Bougainville, the Vasui New Testament Dedication

Trip Start Jun 02, 2005
Trip End Aug 12, 2005

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Flag of Papua New Guinea  ,
Saturday, August 6, 2005

The Vasui New Testament Dedication


The plane ride was smooth, too high above the clouds to be worth looking out, and I was sleepy. I pulled out my mp3 player so that I could fall asleep listening to a recording of Ronii, Kalang and my mom singing.

I opened my eyes. It was light. Wasn't it late? We were supposed to wake up early to catch the 7:00am bus to the airstrip to go to Bougainville for the Vasui New Testament dedication. Must've overslept...


I was on the plane, flying towards Bougainville. We hadn't overslept. I switched off my player and settled down to try unsuccessfully to sleep again.

All too soon we began the decent - I was still sleepy, but excited to be there! It was cloudy and we bumped back and forth in the small plane - but no worries. SIL has the best pilots in the world.

"There are friends of yours waiting over there," Mr. Nisley greeted us as we climbed out of t he plane. "They have been waiting for hours!" Well, our take-off from Ukarumpa had been delayed by an hour or so due to fog.

"It's Donald and Rose Posande!" Mama exclaimed. Sure enough, there they were. They were as beautiful and loving as ever, all smiles and hugs. Rose is tall, about my height, and her gorgeous, delicate features glowed with joy to see us. Her two little ones hung back, shy. They had skipped school to come and see us. It h ad been many years - about eleven - since we had lived across the way from them in Tahe Tahe village, Buka, but still they remembered us.

Mom had brought a guitar for Donald. The quiet pastor received it with great thanksgiving. "I was just in Rabaul town," he said, "looking for a guitar. Everything was so expensive! I prayed that God would help me find a good guitar that I could afford, and returned home empty handed. Then I got your message that you were coming with a guitar for me! I didn't expect God to answer my prayer like that!"

Rose, too, shared how Mom had greatly blessed her. A number of years ago, their third child died. Mom had written the family, expressing her sympathy, although she did not remember doing so. "Reading your letter," Rose said, "made us forget our sorrow."

How good it was to see them!

It was Donald who had prayed for my blistering hand all those years ago, and God had healed me.

It was this family that angels sang with.

It was our friends.

After Donald, Rose and the children left, we waited around town for the afternoon. Everyone but me was disappointed when our attempts to eat at a few different restaurants failed - I was overjoyed that we got to eat at the market! We bought kulaus (young coconut - you cut a hole in the top and drink the water from inside) and tapioc-covered pink cooking banana wrapped inside of leaves. I was so happy with the tapioc that I definitely got too much, and had to toss the remaining quarter of my second one into the channel as we boated from Buka over to Bougainville.

The boat ride was simple and uneventful, enough - it's only spitting distance, anyway. But I could feel the pull of the current, the weight of the boat, and the wind much more than ever before, thanks to my catamaran lessons in France last summer. I have to admit that there were a couple of moments when I thought the elements might conspire to capsize us. I am thankful that the banana boat was in more skilled hands than mine. And I assured Rita and Jenny Benson who were visiting with us that we were in no danger at all, and that the ride across would be smooth.

We ran into all sorts of friends and acquaintances that afternoon - Thomas and George, Leslie, Jon and Ariana Glennon, Margie Griffin, and many others. Our dear friend Tagasi was in town looking for us, but we missed him but for a glimpse of his black face as the truck carried us away to Hostetlers' village. How we would have loved to talk with him!

The trucks had come for us between 4pm and 4:30pm. Between Bibles, luggage and passengers, the trucks were cram-packed. Rows of two by fours served as benches, on which we sat like sardines. I had the best seat except for the perch atop the tarp-covered luggage. I was in the very back left, right in the corner. At first it was a bit frightening, sitting an inch off the edge with Ariana rock solid on my other side, fencing me off. But soon enough I got my balance, and enjoyed the three-hour trip.

God held back the rain as we had prayed, for which I was very grateful. It would have been miserable if the noon showers had continued and soaked us as we bounced along. As it was, it was beautiful. Fireflies came out, geckos and insects chirped and sang (and one fat gecko jumped on Ariana and I :o)!), and occasional lightening flashed in the distance. We turned of the main road, which was rough enough, and Ariana and I sang off-key as we slid, skidded, and bounced through muddy trenches and stony rivers.

We arrived to the village and cheering around 7:30pm. Our hosts washed our feet in welcome from bamboo containers, and we sat down to a beautiful feast. Although still full from our late (and for me large) lunch, the kumu (greens), rice, chicken and kau kau (sweet potato) was delicious.

Bed was bliss that night, to be sure!

* * *


Beep, beep, beep!

Ugh! An alarm! I rolled over while Dianne Rogue, Margie Griffin (Dianne and Margie are SIL members) and Jenny Benson began preparing for the day. I was already awake, because Margie had started moving around a few minutes earlier. And I wouldn't get anymore sleep, either, between people moving around and the alarm clock reset for 6:30am that Dianne put by my bed. Oh well, I wanted the time anyway to collect my thoughts and pray before facing the world.

