by Katie Morford
I have learned to make different designs of string bilums (woven bags), wash saksak pulp after it has been pickaxed out of a tree trunk, identify several kinds of plants and their respective uses, scrape coconuts (sigarapim kokonas), make a rubber bouncy ball from a rubber tree (it involves fire, to the pyros among us) and make a vast collection of items from coconut leaves, including balls, roofs, decorative fringes, baskets, etc. I have had my first canoe ride in crocodile waters (thankfully I didn’t find out there were crocodiles until a week later) and prayed with missionaries for a woman bitten by a python. I have also eaten guava, random fruits and nuts, crocodile (pukpuk), fish, red sea bass, and lots of Australian bush biscuits.
Between us on my team we went spear-fishing from a canoe (and hit one 35 feet away–Nathan’s a rockstar), hiked twelve miles in deep bush, danced in a singsing, wove a shell headband, and ate fish we speared that morning. We learned how to open coconuts with machetes and went on a four-hour one way trip for Coca-Cola in a 50-foot motor canoe.
The living conditions were definitely hard. Really hard. Thanks to the generosity of Jesse and Karie Pryors (resident missionary family) we had water from a rainwater tank. However, it had not rained in the village for almost a month by the time we left, so there was only a little, highly-rationed water for cooking, bathing, drinking, etc. Add blazing heat, cramped quarters, noisy nights, little or no privacy, and an overabundance of dirt, rats, spiders, bats, mosquitoes, and any other critter that could worm its way into our lives. Literally.
I had fleas in my sheets, so I ended up with tiny bites every couple centimeters all over my feet and ankles and up my legs and arms (my team leader played connect-the-dots for fun, but soon gave up. Too many dots). If it should ever come up, rubbing damp soap on bug bites helps to relieve the itch…for a while.
By far the worst of the physical challenges of my time in the bush, though, was getting food poisoning from undercooked fish my last night in the village(thankfully!). I threw up every 45 minutes from 1 am to about 9:30am on a pallet on the Pryor’s kitchen floor (literally the only space available in the house). Thankfully Karie, Bonita (Jesse’s mom who was visiting) and my team leader took great care of me. The plane came on time at 10:30 and Jesse brought me down to the airstrip on their four-wheeler. By some miracle I didn’t throw up on the hour-long ride in the little plane to PBT’s home base (though I came close…very close) and they had a car and a doctor’s appointment waiting at the airport. I survived, though I was sicker than I’ve been in years, and learned that God can take good care of me and is enough even when I encounter my greatest fear on the mission field–being sick.
Despite these and many more difficulties, my relationships with the people in the village made it all worthwhile by far. Not only did I have the opportunity to encourage and help out the missionaries there, but I formed strong relationships with my village papa and mama and with a little girl who taught me 3/4 of the Tok Pisin I know, along with a host of other things. God definitely gave me the supernatural ability to pick up the language, because by the end of the first week I could hold/understand basic conversations and make inquiries, and by the end of the second week I would go sit and talk to my village parents about their testimonies, about how the Lord called me to PNG and about my thoughts for the future.
I definitely felt much safer in the village and was very well looked after. I don’t think I could have gotten lost even had I tried. I had only to look in the direction of the bush and some 6-year-old with a machete would appear at my elbow and take me anywhere I wanted to go. 🙂 When the time came for us to leave the people showered us with presents–baskets, bilums, carved wooden storyboards, etc. All hand-made, mostly from bush materials, and beautifully crafted.
It was tough to leave the village, especially without really a chance to say goodbye. However, I’m excited for the next three weeks where the interns will be helping put on a translation course for national translators. This course will enable people groups who are still waiting on trained missionaries to come help them to continue the work started by previous missionaries and stalled when they had to leave, for one reason or another.
Even more exciting, during this course I have also been given the opportunity to interview these amazing national translators and tell their stories, find out their needs, etc. and write up materials for PBT to use. Both myself and the PBT staff are super-excited! It will be a really busy time of long days and lots of language-stretching experiences, but it will be worth it to help these dedicated men and women get the scripture in their heart language.
* That I got over the food poisoning without complications
* For incredible, God-given proficiency at the language
* For amazing relationships with God’s people in PNG
* For the course to run as smoothly as possible–it’s a logistical and technological nightmare
* For much work to be accomplished and good learning and understanding for nationals
* For complete health–I still have bad sinus and chest cough problems
* For the rest of my support needed