Waking to a Big Surprise
Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 1:14AM
I woke this morning determined to get Jackson back on schedule with homeschool. Life had other plans. About 11:00 this morning we heard gunshots...about 10 of them. Jax turns to me immediately as he always does when we hear a loud noise and asks "was that fireworks?" And, that usually implies "or could it be something else?"
When we first arrived it was close to Christmas and New Years and they shot lots of fireworks near our house. At first we weren't sure if they were gunshots; we were comforted to see fireworks.
My first thought was "I'm sure it's nothing"...and told Jax so. But, for good measure, I decided to look out our back window. I didn't see what I expected (which was hopefully nothing). What I did see was masses of people running away from town, looking over their shoulders in the direction they were running from. The same direction from which we heard the gunshots.
At this point I still didn't comprehend what was going on, all I knew was it wasn't completely normal...or at least I didn't think it was. Sometimes it's hard to say here what constitutes normal (especially only having been here a month), at least according to my western way of thinking.
I asked Jax to stay down just in case it was gun fire. Then I went out on the back porch to check again. By now, our neighbors, who are nationals from the Western Highlands were outside on their back porch watching also. So, I asked one of the younger men what was going on.
His English was spotty, so I made a hand signal for a gun and shrugged my shoulders to try and ask what was going on. He understood me (and some English too, I could tell). Then he tells me yes guns, and motions for us to get inside.
Not long after going back inside, we hear more noise; yelling this time. It's coming from outside our front gate now, but is passing by quickly. I look out our front windows and see people running on our street towards town...the opposite direction of where people were running earlier. I can't completely tell but they look like they are covered in mud or ash or something.
At this point I realize I need to take this more seriously and Jax is getting nervous. I tell Jax that we need to pray. Jax is watching my every movement and staying close. So we both pray, then I call Tony at the hanger. When he gets on the phone and I explain what is going on, he somewhat dismisses the events as normal (like I had at first).
I didn't push, but did ask him to be sure to prayer for us. I had this little voice inside that was saying it could just be that I am new, and maybe this is normal....at least normal for Papua New Guinea.
But, then the other voice was saying things didn't seem quite right. So, as soon as I got off the phone with Tony I called Alisha, the other mission mom here. I called her just to ask for prayer, but was glad I had because after we hung up she called her husband who took the events a bit more earnestly.
I received a call from Jeff, her husband and director of AAS moments later telling me that Tony and several of the nationals who work for AAS were on their way to our house to see what was going on. When they arrived at our gate, I was very grateful to see them. At the very least I wanted to know what was going on, and knew they could ask around since they spoke Pigin.
One of the AAS men (who is local) went over to our neighbors house to see if he could get more information about what was going on. It's times like this that I really wish I had learned the language (or at least some) before coming to PNG!
When he returns we find out that the gunshots were likely from the police trying to disperse a mob in town. And all the people milling around and running towards town on our road were likely because someone had died recently nearby. This was all starting to make a little more sense to me.
A few days earlier I heard wailing and screaming in the settlements behind our house. I asked Tony about it, and he said he wasn't sure...but we both thought maybe someone had died. We had heard funerals can last a while and be very loud. This went on for a day or two...then nothing else. Until today.
It was explained to us that when someone passes away here the family of the deceased will seek retribution for their death. We were told that this was likely what was happening.
We thanked the fellas from the mission, then we had a family prayer and they and Tony left. We stayed. I was feeling more secure now. At least I had some idea of what was going on.
I knew from what little we had been told and read that in PNG as long as you have not done something directly to someone else, you don't much have to worry about when things like this take place. They are not concerned with us, they are concerned with getting retribution from another wontok group or tribe. It has been explained to us that our "wontoks" would be other white people living in PNG, and since we are few, it is not as likely that we have to fear any tribal war issues, or things of this nature. Not to say, that we wouldn't still be heightened and more vigilant if a mob were to gather!
After they left we went outside again on the back porch to see how things were going. Now, I could see that a large group had massed together in the split of the road just up from the back of our house. All the men and women gathered there were covered in ash, and were milling around.
Soon, the group began to move as a procession towards our neighborhood. We moved to the front window to see better. At this point, now that we knew there was little if any danger posed to us directly, Jackson and I were both a little intrigued. So, we watch from the window (but still somewhat guarded).
The group stops at the beginning of our dirt road, then a man cries something very loudly for what seems like a very long time. Then the entire group begins to walk down our road chanting and wailing, at one point we see two men carrying a very large, tied pig on their shoulders. I assumed this would be used in the funeral ceremony.
Finally they all pass. I say a silent prayer for their families, and for their hearts to be comforted. Then we try to regain normalcy in our home.
About 20 minutes after they had passed and I was feeling at peace once more I felt the floor bounce. Jax was in the kitchen near where I was sitting. I thought he must be jumping up and down, so I ask him to stop. But, then I realize it's not him, the fan is swaying...it's an earthquake! All I can think is..."Normal here is a far cry from normal, but it's certainly never dull!!"
Living With Jesus, Living Without Jesus
Later on, Jax sees a boy walking back from the funeral. Jax says "Mom, he had wiped the ash from his face, but he looked very sad." We talked about how sad it is to loose a loved one, and how it can be especially sad if you don't know Jesus or know that your loved one knew Jesus.
To live without the great hope that one day when this life passes, (which it will for all of us) you will be reunited with loved ones and more importantly with your Savior would be very hard. Even though we have been told that there are quite a few people in PNG who have heard the Gospel, it is obvious that there still much to do here to spread the Good News of Jesus' soon return and the great hope that He brings with Him!
I am so thankful today that when we pray Jesus hears us and is able to comfort our hearts. Even in the middle of uncertainty we can know that He hears us and has a plan for us, and will protect us when we call out to Him, for this I am grateful today. (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, John 14:14, Psalm 91:11)