We are still moving towards our arrival gate, but we have landed. Thank you for your prayers!
The 8 boat rides are over and the last of 8 plane flights is departing in 3 and 1/2 hours (a 14 hour flight). Vic and I are in a Costa Coffee enjoying a slice of English apple pie and a coffee. We are looking forward to seeing our family and you, our church family, very soon.
We just landed in J- and are waiting four hours till our next flight to A.D.
The idea of working your way to their understanding of perfection is all about works. For example, when we were climbing up the monument, we noticed how big each of the steps were. R asked us why we thought that was, especially since Indonesians are small people. (I have been photographed with loads of people here delighted to see a very tall white guy. R says that was a compliment because if I looked unapproachable, they would not have asked for my photograph.) In reply to R’s question, I teasingly replied, “Is it because a lot of Americans came over to help build the temple?” She laughed and said no, that the reason is that Nirvana is difficult to reach and most be labored for, like climbing the steps up the temple are very hard to do.
After learning much about the temple and the stories etched into the stone in the 2.6 million images on the temple site, we headed to M-, the volcano that erupted violently in 2010. It is the youngest and most active volcano in the Ring of Fire in Indonesia. We drove as high as we could go in a car, then transferred to a jeep and climbed more. We saw several sites, but the drive to the rim was impossible today because of the threat of bad weather. It was a somber moment walking around the make-shift museum set up in one of the destroyed homes and a now abandoned village. There were pictures and artifacts detailing the destruction that took dozens of lives just after midnight.
Later, we drove back towards J- and visited several temples, Buddhist and Hindu, all together in one very large complex. Again, it was tragic to hear the stories of hopeless “faith” in ritual and works, and the false understanding of providence in Karma. But from a historic, architectural and religious studies point of view, it was quite an enriching experience.
Along the way while we were journeying, we were finally able to find something I had longed to experience. We found a place that cultivates and sells wild Kopi Luwak. Disclaimer for the weak of heart: don’t read further. The Palm Civet Cat (a half weasel/half racoon looking animal) loves coffee beans, but only selects the very best beans when it eats them. It has very discerning taste. It is vital to find a place that collects the wild civet beans because caged civets will eat coffee beans indiscriminately.
The civet lets nature take its course and 24 hours later eliminates the beans, which are not damaged in the process. The civet scat is then washed, processed and roasted. And sold as the most expensive coffee in the world, costing $35 to $100 per cup in the US. We were given a private tour of the small facility and a sample cup of the coffee. Vic and I bought a small batch of the beans at a fraction of their cost in the US. I look forward to enjoying some more of the kopi luwak when I arrive home.
Our tour guide was a Muslim lady who married a Catholic guy she has known since they were young. Her family ostracised her and also refused to attend their wedding. It is illegal for her to change her registration of religion, so technically she’s still Muslim, but was not practicing Ramadan like our driver did. We enjoyed a meal of fried chicken J- stye with her and some cooked jackfruit. When I met up with her before Vic and Micah arrived, I shared with her who we were and why we were in Indonesia. She was surprised at us. The places we have gone are places even Indonesians don’t visit. Later in the day, Micah took a walking break and talked with her while Vic and I walked around one of the temples. Micah was able to share about the grace of God in salvation in opposition to the works-oriented way of salvation in Buddhism and Hinduism. Please pray for R. She is now linked with me and Vic via Facebook and other social media avenues. We pray that future postings about the Gospel will be used of the Lord to open her heart to Christ.
This evening–and tomorrow morning–we will be resting before the beginning of two full and continuous days of journey. Please pray we make it home safely. We saw a wreck today while we were travelling. It occured just seconds before we came upon it. Thankfully, it didn’t look bad, but it was another reminder to us of the Lord’s mercies on us and our need of His watching care over us.
A hot and a cot. That was what soldiers have often longed for when in the field. My hot was a hot shower rather than a hot meal. It’s been two weeks since I’ve enjoyed a shower like the one I’ve just had.
