The Last Four Days

Me waiting for the helicopter flight into the Finisterre Mountains

Me waiting for the helicopter flight into the Finisterre Mountains

WARNING: This is a long blog post. It’s informative, it’s got lots of pictures…but it is long. Feel free to read as much as you want or skim through the pictures because otherwise, you may want to get comfortable.

Before Monday

Over here in Papua New Guinea, we as a team have something called the Big Picture and something called a strategy statement. The Big Picture is a 10-step plan of the work we aim to do over here and the strategy statement is a detailed breakdown of each of those ten steps. Let’s just take a moment and praise God for what we have completed so far:

  1. Training (going to linguistics school, learning Greek, and doing theology training through our church)
  2. Partnership Development (raising support)
  3. Arrival on Field and Orientation (begun December 7, 2014, ended roughly April of 2015)
  4. Surveys

We are in the middle of step number four—surveys! Our strategy statement breaks this step down into quite a few sub-steps, but one of them describes the part of the survey process where the wives return to tribes that our husbands have already visited to see if we would be able and willing to allocate there.

That is what we did this past week.

The airplane hangar in Madang

The airplane hangar in Madang

Monday

After several conversations, Matt and I decided to leave our kids in Madang for the second survey. There were pros and cons with taking them and leaving them, but in the end we decided to let them party for the week at the Lehman house (our co-workers stationed in Madang), along with the three Lehman kids and one of the Canns’ kids for a total of eight kids for four days. Like I said—party.

We dropped the kids off at 7:15am and went to the airport where we waited around for our flight to arrive. Just to clear up any confusion, when I say “airport”, I mean “small hanger adjacent to a runway” and when I say “plane”, I mean a “Kodiak”—as opposed to a 747.

Kodiak plane

Kodiak plane

Kodiaks are actually amazing machines and perfect for Papua New Guinea. According to their website, they can take off in under 1,000 feet at full gross weight, climb 1,300 feet per minute, and need only 705 feet to come to a full and complete stop…on an unpaved landing strip.

To the average aviation enthusiast?

Amazing.

To me?

Slightly terrifying.

Have I mentioned that I don’t like to fly?

Anyway, our flight arrived at 9:00am and by 9:30, we were taxiing down the runway.

Leaving Madang in the Kodiak

Leaving Madang in the Kodiak

Me in the Kodiak flying to Ukarumpa. Note the seatbelt.

Me in the Kodiak flying to Ukarumpa. Note the seatbelt.

 

See me in the small plane?

See the smile that is too forced because of the fact that my seatbelt looks more like something you might find on a roller coaster or inside an F7, neither of which I want to be associating with my present flight? But, hey–I’m smiling!

So. Close. To. The. Cockpit. Some might say TOO close.

So. Close. To. The. Cockpit. Some might say TOO close.

Flying from Madang to Ukarumpa; from sea level to 6000 feet

Flying from Madang to Ukarumpa; from sea level to 6000 feet

The flight lasted 28 minutes from take-off to touchdown. In 28 minutes, we went from being at the hot and humid sea level climate of Madang to the chilly 6,000 ft. elevation of Ukarumpa.

We were whisked with our luggage in a shuttle van to SIL’s compound where we checked into their guesthouse. And guess what we found?

A pinecone.

A pinecone.

A pinecone. That’s right. There are pine trees in Papua New Guinea.

The SIL guest house in Ukarumpa

The SIL guest house in Ukarumpa

The entrance to SIL's compound

The entrance to SIL’s compound

 

We spent a lovely—if freezing cold—evening at the SIL guesthouse before our shuttle picked us up once again at 6:30am the following morning for our helicopter flight.

Tuesday

When we arrived at the airstrip, it looked like this.

The airstrip near Ukarumpa in the early foggy morning

The airstrip near Ukarumpa in the early foggy morning

Not exactly ideal take-off weather. So we waited for the sun to burn it off.

We waited here.

A bench next to the airstrip. This is like the waiting area in the terminal, only instead of the whole terminal, you have two benches.

A bench next to the airstrip. This is like the waiting area in a terminal, only instead of the whole terminal, you have two benches.

Our luggage waited here.

Where the cargo is stored at the airstrip (behind one of the aforementioned benches)

Where the cargo is stored at the airstrip (behind one of the aforementioned benches)

Oliver did a lot of this.

Oliver waiting at the airstrip

Oliver waiting at the airstrip

 

 

The Papua New Guineans waiting for their flight did a lot of this.

Nationals waiting at the airstrip

Nationals waiting at the airstrip

Sometimes, Oliver and I together did this.

