On November 18, 2012, I got an email from Dr. Mark Albey. This is how it started:
Chase, Mark Albey here. Just wanted to touch base and see what your thoughts were on a small scale medical mission trip possibly next year. I have a few people in mind that are interested…
Many, MANY emails later… on March 15, 2014, Jonathon Smith and I met up with Dr. Albey, Lawson Albey, Gary Weidenbach, and Bill and Missy McAdoo in the Hong Kong airport. I was on the way back from 2 weeks in the States speaking at Pulse & the World Missions Seminar.
The ‘small scale mission trip’ was to involve visiting 3 Yetfa villages – 2 by plane and 1 by canoe. We planned to put on a clinic during the day and have services in the evenings using the set of Yetfa Bible stories that we recently finished.
We landed in Papua on Tuesday and hit the ground running. We had to repack all the medicines and get them weighed in at Yajasi. Kelli, Jill Smith and Holly Couch had gotten all the other supplies ready. Kel had them divided by village and already at the hangar.
The next day we flew into the village of Terfones. I had not been to Terfones in 4 years and was unsure what to expect. (Kel and the boys had never been there.) This is what I wrote after my first visit to Terfones 4 years ago:
“…besides these challenges, there was clearly a sense of spiritual darkness in Terfones. It’s hard to describe the weight I felt from the time we arrived till the time we left.”
This time in, however, was completely different.
We quickly set up camp at an empty clinic building. We set up tents to sleep in. Kel got her kitchen area set up. The team arranged two treatment stations – a wound care and a general sickness station.
After a quick bath in a small stream, we were ready for services. It got dark quickly, but it seemed like everyone in the village squeezed onto the porch around the clinic. We played recordings of the first 5 Yetfa Bible stories – from Creation through the Fall. Then I told and taught the story of God’s covenant with Abraham.
Whether it was the novelty of hearing an outsider speaking their language or marveling at hearing God’s Word in their own language, the whole crowd was thoroughly engaged. I retold the story several times and we conducted an impromptu drama, allowing one of the guys from the crowd to retell the story.
Then we had a time of discussion. After telling the stories, we always ask 3 questions: (1) What do we learn about God from this story? (2) What do we learn about the people in the story? (3) After hearing this story, what do I need to do?
This was the part I was most unsure about because interaction is not a part of typical services, and in fact, it took a little bit to get the discussion going. Once it got going, however, I was amazed. People were making great observations and applications from the story! They stayed on topic and continually referred back to some part of the story. Even the women had some input!
It was a God moment.
The next day we got the clinic rolling fairly early. It was a busy day! I was so impressed by the team’s ministry. Space won’t allow me to tell everything, so I’ll let the pictures tell this part…
When there was no one else to treat, we began to pack up and get ready to move to Bias the next day.
That evening we had services again. This time we played the stories through to the Day of Pentecost. Sion told and taught the story of Jesus healing a blind man from John 9, and the crowd was totally engaged!
It was such a thrill to see Sion thriving in ministry. He did a great job!
As everyone was going home, one man came and asked me, “Where are you going after this?” I explained that we planned to go to Bias and then Kumiolen.
He said, “What about Dules?!” I explained that we had originally planned to go to Dules, but their airstrip was closed.
Then he said, “But I have family in Dules and they need to hear this! When can you go there? I will go with you.”
The next day was a long hurry-up-and-wait day, but eventually we made it to Bias.
Our time in Bias went much the same, so again I’ll let the pictures tell the story…
One of the best things about this team is that 2 of them – Bill and Jonathon – had been part of the building team in 2012. At that time, when they left, our house looked like this…
This time they got to stay in the house they helped build!
Also, Jonathon got to preach again on Sunday. In fact, he picked up in the same book and chapter where he left off last time, preaching that our identity was “in the Lord”. (I think, however, that he was preaching a bit to the team, since 9 of the 11 were avid and vocal Razorback fans.)
After services, the team loaded up in a canoe with supplies in another and we began an experience of a lifetime!
