We are amazed and so thankful for God’s protection as we look back on many incidents which could have ended up tragically. Here are a few examples.
“Get out of here!”
Have you ever had those words spoken to you? In l954, Peter Banfield, Al Cole, and I moved from the Kapau area further interior to Aseki village and were building a house there. One day when Peter was away, Al and I were supervising the covering of the walls of the house with pandanus leaves when several men from a village about 2 hours’ walk away sauntered up without giving the normal Hamtai greeting. Al and I looked up and saw that they were all armed with bows and arrows! We learned later that those men did not approve of Aseki village inviting us to live there. They probably were afraid we would tell the government about their fighting, etc.
In those days in that remote area, the people knew very little Melanesian Pidgin, the trade language, and we were just beginning to learn Hamtai. But to Al and me their message was clear. They kept shouting, “Ee go! Ee go!”, which means “You go away, get out of here!” Al and I froze, not knowing what to do, because the Aseki people did not immediately come to our rescue. We sat down in the new doorway and started to sing. I couldn’t remember all the words, and Al couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, as the saying goes. However, together we managed to sing at the top of our voices, “Rejoice in the Lord and let his mercies cheer”, the chorus of which goes, “If God be for us who can be against us?” After that we prayed, telling the Lord we had given our lives to him to be glorified in us, no matter what might happen. We asked him for wisdom and deliverance. Then, looking up, we saw those hostile villagers wandering off one by one. What a relief! We knew that God had intervened, at least for this time. We were glad, too, that a fight hadn’t broken out between them and the Aseki people. From then on we felt welcome in Aseki.
Later on it was Peter and I working together in Aseki. One time Peter went out to the mission center for awhile, leaving me there alone. The missionaries sent carriers in with supplies for me. While the carriers were there overnight, they overheard, in the house next to where they were sleeping, some men talking in this manner: “If the government patrol officer had not recently made a patrol back here, we would have killed this ’red man‘ a long time ago.” The carriers didn’t tell me what they had heard.
However, on returning to the center back in the Watut, they told the other missionaries, who decided they had better come in to see me. They came, and together we decided it was time to make a strategic retreat back to the more settled area. I really didn’t want to leave because I had established good relations with most of the people and had come to love them. Better judgment prevailed, and we moved back out. It was wise to leave anyway. We had noticed the people were getting very restless because of our presence. Our house had been broken into once. Also, they began to blame us for sickness and some deaths (that’s another story!) even though we had actually saved many lives with our medical treatments.
Anyhow, later we realized that God was in control after all! He had protected Pete and me, and also He knew that the believers from the edge of the tribe would later evangelize the Aseki area, establishing many churches there. Corinne and I had the privilege of living and ministering in that area in 1969, after the government had moved in and after there were many believers – and after women were allowed to go in, now that it was considered “controlled territory.”
Other examples of God’s care and protection
In the early days before the people were “educated” (before they were taught evolution, how to demand their “rights”, before television with its western morals (?), etc.”) we had very little stealing, etc. We never had to lock our doors overnight. Also, there was no need to pack away everything whenever we went on furlough. Our Watut center house had only fly-wire on the windows. Anyone could cut the wire and enter and carry away everything. When we went on a year’s furlough, we left the house completely set up to be used by guests or new missionaries orientating there. That is no longer the case. We have to empty the house when we leave or have someone sleep in it for security. It is sad to see how the country has changed for the worse.
- One night in Hipaku, our home village for 14 years, I heard a noise outside that sounded like a storm lantern being adjusted and got up to investigate. A man had cut the glass louvers in our office window with a glass cutter and had taken our cash box from Corinne’s desk. He had just exited and I saw him standing outside the window planning his next move. However, I called out, “Yu husat?” (“Who are you?”) He had cut himself badly on the broken glass and when I shouted he took off. As he hurriedly departed he left a trail of blood for some distance. Fortunately, that morning we had taken most of the cash to the buyers at the coffee mill in Aseki. They liked to have cash with which to buy coffee beans from the growers, and were pleased to give us a check in exchange for our cash. We later found out who did it. The fellow went to his village and later visited his friend David who had once been a “rascal” (law breaker) with him. He apologized, saying, “Don’t mind the smell from my foot. I broke in and stole Tom’s cash box and cut my foot on the window. It stinks through lack of treatment.” Had he known that David had become a Christian and was no longer a gang member he would not have told him that. David came and shared it with us and we took the case to the village court. However, they did not charge him because it was his word against his former friend’s. It didn’t help that the magistrate was his relative. Anyway, we praise the Lord he didn’t find any more money or harm us personally.
- One afternoon a machete-wielding national (a community school teacher very high on marijuana) came up the hill toward our house and confronted Corinne. I was meeting with some nationals in a house down the hill, not far away. She called out for me. When others and I arrived, he had chopped through the wooden gate to the carport and Corinne was shouting at him trying to prevent him from attacking our vehicle. Nimas, our literacy coordinator, was coming up the hill with me and he walked calmly up to him, engaged him in conversation and took his knife, and led him away. Nimas kept the machete so he would not harm anything else, and I don’t think the man ever returned to retrieve it. Oh well, if he didn’t, Nimas earned the knife for his bravery.
- Nowadays there are a lot of hold-ups of people traveling on the roads. The “rascals” (their term for lawbreakers) mostly hold up coffee buyers or PMV’s (Public Motor Vehicles like buses, trucks, etc.) Except for one incident not far from home on the road from Aseki to our house in Hipaku, we have not been bothered. That particular time it was about 3 in the afternoon. We had taken visitors to the Aseki airstrip and were returning home. Our daughter Judy and her family were in the Toyota double cab with us. We came to a bend in the road, and just around the bend I saw a log barrier on the road. I backed up in order to make a run for it over the log. Our son-in-law Jim, who had his flare gun with him, shot at the four young men, but the flares hit the embankment at the side of the road. However, it frightened the attackers away, and they ran off with much haste into the woods and down their escape route. Judy had seen a fifth lad run off right away. Later, we learned that he had recognized us and didn’t want any part in robbing us. They were kids from a near-by village.
We are sure the Lord has delivered us many times that we were not aware of. Several times we have heard of hold-ups that occurred just before or just after we had passed by. One such incident occurred in the city of Lae. It was in the afternoon just after school closing. Corinne went ahead into a store while I parked the car. As she entered, a security guard was standing by the door with his arm dripping blood. “Rascals” had just robbed the store and held up every customer inside and the last one out cut the arm of the guard when he tried to stop him. Then they stole the car keys of one expatriate lady customer and drove away in her car. Her two children were crying, as they now had no money to buy the presents they had come to buy for their daddy for his birthday. Had we been about 2 minutes earlier we would have been robbed too.
We take precautions, but we are thankful that neither Corinne nor I live in fear but are able to live and go wherever the Lord leads us.