It’s been awhile. Again. I will eventually fill in the details of the last few busy months. For now it’s Sunday evening here. Unexpectedly I spent all day at home. There has been fighting going on in 2 surrounding areas for some weeks now. Today it came into town, and the 2 sides stood with machetes and spears and a few bows and glared at each other most of the day. One side came into town this morning and burned down some houses in retaliation for a man that was attacked Friday and died in the main hospital Saturday. Another fight is about 7 miles away and has been going on for about 2 weeks, but has paused for the last several days. A third is about 15 miles away, and has been going off and on for years. The reason I stayed home- at the advice of my local pastor- was because the church is located more or less in the middle of the 2 sides here in town. Thanks to the Lord it has remained really quiet all day. A bit eerily quiet, but no fighting. That is the Lord’s grace.
Because of living here in the more urban Kainantu area for the past 6 years, much of the bits and pieces of PNG culture that I learned from my 15 years in the bush are finally beginning to make sense. It’s rare to get an honest answer for anything in the bush, because the missionary is a very big fish in a very small pond. But in town that mentality is drastically reduced, so people just say what they’re thinking. There’s a lot that sociology and anthropology can say about PNG. To them this is a delightfully closed culture that makes a nice study. But their descriptions of the witchcraft and animism, the “cargo cult” and syncretism are all broken and incomplete fragments of Papua New Guinea. Come to find out, God described PNG a long time ago.
Fact: mankind is wicked. Desperately, indescribably, incurably wicked. PNG, like the rest of the world, is ruled by rebellion and greed. Almost no one here- from the prime minister down to the newest infant- thinks that laws apply to them. A law is only there for the opponent, or for personal use if it can be manipulated for gain. And any means at all is legitimate to obtain what someone else has. Like Adam’s forbidden fruit, publicly-supported goods, which are mostly NGO donations- everything- will be taken for personal gain. Here position and/or power in the local clan is a more dear commodity than cargo. So to get a position or recognition or money to enhance your own power is worth more than the gold than literally packs the soil on this island. The earliest records of PNG were of hundreds of tribes that were always fighting over what the other one had. In those days they would invade, steal, then eat their opponent, (assuming that they would gain knowledge and skill from the very flesh of the enemy). Then when envoys (even missionaries) from developed nations arrived, they too would be eaten, in hopes of gaining the advantages of those white aliens. Eventually those greater powers coerced PNG folks to stop eating each other (thankfully), but the basic heart has not changed. They really do tend to imagine powers in the trees and rocks; and they will often invent enchantments to enhance their own powers or weaken their enemies. These methods constantly change according to the whims of the manipulators. But the fact is that they have discovered that if they throw out the word “witchcraft” (called ‘sanguma’ here), people accept it and stop talking. It’s mostly used as an excuse to sin, and murder, and steal, and neglect responsibility. They have learned that just using the word will divert the attention from the obvious fact that they do what they do because they are wicked, not because of supposed curses.
I had a lady in clinic last week who said that 2 of her children had died from a curse (called being “poisoned”). When I asked what was going on in their bodies at the time of their death, she quickly said that one was a teenager killed in a bus crash, and the other was a toddler who died in the hospital of pneumonia. She knew exactly what I was asking, and knew the answer. But to say they were cursed opens up the potential for accusation against anyone you know who has annoyed or injured you in any way in the past. And if you can convince enough people, you’ll get to at least get some money from them over the false accusation. If the person who died has money or contacts; several people will be killed in reprisal. Not because anyone actually believes these other people were guilty, but they have something that the protagonist wants, and this is an easy way to both kill from annoyance and blood lust, and to just take what you want. Interestingly enough, the only people who are accused of cursing someone are either people with cargo, or women with weak or no protection. The wives of community leaders somehow are never accused.
Working at the hospital affords me a different view of this avaricious evil. During a fight they pause every few hours so church people can go and gather up the bodies and bring them all down to the morgue at the hospital (not a very big building, by the way). And everyone considers the hospital area off-limits for fighting. Oddly, their social rules are followed where national rules are disregarded. It’s like the sanhedrin not wanting to go into Pilate’s hall lest they be defiled, but they still wanted to be sure to murder Jesus Christ by any lie necessary to get it done. Back to the hospital. 2 years ago I remember them lining up 18 bodies on the ground outside the morgue, and each “side” hired large vehicles to collect their slain in a somber and orderly way. A few weeks ago a lady died at home, but they brought her body to the morgue so that they could ask for money from all the relatives to get the body back out of the morgue to take it home for burial.
Actually, it’s the same in every other country, and every sinner the globe over- including me. From the murder in the heart of Cain to the Sodomites to the religious Jews who loved their rituals and hated the Savior. Mankind loves darkness. And our hearts are desperately wicked. The wickedness here has less cultural varnish than the USA, so it seems more glaring. But it’s the same heart– the same heart that I was born with.
I am teaching a ladies’ Bible Study to a new group of women. Last week we began a lesson on the nature of man (depravity). Here, like everywhere else, they are eager to describe their enemy as depraved. But depravity is God’s perspective of the entire human race. Only God’s Light in the Gospel could possibly open our eyes to realize how desperately helpless we are to be our own savior, and how magnificent a Gift we have in the Savior Jesus the Christ!