We were on our way to Kumiolen!
In the last 4 years, we have met lots of people from Kumiolen because they often come to Bias, but we had never been there. In fact, no white people had ever been there.
The canoe ride was simply indescribable! The beauty of the rainforest, untouched (or even seen) by the outside world, was stunning. At one point, Lawson leaned up and asked, “At what point does the I-feel-like-I’m-in-a-movie feeling go away?” And I responded, “I’ll let you know.”
It was one of the great privileges of my life to take that trip down the Bias River. At one point I said to myself, “Our boys may not get to eat Chick-fil-a very often, but they get to do some pretty cool stuff.”
After about 4 hours, we pulled over and waited on the other canoe, which had been having motor problems.
Finally, after a little over 5 hours, we came around the bend and saw people lining the southern bank of the river.
The people of Kumiolen welcomed us with song and dance, then paraded us down a path and into the village. After some greetings and hugs, we got settled in. It was too late and we were too exhausted to have services, though.
The next morning we got the clinic rolling. This time we were in the church building.
Again, it was a joy to watch the team minister God’s care to the people!
When all the people had been treated, we went back to the place we were staying – part of us in the pastor’s house and the rest in the school house.
A little later we went to check on someone we had heard had a bad cut on the leg and couldn’t make it to the clinic. Turned out to be a little boy. We had his dad carry him down for stitches. He held the boy in his lap while Doc started the sutures.
Everything was going pretty well, until I heard Missy say, “Is the dad ok?” I looked up just in time to see dad go limp. Then suddenly he went as stiff as a board! A couple snatched the boy out of his arms and I grabbed the dad and pulled him out of the way. He was out!
Doc finished up the stitches while I tended to the dad and the crowd who were very concerned. Dad was out a solid 10 minutes. Finally, he woke up about the time Doc was finishing with the boy. Honestly, I was concerned what his reaction was going to be when he came around. Almost comically he said, “Man, I always do that when I see blood.” Thank you, Lord!
Now it was time for services.
We had originally planned to have services in Kumiolen first, then go down river a bit to another village. Thankfully, however, the people from that village had already come up.
That was going to be our last night in Kumiolen, so we played all the stories from beginning to end. We stopped, however, when we got to the Abraham story, which I told and taught. We went through the same questions with even better discussion. The people in Kumiolen were so excited about the Abraham story. One man said, “God was talking about us when he made that promise to Abraham!”
The whole time the stories were playing, there were quiet shouts of ‘yai’. At almost every sentence, someone would make a hushed response.
It was dark, so no one could see the joy tears rolling down my cheeks.
We know what God’s Word does when people hear it in their own language, but it’s so rewarding to see something you have worked so hard on received with such joy. And that goes for Jeri and Sion as well. They were so joyful seeing their hard work paying off!
Needless to say, our time in Kumiolen was spectacular.
The next morning, we loaded in the canoes again and started back towards Bias. On the way, all eyes were scanning, looking for something I had glimpsed on the way down. Back up in one of the tributaries, just around a bend, I had glimpsed what looked like a huge waterfall, but no one else had time to turn and see it.
Well, on the way back, everyone got a chance to see it!
These are the first photos ever taken of “Anniversary Falls”! (We named it that because Bill and Missy McAdoo celebrated their 41st anniversary IN KUMIOLEN!!!)
It was a beautiful exclamation point to an amazing adventure.
Had I known what God had in store for this trip when I received that first email back in November of 2012, I would have lost a lot of sleep in excited anticipation.
We leave for furlough in less than 2 months, and we had been looking at this as a kind of culmination to this term. And what a culmination it was!
As is usual though, what you’ve just read is only the tip of the iceberg. It gives just a passing glimpse of all that God did, and I haven’t said anything about the months of preparation, hundreds of prayer warriors, thousands of dollars given for travel, medicines, and other supplies. Nor have I said much about the person who, every person on the team would agree, worked the hardest and was the key to making the ministry a great success…
She is unmatched among missionaries!