Saturday, March 04, 2006
The following post I took from the comments section from my "Now Lord?" post. I really enjoyed reading it and thought I would bring it to the front page. I thought it would be good for all to read. Rob Wright is the head deacon at my home church. He told me if I did not post his comments on the front page, the church would drop my support! (Just kidding) I posted some pictures from his trip here as well.
My name is Rob Wright and I am the out-of-shape guy sitting on the pillar in the picture of the “strange pillars”......(on second thought, “round” is a shape…..so I am in some kind of shape).
My two weeks spent on the island of New Ireland with Brother and Mrs. McGovern and their four outstanding children will forever be etched in my mind as one of the most special, and privileged times in my life. I would love nothing more than to go back for another visit and get to meet their newest family addition, Levi. I desperately want bragging rights to having been the first person in our church here in Alaska to get to hold that little guy in my arms! (lol)
After our arrival in the McGovern’s home village of Namatanai, we rested the first night, went site-seeing the next day, church the next, and then the work started. I truly thought I would lose weight in the extreme heat. Not even close! Mrs. McGovern performed absolute miracles ensuring we were well fed and comfortable the entire time we were there. Although I was always in a sweat when we were eating, and I knew I would be miserably full when I finished, I was willing to accept these dreadful consequences because of her excellent cooking! She is a hero in her own right.
Unless you are 44 years old, 40 pounds over weight, live in a place (Alaska) that frequently gets below zero for stretches at a time, had just left -40 degree in Fairbanks, Alaska and found yourself sitting in +130 degree temperatures within a one-week time frame, you don’t know what really being miserable is! Don’t forget 100% humidity. It’s a beautiful thing, to be sure! Simply breathing enough oxygen to stay conscience was enough to email home about.
I always looked at photos of New Guinea and was amazed at how lush and tropical it was. And it is that. However, after my visit I now look at those same pictures and start to sweat and break out in a heat rash just thinking about it ! But, I wouldn’t hesitate to jump on the next plane going there! What an amazing, life-changing experience it was!
Our first experience of going to a village was to show two Christian films. This village was literally against the sea shore on a sandy strip of coastline with various trees including tall coconut trees. Come to think of it, that pretty much describes 95% of the villages on New Ireland.
We arrived a little before sunset and there didn’t seem to be too many people in that particular location. We went ahead and set up the generator, the make-shift screen, and video equipment while the crowd of mostly naked children staring at us in shy amazement continued to grow. It wasn’t too long before straggling groups of people began to filter into the village from every direction. They seemed to just appear from the edges of the jungle. The number in attendance began to swell considerably. Anywhere else, and the crowd noise would have been deafening. Not here. Intense, studious curiosity was written on every face.
Soon we stopped trying to count as the quiet crowd continued to grow into the hundreds. As darkness fell, our flashlights would sweep across the flat plain of the main village. I was awestruck to discover there were easily well over 600 people sprawled out over the landscape! Almost every one of them was carrying a machete and I suspected they each knew how to use one efficiently. Let me tell you, this wasn’t Hollywood! This was Papua New Guinea and there are no 911 operators to call and ask for police assistance. I found myself sizing up Brother McGovern and soon realized he was so much smaller than me, that he would serve no use as a stalling tactic in the event someone reverted to their ancestral roots and got a hankering for white meat. He could only serve as an appetizer at best, but I would surely be the main course!
Even though we experienced technical difficulties several times with the equipment, the films worked and the crowd was patient. No one got a hankering for white meat and Brother McGovern then preached in their native tongue (at least that’s what he told us he was doing) and it appeared well received.
The natives are an amazing people themselves. At first glance, you see only the unnerving, fierce-faced image you have seen so many times in National Geographic magazine. But, smile at them, and IT CHANGES EVERYTHING! Their entire countenance undergoes such an instantaneous change; it is hard to recognize the person you were just picturing as an “extra” on the set of a cannibal movie production. They are a hospitable people eking out a very meager existence from the land and sea. I was very honored to be in their presence.
But, my heart was broken at once for this seemingly forgotten people from one the furthest points on the earth from civilization. They are no different than any other people with respect to loving and raising their families, suffering hardship peculiar to their society, but especially with regard to having a soul in desperate need of Salvation.
To pray for a missionary whom you have a prayer card from is one thing. To pray for a missionary with whom you have witnessed the challenges of his foreign field of service first-hand is another thing altogether.
I have seen the particular challenges presented in PNG. I have experienced the particular fatigue of the work. I have witnessed the particular fruits of strenuous spiritual labor. And I have winced with a broken heart for the burden represented by the suffering and lost souls of this particular place.
Praying for missionaries is different for me now. The attention I give to missionaries visiting our church is different now. The questions that come to my mind to ask about their particular ministry are increased in number and a desire to truly get a good glimpse of their vision for serving there.
As I got on the plane to leave PNG, it struck me that a part of my heart had been ripped out by this place. And that part of my heart is still there today. Perhaps one day I can return to revisit it.
--Posted by Rob to Missionary Insights at 3/04/2006 11:37:09 AM
Posted by Terry McGovern