We knew that living in the mountains of Papua New Guinea would be different from living in the town of Madang. But there is a point where, having lived in Madang for the last year, I began to think that on a large scale—a seismic one, perhaps—I had seen what there was to see about living in Papua New Guinea.I was wrong. In three–ahem–groundbreaking ways.Nature Experience #1: the earthquakes. Now maybe the fact that our house here is built on stilts has something to do with it, but while we felt one definite earthquake over our entire year in Madang, we have felt several in just the first few weeks of living in the tribe.Now that I have gotten somewhat used to what an earthquake feels like (coming from Arizona, my previous experience with earthquakes was, well, nil), it has been a sweet thought that it is God who shakes these mountains! They do not shake of their own accord, by chance or whim, but are rather shaken the One who made them.But that has not been the only event of nature that we have been privy to up here.Nature Experience #2 among these inaugural happenings? Landslides.We haven’t actually seen a landslide, but we have heard two.Have you ever heard a landslide? It sounds pretty much as you might expect it to sound, rocks tumbling and crashing and echoing down a mountain. It’s actually kind of a crazy sound. We’ve heard them only at night thus far and woken up to see the evidence of them on the surrounding mountains in the morning (see the picture above).Now, has the nervous thought ever flitted through my mind that our house and its occupants might be part of a landslide one day? Perhaps. But, again, we did not come here entrusting our lives to chance or the whims and quirks of the earth, but rather to the One who made the earth and does nothing by chance or whim, but with purpose, wisdom, and goodness. If He should so choose to envelop us in a landslide one day, that would be His prerogative and we would call it good because He is good.
Nature Experience #3: Hands down, the most intrusive of all the naturally occurring events we’ve witnessed here thus far: the night a large tree branch (the size of a small tree trunk) broke off of a nearby tree and crashed onto the roof of our bedroom. There we were, 10:00 at night, still getting used to the variety of noises at night, when we hear this tremendous cracking sound, followed by the sound of something crashing onto our roof. It was so loud and violent sounding, we had no idea what it was. An earthquake? A landslide?We run outside, as do our neighbors and two of the leaders from town who were out on patrol in the village when they heard the sound. So there we all are with our flashlights, with everyone making sure we were okay and our house was okay. Really (since the answers to those questions was ‘yes’), it ended up being a sweet time for everyone.
In the morning, Matt went up on the roof to check for damage and, by God’s grace, there was none. Just a ton of tree debris strewn all over that side of our roof and its gutters. This was a blessing because had the branch broken any part of our gutter system (which we depend upon daily for our water) or our roofing iron, we wouldn’t have the parts to fix them and would have had to wait six weeks to them into the tribe!But what is the upside of a branch falling on someone’s house?
Firewood for everyone!First thing in the morning, our neighbor was up with an axe, taking turns with a few other guys from the village hacking away at the fallen branch. By lunch time, there was nothing left of the scene but wood chips—men and women had carried the wood off all over the village.
So there’s a small glimpse into the ‘Awesome-and-Somewhat-Terrifying-Events-of-Nature’ aspect of our life in the village. There have been more opportunities to trust the Lord in these things, but there have also been more opportunities to stand in awe of His power and protection.