Today, we awoke in J-, a city about three hours south of S-, where K and S live. We enjoyed the ride over a mountain and weaved between two volcanos, one dormant and the other still active, having erupted violently just three years ago. The mountain air was cool and refreshing, which we drank in and enjoyed. But the flask of freshness got spilt out as we entered J-. NYC driving and traffic doesn’t hold a candle to what we witnessed and experienced. How we didn’t see a single crash or death, I cannot imagine. We can only give the Lord thanks for His mercy and for the fact that such chaotic road conditions are things folks here take in stride.
We came here for a get-K-and S-away weekend. They’ve been going full-on for quite awhile and needed some time away. And K leaves Monday for S- where he will be speaking to a conference of pastors. This weekend is a good thing for them. And for us. We will be taking in some sights and doing some shopping before we head back to J- on Tuesday as part of our multiple day return travel.
Last night Vic and Micah graciously watched E and L so I could take K and S out for a few hours. I wanted them to have some time alone with their pastor, to gain another taste of the encouragement we brought from you to them, and to ask them the kind of questions needed to see how they are doing. My prayer was that they might be encouraged. And once again, I came way from the conversation with them deeply encouraged myself.
Getting into our rooms was another cultural experience. We waited at the desk for nearly an hour as they had us fill out paperwork and then went to prepare rooms for us. We are staying in a very nice hotel in J-. The cost is half what budget hotels on Long Island would be, and Micah, Vic and I are sharing a room. Then when we got to our room, there was only one bed. Well, with three of us–that wasn’t going to work! We asked for a room with two beds and an extra roll-away.
When we came out of our room, K and S said their room arrangements were wrong too. So K and I went to the lobby, only to be told they could only switch up one of us. So, Micah, Vic and I gathered our things and moved to another room on the same floor, hoping that the roll-away might show up. After K, S and I returned to the hotel, we met the rest in the lobby, where they told us that they took all of K and S’s things out of their room and put them into ours. We went up, and sure enough they had.
K went down to the lobby and told them how disturbing it was for them to take everything out of their room without any permission or notification. And he asked for an explanation–none was coming. After much discussion, things ended well. They “found” a room with two beds for K, S and the children and gave them their cot for E and our roll-away at no charge. K said every visit he’s had, even in nice hotels, always comes with some surprise.
Among other things we did on Friday, we enjoyed a wonderful time with the fellowship K and S are a part of in S-. Many of them came over to the C’s place, where we sang songs, I spoke from 1 Peter, and we prayed, especially for one of the ladies who lost her brother just two weeks ago. The fellowship time afterwards was a delight.
Today, S is taking us guys shopping. This should be a fun experience–but please don’t let Royale know that I said that! Afterwards, we are giving S a treat ( a Spa treatment in the hotel). She deserves a coupon book of ten of those! The rest of us will likely head to the pool and enjoy a relaxing afternoon and evening with the C’s before they leave tomorrow morning. Tomorrow, the three of us will see the volcano we drove past (yes, the active one) and then see some of the historic sights, two ancient temples and a museum of the Ss who made J- home. And Tuesday, we fly and wait and fly and wait and fly and arrive on Wednesday evening!
Thank you for your prayers. We feel them! Please continue to pray for all of us, as everyone of us are traveling several hours over the next few days.
Today was the first day since we flew out 10 days ago that we haven’t been on the road, in a boat of some kind or streaking across the sky. But, though it is just after 3pm, we are wiped out. We just can’t hang with a crew of kids sugar saturated and bouncing from one activity center to the next.
L’s fourth birthday party was a delight. We arrived early and stayed late to help set up and tear down the room rented at a local restaurant. The place looked great. L was delighted to share the meal, play and enjoy the gorgeously decorated birthday cake with her friends.
I had a delightful time participating and enjoying the company of some of K and S’s friends. Ic was a delight to converse with. He is from the far eastern island of Indonesia called P, which is the western end of the island. P is a beautiful country, peppered with lakes and filled with mountainous terrain.
Ic has one more year of university, where he is studying music. He plans to get an M.Ed degree and then return to Papua to teach music theory and voice to his fellow Ps. The island of P is widely regarded as the singing island of Indonesia. There are over 200 languages on the island, so most folks will speak P-M with one another–the bulk do not know Indonesian. Ic is looking forward to returning to P so he can write and teach Christian songs to his people that they can sing in their heart-language.
