I served as a missionary in Papua New Guinea from 2006-2007 as my first assignment with Wycliffe Bible Translators. I was the art teacher at the international school at Ukarumpa. During school breaks I would travel to remote villages to visit with translation and literacy teams in their village allocations.
I was invited to visit the Awara (pronounced “our-water”) language group in a remote area of a mountain province – with steep mountain sides and rain forest. I was dropped off by a pilot in a Cessna at an air strip and was greeted by a group of women who would take me to the village. I was embarrassingly unfit compared to these strong and capable women! I puffed and wheezed my way along the trail while they carried heavy bilums, or string bags, of supplies across their foreheads.
On the last uphill climb to the village, it started to rain. I was tired and my muscles ached. The already slippery terrain turned into mud. I was done. I sat down on a rock beside the trail and started to cry. I looked down to see mist rising from the Laron River at the bottom of the gorge and I prayed, Lord, there’s no way I’m making it up this mountain without You. Please help me!
A rough hand appeared in front of me at eye level. I looked up to see that one of the mother tongue translators was holding out his hand to me. I held onto his hand, and that beautiful man pulled me up the mountain trail. What I could see in front of me were his thickly calloused brown feet of a man named Yakating. Though my feet were slipping and sliding, he never let go of my hand. When I think of him, I think about the verse in Isaiah 52:7:
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news…”
At the top of that steep slope, along the ridge of the mountain, I walked into the village. The houses were built on a stone plateau. Another beautiful reminder to “Build your house on the rock…” (Matthew 7:24-27).
I stayed in the village for around two weeks with the American Bible translators (Ed and Susan) and a literacy worker from Finland (Tuula). I helped to lead a workshop for Awara ward teachers and I attended a Lutheran church service in a field. I had the privilege of worshiping the Lord with believers that were worlds away from my own experience.
Here is what I learned – God answers prayer.
He sends help when we need it, and it may come from the most unexpected source. When we are humble before God, He can use us in ways that go well beyond our own strength.
I think about Yakating and that mountain when I feel like giving up. That has given me hope and courage to carry on when I don’t have any strength left.