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.  


g-ma said...

Hello Natalie. New friends of ours from church, the Moores, sent us the link to your blog. Thank you SO much for posting this. My name is Johanna Fowler - my husband's is Gary - and it was our house that you stayed in at Ok Bap! Imagine our surprise and great delight when we saw the pictures of the house, Ketengban people, church service (sitting separately was their way of doing things) and ready your account of your visit! Oh the wonderful memories that flood our minds and the stories we could tell!!!

We see that the big front porch we had off the diningroom is gone. We're curious as to where the big hole in the kitchen floor is? How great to see Yulianus/Pak Yuli. He was Gary's number one language informant and an invaluable help in the Bible translation he worked on with Gary. Do you know the name of the man who helped with the dishes? Lebius?

So many questions running through our minds so will email you. Thank you again. You've brought joy to our hearts!

bobj said...

We arrived Dutch NG Nov 1958 as the fourth MAF family.. OkSibil was the only strip in east highlands. UFM Meno Heyblom, John Greenfield later joined by Lockharts lived there and I did supply drops to Kiwi and opened that strip, moving,in one day, relocating with 12 loads UFM to KIWi. Years later OK Bop was opened as our steepest strip.. If you didn't add power quickly after touch down, twice, had to re take off and try again to reach that top parking ledge. Once in Nomad got too flat on approach, added too much power till flaps auto retracted to abort, go around.. next appro was all OK. Once in TU206 ran out of power halfway up strip and with tail heavy load it stopped there with nose so high it rocked back on tail cone.. chocked it and turned around by hand..tried to slow taxi down and try another run to get to the top..grass was wet and no brakeing so slid off the bottom end into the bushes without op to tru a run to top again...297

Robin Batz said...

Hi what a blessing to read this! I'm an MK whose family was stationed at Nalca, near Kiwi and Okbab from 1969 - 74. I so enjoyed seeing those gorgeous mountains again!
Robin Cutting Batz

Heather said...

Hi Natalie! My name is Heather and I wanted to know if you would be willing to answer my question about your blog! My email is Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)

Chad and Andi Irwin said...

I love that the guy came and washed your dishes...because that's what he used to do. Sweet!

cal mal said...

hello, My name is Calvin malo. I am from Okbab in borban My church is Imanuel and thankyou for you coming in my Island and specially my Village Whose Borban OKbab, Ketengban Finnnally God Bless Us all and Its my E-mail Address : Kalvinmalo@rocketmail.com and my blog's Cal17147@gmail.com and i hope Please call or connect me as a family og God's