Caked with a mixture of sweat and grime and nearing exhaustion, Wasi stumbled into the neighboring Hewa village, dragging his 16-year-old daughter, Tino, behind him. They collapsed in a heap as villagers and missionaries came running. Muddy rivers of tears streaked down Wasi’s face as he looked up and implored those standing above him,
“Please save my daughter! Please save her! They want to chop her up with an axe!”
Wasi’s fears were not unfounded. Six others from his village had already met the same brutal end. Why? Because of the tragic beliefs and traditions handed down by his Hewa ancestors.
For centuries, the Hewa people of Papua New Guinea have believed that sickness and death are caused by evil spirits. But the deadliest of all these spirits are the ones that inhabit women or children, making them a witch. So when someone dies, the tribal men sit around the fire and quiz each other to find “evidence” of the witch’s identity that caused the death. The two biggest “proofs” of guilt are if someone dreams about you or if you are mentioned in someone’s dying words. Since a Hewa man had recently died and in his final breaths had whispered Tino’s name, she had been declared a witch and marked for death.
Now it was only a matter of time before a raiding party of young men came to hunt her down.
But Wasi had come to the right place. Running through the jungle earlier, blind with fear, clutching his daughter’s arm, all he could think of was, “Go to the village that is different now. The Big Message has changed them. They will care. They will help.”
And they did.
Word went out quickly that another Hewa girl was in danger and needed safe haven. It had to be somewhere far enough away so that no Hewa people had ever hiked there before and never would – out of fear of the unknown evil spirits at that distance.
Then began the long waiting – and praying. And word came back. A believing family in another tribe on the other side of the mountains would adopt Tino as their own daughter. She would be safe there. The missionaries could take her immediately.
Once again, tears covered Wasi’s face, but this time, out of joy. No angry, misguided axes, which had swung in their Hewa mountains for centuries, would swing against his daughter today. Instead, he had witnessed something new. The strangling cord of tradition had been chopped – by people believing a different message. A message of life.
Wasi waved until the helicopter and its precious cargo was just a speck in the distance and then turned for his own long journey home. But this time as he traveled, all he could think of was, “The Big Message is powerful. When will it come to my village?” Lifesaving faith is cutting a path there now.
The tribal believers that helped save Tino are steadily wielding the truth of the Gospel throughout their Hewa mountains – axing fear and falsehood wherever it is found. And it’s leaving a trail strewn with the life-giving blood of Jesus Christ. Wasi’s village is next on the chopping block.
What are you wielding today?