As you know, at the end of last November, we moved from the Madang Province to Ukarumpa in the Eastern Highlands.
What is Ukarumpa?
It's a Linguistics Center and the main mission base of SIL established in 1956 from which about 400 missionaries (Bible translators+literacy workers) travel to all the provinces (PNG has over 800 peoples) several times a year. About 200 other missionaries of different professions form a support team and without them it would be difficult to imagine working here effectively. Ukarumpa offers a wide range of resources for linguists to be able to get on with the work especially after returning from the village situation. There are various technical departments, maintenance, supporting families, church, schools up to the age of 18, print shop, libraries, post office, clinic, a large conference room and a guest house for the many visitors coming from all over the world (about 30 people at a time). About 200 Papuans are employed on the Center. People from neighbouring villages sell their produce at the market.
Weather and environment?
- we are at 1700m with a view of the mountains
(it reminds us of Scotland!)
- hot days, cold evenings, freezing nights
- torrential rains (rainy season till April)
- light earthquakes are common (larger ones cause
- the closest hospital in Goroka town is 100km away
(3 hours drive on a rough road with holes)
- people from the highlands are more aggressive than
those from the islands
- there is a strict curfew between 11pm-6am and you
shouldn't go out after dark (6.30pm) unless in a
larger group in case you meet with "rascals"(local
criminals) who are becoming more daring these days
- Aiyura airstrip is about 2km from the Center
The local Christians organized a great welcome in a traditional style for the new missionaries. After a long and lively service in one of their churches a crowd of people led us to one of the villages in the company of singing and dancing men and women dressed in traditional costumes (of warriors and others) different for each tribe. 'Singsing' (dancing and singing) had lasted a few hours before we sat down on the ground to have a mumu or the "bikpela kaikai".
WHAT IS MUMU?
No, it's not the sound of our domestic animal!
Mumu is a traditional feast prepared in a unique Papuan way. Food (usually bananas, sweet potatoes, cabbage, taro, chicken and/or pork) is put on aromatic leaves in a hole in the ground and covered with leaves and herbs from the jungle. The dish is cooked in this "ground stove" for a few hours. Because meat is rather a luxury, the mumu takes place only on special occasions. Inviting you to a mumu is like accepting you as a friend.
RELIGION AND THE CHURCHES?
Traditional beliefs that embrace magic are an integral part of PNG native cultures. These beliefs and practices differ from area to area but most of the emphasis is on pleasing and propitiating spirits. The belief in magic or sorcery is universal and, even when people have been nominally Christianised, these beliefs and practices may persist.
Christian missionary effort started in the late 1800s by the Methodists soon followed by the Roman Catholics and other mission bodies over the years. With the end of the colonial phase and after gaining independence (1975) in many cases missions have turned into autonomous churches. Among them there are the Anglican, Roman Catholic, United Church of PNG, Seventh-Day Adventist and the Lutheran Church.
The policy of SIL and Wycliffe is not to associate ourselves with one particular denomination but to cooperate with all the churches towards equipping the people with God's Word which is essential for their spiritual growth in Jesus Christ and departing from the religion of darkness.
Not without difficulties and delays we have managed to organize two preallocation trips with God's grace and help from other missionaries .
From 19-28/3 we will be visiting the Seimat people on the Ninigo Islands in Manus Province. They live on 7 neighbouring islands. We'll fly with the Regional Director (James Hafford) by a special plane (Islander) that is now working! The two pilots will leave us there and pick us up on 28/3 again. The place is very remote and the people haven't seen a white person for years and some possibly not at all.
From 3-19/4 we'll travel to Milne Bay to visit the Anuki people living on Cape Vogel (coastal area). First we need to get to Alotau (the capital), then go 12 hours by boat to a missionary (Catherine McGuckin) who works with the neighbouring Gapapaiwa people and who kindly agreed to go with us and to introduce us to the Anuki.
We also seek God's guidance as to whether we should visit the Tanga people in New Ireland. So far the logistics of that trip haven't been worked out yet and we are not sure what to do.
Dear friends, we cannot thank you enough for all your prayers, care and support. We and the people here need you very much and treat you as a part of our team.
With love in Christ, Beata