When we first heard about this potential ministry location, I remember someone telling me that flying in there was like flying into Jurassic Park. When we first started planning a trip in there, just to check things out, I really didn’t have much information to go on. Payton had been there before, but we were looking at much more than just a day trip, we were considering 3 nights interior as well as hiking out and then staying in another village before heading to the coast to catch a tiny puddle-jumper plane home. I could feel the details looming in my mind. I don’t like traveling far from home. Maybe I used to be keen on adventures, but I feel low on energy most days, not to mention doing things with a 2 year old are far harder than with just Payton and I. Trips always require more energy, but usually they are fraught with less than ideal sleep—not my idea of fun. Regardless, I knew this was a necessary step for us to take in our ministry. We are in the exploratory phase, so we had to get the ball rolling . On that particular morning I was reading from the book of Job trying to shift my perspective back into place. I was read through Job’s conversation with God and as I got to the part about the Behemoth and Leviathan, I was struck by the fact that these dinosaurs were terrifying. My friend had just sent Finn a pretty scary dinosaur book, with pictures that really made them look real. Finn usually looks at each of the pictures and decides whether or not he would want to pet it or ride it. I had never thought about what an encounter with the monsters in Job would actually be like. I would be inclined to think that it would not be pleasant. I don’t think I would vote to “pet” or “ride” either of them.
And yet God basically asks Job, “Who made these beasts? Who controls everything?” I realized that any “dinosaurs” that I could manage to conjure up, God was indeed bigger than all of them. Even if we travelled to the “land of the dinosaurs” for a trip, I had no need to crumble under fears of what awaited.
As we made final preparations and loaded our things into the helicopter, I knew the the God who made the dinosaurs was going with me. He could tame my fears. And any obstacle that came up, would be in His hands.
After over an hour of flying, Finn decided to fall asleep on my lap, the whir of the rotors finally lulling him to sleep. We cut away from the coast and followed the curve of one particular mountain into the range. It was stunningly magnificent with walls of rock on either side, jutting into the sky. I felt like at any minute I would see an ancient beast emerge from the trees.
Instead, we landed and friends welcomed us as the helicopter quickly unloaded and took off again to shuttle some supplies and people in from the village down near the coast. A drizzle of rain began, and we slipped off our sandals to make it down the muddy path, using our toes to grip and steady us. The city is far to dirty and dangerous to ever be caught barefoot, so it was nice to feel earth under our feet again.
During our time there we were able to see the small church, meet some of the youth that were being discipled, as well as have lots of time for discussion with the missionaries. Plus, staying in the former missionaries old house gave us lots of things to think about with regard to what everyday life might look like.
I had forgotten how dark it gets without the glow of city lights
I had forgotten how much I hate hairy spiders at night
I had forgotten how much I liked being away from a cell signal, but also how disconcerting it felt
I had forgotten how silent the day felt without the constant calls to prayer
I enjoyed watching the pace of life slow back down and see Payton in his element
I relished the fact that Finn makes friends quickly and was happy to roam free without cars or bikes to look out for
I remembered how far a cup of tea can get me when I’m tired and want to call it quits
It was good to talk openly and honestly about how fragile we are as human beings and especially as missionaries
It was refreshing to be reminded of God’s bigger picture for building his church
It was sobering to see how many talented people God had taken out of the picture in order to use the weak and the humble
I was sweet to see the hospitality and generous hearts of God’s beloved
Yes, there were some mental “dinosaurs” that still gave me quite the chase. My lack of energy was probably the most constant. I don’t know if I lack energy or if Finn just consumes it at alarming rates; could be a bit of both. We said our goodbyes to the team interior and with help from a small group of believers, we began the journey down the mountain.
Someone had said the hike might take 4 hours, someone had said 7, and someone had said 10. Four hours into it, I dared to ask how much longer…a few more hours they said. I definitely wanted to cry at that moment, and I wasn’t even carrying Finn! And earlier on, someone had offered to take some stuff from my pack since their baskets were empty, but it was still a pretty rough hike. It was basically river crossings, ankle-breaker rocks, steep hills, and scree downhill trails the whole way until we reached the bottom where it levelled out.
Apparently, we had it easy since it wasn’t flood season and we didn’t have to go the long route. Besides the young people, there was a 5 year old girl, an old woman, and a dog with only 3 legs in our group, so I figured I should be able to make it.
We bribed Finn for most of the hike down. I had to give him a pack of mini M&Ms to get him to stay in the basket. Besides other snacks, Payton sang him every kids song he could think of to keep him happy. Our group stopped every 45 minutes or so so he could run around a bit or stretch. Finn decided to take a bath in the river at lunch. All of his clean clothes were packed away and taped inside big garbage bags to keep them from getting wet in the river, so he only had a sweatshirt and underwear for the rest of the trip, which looked pretty hysterical. I’m glad the mosquitoes were basically not around or it could have been a much more uncomfortable trip.
After 6.5 hours, we began to see hints of gardens here and there and then finally emerged into the rows of houses. My legs barely functioned and Finn was quite grouchy. Payton didn’t even feel a hint of fatigue or sore muscles, lucky guy. We were guided to the house where we would be staying. One of the church elders graciously hosted us. We were served cake and incredibly sugary coffee before being shown the bathroom so we could bathe. Finn had been spoiled up in the mountains with hot showers, so he was not very happy to be greeted by buckets of cold water, but he managed.
I had to drag my legs around and just wanted to sleep, but Finn had other plans. Yet, God continued to sustain. Payton still had enough energy to go to a small service that evening. I tried for about 5 minutes before Finn started fussing, and I wobbled back to the house. I really felt like melting down at that moment. I knew we had a rough night ahead, plus a church service in the morning and then a 4 hour car ride the next day. It seemed impossible that I would survive that long. Those mental dinosaurs had got me again. I prayed. Payton came back to check on us in the middle of the bible study. I just submitted it all to God and decided to wait on Him for new strength.
For our bed, there was a bit of a mat on the wooden platform. I rearranged the stuffing that had gotten all bunched up on the sides to try to make it more comfortable. Sleep won out in the end, which was probably God’s mercy on my achy bones. God carried me/us through the next morning, the winding car-ride, and the flight home the following morning.
It was good to work together as a team to pull off the trip. I felt that God continued to prove that nothing was too big or too scary for Him. Our perspectives were indeed broadened by the trip and we felt grateful to have been able to see God at work among those people as well as in our own lives.