte Kaf lzku su motu’zma
He watched him fall inside the river
Motuana cle iyctifa wowa mema
Saw him fall in and was so scared he was shaking
Wowa mcna cle
Cle antipcna folu mema
Olsem na i go hariap
Ifa zte Kaf olopa liyane me molz Etike topa
He went close to the side
Kaf lzku motuzma minifonzma
He went underneath the water then came on top
Minifonzfa cle yati moma
Came up to the top and waved his hands
Moma olzfa cle Kaf lzku su motuzma cla pewa mema
At this time he waved his hand but went back underneath
Aimpz me katai mema
He was carried away
A’na Kutuwaf miyctima, ah!
Kutuwaf saw it happen and was scared “Ah!”
Etike cfu? Miniyzma!
“Where’s Etike? He’s dead!
Etike cla yati mo, mo fclefa miyctima miyoma
I saw him waving his hands, fighting, fighting, fighting and waited…
Ah! Minifcnz pcme.
Ah! He didn’t come back up
Minifcnz pcme. Mcna cle
He did not come back on top. He died
Minifcnz pcme nampicla cla zte aimbz memclia cle insauwe mema (4:35)
He did not come back to the top therefore, the water carried him away. He (Kutuwaf) cried.
Etike cla mema moke nomzla fau molzma
Etike went down the river. There weren’t many men with them.
Ana mema olzfa cle Yano insu
At that time he went down to Yano (name of village down river)
Cle folu mema zte Kaf cla Etike zte aimbz mimcla
He went quickly down the river where the river was carrying Etike
Anyai ni mema folu me me me me miycti pcme Yano minifcnzma
It carried away his body quickly. He didn’t see him anymore. He (Kutuwaf) came up to Yano.
Yano inifonzfa yano mzfi mokzpoma antipa(4:58)
Arrived at Yano and the Yano people met with him
Lzfa olo nomzla kifa alofofa
There they slept until daybreak.
Cla wcta nzfa wcta Mas naluyai miuma
We were here and Mas came to tell us what happened.
Cla naluyai miuma
He came to tell us
Mas naluyai miu
Mas came to tell us
Cla Thrinde, Tunde tolz zte mema
It was Wednesday. On Tuesday Etike drowned in the river.
Thrinde nzfa wcta Naliyz Mas itz mokz cla
On Wednesday Mas came to tell us on this side
Nau Thrinde nanai Kot olz kwe manoma
Now it’s Wednesday and we were listened to God’s talk
Kot olz kwe puk Mak sapta 2 lain 1 manoma
God’s talk, the book of Mark chapter 2 verse one we were listening to
Nzfa wanofa mano pwema
We wanted to hear, hear everything
Olzfa Mas kwem polo mema
At this time Mas was crying
Kwe polo Etike zte meyo kwe miu nzfa manoma cla
Cried and wailed, Etike drowned in the river, we heard him say
Ana nz wanofa nzfa
We wanted to hear
Mzfi yayume mepuma
Ever man went
Mzfi yayume cla lzfa Etike ni yzyai mepuma
All the men left to find Etike’s body
Ela Matu nomo Fato, ana nzfa me pcme
Matthew, and Fato and myself did not go
Tizta wai motoma Nafas nzfa wai motoma cla(6:08)
We stayed at the house here. Nafas and us stayed
Cla a’na memcla cla lzfa niyzyai mema cla papola miyana cla
Ifa zte uwe miniyz miniyz miniyz miycti pcme miyana ni mane pcme katai
They went to the river shore and looked, looked, and looked, but never saw his body. They didn’t get the boy’s body
Aimpzfa mema miycti pe nafa
Carried and didn’t see
Lzfa olo tofa moto cla miycti pe katai miyana
They stayed there but did not see they boy
Anefa ni upe cla miycti pcme cla(6:29)
They did not see his body to get it.
Cla kcli kukai anz koyo cla.
That’s it. That’s all my story.
The following is an e-mail we received today from our co-worker, Susan Kopf letting us know about the ongoing measles outbreak throughout Hewa. Please pray! Please like, and share, and get as many people to go to the Lord on behalf of the Hewa as we can. Please pray.
“Guys, people are really sick here. Each day we have children fighting for their life. I literally get up in the morning and begin the fight for their lives. I am not done until late in the evening and then in the night I listen while I sleep for the wails to start. Please pray.
