As the helicopter was landing and I got the first view of our tribe I couldn't help but tear up and thank God that we actually are to this point. It took a total of 4 years from the moment we said we wanted to be tribal missionaries to the moment we met our tribe that we will spend the next 15 to 25 years among. Some days I wondered if it would ever happen as we faced various obstacles along the way. But God was faithful and gracious in allowing this to happen and allowing us to to be a small part of making him known among the people of Papua New Guinea.
On January 19th us Ladies and kids landed in Maliyali for the very first time. We got to share life with our tribe for almost two weeks and although there were various challenging moments we really had an amazing time and cannot wait to move back in. Here are some of my favorite things about our time in Maliyali.
They are huggers! Praise God! Here in PNG people are typically either hand shakers or huggers and I have to be honest the hand shakers are hard for me. When I really get to know someone and spend so much time with them it is so hard for me to not just hug them! And if you try to hug a hand shaker it's just a big mess of awkwardness, trust me. I wondered for months if our future tribal group would be huggers or handshakers and as I got off the helicopter and began walking towards the group of strangers that felt like long lost family (because I have spent so many years praying for THEM) I was overjoyed to see them open their arms and give me the BIGGEST bear hug a PNG person has ever given me! Seriously, I laughed as they hugged me because I thought to myself, "Ya Lord, you knew these people would be right for us!"
They look after us so well. From the moment we landed it was very obvious that they wanted to care for us in huge ways. In just one month they made us two beautiful bush houses for our families to stay in as well as two different bathroom areas. They always had a full stack of dry firewood for us under our roofing eaves and we had so much food given to us by them that it was literally rotting we couldn't eat it fast enough. We kept telling them to slow down on the amount of food they were giving us and that we couldn't eat it all but they kept bringing it. I think it made them feel good to know that they could provide for us more than we needed. Anytime we started a fire they would come over and offer to help. If we were carrying our containers to the creek they would join in and help us carry them back. As we prepared dinner the women always came and sat with us and helped us peel our Kau Kau and pick through our greens. It was very obvious that they are just as excited as we are to finally be together.
We weren't sure how many women actually spoke pidgin and so we were excited to find a couple Pidgin speaking women who are able to communicate with us and help a lot with Tok Ples language. A lot of women could understand our pidgin but were unable to speak back in pidgin. One woman named Miriam could understand everything I said in pidgin but was only able to speak in tok ples and we had a few good laughs as sometimes I would forget and ask her a question in pidgin and then she would answer me in tok ples and I would be like, "Ok ya I hear ya but I have no clue what you are saying." (insert big smiles) Ok funny side story. When we first landed I asked Dave, "Babe, how do I say 'whats your name?'' and he said, "Em, I have no idea." I thought, "Oh ya right we don't know their language." haha *Also, check out our faces in the picture below. I look offended at how hard the words are and Rache is trying here darnedest to pronounce that P fricative! ha
Maliyali is beautiful. I know this is just a surface level thing and we would still go to these people even if they were in the middle of the worlds largest desert but it really does help that the view is not too bad to look at. After dinner most nights we would go and sit on the helipad and look out at the valley ahead of us as the rain would start to make its way towards us from around the mountain, and my word it's beautiful.
I didn't want to leave. Ok so this is half true because on one hand I was ready to get back to having a shower and a toilet and food other than rice and Kau Kau but on the other hand leaving was so hard. I wished our houses were all done and we could just move in tomorrow. We are ready to start living among the Maliyali tribe, to start learning their language and culture, and to start building lasting relationships with these people. I know not everyday I will want to be there. Somedays I will want to be anywhere but there, I'm sure. But I'm GRATEFUL that God has put a huge desire in our hearts to return as soon as we can and be reunited with our people. We have a long ways to go and this is just the beginning but we are ready to start.