Archive for April 2006
Here’s the the house where I live. A former boarding house for school kids, it’s equipped with plenty of bedrooms, so Mick and June Bandy use it to host short-term people like me.
This is the front room. The dining room and kitchen are on the left, and my room is down the hall, last door on the left.
We’ve turned around 180 degrees to face the other half of the house. The Bandys all live down this hallway.
And here’s my room — or as much as I could fit in a picture. The window actually has a curtain, but I took it down to show my view.
We do have running water — from two different sources. We use water pumped from the river for hot taps, showers, laundry, etc.
Rain water runs from our roof into these tanks. We use this water for the cold taps and filter it for drinking.
From left to right are the Bandys: Drew, Palmer, June, Mick, and Carter. Mike, on the far right, is here for a year or two helping Mick with SALT courses, and he lives across the hall from me.
I guess before you go away to something new, you worry about the big things. That’s valid enough, I suppose. But in between the crises, it’s the little things that really stress you out.
Tonight, for example, the word came down from above: Call Peter and find out about the trip to the Ninigos.
Without going into too much detail tonight, the Ninigos are a group of tiny islands far to the north of New Guinea. We tried hard to get me there, on the plane with Peter and Nita, but doors closed one by one till we were left with only enormously expensive and utterly impractical alternatives.
Why was I trying to go? Well, you’re changing the subject on me, but the question’s fair enough. Beate, from Poland, and Theresa, from the UK, work in the Ninigos among the Seimat people. We plan to tell their story in an upcoming publication, and I wanted some pictures and on-the-ground experience to help me write it up.
Because that did not work out, we asked Peter and Nita to be sure and take some pictures. Trouble was, the couple arrived back from the islands today, and they’re leaving for the UK at 6:30 in the morning.
Someone has their pictures for us, but then came the directive: Talk to Peter tonight.
I like to talk to people. I’m usually fine with interviews. But this one almost gave me hives. The demon of rebellion began to stir. What would happen if I just didn’t call?
I tried to rationalize: The poor couple must be exhausted. They have to get up early. They’re trying to enjoy a final evening with Theresa and Beate. They don’t need interruptions, especially from people picking their brains for information.
Those were my more altruistic thoughts. Others included: I have no idea what to say. How am I supposed to ask an intelligent question when I don’t have any idea what’s going on? I am not going to call a stranger on the phone at 8 o’clock at night. No way. Cannot do it.
My attitude softened over half an hour, and I started trying to think what I might ask if I did decide to call. I jotted down the things I did know. Experience with Wycliffe. Theresa’s pastor.
Maybe I could do this. I found the number and dialed, hoping that no one was home.
She put Peter on, and I started talking nervously, asking for a few moments of his time. I fumbled the few questions I had managed to think of, and I felt like a babbling — and completely unprofessional — idiot.
Thankfully, Peter kept talking in spite of me, and I gained courage as he went. I was very pleased, when near the end of our short conversation, he paused to think and said, “Good question.”
Maybe I’d redeemed myself.
But that’s exactly the problem. Self-consciousness. I don’t think anybody else in the world gave the incident a second thought. Why should it be a problem? It wasn’t. It was fine. I was doing my job, and Peter was happy to talk about his wonderful experience. It’s only in my own scrambled brain that everything’s a mess.
I’d like to think that I’m learning as I go. I’d like to think I learned something from tonight.
Maybe next time will be better. And maybe it won’t be over the phone.
The SIL-PNG 50th anniversary press kit is now online in three versions of English. Six other languages are on the way.
Special thanks goes to Wycliffe Australia for hosting the kit on very short notice.
These materials are freely available for use. Send this link on to anyone who’s interested in the work in PNG, or to reporters and media contacts. You can also use the materials in your own publications or on your websites.
Note: I wrote this post last night (April 24), but technical difficulties prevented it from appearing until this morning (April 25).
I hardly know where to begin writing tonight. So many amazing things have happened.
Today, I had my very first ride in a helicopter, and I sat in front with the pilot. As the rotor began spinning faster and faster, the whole aircraft started to shudder. Like a water bubble working its way off the bottom of a glass, we felt lighter and lighter, until we no longer rested on the ground at all. We floated backward through the air, turning as we went to line up with the runway. Then we tipped forward and picked up speed.
Less than 10 minutes later, a crowd of faces watched us descend as freshly cut grass scattered in every direction.
Des Oatridge was the second Wycliffe man to arrive in Papua New Guinea, back in 1956. Jenny, the woman he would later marry, arrived a short time later.
After they married, the couple began living among the Binumarien people to learn their language and translate the New Testament.
The Binumariens used a language called Kâte in church; it was the language of early Lutheran pastors from far away on the coast. The people understood almost nothing of the gospel, believing that salvation depended on a list of works and that the Bible was mostly stories of spirits and magic rituals.
They believed that the first two people were men, and that God turned Eve into a woman as punishment for eating the fruit. Consequently, women, family relationships, and childbirth were considered dirty and unclean.
Much has changed in nearly 50 years — but then, I can’t tell the whole story tonight.
Today, the Oatridges went to visit the Binumarien people. I went with them.
Flying in, we saw Binumarien hamlets nestled in the rainforest. The people build their homes on stilts, which is common on the coast but unusual here in the highlands.
The helicopter takes off again, leaving us in the village. Des and Jenny left here in 1985 after dedicating the New Testament the year before. They have been back to visit a few times since then, most recently in June 2005.
Des and Jenny built this building for translation and literacy work many years ago. Today, the young woman in the pink blouse uses it as a school room, teaching 60 pupils with no pay and very few supplies.
An elderly woman weeps as she greets her old friends. She could barely speak, but she waved her hands in excitement when she saw Des and Jenny approaching.
When the Oatridges began living among the Binumariens in the late 1950s, community was dying out. “There were only about a dozen children,” said Jenny. Sickness and fighting had driven the population down to only 112. Today, the Binumariens number over 500, and we saw dozens and dozens of children. (Oh, and can you find the big spider in this picture?)
Jenny greets another old friend. The people kept telling Jenny she was a big old woman, which is actually a compliment.
Des speaks with the people in Binumarien. Sometimes Jenny would tell us what he was saying. Binumarien has two tones — rising and falling — but the whole sentence falls in pitch as you go along so that a rising tone at the end of a sentence is lower than a falling tone at the beginning.
A few hours after landing, we were in the air again. This is our Canadian pilot, Bev Preater. In the 1960s, the Oatridges had to be taken out of the village by military helicopters for medical treatment. That incident was one in a series of events that led to SIL-PNG purchasing helicopters of its own.
This valley lies between the Binumariens’ valley and the Aiyura Valley, where our center is located.
You can read more about the Oatridges and the Binumariens in Hidden People by Lynette Oates, another of our pioneers.
I stepped outside at the close of Friday’s singing time, and I was astonished by the colorful array of Papua New Guineans who were lining up with New Testaments.
Nafian Saremo helped translate the New Testament into his Gwahatike language, and now he’s using his expertise to assist translators from the nearby Madi language community.
James Warebu (right) called me over and told me he’d heard about the hold-up attempt as we returned from his village last month. I said, “Mipela gat pret, tasol Papa God i lukautim mipela,” which meant that we were afraid but God was watching over us.
Badi Vila works with the Bible Translation Association of Papua New Guinea, one of our partner organizations.