Oliver and I on one of the benches (see the green bag in the background--that's my bag!)

Oliver and I on one of the benches (see the green bag in the back right? That’s my bag!)

Finally, the waiting was over and the skies were clear! Thus it was that I boarded my first helicopter. I sat in the co-pilot’s seat, we were all handed headsets (even Oliver), and we were off.

Cassidy and Oliver in the back of the helicopter

Cassidy and Oliver in the back of the helicopter

I believe it was this moment right here–

Flying over the Finisterre Mountains in Papua New Guinea

Flying over the Finisterre Mountains in Papua New Guinea

…that I decided flying in a helicopter was possibly one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life and that the sprinkling of people who get to fly over the wilds of Papua New Guinea are singularly blessed in being able to see this particular handiwork of God.

Flying over the Finisterres

Flying over the Finisterres

Above the clouds in the helicopter

Above the clouds in the helicopter

 

Our first order of business in the helicopter was to circle the village we planned to go to the next day to see if there would be a good landing spot–the results were inconclusive. Having done that, we dropped off some chainsaw parts at another village and then flew on to the main event: being reunited with our husbands. They had only been gone since Friday and out of contact for 48 hours, but it felt like much longer.

We flew into Yot Wam and spotted them right away. Can you?

The village of Yot Wam (and Matt and Zach waving from the ground below)

The village of Yot Wam (and Matt and Zach waving from the ground below)

It’s like Where’s Waldo, but with white skin and blue shirts. It was actually much easier than Where’s Waldo. They couldn’t blend in here even if they tried.

We landed to a round of applause and shouts from all the villagers as they surrounded us and our husbands. Shortly after our arrival, they presented us with flower garlands and grass skirts (for the women).

(from left) Zach Cann, Oliver, Matt, and our kind helicopter pilot, Johannes

(from left) Zach Cann, Oliver, Matt, and our kind helicopter pilot, Johannes

Then, they welcomed us to their village with a “sing sing”, basically a tradition filled with men and women dressed in traditional wear singing and dancing and leading us through their village to the hut where we would be staying.

Me following the sing-sing to the hut where we would be staying that night

Me following the sing-sing to the hut where we would be staying 

 

Sing-sing in Yot Wam

Sing-sing in Yot Wam

At the end of the sing-sing, one of the leaders made a stirring speech and presented us with three bags filled with fruit representing Yot’s three “heavies”, or worries, like the fact that they didn’t have literacy and they didn’t have the “tok bilong God” in their own language.

Then, they asked Cass and I to say something.

Now, public speaking in any of its forms can hold some trepidation. But public speaking in a foreign language you have only known for 5 months in the middle of a rich cultural ceremony you have never seen whilst wearing a grass skirt and a flower garland and holding a rather heavy bag of local fruit?

One of the more intimidating things I have done since I turned 30.

Cass and I speaking to the crowd at the sing-sing

Cass and I speaking to the crowd at the sing-sing

After the sing-sing, we walked the length of the village, saw the ground they offered us to build our houses on, and washed our hands in their river.

This is the village of Yot.

Yot from the helicopter

Yot from the helicopter

And these are some of its people.

Children from Yot

Children from Yot

Villagers in Yot Wam

Villagers in Yot Wam

The rest of our time in Yot we spent storying with some of its sweet people about what we would do when we came, eating a generous dinner of noodles, rice, cooked greens, corn, and chicken (a luxury in these parts), and sleeping on the floor of our hut.

Matt and I at the river in Yot Wam

Matt and I at the river in Yot Wam

Not a very clear picture--but one of the only ones I have--of our hut in Yot and the floor on which we slept

Not a very clear picture–but one of the only ones I have–of our hut in Yot and the floor on which we slept

Wednesday

Wednesday morning, we woke up and were blessed once again with the people bringing us a delicious breakfast of sweet potatoes and vegetables.

(from left) myself, Annie from Yot, and Cassidy

(from left) myself, Annie from Yot, and Cassidy

We said our goodbyes and all four of us boarded the helicopter.

We flew to a village in Ndo called Maweroro where there was a moment we thought there might not be enough room to land.

Maweroro, shaped much like a banana, is long and narrow

Maweroro, shaped much like a banana, is long and narrow

Maweroro, as you can see, is a long, narrow village that looks like a banana running along the ridge of one of the many mountains in the Finisterre range. Helicopter pilots prefer big, open spaces not near any obvious trails or people for obvious safety reasons and in a place like Maweroro, that was not exactly present. But we did manage to land without incident, praise the Lord!