It is with a really heavy heart that I say that Emiyas’ little Abraham is fighting for his life. It doesn’t look good for him. Please pray pray pray. He has no strength left to fight. Please pray all day for him. It appears he may be leaving us soon.
Please pray for Amon and Maria’s little girl, their only child. It looks like she will also be leaving this world soon. She has deteriorated daily. Amon has been sick with the measles as well so he has not been able to help Maria much.
Konef is still very very sick. His wife is on the mend but not strong at all. Their little Peter is weak and fighting. Their only little girl, Leyam is very very sick. I have had a hard time getting the teen girls, that live in that house, to do more. They often just sit doing their bilums while the sick kids sleep all day. I have been pushing rehydrating and cooking good food but those girls don’t seem to do it. It has been frustrating. I have food cooked up at my house by Michael or myself so that I can make sure they are all eating some when they arrive. But each day, they take a long time to come, if they come at all. Jonathan usually has to go to their house and tell them to bring the kids for me to see. Please pray. I believe this is not the night little Leyame will die. She ate and drank for me nicely today so I feel better about her health than I did yesterday. I think if the girls will do a good job with her, she will make it.
Yanis is in town so I had Brian call him and let him know that his son and wife both have the measles. Because Pilot was immunized as a kid at the house sick, we thought maybe he would not get it. Unfortunately, he is sick too. He is still at the beginning of his sickness so he is well. He will be sick for two weeks with high fevers that are super hard to get under control so we will see how he does. Thankfully he is quite the little eater!
By the time these kids are nearly done with the measles, they look super skinny and sad. The biggest joy of my day is seeing one of the kids begin desiring food again. Or seeing them actually walk on their own again instead of being carried. Or seeing their oxygen levels go up into the 90s instead of the 70s and 80s.
Nearly every kid that is sick gets, salbutamol, and prednisone along with ibuprofen and tylenol. The really really sick get an antibiotic as well just in case they have a secondary infection along with the measles. Because these kids are so very sick and need their meds throughout the day so we have little kids in their mom’s arms all around our yard.
Again, I need you to pray specifically for the two that may not make it through the night.”
For those who don’t know, my family and I have decided to join an existing work with the Hewa people. This means we will be partnering with a missionary family who have already established residence with the tribe and in this case worked with them for around ten years. Are there believers among the Hewa? Yes. Do some of them meet regularly each week for a church service? Yes. So why would we join a work like this? The long answer made short is that God has called us to make “disciples” and not merely converts and the Hewa still have a great need for discipleship. However, there is still more to our reasoning for joining this existing work among the Hewa people. The more we became aware of the Hewa and their way of life, we realized that even within their own language group there are many different dialects…some of which can’t even communicate with each other very well. So, even though some of the Bible has been translated into one of the Hewa dialects it will have little to no benefit to some of the outer dialect groups as they can not understand it, nor could they read it since no one has yet to work with them to teach literacy.
Of the original four missionary families that began working with the Hewa people back in 2000 only one family still remains with them. Some have returned to their home country after years of service and another has assumed a leadership role here in Papua New Guinea that had been leaving a big gap within our organization for some time. The family that is left, the Kopf family, has been in need of new co-workers as they realized the job was simply too big for one family. God began to move in our hearts to join the Kopfs in reaching the Hewa…and not just us, but another family as well, the Dunns!
So, now we are in the process of getting our house built in the tribe. This phase is proving to be so intensive that I’m not sure I could properly describe all the planning involved if I wanted to. However, I will just catch you all up on our latest adventure in this process…slabbing!!!
Myself, along with four incredibly hard working guys recently choppered into Hewa where we were graciously hosted by my new co-workers for two weeks. Our goal was to slab as much lumber for my family’s bush house as possible. I was very optimistic going into this trip. However, it didn’t take long for the cruel mountain terrain to knock me down a few notches. The guys and I seemed to face one set back after another the first few days and it was seeming as if there would not be nearly as much progress made as I had originally hoped. Some of setbacks included things like our trees falling down the side of the mountain rather than onto straight ground, bad weather, and a broken chainsaw (this is a pretty big deal when there is no Home Depot around for hundreds and hundreds of miles and a calling in the helicopter to bring in spare parts would prove the be the most expensive chainsaw repair in recorded history.) Despite our obstacles, the guys somehow managed to continue pressing forward with the work and produced a lot of house post, floor joist, studs, and even rafters and purlins!!! As I look back on this trip, it’s hard to figure out how we made it as far as we did, but it so easy to see that we were never without God’s help and protection. There’s just something about carrying chainsaws, axes and other sharp, pointy tools across log bridges that go across fast moving rivers that make you realize just how dependent on the Lord we really are.
