We climbed into the fiberglass dinghy about an hour before sunrise and set out across Astrolabe Bay. The first hour was perfect! The dawn sun cracking the edge of an endless horizon, the roar of the 60hp motor and the excitement of being on a mission. The next five and a half hours pretty much kicked that romanticism overboard! Baking in the sun, slamming up and down in the bottom of a small boat and wondering when we’d break down and if I’d brought enough fuel.
We did make it to Wasu station uneventfully around noon. Our goals during the 1.5 days included; learning what we could about the surrounding language groups and learning about what it would take logistically to work in any of those tribes.
The trip was a success! We made it safely there and back, gained a better perspective on what it would take to live and be supplied in these areas and met some potentially key people who seemed happy to help us out. One tribe we are particularly interested in, lives on an island about 50 miles north of where we were. We could just see the 4,300’, 5-mile-wide volcano on the horizon. We learned 3 important things about these people.
- First, the people rarely leave their island. The distance across open ocean is too dangerous in their small boats and so expensive they pretty much just stay put.
- Second, there is a barge that makes somewhat regular stops on the island to sell the people boat fuel, town food and other supplies. That means we might be able to have supplies shipped in this way too.
- Third, we heard several unsolicited stories about the sorcery and magic they still practice out there. The owner of the barge told us the following story. On his last trip to the island he and his men had finished unloading all their supplies but decided to overnight on the island. In the morning they returned to the ship and while inspecting the vessel found a man hiding in the engine room. The owner asked him what he was doing. The man said he was trying to escape. He went on to say that he is from another part of the country and while traveling on a bamboo raft he was taken far into the open ocean by an unexpected current. He barely survived for almost a month and washed ashore on this island. When the people found him they decided he must be magical or he never would have survived that long. So they decided to keep him there in hopes of using his magic for themselves. The man said he needs to get back to his village this is why he snuck on board.
About 2 hours after climbing back in the boat to return to Madang we broke down (I knew it was going to happen!). Providentially we were right in front of a village when it happened. After baking in the sun for about an hour while the skipper tried to fix the engine, some people from the village got curious and paddled their canoes out to see what was going on. After telling our story, they precariously towed our dinghy to shore. This village just “happened” to be in one of the people groups that is on our radar. While waiting on shore for the skipper to find a different boat, we got to meet the people and talk about why we were traveling to Wasu. Without letting on that we were already considering them, I explained the kind of work we were planning to do (Bible translation, literacy and teaching God’s word, etc) and asked them if they knew of any groups that needed this kind of work. They looked at each other and started talking quietly among themselves. Then the spokesman for the group said, “you know, we don’t have God’s word in our language, we need missionaries to come here.”
Thank you for your prayers and interest in this trip.
Craig & Sara Noyes “…even to the ends of the earth.”