From the moon, the tribal village on the Central Range of mainland Papua New Guinea was a picture of serenity, silvery blankets of cotton candy clouds slowly swirling to embrace the mountain peaks. A perfect picture of glowing peace and calm.
From the clouds, the upraised fingertips of the jungle canopy were visible, the fog first caressing, then covering and then waltzing onward, moistening the vine-wreathed leaves and fruit that promised life and peace for all its inhabitants. A few nocturnal birds sat watchful in the branches, carefree as they called their sweet song into the moon kissed darkness.
From the treetops, the scattered thatched roofs of the village huts were seen filtering gray smoke as if helium-inspired, always rising upward. The smoke carried the scent of baked sweet potatoes and lit tobacco, bringing it to mingle with the fresh scent of dew-drenched leaves. The huts housed a stark contrast of excited anticipation and dashed dreams, hope of new life and yet a deep sorrow from recurring death.
From beneath the palm leafed roof, the billowy softness of glowing clouds was not in view. Here there was only the staccato of frightened voices, choked by dense smoke from the evening fire. “Why has she come back?” one voice said, referring to a woman who was represented by repeated down-slurred whistles of the dark feathered bird that was oblivious to the panic its song caused in the world of humans.
“She said she wouldn’t bother us again.”
“Wasn’t she happy with our gifts of money and pigs?”
“She should know better than to eat us again.”
There was a long pause, when the bare-chested man leaned forward to touch the tip of his freshly rolled tobacco to the embers of the fire pit in front of him. He leaned over to blow gently on the tiny sparks, and then placed the other end to his lips. “We can’t ignore this,” he said, peering over the flames to the men who were sitting cross-legged on the other side of the fire. Then he gave a quick peek over his shoulder as if he expected the bird to burst through the bark lined wall with razor teeth and barbed fangs. “I don’t want my wife or daughter to be next.”
“Right,” one of the men answered. “We need to organize a raiding party soon.”
“Not soon,” another man sputtered. “Tonight!”
The man pulled long on his cigarette and then arching his eyebrows in view of the others to show his agreement. “It’s settled then,” he said, rising from the floor and turning to grab his bow and flesh piercing arrows before ducking out through the low doorway. “We will finish her tonight before she has a chance to kill the rest of us.”
The Paiela and Hewa tribes, though bitter enemies that dream of subduing the other, have a shared belief that the night-time song of a certain bird is not the tune of an innocent feathered friend. Rather it is a life threatening cry of an evil spirit who has possessed a woman or child in the nearby villages. They believe the spirit leaves the sleeping person at night, and takes on the form of a bird that searches for a victim it can “eat”, bringing sickness and death. They are convinced the only way to stay free from this kind of death is to slay the women or children who are supposedly possessed by these kinds of spirits.
Though the jungle may appear to sleep peacefully under a blanket of moon jeweled fog, there is a desperate need for the truth of the Word to reach each of the scattered villages that are engulfed in the dense smoke of ancestral lies. Please pray the new Hewa believers will courageously speak for righteousness where they live, and also pray new missionaries will come to teach the Paiela tribal people the truth of the Word.
“The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Jesus