In the end, we were able to produce nearly all the lumber I need for my house, got the septic hole dug (which is some extremely hard work when you are digging through rocky mountain soil,) got my house site cleared of all tree stumps and roots…of which there were many, and even got my holes dug and correctly aligned for my house post! I was very blessed to have the four guys with me and always the amazing help of many of the Hewa men and women. Our next trip come in a month or so, and by the end will hopefully produced a framed house with a tin roof. At this point we will staple tarps all around the sides and move in! When time permits I will begin slabbing siding for the exterior walls, but until that time we will happily call our tarped abode “home.”
Not long after arriving in Papua New Guinea I began to notice a disturbing trend among a lot of other missionaries here, one of which I now refer to as “Missionary Feet.”
What you need to know is that many people here simply don’t wear shoes, and if they do, 9 times out of 10 they wear flip-flops. So, as missionaries who want to relate to the people they minister to, it would just be impractical to sport the newest Nike styling as we hang out with our bare-footed friends…and super hot.
Due to this, accompanied by other “life in the tropics” factors, my dogs…despite my best efforts, have now entered the ranks worthy of “missionary feet” status. My soles have gotten to be noticeably thicker…and stained (if not from plain ole dirt then from the fresh piles of buai spit I manage to step in on what seems to be a weekly basis,) infections that are now just a routine part of life now, and my latest adornment (or lack thereof) is the loss two toenails, one that is hanging by a thread, or literally a painful piece of skin, oh…and a big toenail that looks as if I let my daughters loose on it with their Barbie toenail polish.
I’m not saying all this to complain…though I wouldn’t mind having all my toenails. I see it, rather, as a mark of being a part of the work that my wife and I have prepared for for a long time. So, to all my yellow toenailed, thick, flat, and stained footed missionary friends…it’s good to be a part of the club…I think.
A couple weeks ago I left on a dawn departure on our mission’s Cessna 206 to be taken to a bush airstrip in the Highlands of PNG. From there, myself and three other guys hiked about 14 hours to the location of a missionary’s bush house.
Before I got married I was a fairly avid hiker, however, this hike was without a doubt the most physically challenging event of my life…it claimed 3, maybe 4 (time will tell) of my toenails. Within the first 20 minutes my thighs were already burning and, being a bit older now than before, my knees were aching due to the steep terrain. Throughout the hike I pulled countless leeches off of myself. At one point my knees were hurting too bad to risk the descent upright, so much of it was spent on my rear end scooting like like a child…thankfully my pride had been left on the trail many miles behind. It may give you an idea of what the hike was like to know that the helicopter later did the same path as we hiked in 5 minutes flat.
Once we were at the bottom there was an old tree serving as a bridge waiting for us to cross a very rapid and rocky river. From this point it was 4 1/2 more hours of the steepest climb of my life…one of which left me feeling like a little girl (no offense ladies.)
With about 2 hours left in the hike, two of the guys forged ahead in order to get the house open and supper ready as I was literally having to take breaks after every 10 steps or so. By “take breaks” I mean collapse on the trail with my face in mud (it rained on us about half the day.) Luckily, the missionary whose house we were going to tear down stayed with me and was so incredibly patient and encouraging. When I told him “I’m so sorry to slow you up like this, but I only have about 10 steps at a time in me now,” he replied, “Well, then that’s how we’ll get home…10 steps at a time.” ***side note***this missionary has now been back in country for only 6 months after breaking his back in two places while in his tribal location, and he OWNED this mountain. When speaking to a Hewan guy about how well he hiked the guy replied, “Yes, he walks in the bush like one of us.”***
Once we finally reached the summit it was only a 20 minute hike down to the village where the house was. However, about this time we heard the other two guys calling out as they had gotten lost on the trail and it was now long past dark (close to 10 p.m.) These two guys being friends of mine, I felt it, umm…necessary to give them a hard time that I beat them to the house.