Another enlightening conversation I had was with J, a Hispanic Queens-born-and-raised AoG missionary who is headed with his family to Bi soon. He is still learning the language after arriving eight months ago. I asked him what differences in culture have really struck him. He said the indirect manner and speech was the biggest struggle. Being from NYC, he is use to direct straight-forward conversations. The Indonesian culture is completely opposite.
J said folks will say yes to things, but have no real intentions of actually doing it. And others will hint at what they want, but that leaves you in a place of wondering what they are really saying. He mentioned that someone said, “That food smells delicious.” J couldn’t tell if he was simply commenting on the food and its aroma, or if that was a roundabout way of saying they were hungry and would love something to eat. Get that conversation wrong and it might be possible you’ve lost the ability to share the gospel with the person who took offense to your insensitive reply.
It is that sort of guessing game and cultural struggle that really can make even the simplest of conversations wearing on missionaries. I will repeat my appeal that I gave in my last piece, please pray for the missionaries. Culture shock and the struggle of family adjustment often brings such a slow-building stress that families crack under the pressure. Kn related to us that he has a friend who is returning permanently from the field. The ministry was extremely fruitful, but staying would have damaged the family beyond repair. So the husband made the right choice to bring his family to a spiritually and emotionally strengthening place before he reconsiders any other ministry opportunities.
Vic had a great conversation with a missionary couple from Mexico. They can’t speak English, but Vic and the wife had a great conversation in Spanish. One point of interest was the pricing of the tuition at the linguist school. Because they were not from the US, the people priced their tuition at a much lower rate than what the others who came from the States. The assumption here is that if you are from the US, then you are exceedingly rich. Several times through this visit, K has talked about the tiered pricing levels and how he has to negotiate that obstacle in order to not get taken at every turn.
On a more humorous note, we’ve laughed at seeing several motorcyclists wearing coats. Lots of folks are convinced that the wind will make you catch cold. They call it “Masuk Angin,” literally “Enter Wind.” They don’t see the cold as simply a medical thing. To test if you have somehow had Masuk Angin, they will take an old ancient coin and scrape your back till it is raw. If your back turns red (which, of course, it would) that verifies that you had the problem and it also fixes it. So, to keep the wind out–or the coin off your skin–they wear coats no matter how hot it is. I would be tempted to do the same. K just popped out of the weight room and mentioned that most of the Muslims here go to the Dukun, or the witch doctor, who has lots of potions to alleviate problems.
Tomorrow, we will be meeting with the group K and S worship with. Their meetings are on Fridays, which is a day off like Sunday would be in the States. Pray that the message I give will encourage and strengthen the believers here.
We are here, at the C’s home in S. We are delighted to be here–doubly so as tomorrow is L’s birthday party. It has been so refreshing to watch and feel the rush of joy as K greeted S and the children.
The day has been a long one, with two flights and two sizable drives. Each leg has been filled with God’s mercies, well beyond what we might imagine. Thank you for praying for us!
As we have traveled around and observed life here–and learned from K–there have been some interesting cultural distinctives about Indonesia. Below are a sampling:
On the drive to S this afternoon, K pointed out a sign that read “Remember your family home waiting for you.” It was classic Indonesian Indirect Speech at work informing everyone they were on a hazardous corner and needed to slow down. What an interesting way to do that!
While we were taxi-ing down towards the runway, I flipped through the airline’s magazine and saw a whole page of traveling mercies prayers listed for every major religion. Ever seen anything like that on an American Airlines or Delta flight?
One phrase K has repeated time and again is roughly translated “Already the Usual,” which basically means, this is the way we have always done things. This one we find in the US too, but maybe not to the same degree as here.
Today, we had to go from the departure gate to the plane by several bus loads of passengers. After I climbed into the seatless bus, I noticed that there were several more who could fit in if people moved a little tighter. I motioned for K to move and he did, but no one else moved. Nor did anyone outside the bus seek to board. I must have looked puzzled because K explained that unless commanded to do something, no will take initiative to do anything about it. The default instinct is to look for a leader to tell you what to do. The people inside the bus wouldn’t move and the ones outside wouldn’t push unless someone told them to.
