Our village is now being ravaged by war. Not bullets ripping through flesh. Not missiles obliterating homes, nor by suicide bombers with hidden explosives. It’s not as visible as that but it is definitely war. This battle is taking place in the hearts of men and women as the truth of the Word is in direct conflict with the dark secrets that have been passed down from the tribal ancestors. The belief that sickness and death are results of evil spirits of the jungle, runs deep and is not easily overthrown.
Konef’s wife was sick with measles last week. Very sick. In fact, she grew so weak she could no longer sit up to take a drink of water to fight the fever. Konef brought her to Susan and Mikayla for help. Together they laid her in the back corner of the tin roofed building that serves for both church meetings and funerals and then Mikayla attached an IV tube to her arm to help fight severe dehydration with the life-giving fluid. Susan gave the sick woman medicines to help reduce her fever and then Susan and Mikayla let her rest while they and two nurses, who arrived from town, turned their attention to giving measles vaccinations to the rest of the villagers.
Fortunately Konef’s wife survived that day and was able to return to her hut that evening. She dropped exhausted to the bark slatted floor for another night of fitful sleep. Through the ordeal, Konef’s faith was almost shaken. No, it was definitely shaken, but he clung to hope that God would save his wife’s life. There were times when he doubted, and considered calling for someone to sacrifice a pig to the spirits. That’s what they had been taught to do and that’s what they had always done. Sure there was risk. Maybe the missionary would find out. On the other hand, maybe God could save her life. Maybe the prayers of the believers would make a difference. War had waged in Konef’s mind, but he resisted the urge to return to the practices of the ancestors.
Then a few days later Konef’s baby Pita got sick. He lay listless, burning with fever. The doubts jumped back into Konef’s mind. I can’t lose him.
Most of that day Konef held strong. It was encouraging when the missionary came to visit and pray with them. The pills helped dampen the babies’ fever.
Later, in the middle of the night Konef woke with bone jarring chills. He sat up and tried to push the embers of the dying fire together but his hands were shaking so bad his attempts to gather the coals were actually only scattering them. He tried to stand to get a split section of firewood from the drying rack above the fire pit but gave up and sank exhausted to his spot on the floor. Why do I have malaria?
It wasn’t malaria. Though the symptoms were similar at first, his face later swelled and his eyes turned red with the fever. By the middle of the next day his cheeks and forehead were puffy with a rash of pimples. Then the doubts surged back and his mind was a swirl of darkness as the fever raged in his brain. Maybe the witch doctor is right. Maybe it’s true that the missionary only knows about the spirits of his own country and doesn’t know how to keep the evil jungle spirits from making us sick. Maybe I had better call the witch doctor to offer a sacrifice of pigs’ blood to the spirits. What could it hurt? It’s the only way to make the evil spirits stop killing us.
The battle raged in Konef’s mind but later that evening when a few men gathered at his house and called out to God he wondered why he ever doubted. He affirmed his trust in God’s strength to save, but then, later in the darkness of the sleepless night that followed only God knows the extent to which his faith was challenged.
The conflict heightened the next day when he saw his daughter also had red eyes and puffy face. He had to look away. Her too? My precious girl? This can’t be happening. He looked over to where his wife now spent her days laying on the floor next to the fire, far too weak to attend to their listless baby and daughter. Who is going to take care of us? Is this the end? Maybe the ancestors were right.
Please pray right now for the many people who are sick with measles here in Hewa. Susan is working feverishly all day long to tend to sick babies, children and adults. We have heard of a few deaths in other villages and have heard reports of many measles related deaths in the towns of Porgera and Tari. Pray the Lord will have mercy on the lives of these people. Even more than that, please pray that as the war rages in the minds of villagers, they will call out to God and that through this ordeal, true faith in Jesus will spread over these jungle smothered mountains. Pray that men, who blame sickness on women, who they think are possessed by evil spirits, will not be able to carry out their plans to take innocent lives. Pray this will be a turning point where the villagers will surrender to the Lord and become devoted to Him.
Konef and family before they all got sick with measles