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Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Safe New Year's Trip

Sue writes:

New Year's greetings to our team! Wishing you-all a year of growth in our Lord.

Thanks to those of you who prayed for our safety as we traveled over New Year's. We had quite an adventure! God granted us a safe trip, and He sent several helpers along at pivotal moments to guide us along. This was our first long-distance PMV (public motor vehicle) trip. Sorry we have no pictures. We had to leave our camera at home.

A friend from the college drove us to Kudjip junction early last Tuesday so we could catch a Coaster bus. These are 30-seaters that have more space than the usual 15-seater vans. Buses from Hagen go past the Kudjip junction for several points east.

As a PMV stops, the boskru (team leader) calls out the end-destination of the vehicle. I believe one qualification of a boskru must be that he can yell unintelligibly. He also collects fares and settles any problems that come up.

Peter, the man who trains security guards for this area, just happened to be at the stop. He decided he would help us find a suitable bus. After about an hour's wait, the right one came along. We were the last passengers who would fit in.

Leaving about 9 am, we headed to Kundiawa, in Chimbu province. A Christian woman from Hagen spoke with us along the way. Shortly after we started, we passed into Chimbu, the province where the big landslide stopped all highlands traffic earlier in the year. The roads there are constantly shifting and buckling because of seismic activity.

At the Kundiawa stop, Jeff bought a phone card from a seller who came to the bus window. We wanted to call our host to let him know we were on our way. Something underhanded happened with that card: either someone looked over Jeff's shoulder and used his card number before he punched it in or it was a stolen card with a canceled number. At any rate, that card wouldn't work for him.

The Christian woman bought us some boiled eggs at the stop, and she said she was thankful missionaries had come to her country to bring the Good News of the one true God.

Also at Kundiawa, a woman and her children got off, so we were able to take their seats and spread out a bit more. A student on his way to Lae filled in the fold-down seat next to me. Since he was a Chimbu native, he told us a bit about the sights we were seeing. Between Kundiawa and Goroka is Daulo Pass, at about 8000 feet.

In the Eastern Highlands at the Goroka stop, Jeff found a shop that sold phone cards. That card worked, but our host still wasn't answering. We gave the Christian woman and her son a snack. She was pleased because Melanesians show friendship by reciprocal giving.

Still, in the Eastern Highlands, just past Yonki Dam, we stopped at a place that sold a number of home grown and home made snack foods. There were fresh cucumbers, pineapple slices, fried fish from the lake, plump, sweet fried bananas, fried potatoes, fried kaukau, and cold soft drinks. Cool water springs out of the hillside for washing and drinking. There too I found out which bushes to proceed to for the women's toilet. Men seem to work that out more easily.

Kassam Pass came next. It looks down on Morobe province and the great Markham Valley, which reminds me a bit of the Central Valley of California. It is wide and fertile and warm and there are tall mountains on either side of it. Our hosts live in that valley, and we got off our bus at the Umi market.

It was the end of the day, and many sellers were packing up to go home. An older man came right up to us to ask what we were doing there. We mentioned the name of our host, and he said he knew the family. He asked us to sit in the shade of the food stalls, and he and his family spoke with us for a while. Then he went off to arrange for a PMV to take us to the place our host's family lives.

While we were waiting, another guy came up and introduced himself as Joe, the prayer warrior. We said a prayer warrior was just the guy we needed. When we mentioned our host's name, Joe said he was his pastor, and he could take us right to him. When the older man had a nice, new 15-seater PMV ready for us, Joe came along and did take us right to our host.

Evidently the cell phone service to our host's village was disrupted, so he had received none of our messages. He did stay at home, though, in case we just turned up the way we did.

This is quite long. I'll continue it later...

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