In another story, K said that if two Indonesians bought 100 acres of land adjacent to one another,one Indonesian would build his house on the far right center of his 100 acres and the other Indonesian would build his house on the far left center of his. And the reason for doing so is that the neighbor needed to be in company with others–it would be rude to not build right next to him. In the US, both owners would likely build in the dead center of the 100 acres, so as not to be close to the neighbors on any side.
These cultural insights have been a joy to learn and observe. These are the sorts of things missionaries learn and experience frequently, and lead to laughs, mistakes and offenses, and deep irritation and culture shock. Please remember to pray for the C family as they continue to learn and adjust to the myriad of cultural differences here.
I mentioned earlier that we determined to have daily devotions together from 1 Peter. It has been so wonderful to share the Word together. We literally shine from the joy received from the mutual excitement and interest in the Word and, more importantly, the remarkable richness of the Word for us as His people.
I’ve detailed many of the events of our trip thus far. And so, I also want you to get a taste of what we are sharing with one another. Below are my fast-written notes while we were talking about 1 Peter 2:4-10. I encourage you to grab your Bible when you have a half-hour or so. Read through the passage a few times, then track with my comments below. Just remember, the notes were written on the fly and are not edited. Nor were they originally written for you, but for my encouragement and for my further reflection. Some of the notes may not make sense–you don’t have a context for what I wrote. But I pray there is enough below for you to catch a flavor of what one of our devotional times looks like and that in some measure you too can capture the richness of grace displayed in 1 Peter.
Notes from 1 Peter 2:4-10
Christ is the chosen and precious one. Our identity is with him. Our being Precious to God is only through union with the Precious one. Our life is being in the chosen one. It is Vine and Branches in architectural metaphor.
Greater temple, priesthood, cornerstone. And we are a part of it.
Even Solomon recognized that. And this is instruction for mankind in 2 Sam 7 at the end
Believers not put to shame. Great concept in shame/honor society. IN US, we would not realize that so much.
V. 7 honor for you who believe as you come to this new house. Amos 9, Hosea, Zechariah and Obadiah. Temple was not living stones. The Romans could destroy it and they did.
Jesus is the living stone. He was rebuilt (resurrected) in three days. V. 21 honor and made the living one. So we too are rebuilt and receive honor.
God does think of unbelievers. They can disbelieve the message, but that won’t change the message of Jesus Christ. He will prevail over your unbelief. And you will be judged if you persist in your disobedience. It is not outside God’s plan. It is a failure from a human view, but God knew that Jesus would be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.
They stumble because they are disobedient, rebels and hard hearted.
V.9 more imagery.from OT. Chosen race, Exodus 19 views. Covenant words, offered before priesthood is instituted.
Deuteronomy. When you enact God’s law, the nations will be impressed. The passageway of the nations was through Israel. They had to view the people. They were ON DISPLAY. In that sense, the whole nation was a priesthood. The nations did not know anything about God, and the nation mediated the truth of God to them as a priesthood would do.
Royal priesthood. Like the Revelation Kings and priests. Rule and communication of God. Here, the connection the people are on display. You are realm of God’s rule. Who is the only person who will stop us from bringing the gospel to Boletot? Only God.
Holy nation–a people for God’s possession. But he wants a possession that reflects his own creative, redeeming authority.
Proclaiming, not so verbal, but what we are as God’s people is on display.
Excellencies of God. One here. He called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now, he goes back beyond the creation of Israel, but to Creation itself. His work in us is the same power as that of creation.
Moses drawn out of the water, and out of Egypt (out of plague of darkness), a new birth of the nation. Even that calling out of the nation, should have reminded them of the creative work of God. But it wasn’t the ultimate thing, our new birth is.
This expression matches God’s sovereignty. We were called (effective calling–a summons for life and light. Not a sun if you are there, please shine yourself).
Reminded of past. When we were not a people, when we had not received mercy. We did not have his converting, new birth mercy. But now we have received it.
