One of my partners and myself just got back from a four day hike further up into the mountains to visit another one of the Hewa tribal villages that we have not seen yet. It was a very difficult hike and we are very glad to be back home with our families again and in the comfort of our own homes. We had a good time and we felt like we got a little more insight into the Hewa language and culture. I wrote of my experience one evening when I couldn’t sleep. Susan and the kids are not able to make such a hike so they like me to write the experience down on paper to share with them later. I thought I would share it with you also so you would know how to pray.
Have you ever tried to sleep on the floor? No, I don’t mean on a carpeted floor in your house. I mean have you ever tried to sleep on a wooden floor? Not a flat level wooden floor, but a wooden floor made out of uneven irregular sized slats that are tied onto a pole floor frame using vines. This is my third night of trying to sleep on an uneven slat floor of a Hewa tribal hut. If only I could ask to sleep outside on the dirt where I could find a mostly level spot of soft ground. But then I guess I would get soaked with the nightly rains.
Ok, so I am complaining a little. I have been hiking for three days now trying to visit another remote Hewa tribal village. After the long grueling hikes I am having less and less success trying to sleep on the wooden floors in the village houses. I role over again for the hundredth time trying to find a comfortable position. No such thing I guess. I know I am not the only one having a hard time sleeping because I can hear a man chanting quietly in the darkness. On the other side of me, I can hear a child crying somewhere not too far from my head. Over by one of the fire pits I see an old man role over and sit up, stirring the fire to try to get more warmth. Suddenly a pig fight breaks out in the pig stalls underneath the floor of the house. I groan, wondering if again I will not get much sleep tonight. I fumble around in the darkness trying to feel for my flashlight to see what time it is. Good grief, it is only a little past 2 am! A baby is crying again and I hear a woman talking to him in a language that I can’t understand yet. A rooster crows underneath the house. I guess it can’t sleep either.
I sit up groggily and look around the smoke filled house. This house is a fairly large one for Hewan standards. It is about 25 feet by 15. There are four fire pits, one in each corner of the house. Each fire pit is for each of the four families that live in here together. Men, women, children, dogs and even sometimes pigs and cassowaries all find shelter from the nightly rains in this little house. The smell of the tribal hut hits me again. What am I smelling the strongest? The pig pen under the house, or the dirty dog trying to share my single blanket, or the smoke haze from the four fires that have no chimney hole to find its way out into the night air. I can still hear a man half chanting, half humming somewhere in the darkness but at least the baby has gone to sleep. I roll over again and see if I can go to sleep also. The sound of a rat gnawing on something keeps me from sleeping now. I sure hope it does not decide to chew on me or my back pack.
Later I sit up again in the darkness. I see only two of the four fires are burning now. It’s a little colder in here but at least there is less smoke. “Lord”, I pray, “1 am tired of this.” The adventure and excitement of meeting a group of people from another Hewa village has long since gone. Why did I come here to be a missionary to the Hewa people in the first place? The reasons for living with a remote tribal group are like the smoke slowly seeping through the thatch roof of the hut, silently vanishing into the darkness. Did I come here because I thought I might be able to help the Hewa people better their way of life? Did I think I could give them a cleaner water supply? Did I think that I could help them get more decent clothing? Did I assume that I could bring them a few pots or knives or blankets to increase their standard of living?
I am wide awake now. Now, I know why I came here to live with this Hewa tribal group. I came because no one has ever learned their language before and given them the precious message of salvation through the life and death of the Lord Jesus. Not only is their short life hard and bleak but they have no hope of finding a relationship with God and an eternal home in heaven with Him unless someone learns their language. Someone has to give them salvation’s message and then translate the Bible into their language so that they too can learn of God’s grace and love.
The sound of someone chanting in the darkness is finished now and is replace by gentle snoring. My arm has gone to sleep, and I sure wish the rest of me would also. “Lord, please help this to be worthwhile. Please work in the hearts of these tribal people so that when they finally hear the message of your Son for the first time they will believe and accept it.”
A rooster crows again but I still don’t see any sign of light through the cracks in the bark wall. “God, let your light shine through me into the hearts of these people.”