The world wasn't so hard to face after all, that day. I was expecting it to be difficult - although still good - because there were so many "white skins" (white skins is a descriptive, not derogatory, word, commonly used in PNG) I barely knew and so many Bougainvillians I should have known. But it was great! I really loved catching up with all of Mom and Dad's old friends, and making them mine. They are such beautiful, loving people. I could actually see myself making some good friends if I had the time, especially with Vasui translator Damien's daughters.

Despite being surrounded by wonderful people, I was still a little lonely, missing my Disc-ies friends. "I wish Steve and Hannah could be here for this," or "I wish David was here," or "I wish Mark could be on this walk with us."

The morning started off cloudy, and soon after breakfast the adventure really began. Rain came pouring down, driven by big gusts of wind that tore the tarp from the Haus Kai (dining house) and the corrugated tin from a neighbeor's lean-to.

"Run, run!" Dianne called out.

We had been sitting in the haus kai, watching it get torn apart. Now a handful off us snuggled beneath the awnings of the next closes house, or squatted beneath it, leaning against the house's stilts. Most of the white skins stood across the way on the cement base beneath the Hostetlers'. But Mom and I were comfortable enough for the moment, and the Vasui girls enjoyed our company. We took pictures, and after Mom left for the greater comfort of the Hostetlers', I told Grace (Damien's third of five daughters) about America. It was cozy, really. I sat on a flattened cardboard box with a bunch of happy girls while the rain whipped around just a couple of feet away.

Well, the rain showed no sign of stopping. I wasn't really concerned. It was an adventure after all, and I was going to enjoy it. But there was the dedication to be had, and so after waiting as long as possible, Roman Hostetler tromped over to talk to us. "A group of us will be heading up," he said. "There will be a tractor sent to help pull to truck up to the dedication with those who can't walk, and a few others who want to wait for it."

"Ok. I'll just come now," I said, glancing at the rain. "I'd get wet on the truck, anyway."

"And probably dirtier, too," said Roman. Well, after just a short while of walking, I wasn't so sure I could believe that. But I preferred to walk. Caroline had provided me with an umbrella, so I kept kind of dry as we slopped through mud, along trails that might as well have been streams, across a river, and finally down a very wet road spotted with small rock islands.

We arrived at the dedication village to the sound of singing. A large open air building was set up with a stage for the visiting relatives of the Hostetlers' and for dignitaries, and at its base was a band playing away at their guitars and singing Pidgin and tok ples (Vernacular language) worship choruses. I plunked myself next to some of the Glennons' Nissan people, pulled out my mp3 player, and energetically joined in the singing. How good it was!

In between songs while the band re-tuned their instruments I enjoyed talking with my neighbours beside and behind me. After a while one of the Vasui translation committee members joined me, and translated some of the Vasui songs. "They're singing 'praise the Lord,'" he said, and then pointed to the banner above the stage. "See, 'ke ka henna Sunon' - praise the Lord."

Praise the Lord we did! Worship eventually gave way to speeches of gratitude to all who were involved in the work, and speeches encouraging people to use their new New Testaments. This was followed by the presentation of Bibles to the translation team and as rewards to the top three finalists who had participated in the New Testament cover competition.

One of the best parts of this ceremony time was watching it from the crowd. At the Namiai dedication I had felt out of place among the dignitaries, but here I could cheer away for those who really deserved the praise for the hard work. Plus I was the only white skin in the area I had chosen to sit. Most of the other white skins were across the isle on the left, or way in the back behind me. Somehow that made me feel more a part of the celebration.

Due to the weather and late start, everything was behind schedule. That included lunch - but that was fine. Waiting and enjoying the moment with your neighbor is a part of the whole PNG experience, anyway.

Lunch was the driest food I've ever had in PNG, but it was still good if chewed slowly. So I savored each bite of the kau kau, tapioc, chicken, fish and pig. The pig was especially good. It was the only moist thing, and was dripping with grease. It was great with a sweet bite of kau kau!

Following the meal, "item" time began. All sorts of beautiful dances and music were performed. Young girls bilased (dressed up) themselves in traditional clothes with Twisties (like cheese twists) packets confetti sparkling from their cheeks and hair. They swayed and stamped and rattled and bounded their bamboo instruments. The young men playing bamboo and PVC drums also did an amazing job. They synchronized themselves perfectly, slapping away at the various holes with old flip flops.

By this point, the rain had stopped. Thank you, Lord! I am sure there were many more items prepared for the day, but unfortunately, it was getting late. Most of our gang took off on the truck for the Hostetlers' village, and I have the feeling that many others also left for their respective homes.

It was a good dedication. The Hostelers had been working with their Vasui co-translators on the Vasui translation for about 34 years, through a civil war, and through having their house burned down! Now the people finally had God's Word in their own language, the language that speaks to their heart. The Hostetlers plan on staying in the area for a couple years more to help local translators from neighboring languages as advisors
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