A Moment at Mt. Tawa
Mt. Tawa is exactly as Neil Anderson described it in his book In Search of the Source: beautiful yet isolated on top of a ridge in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Recently I had the privilege of flying along with Neil and his son to Mt. Tawa where lives were changed when villagers received the Bible in Folopa, their “tok ples” (heart language).
Neil had worked on the Falopa translation in Mt. Tawa for many years. But this was his first visit to the village since Oliver, the Papua New Guinean translator who had helped him with the Old Testament, had passed away weeks earlier. The visit was an emotional experience for all. As soon as we stepped out of the airplane, we received flowers to wear around our necks as the “village cry” began. Hugging is an uncommon thing in PNG, but this day, it didn’t matter. It didn’t even matter that I was a stranger to the people of Mt. Tawa. They greeted all of us with hugs, and we shared a moment of grieving together.
As I looked over at Neil’s son, it hit me that he had grown up in this village. The people were his extended family. And then I realized that when I got back in that airplane and took off, I would leave them behind on top of that isolated ridge in the middle of the highlands. Today translators all over PNG work in remote places like Mt. Tawa. They are making huge sacrifices to see lives changed by the gospel.
As I boarded the plane to leave, I had another reality check. When I got back in the cockpit, I had to put the emotions of the moment behind me and focus on the task of safely transporting people and cargo. I said a silent prayer for the Andersons and for the people who had just welcomed me into their world, a world that I had previously known only through reading a book.
After I got back to Aiyura, our home airport, I had some time to process what I had witnessed. We’re here, “doing life” with the people of PNG. The task before us is messy, emotional, and sometimes is going to stretch us. I will see things that I never imagined, some good and some bad, and have times of frustration, celebration, and grieving. But here we are—a small part of God’s story for the people of PNG. It gives me joy to realize that great stories of lives being changed by the gospel, like the stories Neil shares in his book, are stories that God is still writing today!