This journey took place nearly three weeks ago, but I think the story is still worth telling.
“Don’t take the shortcut,” they said. “It’s tembang.” Translation: It’s a dangerous, steep road.
“How bad could it be?” we said.
And with that, Matt and I headed off on another of our Myth Busting trips. This time we were headed to the village of Matoko, a 6-hour hike from Mawerero. Our choices were to take the shortcut road, which went straight down our mountain and straight up another, or to take one of two longer routes, which followed more prominent trails along keels and ridges. Contrary to advise of many (except our guides), we chose the shortcut road.
Matt and I thought we’d seen bad trails during our survey trips in the Finisterre Mountains. We thought people were just trying to coddle us because we’re foreigners.
We made it just over an hour into our hike before we started coming across massive landslides, a hundred feet across and longer than football fields. Massive boulders were often perched precariously above us. And it started raining. Soon there was a slurry of stone and silt flowing down the rock faces we were trying to cross.
About three hours in, we actually started talking about turning back. We were a mere 200 feet above the river we needed to cross, but our guides were having trouble finding a traversable path. Finally, one of our guides, John, used a machete to hack out a new trail for us to take. We eventually made it to the Mot river, but not without a few slips and scrapes. No death though, so that was nice.
After wading across the Mot river, it was time to go up, which was equally terrifying. And all the while the guys kept telling stories of people who had been pummeled by falling rocks or slipped over the edge of land slides.
But we did make it. All of us. In one piece.
We spent one night in Matoko. We spoke about our ministry and vision with a group of about 50 leaders, women, and children. Most of their questions for us were about the Bible translation aspect. The reason for this was interactions they have had with another Bible translation project in a nearby language. Portions of the New Testament had been brought to Matoko, but the people were greatly discouraged to find they did not understand many of the words and expressions used. While we did not have answers to all their questions (since translation is still very much in the future), they were excited about the possibility of taking part in process of seeing God’s Word translated and taught in a language they can understand.
It was a long night of talking and a short night of rest. Nevertheless, we began our return journey the following morning. This time we heeded the counsel of wiser, older men and took a longer route back. And by mid-afternoon, we’d all made it back home in one piece. And we now know that when they say a trail is tembang, they mean it.
These trips to outlying villages have been very fruitful. Not only because we get to build new relationships with people outside our village, but because we get to better know the guys from our village who hike with us. It’s humbling to put our lives into their hands—quite literally at times. And it’s good for them to see that we are human and fragile and imperfect, just like them. We are not gods or reincarnated ancestors (Acts 14:15 – “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them”). And the same God who saved us—grave sinners that we are—can save them as well. Hopefully in just a couple years we will be able to share this truth with them in their language:
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15.
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