Fato has gone Home
(Pictures courtesy of Joel Kramer and Aaron Lippard)
In 1992 two friends, Joel and Aaron, began a north-to-south journey across the entire island of Papua New Guinea, which turned into an amazing adventure that nearly took their lives. After hiking over the 10,000-foot high peaks of the jungle-smothered Central Range, they stumbled into the garden area of a fierce Hewa shaman named Watofo, whose warriors welcomed them with drawn bows and razor sharp barbed-tipped arrows. Joel and Aaron could not have known that Watofo would be enraged that they had interrupted his ancestral spirit-harmonizing ceremony that was believed to stop all death and ensure non-ending life. Watafo decided not to kill the frightened hikers, but instead told a young man named Fato to lead Joel and Aaron out of the rugged mountains where they were able to continue their journey and eventually reach the south coast.
After their encounter with the primitive Hewa and the unexpected help they received from Fato, Joel and Aaron began praying that God would bring Fato and the Hewa villagers to a relationship with Him. Several years later in 2006, a terrible sickness swept through the villages in those mountains. When the shaman, Watofo, grew desperately sick he shocked Fato and the others by declaring that the spirits they had been serving had tricked them all, leading them down a trail that promised never-ending life on earth but always ended in unexpected death. As Fato watched Watofo die, and then also saw other family members die of the same sickness, his trust in spirit appeasement practices was shaken. He hiked back to the village of Kulufuntu where he had built a house for his wife and son along with his father and others, but they were soon shocked to see the sickness arrived and quickly spread to nearly all of their loved ones. Fato and his wife and father were among the thirteen villagers who became desperately ill. Just at the time when he realized he was about to die, God impressed upon Jonathan and Yanis, who were living in the village of Fiyawana, to hike to the village of Kulufuntu with medicine. During the two evenings they stayed in Fato’s home, they talked about the Creator God and they asked God to save Fato’s life. When Fato and the rest of the villagers recovered, Fato sent an invitation for someone to come teach them the story of the Creator God.
After years of prayer for the Hewa tribal people, Joel and Aaron were very pleased to discover that missionaries had moved into Fato’s tribe, and were overjoyed when they heard Fato had turned from appeasement of jungle spirits to a beautiful trust in Jesus. Not only was Fato one of the very first who placed his trust in Christ, but he had an incredible passion to lead his family members and his entire village to follow the ‘Jesus trail’. Right up until the time he lost his battle with a harsh sickness, his biggest concern was for his wife and children, that they would devote their lives fully to Him. As his strength ebbed away, his last message to his family was one of courage. “Before, I was afraid to die, but now that I am joined together with Jesus I know that after I die I will go to be with God at His good ground. Don’t worry about me. I am simply going first to be with God, and later you will come also and we will be together again, so trust in Jesus and I will see you soon.”
(You may read about Joel and Aaron’s exciting encounter with the Hewa tribe in January of 1993 from the book called Beyond Fear, published by The Lyon’s Press, Copyright 1995)