January 31, 2014

Semua Harus Tahu - Everyone Must Know!

I remember being in middle school when the gravity and reality of HIV-AIDS struck me.  I heard in the news that Ryan White, a kid not much older than I was, died from AIDS after contracting the virus from a tainted blood treatment.  I remember thinking, wow, someone my age can get that, and die from it?

Fast-forward 20 years and great strides have been made in AIDS awareness, prevention, and treatment.  It doesn't seem to be the hot topic that it once was, at least not in the U.S., perhaps.

However, here in Papua, the effects of HIV-AIDS are devastating, and unfortunately, the virus is spreading rapidly.  Statistics show that Papuans are contracting the virus at a rate more than 10 times the national average.  Buzz and Myrna Maxey, longtime CMA missionaries in Indonesia, have a burden to educate the people of Papua about this virus.

Last Thursday Buzz and Myrna presented to the MAF Sentani national staff about their program called "Semua Harus Tahu," or, "Everyone Must Know."  

Myrna and Buzz
Buzz shared that every day in Wamena (an area in the mountains where MAF has a base) three to four people die due to AIDS.  And, he said, 99 percent of the cases in Papua are transmitted sexually.

"It's a disaster," Buzz said.  "But people aren't shocked by it anymore."

Through the use of video, drama, and posters, the Maxeys' program emphasized purity before marriage (suci sebelum menikah) and faithfulness after marriage (setia setelah menikah).  They warned of the dangers of alcohol (a major problem in Papua) and pornography, factors which lead to sexual promiscuity and the spread of the virus.  They explained how the virus is transmitted, and how it is not transmitted.

Buzz showed how each of the five fingers of the hand can be used to remember key points about HIV-AIDS:
1. Love people with the virus
2. Love your family
3. Tell others about the dangers of HIV-AIDS
4. Be faithful to the Lord
5. Save Papua
Buzz, who has flown on MAF planes his whole life, announced a partnership with MAF at our meeting on Thursday.  He and his "Semua Harus Tahu" group have developed a brochure that will go in each seat pocket in our MAF planes.  The laminated brochures include information about HIV-AIDS, as well as a hotline number to call for help. 
Myrna and Buzz with Papua Program Manager Mike Brown

Yakobus, helper with the Semua Harus Tahu program, with MAF pilot and good buddy of ours Dave Ringenberg, insert HIV-AIDS brochure in the seatbacks of an MAF Cessna Caravan
David has told me how the passengers, perhaps bored and with no reading material of their own, will read every detail of the safety briefing card in the seat backs.  Now every seat back will have this important brochure and has the potential of impacting many of the 40,000 passengers a year that fly with MAF.  

Semua Harus Tahu!

January 21, 2014

Papuan Handshake

How do you greet your friends?  With a handshake? A bear hug? A side hug? A bro hug? A high five?  An air kiss by the cheek?  Here's a greeting to add to your repertoire.

Here in Papua, certain tribes have a unique greeting that I just love.  It starts like a normal handshake:
Then you connect your fingers like this with your knuckles overlapping:
And then you pull hard for a satisfying SNAP!
Now, go and do likewise.

The lady in the picture often gives bananas to David when he flies into her village.  Maybe she's trying to appease the Scary Giant Pilot?
Nah, I think it's just that she's a generous soul.  

January 03, 2014


This past weekend our family went to Okbab (pronounced Oak-bop), a district in the area known as the Eastern Highlands.  When we lived in Kalimantan we went interior several times a year, but for a number of reasons, we just haven't made it interior much since moving to Papua.  So I was thrilled when David set it all up for our family and another family, the Bergs, to head to the mountains for a few days.

The flight was about an hour from our home in Sentani.  The airstrip at Okbab is at 6,000 feet elevation, so the cool weather felt wonderful to us.  We stayed in a house that was built by missionaries who came in the 1970s, bringing the gospel and literacy to the area.  The house hasn't been lived in for about 30 years, but enough people stay in it from time to time that it's stayed in fairly decent shape.  I was pleasantly surprised that we had no nighttime visitors (especially surprising considering the formidable hole in the kitchen floor), since I have a slight phobia of cockroaches.  
The house was sparsley furnished so it was a bit like camping.  
However, unlike camping there was a very nice man who came along at meal times and washed up the dishes for us.  He used to work for the missionaries who lived there thirty years ago.
We read books, played games, enjoyed the fire in the fireplace, went for walks.  It was very relaxing.  I enjoyed chatting with some of the people in the village and learning a little bit about their life.
On Sunday morning we walked to church, passing under several of these cool little covered bridges.  They looked like something from the Shire.
Church was interesting.  It was the first time I'd be to a church where the men sit on one side...
...and the women on the other side.
David gave a short greeting to the church, thanked them for their prayers and shared how privileged we as MAF feel to serve their people.  He asked for a show of hands of those who have ridden on an MAF plane before, and quite a few hands went up.  One man stood and told how he was on a flight with David and the weather was rough, and he and other passengers in the plane prayed for safety.  Several people in the church expressed their appreciation for MAF.

The service was mostly in the local language (called Ketembang), so we couldn't really follow the sermon (except for the one word I was able to learn - "telebe" - which is a word used in greeting).  But it was still fascinating to observe.  The pastor kept repeating one verse over and over (Luke 2:31) and the congregation would repeat it back.  I guess it was for the benefit of those who can't read or don't have Bibles.  The New Testament and parts of the Old Testament have been translated into Ketembang, and work is still being done to finish the entire Bible.

We noticed the homemade instrument below sitting at the front of the church and wondered how it sounds when played.

After church we chatted with some of the people, and learned that many girls in the village get married at age 15.  There were certainly some very young-looking mommas in this group.
There is a school that goes through junior high, and is fully staffed (often the schools interior don't have teachers), but not all the children attend.  I asked one mom why her child doesn't attend and she said the child was "malas"  or lazy to go so she stayed home.  

Later in the day, Zoe wanted to play with the kids but was a bit shy to go out on her own, so I helped bridge the gap for her.  We played frisbee and taught them a game, then asked them to teach us a few games.  When we were done playing I gave them a little pep talk on the importance of going to school and learning to read, but I'm not sure how well they understood me.
We met a local guy, Pak Niko, who could speak English and had spent time in Sentani as well as China and Australia.  We hiked to his village (well, Zoe and I made it part-way) which was situated on a 60-foot wide ridge.  The trail to get there was a bit sketchy in places, but the views were outstanding. 

The two dots in the middle of the photo below are me and Zoe.
David said when they reached the village, a bakar batu was taking place.  Heated rocks placed in a pit are used to cook food, usually pork and sweet potatoes, but this time it was sweet potatoes and buah merah, a popular local fruit.
David arranged our visit to Okbab with the man below, Pak Yuli (yes, the one wearing the funky "Punks Not Dead" hat).  He worked with the missionaries who came in the 1970s and is actively involved in the Bible translation project. He said that even though missionaries brought the gospel to the area in the early 1970s, many people didn't really put their faith in Christ until an earthquake in 1976 devastated their village, which was located on the other side of the mountain at the time.  About 2,000 people lost their lives in the ensuing landslides, and the village was moved to its current location.  Pak Yuli said he and many others were baptized at that time.
It was a blessing for our family and the Bergs to be able to spend a few days in Okbab, one of the many places in Papua served by MAF.  It was a good reminder to us of why we are choosing to live here, so far from our passport country, to serve isolated people and work alongside local churches in sharing God's love with others.