Day Four: Saturday, August 1st
The morning came, but rather than a bright sunrise, we were greeted with a very gloomy, cloudy and bone-chillingly damp day. The constant drizzle and intermittent rainbursts made the area around the village huts a mucky mess. This meant more indoor time around the cheery fire.
Our hosts Kris and Onzi, ever hospitable beyond the extra mile, apologized for the lack of sam (which most of you recall was that red gooey oily pandanus “fruit” that is a favorite treat of Tobo people). We assured them that it was OK and that we appreciated their wonderful care for us. While we munched on fire-roasted sweet potatoes, some more friends showed up to sit with us. We had brought along a few simple booklets to show them as they had expressed much interest in literacy (as well as Bible teaching) on previous visits. We broke out a couple of those, which were eagerly scoured over.
Wilfred and Lorenz were enthralled with these primers in THEIR LANGUAGE
It cleared up just enough in the early afternoon for some fresh air and a stroll down the central ridge of the village. Before the clouds and rain moved back in, a few younger boys volunteered the names of the mountains immediately surrounding the Cliffs and I heard some interesting stories about Gumunu mountain, a spur coming down off of the highest mountain in the area which juts out and blocks the view between the Cliffs and Stone villages. Gumunu used to be a snake and it turned into that mountain, they said. It is guarded by two birds who still cry out around the mountain and protect the people from harm if an enemy were to come fight against them. Many people are afraid to walk around up there, much less break ground for gardening.
This mountain used to be a giant snake, according to local legend
That evening, our hut was packed with men of the village who were eager to talk. Once again, the topic of waiting for the dead body to arrive from town soon gave way to much animated discussion about having us come live there.
Not pictured: Ambox and me and 3 other men
During that time, something big happened.
Not one, but two men (schoolteacher Namas and his older brother Gumbi) each emphatically stated. “I am giving you guys ground to build your houses on. Tomorrow you can look over the ground and choose where you want to build.”
Was this really happening? Really?
The guys all left sometime around 2 AM. Now I had another reason besides the chill and the noisy pig snuffling around the fire pit for scraps to keep me awake! By the way, the pig chose to snuggle up next to lucky Ambox that night. I figured if maybe we had just one more night, he would’ve finally warmed up to me—-and warmed me up!!! (Ironically, it would’ve saved MY bacon…) But alas, it was not meant to happen. I shivered with the cold and quivered with anticipation throughout the very short night’s sleep.
Forget pigs IN a blanket-this pig WAS a blanket (for some people….) This Chicken Egg could’ve used some ham!
Day Five: Sunday, August 2nd
It was a gloriously sunny morning. We needed to pack up and head back to Stone village to make sure I had an extra day to wrap things up before leaving on Tuesday morning. Part of me was curious how the lack of sleep the night before might play into the long trek back, but the better part of me brushed that aside as Namas and his older brother Gumbi pointed out the potential house sites. I think we were both had a clear preference for Namas’ area, as it was right in the village at the end of the ridge as opposed to Gumbi’s area across the ravine and just outside of the edge of the village.
Three landowner brothers (Namas in the middle, with Gumbi on the right)
Namas also said, “I know how the Stone villagers like to grow their sweet potatoes. Ambox can use land below my house here to plant a garden.”
Was this really happening? Somebody pinch me! As we made our way around the corner and down the first long mountain out of the Cliffs, Ambox and I began to talk—while I still had breath to spare for conversation. After exhausting several topics, I posed to him the question of how “done” of a deal this looked like to him. We both discovered that we were cautiously optimistic, and wondering if there would be more opposition to this decision to invite us from those who were “two-insides” (doubtful) about us.
As we were discussing this tempered enthusiasm of ours, Namas quickly approached us. “I just spoke with all of our grandparents,” he said. “They told me, ‘If you are all one-insides about this, then what talk do we have? We don’t have any talk.’”
Still trying to process all this, I asked, “What does this mean? What do I tell my wife when I call her?”
“You call your wife and you tell her that you are coming to the Cliffs!”
God, is this it? Is this the answer to our prayers? WHOA!
And as if that weren’t enough, we ran into no less than a dozen Cliffs men and youth within the next hour. As we wound our way down yet again to make our way across one of many icy cascading brooks to climb up the other side of that ravine, two groups were running down the mountain toward us from the direction we were heading carrying pigs trussed up and dangling upside down on a long pole. These pigs were bought at Big Rainbow village (halfway between the Cliffs and Stone) to be eaten during the end of the mourning period. We met at the stream and shook hands with the guys before they charged up the mountainside behind us, hooting and hollering as they went.
The entourage of slightly older men lagging behind soon approached us. More handshakes and big smiles were offered us as they welcomed us to the Cliffs. “We’re really happy. You’re Cliffs boys now!”
I would’ve floated the rest of the way home if I hadn’t been so gassed. In addition to huffing up the mountains like a deranged vacuum cleaner, on the downhill and “flat” (yet extremely uneven) sections I had to literally watch each step and be careful about preserving my well-worn knees as we trudged along that afternoon. I couldn’t help smiling, though, as I climbed for two hours through the pea soup fog and cold drizzle up from the canyon floor to the top of the mountain where Stone village lay. (By the way, both Ambox’s health, my knees, AND my new hiking boots all held up very well on the entire trip, which my Samsung pedometer told me was no less than 38 miles of total steps!)
THIS is what we call a boulder in Toboland! Complete with its own ecosystem.
Day Six: Monday, August 3rd
The mood was celebratory our last evening together as Ambox, Nailen and their three kids came over to my place. We thanked God and talked and thanked God some more. At their request, we checked over a couple of chapters of Revelation to get them ready for a future consultant check. Then we had a small feast together and enjoyed good conversation and more talk about what the future could look like for us as a team in this new village.
Before they left the house, we had one last time of prayer. Guys, I wish I could’ve remembered word for word all that my brother and sister in Christ said to God that evening. I could hear the fervency in their voices as they thanked God repeatedly for all that He had done. They asked Him to use us to shine His light in the darkness and allow that light to shine brightly and eventually spread throughout the 10 villages in our area, including back to their home village (Stone). They thanked Him for the way that through all the heavies (trials) we face that He gives us strength to serve Him. We all lifted up His name way up on top.
Kris and Onzi’s middle son Zax
And they—and we—also talked about YOU. All of you who have prayed and continue to pray for us and for the Tobo people. Who have prayed for open doors in the Cliffs. Ambox and Nailen wanted to pass along their big thank you talk to you! Janeene and I join them in this as well.
Please don’t stop praying! Much still needs to happen to see this move become a reality.
Though this is the end of this latest trip’s story, the overall story here is just beginning! Count on more updates soon. For now, we’d like you to share in the celebration of answered prayer and open doors!
Love, Chad, Janeene, Elijah, Zeke & Levi
And Ambox, Nailen, Gremin, Jet & Jil