It has been enlightening to read what has been happening around the world — and then to write about it! One story that has been very much on my mind is about the church planting team in Papua New Guinea. The Chens and the Busers planted the church among the Biem people group. That was not that long ago. That Church decided last May that they wanted to reach their own people group on another neighboring island, the island of Kadowar. That planned trip to begin evangelizing never took place — and now it won’t, at least not on that island. Here is what Brandon Buser reported about the island.
The Kadowar Volcano
Kadowar is one of the four islands in our language group and has a population of 500-600. This is the island that we pass each time we travel to and from [our ministry location]. Kadowar has been covered in dense vegetation for decades now and does not have a sulfur cone, crater, or many of the typical signs of an active volcano.
On Friday, Jan 5th, smoke started pouring out of an opening on the southeastern side. This was only God’s grace as the bulk of the population resides on the northwestern side. This smoke was seen by a village on the mainland and they sent two boats to help the islanders. Biem also sent a boat over to help out. These three rigs, along with numerous canoes, began the work of shifting the entire population over to the island of Ruprup 6 miles away. We were told that by the end of the day the entire population was moved over to Ruprup, and the timing could not have been better as later that night, near midnight, the mountain erupted violently.
On Saturday, Jan 6th, my coworker Thomas Depner, Greg Kibai (the Biem chief), and I jumped on our boat to make the trip to Kadowar and [our ministry location]. Despite bad visibility, we could see the smoke and ash of Kadowar from 40 miles away. At about the 15-mile mark we began feeling ash falling on us. We boated up to within a few hundred feet and started witnessing just how violent things had become. After a few minutes we circled the island to the side where the village was (see diagram of our track below…green show high speeds, purple is slow) to see if any inhabitants were there, but there were only a couple abandoned canoes left on the rocky shore.
We then doubled back and intended to head on to [our ministry location] when the volcano came uncorked. A huge pillar of smoke rocketed hundreds of feet into the air and large boulders started falling straight into the ocean…we exited the area in a hurry (see the fluorescent green streak on the track line). At a safe distance we stopped and kept documenting the event. Shortly after we ran into one of the mainland boats that was returning home from Ruprup and they relayed the evacuation details to us. From there we continued on to[our ministry location].
On Monday, Jan 8th, we left Biem for the return to town on the mainland. We stopped off of Kadowar again and documented the continuous erupting of the volcano, but this time it seemed to have found two new outlets from which it was erupting. We circled around to assess the village again and see what structures were still standing…ash covered everything that we could see (though the eruptions are more on the opposite side of the island, the strong seasonal winds are blowing the ash and debris directly over the village location). We continued on trying to cross underneath the ash cloud to clearer seas on the other side…that was a mistake as we got covered by wet falling ash.
The current status of Kadowar is that it’s completely uninhabitable, with no word yet as to the future of the Kadowar islanders and where they will reside. The island continues to erupt and the magnitude just seems to be increasing. What does all this mean for Biem? Well, we don’t know. One thing that is interesting is that in the last year both of the islands neighboring Biem on either side (Manam and Kadowar) have erupted. We’re not sure if that venting is going to benefit or endanger Biem, but there are discussions at the government level of evacuating the islands due to increasing fault activity. One thing we are certain of though is that these things are in the hands of our good God. Thanks for your continued prayers for the islands and the folks that call these places their homes.