We arrived at the house, washed, ate, and passed out. A week’s worth of rest and recoop would have been excellent, but there was much work to be done as we had to have the missionary’s house completely torn down in four days and ready for the chopper to haul it in sling loads to the new location to be rebuilt.
The tribal group these missionaries work with are semi-nomadic and have once again decided to move (with talk of settling down this time to build an airstrip) and the missionaries were forced with the decision to move once again (this being the 3rd time) or call it quits…they continue on.
After the first four days, the chopper flew in about 7 more missionaries to the new site to help with the construction of the new place. It was such a great experience to work with all those incredible men.
I know this post is long and there are many pictures to come, but it would be a great disservice not to say how hard working and dedicated the two missionary families we went to help are. I feel so very fortunate to have had this time to work along side them and to have learned from and be discipled by them. It is unbelievable the trials they have endured only to continue the work that shows no promises of getting any easier. Thank God for these families!
Ok. There is so much more to tell as God taught me many things these 10 days, but on with the pictures….
Since coming here to Papua New Guinea, I often take trips to the local haus sik (hospital) here in town. As people from the tribal locations where our missionaries work become too sick to treat there in the village, they will sometimes be brought here to receive more extensive medicine and possibly operations. Those of us here, will then provide some simple food, and encouragement as we can until they are well enough to return home. Even in the States, where medical care (as expensive as it may be) is sterile, air conditioned, and relatively comfortable, hospital visits still have a way of effecting you emotionally. Here, where I have to carefully examine where I step as to not fall through a rotten floor board, am found constantly wiping away the sweat from my forehead, and where I am always swatting away flies…well, I find it hard not to think on these experiences long after I leave.
My latest trip to the haus sik was by far the hardest, as I stood next to a man who honestly looked as though he was simply waiting to die…not waiting to receive medicine, not waiting for his body to strengthen…just waiting to die. The hand of bananas and dried fish we had brought for him seemed far too insignificant at the time. Even though my language skills are slowly improving I suddenly felt frozen, and the desire to lay the bag of food on the bed and just walk away was nearly overwhelming as I thought that I surely had nothing to say that would bring peace to this man. I felt helpless and I felt useless.
It was then that the woman who had come with me to the haus sik, a veteran missionary here for many years, took this man by the hand and began to explain to him what the doctor had just shared with her. The outlook was not good for him and chances were that he would most likely not survive this illness. Then, with extreme compassion in her voice she began to encourage this man to take hope…hope in knowing that even if this sickness takes his life, that God has prepared a new home and a new body for him, a perfect home and a perfect body…one with no sickness, no pain, no worries. She bowed her head and began to plead with God to grant this man His peace and His grace to see him through it all.
Soon after praying we left this man with the bananas, a few dried fish, and because of the compassion of a great missionary woman, hopefully some peace and comfort as well. I have never heard this woman claim any greatness on her own behalf. In fact, just the opposite is true…she’s an extremely humble lady, kind-hearted, and for a new missionary like myself (who knows nothing and has much to learn) is a great example of what God can do through us if we are willing to turn our lives over to Him.
“Projek Haus” UPDATE: Yesterday we had an offer to match any donation for our house building needs up to $2,000. We are so excited to report that it has already been met! Praise God for the faithfulness and generosity of His people!
AND!!! We now have a 2nd offer, again, to match an additional $2,000. So, any funds given, up to this amount, will be matched…essentially your donations will be doubled! Thank you all so much for your consideration, generosity, and prayers!
Another thing that would be a big help would be simply to share this need with anyone you think might be interested in getting involved. Being overseas makes it a little more difficult to make our needs known and we could use as many advocates as possible.
If you would like to make a donation towards this project you can do so by going to the “Give” page on this website or by visiting www.pushforpng.com for more information. Also, if you are interested in becoming a regular monthly supporter of this work you can also do so at these locations. Additionally, if you would like to keep informed with our family, the work here in Papua New Guinea, and current prayer needs, we send out a regular e-mail update and we would happy to add you to our mailing list. Simply, e-mail us at email@example.com with a request to be added and the address you would like for us to use:
Jessi and I (and our girls) want so say a big “THANK YOU” to all of you for your support. It means the world to us.