My name is Harriëtte Knigge and at the beginning of March, I flew to Moropote, in a remote part of PNG, with a friend Caroline Wälde, to give a trauma healing course. In typical Moropote tradition, Caroline and I were greeted with sing-sing and a beautiful welcome letter.
The trauma healing course we brought to Moropote explained what wounds of the heart and grief are, as well as how we can help others. We also discussed what God says about all this, what we can learn from the Bible and what forgiveness is. These topics are so very applicable in PNG where many people do not have access to health care and therefore die young, and where there is hardly any access to professional help for psychological needs, especially for those living so remotely.
Forty to forty-five students, both men and women, attended the course. Every morning, they gathered for four hours of lessons and another two every afternoon. It was a full program, but we learned a lot together. They shared about their culture and we shared some “Western wisdom”—and together we learned from the Bible. We sang, joked, swam in the river, and prayed with people for their personal needs.
The women had all kinds of questions about the course and their personal life, and came to us in the quiet moments. It can be hard for them to find a trusted person in the bush. With almost everyone being related, it is difficult to share if you don't want your story to be known everywhere. Caroline speaks the Tok Pisin language fluently so I sat next to her and listened while she talked with the women. Even though I don't know the language fluently, I prayed in my heart for the woman and the conversations. I marvel at the questions they asked; so personal, so varied, and sometimes so basic. The questions ranged from swollen feet during pregnancy to the role of men and women in the church; from the vanilla harvest to problems surrounding the children’s education!
In between lessons, I sold a lot of audio Bibles, Tok Pisin Bibles, some reading glasses and Jesus DVDs, all provided by MAF Technology Services (CRMF).
I admired the strength of the local people. Mrs. A. gave birth just a month ago, yet brought her little one with her in a bilum (a string bag made by hand). Every day, she sat in the front row with another toddler beside her. Mister B. couldn’t hear everything in the back, but told us that he is a prayer warrior and prayed for us during the course. If we wanted to write down our prayer points, he could take them home after the course. Mister H. brought his son to the course every day and the child found a nice place to sleep.
The course ended on Thursday afternoon. As we said goodbye to the students, Luke (the man who sits at the HF radio every morning and afternoon) talked about Covid-19. The message was vague and, listening to it, I got a little sense of what it is like to live in such a remote village, surrounded by endless jungle and swamps, so cut off from technology and media. You just have no idea what's going on outside your area. Is the news really true? What exactly does it mean? How far has Covid-19 spread now and is it already here in PNG?
We really didn't know either! Caroline and I read Psalm 91 before enjoying our dinner of fish brought by local people: “my refuge, my fortress, my God! I trust you!”
Knowing we would be picked up the next morning and go home to our families, we reflected on the week. I had enjoyed helping provide the training and it was wonderful to be able to use my gifts outside the house. We have now been out of the Netherlands and part of MAF for over three years, and I felt so strongly: Yes, I was made for this!