Craig and Sara Noyes
A survey is a trip to a tribal group to make observations and conduct interviews to determine if we should move to this group and do the ministry there. It usually takes several rounds of surveys with a single tribal group before a team is ready to commit to going. Josh Miller and I have just returned from our first tribal survey. Check out the pictures and captions below to get a glimpse of the trip.
Flying over the Pano language group revealed a stunning landscape. Click HERE to see a youtube video of the entire flyover. Its 14 mins long but watching segments of it should give you a pretty good idea of what it looks like.
We traveled by bush plane to the nearest airstrip and then hired a small boat to take us to each village. However, the motor broke down on the boat so we ended up doing a fair bit of hiking. Thankfully the area was filled with freshwater and friendly people.
You can see two of the places we slept in these pictures. We brought rice and tuna with us to share with our hosts as they took care of us and prepared food.
There were basically two sides of the survey. The first was formal conversations. Since these places don’t have cell phone service and we didn’t have contacts in the villages, we had to show up unannounced. We would try to arrive as early as possible so word could spread that we wanted to meet with the community. We asked them if they would be willing to meet in the evening so we could discuss the topic of possibly doing mission work with their people.
During these formal sit down meetings, there was always a “mouth man” who did the speaking on behalf of the community. I was the “mouth man” for our team. We explained that if we came, these are the 4 things we would do: 1. Learn their language. 2. Teach them to read and write their language. 3. Translate the Bible into their language. 4. Teach them everything the Bible says. Then we ask lots of questions about security, their beliefs, outside influences, lifestyle, economy, etc. Some of the most important questions we asked were related to existing spiritual beliefs. This language group, as with virtually every group in PNG, has a form of folk Christianity present. When I asked them what they believed they replied, “We are Christian.” But when I asked questions like: why did Jesus die? How does someone go to heaven? What is God like? etc. The responses ranged from silence to truncated incomplete thoughts. This folk Christianity is a thin veneer of Christian names laid on top of their animistic worldview. I’ll talk more about folk Christianity and how it’s actually a natural expression of animism in a later blog post, but I do want to mention one more story. During one of these public conversations, with all the community leaders sitting there, and around 100 people from the village listening on, I asked: “If a person tries really hard and does lots of good things, but also does bad things where will he go when he dies?” After some discussion the mouth man of the biggest community said with sincerity that they don’t really know, but if we know, can we tell them? I don’t know about you, but I feel that question.
Finally, we gave them time to ask us any questions and to let us know what they think about the idea of us coming. In every village, we received a unanimous invitation to live with them and do this work.
The other side of the survey was informal conversations. We wanted to compare the thoughts and ideas we heard in the meetings and have more candid discussions. One of the leaders of the big village came in the evening and confided in us that while they have things they believe, and they try to live good lives, they are still missing something. He then reaffirmed that he wants us to come and teach them. Another man said that the people here don’t understand anything the Bible says all they know are a few memorized things they’ve been told. He went on to say that they don’t really worship God but gave the name of a traditional spirit and said that’s who they really worship.
Walking between villages, washing in the rivers and seeing the sunrise, showed again how beautiful this place is.
The survey was very successful, thank you for your prayers. We were all safe, and healthy throughout the trip. We were able to make great headway in the 4 areas for investigation, mentioned in the last blog posts HERE. The gravity of the decision to work here demands further visits and investigation but the initial visit was very positive. Soon we will meet as a team to discuss what a follow-up survey will look like and make plans for it. Please pray for wisdom as we plan this second survey! We love and appreciate you all.
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Click Noyes Bulletin Insert Aug 2020-2 for a bulletin insert, then click the next link that comes up too.