At women’s Bible study and fellowship today, as we were waiting for some of the ladies to arrive (we sat there from 9:15am till 10:30am waiting for some of them who had trouble getting the bus), I heard of another tragedy. Yesterday a small child (about 2 years old) drowned in the nearby river. The child had been playing in the water and her mother was somewhere nearby allegedly playing cards (though that may just be a story...but maybe not). Anyway, apparently a bit later on someone asked her where her son was and she said, “oh, he must have gone back home with some of the other kids.” However, when she went to her house later, he was nowhere to be found and some time later his small body was found by a dog at a nearby beach (which the river flows into). A tragic story. (Incidentally this child is a grandson of the husband of one of our church members - Augustina. It is not her grandson as it is through his second wife – he has two wives, which is not uncommon here. This is the second tragedy this family has had to deal with though, as you may remember that Augustina lost her teenage son a number of months ago in a payback attack for his criminal activities. And though this dead child is not her grandchild, she will still feel the pain as the child is part of her extended family.)
Often when one tragic story is told, there are more to follow and soon the ladies were telling the story of a young woman who drowned the week before in the same river – this body was found by a group of children playing in the water who thought it was a log initially until touching it.
Just another two tragic deaths in Lae. No one really knows how either death happened. There is no follow up by the police. There may be some consequences - the young, grieving mother who lost her child, albeit through some negligence, may be bashed by her husband as punishment.
And then one story usually leads to a discussion and soon one woman was commenting that the Papua New Guineans find it very hard to let go of their fears of evil spirits overpowering them, and to truly trust that God is more powerful than any force of evil. But this woman added, “now we know the truth! We are studying the Bible, we believe that God is in control – now we need to live it!”
As she said this I realised how true this was, not just for them but for me, for all of us. And I shared this with them. I reminded them that there is aspects in all of our cultures (theirs and mine) which serve to detract from the power of God. We talked about Satan and his cleverness. He knows that he can pull Papua New Guineans away from God by stirring up fear in them. He knows he can turn the hearts of Westerners away from God by filling their lives with money and entertainment and an abundance of food, by making them think that they don’t need God. I reminded them that we (as in, Westerners) struggle too to let go of our culture (those parts of it that pull us away from God) and to instead understand that God is in control and that we are totally dependent on him. And it’s in moments like these that it becomes clear to the ladies here and to me, that, though in many ways we are so different, in our Christian walk, in our day-to-day struggles to Persevere in the Faith we are so alike. We are truly One in Christ!