Hosea connection. They were not a people. They were a not-people of God who became a you-are-a-people of God.
Homer. one named NO MERCY. one named NOT MY PEOPLE. But the name would change. Shown to be a wicked people like Gomer. They were the sinners, the prostitutes.
More than creation–nothing then something. It was much worse. There was sin and rebellion and determined NOT GOD’s. But now there is A PEOPLE called from that rebellion and MERCY shown to those who wanted and had no mercy.
I death will be swallowed up. I will love them freely, forgive their backslidings.
Application question. How does it inform our church interactions.
Gospel centeredness of our worship.
Not born Christian
Obedience and chosen are linked. Not a life by descent.
Come ready to exhort others. Hey, are you believing the word.
V. 9 our election is for a purpose. Doesn’t end with us just being saved. We were saved for a purpose. We were saved to display the glory of God. Lust. You were made to display the salvation of God. You may not be on display when roaming the web for porn, but it will effect your luster of Jesus when you do go outside. And the Angels observe you.
We have a message supported or discredited by our life.
Come to church. What am I going to hear, what amI getting out. NO, I am part of a bigger group. What are we doing together. It isn’t a personal boost from the sermon after you had a rough week.
Not as eager to engage certain people after church. Different factors. Maybe judge them, sinful flesh puts you in place of superiority. I will look for the “spiritual stones” not the hard, abrasive ones. Reality, we are all deriving life from Jesus, not from ourselves. We are together made to look at what would display the precious nature and excellencies of Jesus.
No sense, verse 1, to be envious, if we are all called by same Lord to same glories and for same purposes.
Navy. Everyone on ship work towards same mission. When victory happens, we all celebrate on ship equally. We are excited each has done his work well. The people swabbing the deck is as excited for victory as the gunner and the captain.
The church has ONE purpose, thus, one focus. So, the “success” of each should evoke the same eruption of unified joy.
These various stones come to being one. The church are NO MERCY people becoming MERCY-ied people. So, there shouldn’t be a yuppie church, a white church, a black church, a cowboy church. We come from diversity to unity in Christ.
NOT A PEOPLE, NOW a PEOPLE. Race and ethnicity is not the means by which we are chosen. We were ALL people who had no credit or standing before God.
Lot like Corinthians. Connection of doctrinal foundations and imagery and how we live. Temple idea of who we are. And the exhortation to flee sin because we are the dwelling place of God. The moral purity application of first couple verses of chapter 2 flows out of who we are as a new temple, new priesthood, new people, new nation.
Not put to shame. We will be vindicated ultimately in the future. We will not get to the end of life and be disappointed and shamed.
God bless you, beloved of the Lord!
After waking yesterday, we were brought some yucca and coconut for breakfast. The yucca tasted delicious, much like a potato. We tore down our gear and shared conversations with people who walked into our dwelling to greet us. Many came in simply to sit with us and not talk. We asked one of the people why that was so, and the reply came that when you come to B, you come in as part of the family. And since they did not want us lonely, they came to sit with us.
While we were milling around, I went to the public toilet area. It was a small wooden enclosed area and I shifted a piece of corrugated tin roofing to cover the doorway. Inside the enclosure was what we’ve termed a squatty potty, a small bowl, a watering can, and a well with a roped bucket next to it. Over the course of days, I’ve necessarily but hesitantly gotten accustomed to the art of using the squatty potty. But this one had some added challenges–of which I will spare you the details. And then there was that well. I dreaded to think it was what I thought it might be.
It was. It was the source of their drinking water. Some homes caught the rain water by running the flow off the roofs into tin buckets, but most used the well. My heart still aches for them to have clean, safe water. It is no wonder many deal with stomach problems, fevers and worse.
Shortly after I returned, the female teacher came in with several young children all in uniforms. They were so beautiful in dress and spirit, laughing and giggling as they played in our quarters. We shook hands with each of them and sent them back to school. As they went, they laughed and cheered loudly along the way.
Then a group of older boys and girls came into our quarters. These had a different uniform, but looked just as bright and clean as you might expect to see school children on your street corner waiting for the bus. We gathered these children together and Vic gave our final Bible story lesson to the people of B.
