Conquering More than Roads

By Rachel Greco

Imagine driving across a bridge of slippery, muddy logs. Or imagine driving through a muddy pit where four feet of sloshing water makes it nearly impossible to escape.

For the team on the Aitape West language project on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG), where it rains an average of 100 inches a year, these are the typical driving conditions. Their project works with ten languages in the area, so the team must travel frequently to do their work effectively.

With help from JAARS, the Aitape team recently acquired a 4WD vehicle and an ATV in order to better serve the people in their area. “The [vehicles] will really help us in our work,” a team member explains. “Since we work in a multi-language project, we visit a lot of villages in the jungle. A 4WD and an ATV will make traveling to villages so much easier and safer, so that we will be able to visit them more often and thus engage with them more.”  

The ATV they practiced driving
The other vehicle, a Toyota 78 series Land Cruiser Pickup that the students practiced driving

But the team needed to learn how to safely drive and maintain these vehicles. So John Pepper and Jim McCabe, two staff members with JAARS, recently trained 14 of the Aitape team members in Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea. According to Jim, their training included “developing a travel plan and developing driving skills such as making your vehicle work for you, understanding potential road hazards, and overcoming obstacles.”

Besides soaking up knowledge in a classroom, the participants spent time traversing the newly-built 4WD course in Ukarumpa, putting what they learned to the test. The students faced some challenging obstacles: a shallow water-filled trench, a turn where the right tires climbed up a mound on the trail while the left tires stayed low, a mud pit where they practiced hauling out the vehicles with a winch, and ‘the badlands’—a hillside with naturally occurring washouts and ruts that the students had to traverse slowly. This course is not for the faint of heart!

Students learning some hands-on training in-between classroom sessions

Esther, a Scripture worker in the Aitape West project, who attended the training, ended up conquering more than just the roads. “The first day of the course I was really afraid,” Esther relates, “and thought I wouldn’t be capable enough to do the training. I’m from the Netherlands, and we don’t have mountains. I had never driven in mountains, nor in a 4WD, nor off-road.”

Esther van de Bruinhorst attaching the recovery line

So, the first time it was Esther’s turn to drive on this courage-killing course, she was very nervous. “But John was calm, and a good instructor as he sat next to me, and gave very good instructions. Soon, my nervousness turned into enthusiasm and joy. I really enjoyed it!” During the course Esther felt like she was controlling the car and not that the car was controlling her.

About the course, Esther says, “It was very realistic to the roads here in PNG (stones, tree logs, potholes, steep parts, and a lot of mud). And I learned how it’s best to drive through all those challenges. We also received training in lots of different techniques to recover the vehicle when it gets stuck, which is very helpful, as we get stuck a lot during our traveling.”

Before the course, Esther planned to let her husband do all the driving during their work of connecting people’s hearts with Scripture. But during the training, she gained much more than knowledge of how to tackle ruts, muddy ditches, and rocky slopes. She conquered her fear and exchanged it for a new confidence that she can drive safely and complete the work God has called her to do.

Learn more here about other training that JAARS provides to help make Bible translation possible.