An Unexpected Adventure with Wapena and Timoti
The daily grind does exist for missionaries. Our newsletters and blog posts typically showcase some highlights of our life, but to be honest, there are days when life takes on a routine that can get old.
Then suddenly, an adventure appears in the midst of the routine. For me, Tuesday was that day.
On a routine flight to the Sepik region, I unexpectedly found myself spending the afternoon in the city of Wewak with two men from the bush. It all started when a last minute change to our passenger manifest bumped me from the flight. So I was stuck in Wewak waiting for Christopher, the instructor pilot, to come back to pick me up. Although I had packed a book and a lunch to help pass the time, in the end I didn’t open either the lunch or the book. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On the way to Wewak, we had landed at Megamanau—an adventure in itself. Christopher demonstrated landing on the one-way, 1,500-foot airstrip, showing me how to ‘ride out’ the undulations as the airstrip tried to slam the tail and then the nose wheel. I was happy to just watch this landing. We were met with the usual PNG greetings. Children walked with us as we surveyed the airstrip. They thought it was especially cool when I used our company iPad to turn the camera into ‘selfie mode’ and snap a picture.
We boarded two new passengers, Wapena and Timoti, who grew up and live in Megamanau where they are pastors working on Bible translation. The children waved as we left, flying low-level up the valley toward Wewak. It was a gorgeous day, but as is always the case with instructors on board, we decided to pretend we had bad weather to get some additional training value out of the 45-minute flight.
At Wewak, we disembarked and I helped Christopher get ready to go. After he left, Wapena, Timoti, and I took a walk to the restaurant across the street. Can you picture the scene … a uniformed pilot with two PNG mountain men walking across the street from the airport? We got quite a few stares. When we got to the restaurant, the cultural adventures continued.
I picked up a menu and asked if Timoti or Wapena wanted anything. Silly question. I was met with silence. I’m not sure they knew what any of the food on the Aussie-themed menu tasted like. I finally ordered everyone a soda and a burger and fries (chips as the Aussies call them). We sat down and Timoti stared in amazement at the ocean. “Em i no bin lukim solwara bipo,” said Wapena in Tok Pisin, telling me this was the first time Timoti had seen the ocean! So there we sat eating our burgers and chips and sipping soda while I watched Timoti’s eyes scan the water for boats. His excitement was contagious.
After we finished eating, I suggested that we go put our feet in the ocean, especially for Timoti. The waves were big that day. We waited patiently as a wave came up slowly and then CRASH! Before we knew it, the water had sucked Timoti’s flip-flop off and was pulling it out to sea. I ran in after it and pulled it out just in time. We laughed and talked about the stories these guys were going to take back to their village.
With my shoes still wet from the ocean, we boarded the plane and I flew us home to Aiyura. These two men represent the reason we’re here: to see lives changed and to see the local people take up the work of Bible translation. The work can be hard and sometimes routine, but in the midst of it we can find joy in the memories that are made.