Covering the Last Mile for Missionaries in Papua New Guinea

By Rachel Greco

Jagged tooth-like mountains blanketed with jungle spear the sky, reaching as high as 13,500 feet. Rain batters these mountains for months each year, swelling rivers and making the earth a sodden, muddy mass.

Atop four of these mountains in Papua New Guinea, at 4,370 feet, live 2,000 Nema people who don’t have God’s Word in their language. Garrett and Leah Harrison feel called by God to show and share Jesus’ love to them.

But how to traverse the mountainous terrain to reach them?

A road runs from the highway up to the village of Kokosan. The distance is less than 20 miles in a straight line, but the road is not straight; it winds back and forth and up and down around the mountains.

In July, Garrett and his friend, Chris Bousman, tried to reach Kokosan by road.

A little after 7:30 a.m., they left the mission center of Ukarumpa, driving on the paved but pothole-ridden highway. Ukarumpa sits in the highlands at 5,300 feet, so they had to descend to the Markham Valley at 482 feet before ascending to the Finisterre Mountains, where the Nema live. By the end of the journey, Chris and Garrett would climb up to 2,545 feet. There’s not much flat land here!

At 10:30, they left the highway and took the winding road into the mountains.

A map with different images of a car traveling in Papua New Guinea
A satellite image of where Chris and Garrett were on each point along their road trip.

Even with dry roads, there were challenges. At several places, the men encountered deep ruts in the road where vehicles had torn it up when the road was muddy.

At 1:30 p.m., the two adventurers reached the Erap River, a wide, rocky river with a bridge stretching over it. This isn’t your ordinary paved bridge. No, it’s a bridge made of logs placed side-by-side next to each other.

Chris’ truck couldn’t make it across the river without being swept away, and the guys didn’t fancy a dip in the river. They could go no farther by road.

They could have hiked on up the mountain for two hours, but they hadn’t come equipped for such a long, arduous trek. The Nema people would have to live without the Scripture a little longer.

To be continued…