While we were interior learning the tribal language, some came to know the Lord in the Watut Valley through teaching done by our other missionaries in the trade language, Melanesian Pidgin. These believers were baptized and grew as they were discipled in Pidgin. However, that slowed our progress in learning the Hamtai language. (Now, NTM missionaries, in their new areas, wait until they can minister in the tribal language before they begin doing evangelistic teaching.)
The work of New Tribes Mission in New Guinea was still quite new when we arrived, and we had a lot to learn in those early years. Our leader, Chuck Driver, was a strong believer in prayer. He taught us about unity, that we missionaries should pray together until we had guidance as a group as to what direction our field should take. We spent an hour or more every day together studying God’s Word and praying for His guidance in the many decisions to be made as a new field. Often we spent all day Saturday in prayer. God honored those prayers, bringing many to salvation in spite of our newness and lack of knowledge of the language and culture Some of those believers are still standing firm in the Lord after 50 years.
At our conference in 1955 we were praying about the need for a linguist in one of our new works in the New Guinea Highlands, the Yagaria language group. We were seeking guidance as to whether Drivers or Corinne should fill that need. I expressed a “check” or uneasiness about Corinne’s going (and later I expressed it to her). Of course, my check was mixed with an ulterior motive. The group decision was that Drivers should go and Corinne should stay, and so she stayed on and later became my wife!
Chuck and Jean Driver moved to the Highlands Region of the field to advance the work there. Chuck asked Peter Banfield and me to leave the uncontrolled interior and move out to disciple the new believers in the Watut villages. This made it possible for Corinne and me to marry. Corinne took over the linguistic and literacy work when Drivers left. Chuck had asked Corinne and her coworker, Jerry Sherman (now Jerry Fitzgerald) , to start a small experimental literacy class to test out his alphabet. Also, at his request, Corinne prepared a spoken language course on tape to help the other missionaries learn the language.
Chuck came back to Hamtai briefly in 1956 for field conference, and at the end of that conference he married us. Since then we have had the tremendous privilege of working together to learn the language and to minister together with the rest of the team to establish an indigenous church among the Hamtai people.