After K’s long talk which I mentioned in the History of B piece, we made our way to the canoes. We slipped and slided on the mud and cement path. I fell hard, but thankfully nothing was damaged.
We slithered down the embankment, caked in mud, and got into our canoes and headed downriver back to T. The journey took a shade under two hours, the fastest time K has had for that journey. At a couple spots, we had to navigate obstructions in the river. One spot was a wall of bamboo trees that had fallen into the river.
The driver of K and Vic’s canoe decided to ram it full speed. As he hit the trees, they began to sink and the helper in the front attempted to push them down. It didn’t work; the canoe got stuck right in the middle. Thankfully, it didn’t capsize. Eventually, they got it past the obstruction, then got our canoe over it. Micah got out and helped push it over. After he returned to the canoe, we discovered later that two big hairy spiders and a beautiful caterpillar joined us.
The rest of the journey was uneventful apart from our canoe driver handing off some of his fuel to the other canoe after it had drained the tank.
We landed in T in record time. Even our driver gave a shout of victory! K tipped the drivers extra for an excellent journey and then discovered that yesterday a canoe capsized and lost all of the goods it was transporting. Thank the Lord we enjoyed safe travel and thank you for seeking the Lord’s mercies on us.
When we finally got to the ocean docks by way of the now normal pile of people and gear in the side trailer of one of the motor scooters, we met A. He pointed out to the ocean and the large waves coming in. He informed us that the waters were too rough for safe travel and that we needed to wait for low tide.
At the dock was Ti, T’s wife. She was hoping to catch a boat to S to obtain supplies for her family. We told her she could catch a ride with us once we were able to head out. It was a blessing to the family to not have the expense, with the added bonus of being with fellow believers.
With hours till low tide, we left our gear with A and his crew and headed over to the home of the Pentecostal pastor. He wasn’t home, so we journeyed over to T and Ti’s home for a meal they kindly invited us to. We ate rice and bony chicken and pig pieces. But the highlight was the bananas!!!
T came out with a big cutting of bananas, as though they were just harvested off the tree. They were much smaller than bananas available in the US, and had the texture of a green banana, but deliciously sweet with a slight citrus tartness to them. They were amazing!
While we ate, a man and wife from a nearby island visited the home. E is a Pentecostal pastor on that island. He was a short, jovial man who took to Vic like a brother. He accompanied us over to A’s house (the Pentecostal pastor in T) after the meal. There K and A agreed to the terms of rental for the house, which will be available to Kn and S around September or so. The cost will be less than $100 per month. It was an expensive price for that area, but still acceptable. But the money would be of benefit to the pastor and the church.
While we were there, A and E asked us about Bo. Many believers are concerned about the village and its spiritual state, they told us, but none has been able to make successful efforts to reach the village. They told us of some people coming in, making a show, taking pictures, then leaving with nothing but broken promises behind them. We told them of our support of K’s work and what it would look like. They were heartened and amazed that we would be desirous to go to B. We talked to them about the compulsion of the gospel.
The time came, seemingly quickly, for us to launch. We made it took the dock once again, journeying in the rain, and met up with A. We hastily clambered onboard while the surf tried to pound us and the boat.
Our several-hour journey back to S included a short stop at A’s surf camp. What an oasis that place is! A swapped driving duties with his dad and loaded our boat with some empty fuel containers he needed filled in S. We said our goodbyes to A, a most generous and helpful soul. We pray that K and S’s continuing relation with them will prove beneficial to both couples and of great significance for the gospel.
We eventually made it to S, even enjoying along the way, a trip through a shortcut channel that had been carved out of the mangrove trees. We didn’t have any plans or arrangements for accommodations, but we soon found a hostel that had two rooms with two queen-sized beds available. Immediately, I claimed Vic as a roommate! We paid about $18 for both rooms. It was such a joy to settle in, get a cold shower and change of clothes and enjoy a sweet evening of fellowship with one another around our devotions in 1 Peter. We ended the evening with a word of prayer and some more friendly laughs.