Matt being welcomed in Maweroro (the people were very happy to see all of us)

Matt being welcomed in Maweroro (the people were very happy to see all of us)

Matt and Zach being welcomed in Maweroro

Matt and Zach being welcomed in Maweroro

As in Yot, the first thing that happened after we rested for a few minutes was a sing-sing to welcome all of us to their village.

Well, that’s not technically true.

The first thing that happened was that our pilot asked us if we could ask the people to construct some sort of a fence around the helicopter since the land was so narrow and people couldn’t help but be drawn to it.

They had this constructed in less than ten minutes, along with a guard stationed by the helicopter for the rest of the time we were there.

Fence around the helicopter that the villagers constructed remarkably fast

Fence around the helicopter that the villagers constructed remarkably fast

The sing-sing was similar and different in Maweroro—similar in that there were similar costumes and singing and dancing and body paint. Different in that it was mostly women performing the sing-sing and there were a lot more people in this village wanting to shake our hands the whole way through.

After the sing-sing, Matt and Zach explained to the people for the second time what they would do if they came to their village (repetition is a good thing here; it’s just part of how you have conversations in Tok Pisin).

Zach and Matt explaining our mission to the gathered crowd

Zach and Matt explaining our mission to the gathered crowd

 

After this, we walked around the whole village (hiked would be a better way to describe it) and took a walk down to their water source that happened to be a pool/stream at the bottom of a fifty foot water fall.

Whenever it rained (as it did on and off for most of the afternoon) people just sit on benches or stairs of their huts and hang out

Whenever it rained (as it did on and off for most of the afternoon) people just sit on benches or stairs of their huts and hang out

A sweet lady who had heard the gospel in Mibu, but grown up in Maweroro and hiked all the way there just to participate in the sing-sing to welcome us

A sweet lady who had heard the gospel in Mibu, but had grown up in Maweroro and hiked all the way there just to participate in the sing-sing to welcome us

Child in Maweroro

Child in Maweroro

There was a big meeting in the afternoon with the leaders and Matt and Zach where the villagers debated over which ground to offer us for our houses. They eventually came to an agreement and half the village followed us out to the ground that happens to be at the very end of the peninsula of the village. It took some time for us to measure the ground to see if our houses would even fit in this area since the village is quite narrow. Our conclusion was that the houses would fit, but just barely.

The rest of the day was spent storying with people and eating their fare and sleeping on—wait for it—a mattress! They were generous and kind in offering us these two twin-ish size mattresses and even a few pillows.

My friends, you have not known the luxury of sleeping on a floor of a hut with a mattress and pillow until you have slept on the floor of a hut without either.

From the time they are still very small themselves, kids carry kids on their backs or hips

From the time they are still very small themselves, kids carry kids on their backs or hips

Thursday

Early in the morning, we rose, ate the local fare, and said goodbye to our husbands who would be staying an extra day to ask some more questions and meet with the people.

(from left) Cassidy, Oliver, and Zach in the village of Maweroro

(from left) Cassidy, Oliver, and Zach in the village of Maweroro

Cassidy, Oliver, and I left in the chopper flew back to Ukarumpa where we boarded another Kodiak back to Madang where we were picked up by our co-worker Jeremy who took us first to get our kids at his house and then, finally, back to ours.

I made hotdogs for lunch.

And Now

As I write this, Matt and Zach are sleeping on a beach about a three-hour dingy ride away from Madang. If all goes well, they’ll be back tomorrow. They will have been gone just a week, though it has felt like more.

Once they get back (and after they take a shower), it will be time to pray. And talk. And maybe write some things down. And then talk and pray some more.

We don’t know the future. We believe both of these places need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ clearly and would love to be the people whom God uses to do such a task. Please pray for us as we navigate the pros and cons of each of these places to see if one of them would work for us. Beginning tomorrow, there will be some weighty conversations to be had.

But that is tomorrow.

For now, I am going to leave it all in God’s hands and trust that He who has been faithful to us thus far will be faithful to us still; that He cares more about His gospel than anyone; and that in the midst of indecision and obstacles, He still has our circumstances well in hand.

3 Comments

  1. Caleb wants me to let you know that not only are we praying for your decision, but we posted the first comment here. ????. Also-we love you!

  2. Praise God for his kindness during lots of travelling! What an amazing adventure! I am praying that God would give the team unity of mind in this big decision. Love u guys!

  3. Loved the post and seeing all the pictures. What an exciting time for you all! We are praying for you all during this time – for trust in God’s plan for you all, and peace in process. Love from the Saylor family

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Last Survey | Without A Preacher - […] explained her experience of our last survey here, and now I’ll give my side of our last hike/helicopter trip…
Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: