By Jill Riepe
I walked to church barefoot this morning. When I awoke at 5:30 am, it was raining, hard, just like it had been for the last 7 days. I wondered if there would be church service. Since everyone walks to church, it’s not uncommon for a rainy day to cause the cancellation of a church service. It would certainly delay it. I got up and fed my pets. Piita got fed first, then Bella, and then Tinkerbell, the neighboring missionaries’ dog who has adopted me as her owner while her owners are away. Tinkerbell is pregnant and so I’m trying to give her plenty of food before she has her puppies. I will be leaving the village before her owners get back and it’s doubtful that she will be fed during those weeks while there aren’t any expatriates in the village. Then I got ready for the day. I started to make cookies for the village check on Monday from a new recipe. I finally unpacked my trunk of books and I’m excited to have access to all my recipe books again. I have most of the ingredients for this recipe so I was excited to try it. I had finished mixing the dough when I heard the first garamut to indicate it was time to get ready for church. A garamut is a type of drum that has a slit down the center and it is used to alert people that meetings are about to occur. They usually hit the garamut three times over a period of about an hour and a half to call people to a meeting. I figured I had enough time to finish cooking the cookies, get ready and then go. I heard the second garamut as I was changing cookie sheets out of the oven.
After I had placed the cookies on wire racks to cool, praying the ants won’t eat them before I got back, I changed into my meri blouse, a long loose fitting shirt that the women wear in PNG, and went to the church service barefoot since all my shoes were still soaking wet and falling apart from the previous 7 days of rain. We used to meet in a classroom, but a new community building is under construction and we’ve been meeting there for the last year or so. It’s about a half mile walk to church and the path was very muddy along the way. I’ve been here long enough to know where most of the deep spots are but even so by the time I got to church my legs and feet were completely dirty. I was still early so I washed my feet in the water near the water tank. Just as I was walking away, the pastor’s wife came and insisted I needed to wash my feet better and helped me wash all the mud off with water from the water tank. Then she washed her own feet.
We stood around and chatted as we waited for more people to come. Eventually, I took my seat on a concrete block next to one of the support posts for the roof. The community building is just a roof with its support beams currently. The floor is dirt. The people have put planks of wood on the concrete that holds the posts to create benches. There are construction materials scattered around and the children tend to find interesting seating on the wood or concrete bags. The women sit on the left side of the building and the men sit on the right. We began the church service with worship songs in Tok Pisin and in Ap Ma. As we sang more people came; although, many stayed home because of the rain and the muddy road. We prayed and then I was asked to read from the Scriptures in Ap Ma. I read Galatians 3:1-14, one of the more recently translated and printed books, and sat down as the pastor gave his sermon. We had communion of coconut meat and milk and passed a basket around to collect the offering.
Then the service was over and we had announcements. Maso Leko, the New Testament national translator, announced that there would be village checking tomorrow and invited the checking committee to come and also opened it up to whoever would want to come. He especially invited women to come and get involved. I was glad to hear this. The ladies had been studying the portions that have been translated into Ap Ma in their weekly Bible study and they were providing good insight from their observations. If they come to the village checking, they might share those observations before we print it. Although, I wonder if they would be brave enough to speak up in front of an important man like the translator or any of the other males in the room. I also wondered how many people would come. I’m responsible for providing food and usually I try to get this ready before everyone arrives and we get started but with this open invitation, it would be hard to prepare the right amount. After all the announcements, I went to ask Dani, my wasmama, if she would be able to help with the cooking of the food. She said that would be fine. That way, we would be able to see how many people came and I could give her the food and she would cook it so that everyone got enough. After visiting with everyone, I walked home. The rain had stopped and now the sun was shining strong. I felt the hot mud between my toes. When I got home, I was surprised to find a small bat clinging to the fly wire on my front porch. I called to my wasbrata who came over to take it away. He claimed that if a dog ate this type of bat that the dog would die. I don’t know if there is any truth to that belief, but I thanked him for taking care of the bat for me and went in to make my lunch.
Jill is a Bible translator working with the Ap Ma language group.