About a month ago, I (Sean) had an incredible opportunity to go stay in a bush location for a week to mill wood for a teaching house to be used when the missionaries begin teaching later this summer and this tribe will hear the gospel in their language for the first time. This trip was a huge blessing on two different levels. First, I was going to see the portable sawmill in action and learn how to adjust and operate it. Secondly, I was going to get a full week of complete immersion in learning Pidgin English.
We flew into the airstrip that was about a 20 minute hike down a valley and back up to the missionaries’ house. From there we had another hour to hour and a half hike up the mountain to the worksite. Here was the location of the trees that were being cut down, sawed into 13′ chunks and then rolled down the hill to the milling location. As it turns out, a saw mill running in the mountains of Papua New Guinea is a great form of entertainment for the locals. There were dozens of men, women, and children sitting on the mountainside watching us work day after day, rain or shine.
The missionaries in this tribe knew that I was in the process of learning Pidgin, so they made it a point to tell all the men to teach me Tok Pisin, ask me a lot of questions, and correct me anytime I messed up… and so they did! There were two nights that I slept away from the missionaries’ house. The first night, I slept in a hammock on top of the mountain along with a dozen other guys. We sat around a fire, ate supper, and told stories until I couldn’t stay up any later. A few days later, I slept in a kunai house (grass roof hut). This house belonged to the land owner of the area which we were cutting down trees.
That night, I had a few moments that were fairly profound. The first was when we were sitting in this hut on top of the mountain, with a fire inside to keep us warm, void of electricity and plumbing, yet there were three guys sitting around faces glued to their cell phones, texting like a bunch of teenagers. Yes, you read that correctly, texting. They were texting their families across the river and up the next mountain. They told me that cell phones started working up there about three years ago, and before that they had a different method of communicating with their kins. Smoke signals… that’s right, they would throw grass on a big fire and make big smoke signals to communicate to the other mountain.
I realized after hearing that story that things are changing so fast in PNG that the people can’t even properly adjust to the changes. You see, they have cell phones before they have electricity to charge those phones. They are texting before they had landlines or even radios to call one another. In order to effectively minister in this country, you have to recognize the twofold paradigm here, they are both incredibly behind technologically and they are leaping forward to modern conveniences (while skipping all the steps in between) all at once.
The next morning when I woke up, I had my next profound moment. Even though things are changing so fast in the bush of PNG, God’s majesty is still on display every morning and He remains the same in his unchanging greatness. He has called us to PNG and He has provided for us every step of the way, and He desires for all 862 language groups in PNG to hear the Good News in their language. We, on the other hand, are just blessed to be along for the ride. Thanks for being a part of the “wild ride” with us!