From their initial site in Weganda Village Chuck Driver worked hard at learning the language and wrote a short grammar and prepared a tentative Hamtai alphabet. As other personnel, including us, arrived, our first task was to learn the Lingua Franca, Melanesian Pidgin. We had no course in those days to follow, so we learned it situationally, that is, just picking it up through conversation with the people besides getting plenty of help from Chuck and Jean and others. Meanwhile we started learning the Hamtai language from the villagers nearby.
The desire of the team was to push into the interior, the “uncontrolled territory”, establish a presence there for language learning and later on, preaching. Jim Spence had contracted leukemia and had to leave the field, and so it was up to Peter Banfield and me to move into the area where women were not allowed and where even we men had to have a special permit to work. The government had required the people to cut trails through the area to make it easier for their patrols. This was quite all right with us! However, our first task was to upgrade these fairly good trails to make them more graded in spots, and make them more suitable for pack horses, our main way of getting supplies in there.
After spending some time in the Kapau Valley, it was at Aseki where Peter and I, and later Al Cole, spent time building a house in the village and learning language and culture. We were also able to do some medical work with supplies from the government. The patrol officers had made very few patrols in the area. Their aim was to “pacify” the people, forcing them to cease their fighting, leave their garden hamlets and to settle down in villages. There was still fighting and killing throughout the Aseki area. It was an unsafe area to be in, and a dangerous time to be there. However, our love for the people spurred us on even though there were threats on our lives. (See Tribal Anecdotes)
Meanwhile, back at the mission center in the Watut others were studying the language and Chuck continued to lead us in our plans as a group to evangelize the Hamtai area. We had a supply man who kept the group in supplies, and others did medical work. Gradually a witness was started in the close villages.
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