We were on the ground after a 15 minute flight out of Mt. Hagen to a small village called Tsendiap. It was to be our home for the next 7 days where we were to learn to speak Tok Pisin and to learn some PNG culture.
There was a crowd pressing against the fence next to the airstrip and a group of people were crowding around Judith and me when, amidst all of the confusion, Captain Mike Vogel leaned over to me and said “well, I guess you are really on your own now…” and as quick as the aircraft had landed it was off again leaving us in the care of a community.
As the aircraft faded into the distance, the silence rolled over us, despite the cacophony of voices surrounding us. People were grabbing all of our possessions, food, clothing and scurrying off to unknown places as we were being shepherded by the local pastor and his wife to where we would be staying. In Tsendiap, there are no roads, no power and no telephone unless you want to walk up to the top of the nearby mountain to pick up a cellular signal from Dusin or Simbai; two slightly larger villages about a full day’s walk away. Both are less than 5 minutes by air. Over the next few days, we really became aware of how disconnected we were from the world that we know. We were really far from a full medical facility if we were bitten by a snake, got sick or injured. We were not physically fit enough to reach any distant village with a medical clinic that had anything more than the most basic care.
It did not take long for us to realize that people in the community share. They share food in times of plenty as well as lean times. They share precious resources such as matches, paper, books, Bibles, salt, sugar and cooking oil; every little thing that costs so much to transport to this remote place. Most of all, they share in a common faith in Christ and they gladly share the joy of knowing God with each other and their neighboring clans and tribes. Without Jesus, they would really be alone. They would live in constant fear of death from sickness, accident and injury as well as fear of attack from neighbouring tribes. We were told that in the time before missionaries came, many people feared bush spirits and angry ancestors that were believed to inhabit the thick jungle that surrounds the village causing accidents and mishaps. Tribal fighting was a constant threat and times of peace were rare. Through Christ Jesus, that fear is gone and through the love of Christ, MAF’s aircraft are able to bring both help and hope in those times when someone does get sick or injured or disaster strikes.
Despite having more than 5 years’ experience working in the third world with MAF’s aviation ministry, it took only seven short days for us to gain a whole new perspective and understanding of people, community and the power of the Holy Spirit in daily life. We saw how people depended on God’s provision and care. We watched as students departed the Bible College to go out to even more remote villages along barely traveled bush trails in the same way as the early disciples went out to spread the Good News of Jesus. We learned that the only way to really know any person is by meeting them face-to-face and spending some time in conversation. God, in His wisdom knew that the only way we could really know Him is to meet with Him in person. That person is the Messiah, Jesus. He came to be with us: Emmanuel or “God with us” as it was written and we sing in Christmas Hymns.
May the Peace of Christ bring you, your family and your community joy this Christmas. As long as you know Him, you will never be alone, you will never have to fear. Blessings be upon you in Christ’s name.