Our family stood on the beach yesterday and waved as the boat got smaller and smaller. Iruo, Ezra and Paal, 3 Patpatar believers waved back and slowly disappeared from sight. They along with our coworkers begin a translation workshop today to better train and equip them for the many different roles involved in translation. The journey is only a couple hour boat ride and a short flight, but it might as well be the other side of the world for the 3 brothers and sister in Christ.
Today is also the funeral of Paal’s older brother. He was a leader in the village and died after a long struggle with sickness. Culturally funerals are significant events and it is important to attend them. The day Paal’s brother died, her husband Ezra came and asked me if it would be possible to change the dates for their departure. After expressing my concern and letting him know there was no other option, Ezra responded with his prepared speech. “Don’t think too much about it. Paal and I have talked and we think that this work [the translation training] is what God wants us to do. We are ready to go.”
I know that walking away from their clan and family yesterday was difficult and not a favored choice by some. I know they heard their granddaughter, whom they are raising, crying after assuring her they would be back soon and turned to walk away. I know it was a difficult choice to be willing to go on this trip, but I could also see their smiles.
It reminded me of a talk I had with another Patpatar believe, Tokiung, a couple months ago about possibly going with me into another tribe a half days journey away to an area unknown to him to help the missionaries there for a few days. A few days later he finally got back to me. “I will go,” he said. “Even if tragedy awaits me or I get sick from some unknown disease and happen to die, I will go and be a part of God’s work.”
In terms of miles, these trips are not that far away, but to the Patpatar it is taking them outside their comfort zone to a place they know little about. Yet they are willing to go to do the work of the Lord despite the cost. What about us? What are we willing to do in this new year for God? Where are willing to go? What are we willing to give up?
Fact: Lack of roads, rugged mountains, oceans, rivers, and thick jungle make travel in PNG quite difficult. Often the cost, energy, and time to go a hundred miles is like traveling across the country in America.