Today, we have an afternoon sea voyage to P. The guys are up now and ready for breakfast.
Near the end of our evening in B, M took time to share with us the history of the village. It is an artificial village, started in 2005 and dedicated in 2009 after the government completed its building projects there. The built two school houses, an official’s office and home, laid down a narrow cement path (which is now covered with algae and as slippery as ice) and a few other things.
The people in B come from the general region and were gathered together there by the government after the large tsunami that devastated the islands. Those the area near B was not damaged, the gathering of people was a part of a larger program established by the government.
Before coming to B, the people lived in either very small villages or in little family groups along the river or deeper interior. They lived the traditional way, harvesting sago or hunting and gathering. Their dress was minimal, simply loin cloths, and their manner was much like what you might be thinking. Death, disease, tribal friction and small, murderous battles was a normal part of life. So was animism and tribal medicine. Vic said he saw a lot of similarities between these things and the tribes in the Amazon that he read about and saw in the movie The Tip of the Spear.
M said that the people in B still keep their tribal identities, but they have all agreed not to fight and battle one another. They still keep some customs, especially when wedding someone from a differing tribe. And there are sections of B where the houses were built in the traditional manner, including hanging skulls on the outside to appease the spirits. M related that they were commanded to wear clothes, though that didn’t stop one man who came into our quarters in a lion cloth. He had come in from tending to his pigs, which he had penned somewhere deeper in the jungle.
We asked M where the nearest village was from B. He said it was about a day’s walk away, deeper in the interior. For us, it would likely take a few days, because we walked through the woods slower than a B grandmother on our way to the sago cultivating spot.
All along the river, we saw huts and small dwellings, even some pigs. Occasionally, a canoe would pass. And there were many places where three-foot rounds of sago tree were lashed together and floating in the river. The people do that until the sago begins to deteriorate, then they feed the sago to their pigs for food.
These river people are not counted among the government census. No one has a true understanding of how many live in that way along the river. Several are glad to keep it that way and unless you are verses in spotting the signs, you would not know anyone lived in the area. While we traveled, I wondered how the gospel might reach these river folks. They would only know their tribal language and still live under the oppression of animism and tribal medicine.
In B, many of the people there appear hungry to hear the word of God. Some attempts to bring the gospel have been made, but none proved successful. One group came in and built a Baptist church building before establishing a successful relationship with the people. The building sits there unused and literally rotting away on its foundation.
There are two teachers in the village, both from outside B, though M (the husband of one of the teachers) came from a place not far from there. One is Muslim and the other is Catholic, though in name much more than practice. Doctrinal understanding about denominational differences is barely understood, even among pastors in this part of the world, as I discovered back in T. From what I could gather, the only way the two pastors I met there could describe the differences between the Baptist church and the Pentecostal church was that the Pentecostals clapped their hands when singing and the Baptists did not.
One thing is clear about B, when they do things, they do them together. When the Baptist building was being built in B, they were all happy to identify with the Baptist church and register as Baptists with the government. [A person must register their religion with the government, so changing churches and thus government registration is a rare occurrence here. Typically, a person must declare to the government their religion before expressing it. In American terms, it would mean that you would have to say what you were before you could attend the religious services of that religion or recognized religious denomination.]
Since the Baptists didn’t continue the work after building the place of worship, the people gravitated towards the religion of the two teachers. So, that is why they conduct a Catholic service, but one hardly recognizable as that.
On our final morning in B, the son of the official had a long talk with K. It was very similar to several conversations K had had with people there, but it seemed to go much better this time. [On an aside, repeating things in this culture is very common as part of their conversation style. Often when K would speak with someone and then relate to us what was being said, he would tell us that the person was repeating themselves and slowly adding nuances to the conversation.]
The man told K that if he wanted to take the Baptist building and reopen it, they would all register as Baptists and go there. It was important that what they do, they do together.
K wisely shared that he had no desire to be a pastor there or to draw people to himself. What he wants to do is to come and help the people know the Word of God so well that they can understand what to do. And he wants to train men from the village to lead the church. Such an idea struck the villagers as odd and attractive. They expressed great eagerness for that to happen. We pray it will.