So, how does one go about gaining permission to move into a village? Many of you asked us this question before we arrived in Papua New Guinea and now that we have found the place where we believe God wants us long term, I will explain how this interesting process of gaining permission has gone for us so far.
Meeting with Our Land Owners
After we made our final decision that we would join the work among the Tigak language group, specifically working on this island, there were a few technical details we needed to work through as a team to ensure that we had the adequate permission to move onto the island. No, we were not going to just move in without asking permission! 😀
The first necessary step was for all of us to meet with the land owners. A group of brothers own the land we will live on, though only two of these brothers live on the island. These two brothers also own the land that the Bealls live on, and thankfully we all already knew them fairly well and had a good established relationship with them.
Ned let both of the brothers know that we would like to meet with them and very soon, and shortly after they were ready and waiting on the beach to meet with us! We were all a bit giddy as we went to the meeting, not because we were nervous necessarily, but because we all realized what a significant step this was in the the direction of working among the Tigak people.
Both men sat down on either side of a parked canoe and we all arranged ourselves on the wooden benches they had pulled around for our gathering. Ned started the meeting by thanking them for talking to us. Ned then explained to both men a series of things, everything from why we had come here (for our Bush Orientation), to how we had talked about how the Bealls needed co-workers because of all the work they had translating God’s Word. As Ned talked, both of the men sat and listened quietly, occasionally nodding their heads in understanding or agreement. Because Ned was speaking the Tigak language, we could not understand a word of it so all we could do was just sit there, try to listen and wait.
After much thorough explanation on Ned’s part to make sure the big men understood, Ned finally told them that now we had decided it would be a good thing for us and Aimee to move here and help them with the work of translating God’s talk and teaching it to the people. He told them it would be good for us to live in the house that we have been staying in (the house that the Bealls previous partners had built and left) and upon hearing this, one of the men asked, “Where will Aimee live?”. We were glad they had asked this because it was one of the things we had wanted to discuss with them. Ned told them we were not sure about that yet, but it was barley out of his mouth before the men were offering some of their land for Aimee to build her house on! Praise the Lord!
Both men responded very positively to all that Ned had told them-which we were very thankful for. They both expressed being happy to hear that we had decided to stay. One of the men said something like, “Now that we know you, we would be very sad if you went away”. Later adding, “I have enjoyed talking and drinking coffee with Tom, so I think you should stay here for a very long time. We do not want you to go away”. The other brother added his thoughts of, “I do not have anything to say against this idea” and also told us he was very happy about it.
The whole meeting only took about twenty-five minutes and when it was over we all shook hands with the two men and thanked them for saying we could come and live here. There were smiles all around and we left the meeting feeling very relieved, happy and praising the Lord for helping everything go so smoothly.
Telling the Believers
After our meeting with our new land owners, we were excited to let some of the believers know of our decision, and ask their thoughts. While living here for the few months we have, we have been blessed by getting to know the handful of our brothers and sisters in Christ. From the day they knew we were thinking and praying about staying here they have all been more than enthusiastic. Repeatedly they would ask us if we had decided yet, making it very clear that they wanted us to stay very badly. One time when Tom was talking with the Bible teacher Paska, he told Tom, “If you do not decide to stay it is ok… I will just cry, that is all.” 😀
Needless to say, the few believers that we told at this time were very excited to hear our final decision to live and work together with them. After telling one friend who was sitting on the beach in the sand, he joyously and vigorously scooted to each of us on his behind to offer an enthusiastic hand shake as he said “Thank you, thank you, thank you” over and over. We all laughed a lot. Another friend chose to respond to the news by saying, “Oh man, I am floating up in the clouds now that you have told me this news!”. Haha! Needless to say, taking the word to a handful of believers was one of our favorite parts of this process! They had been waiting and praying to hear this news for a while now. 😀
Just in case anyone was missed, the following Sunday when all the believers were together, one of the believers stood up at the end and announced to everyone else the news, and said that they should throw us a celebratory feast. Later that night, we all got together and discussed when this feast would happen, and it was decided that we would have it the next Sunday.
The Public Announcement
The best way to do this was to make an announcement at “Line.” Line is an island-wide meeting that takes place every Monday morning. At this meeting, matters of importance relating to community life are brought up and discussed openly, as most of the “big men” and other community leaders are usually present, along with most other people living on the island. Line gave us the perfect platform to tell our news!
When Line was half way over Ned stood up and walked to the center of the area where this community meeting takes place. He spoke in the local language and told everyone listening about our decision to come live here and help with the missionary work they had been doing. It was a brief announcement met with smiles from most. When Ned was finished, one of the big men stood up and told everyone they should clap their hands for this good news they had all just heard. 🙂 Since the meeting, most people have known that we will be staying here now and many have let us know that they are happy about it. Sometimes we will be giving medicine to someone and they will tell us that they heard we will now live here permanently and that it makes them “very glad”.
The Church’s Celebratory Feast
Lastly but not least was the “Kaikai.” In PNG culture it is appropriate to recognize or celebrate an agreement with a meal/feast together called a “kaikai.” The few believers here informed us that they were so happy about our decision that they wanted to have a kaikai for us. We were honored and thrilled at the idea. The feast took place on a Sunday afternoon right after we gathered for church. Everyone prepared food in advance and brought it to contribute to the meal. It was a very fun time even though we had to eat some gross things. Among the spread of food was Octopus stew, smoked fish, kaukau (similar to sweet potato), rice and stewed greens. We contributed a rice dish with chicken and two chocolate cakes. It was a wonderful celebration with our new friends and everyone was acting giddy and energetically fun (we are suspicious that the chocolate cake had something to do with this but either way, it was a blast!).
And THAT is how you gain permission to move into a village! Well, at least that is what it has looked like for us. These days we are busily making preparations for the things that need to be repaired on our house (to hold us over until we can afford to build new). We are also working on team strategy stuff with our new partners, formulating the plans for when and how we will begin language study upon our return, planning our time on maternity leave while continuing to get to know our new island home and all it’s inhabitants!
Our partner Aimee is in the middle of house building plans and keeping very busy at that! We have a couple of weeks before we leave this island to begin our journey back to the states. Everyday we feel like we can hear the clock ticking as we try to get everything done! These are truly busy, challenging yet exciting days as we look forward to all God has in store for the Tigak people!
Paska’s Famous Octopus Stew