Wednesday, May 7, 2014

4 X 4-ing to Church!

Have you ever had a rough ride on the way to church?  Never in our lives has it been rougher than it was on Sunday, April 26.

First, some context. Rev. Henry Versteeg is the principal of the Reformed Bible College in Port Moresby and a teacher there, as well as the supervising missionary pastor of 2 small Reformed churches. Every other Sunday or so he makes the long trek to one of these churches and preaches. This Sunday he was scheduled to preach in a small church, in Beretete, about 1 1/2 hours away. We planned to leave at 8:30 am but by the time the 4 x 4 SUV was loaded and we were on our way, it was 8:45. Besides Henry, Rita, Jerry, and me, we took along Tony, Regina, and Regina's cousin Amelia, as well as some pots, dishes, tarps, and personal belongings from relatives who had attended the wedding but had to walk part way home. A full load. 

The truck was relatively clean before we left 

The first half of the trip was a beautiful drive through mountainous regions with windy roads, marvellous landscapes, and some waterfalls. As we climbed higher, the weather was also slightly less humid. The roads weren't too bad, though narrow in some places and full of potholes in other places.

When we had driven half-way there, the pavement suddenly stopped and ahead was a red dirt trail. Jerry and I sensed trouble ahead, knowing we still had 15 km to go. However, Henry wasn't worried. He has driven this road so often and his 4-wheel drive can get through the roughest roads. It had rained some in previous days and the road was wet and slippery. We met various people walking along the road, all in bare feet. That is the best way to walk there. Shoes or boots would get caked with mud and be too heavy. We saw a man lying in the road, and another one nearby rolled over too, just lying in the mud. They were drunk. Henry drove around them and kept going because it's really not safe to stop.

Our capable driver
The road was incredible! Big potholes, deep ruts, and pools of water. Mostly dirty red mud! Henry is an excellent driver and knew just which rut to take and which to avoid. He was slipping and sliding, turning the steering wheel constantly as he maneuvered along the rough roads, and we were  bumped and jostled around. I have never seen such a rough road, and when we went through water, we wouldn't know how deep it would be. And then, as we were going around a curve, it happened. Henry got stuck. He couldn't move forwards or backwards. No one was around to help push us out. And we didn't want to go out and push because it was soft, deep red mud, and we were in our Sunday clothes. Henry rocked the jeep back and forth and got nowhere. Then he just kept trying to back up, and after about 10 minutes of spinning, spraying dirt, and burning rubber, he finally managed to get out. Carefully selecting another rut, he drove safely on.

This is the place where we got stuck. The ruts are deeper than they appear here. 
Since we all stayed inside, we have no picture of the truck being stuck.

The jeep was splashed with mud, right up to the windows, especially the back.

The road up the driveway to the church was also filled with ruts and gullies and curves, but finally we made it, at 10:15. We were late, but that doesn't matter since PNG has elastic time. Henry is the only one who comes in a vehicle. The rest live in the area and walk to church.

The church of Beretete is built on top of a hill

The congregation was singing, to the accompaniment of 2 guitars, and we sang for another half hour before the service started. Henry led the service in Pidgin and Jerry preached his sermon in English. It's always suprising to us how well they understand and speak English.

Jerry preaching to the congregation. Most people do understand some English.

Afterwards, Henry summarized the sermon in Pidgin.

You might be wondering what this church building looked like. It had a roof, low wooden walls, a mud floor, wooden benches (without backs), no wall at the back where people walk in, a blackboard at the front where the pastor writes the songs, theme of sermon and points, and, for a pulpit, a wooden box on top of another structure covered with a cloth. Two bags of cement and a hand cement mixer were sitting at the front of the church, ready for pouring cement for the posts of the new manse they are planning to build beside the church.

Notice the back view: why build a wall when the view is that good?

They have no nursery available. Kids and babies are in church, and when a nuisance, someone eventually takes them out. Dogs walk in and out of the church as well.

After the service, Nawai, the candidate pastor (who is a candidate for a year before going to classis to do his final exam and becoming eligible for call) led the Belgic Confession class for the whole congregation.

Jerry and I told a little bit about our life in Canada

When it was all over, they served some simple refreshments and we chatted with the people

The outhouse nearby is made of 4 posts wrapped in a black tarp, and has a pit toilet 
with a wooden seat made of slats of wood. Bring your own toilet paper!

The manse behind the church where Nawai and his wife and 3 young children live

Teny with 2 teachers from a nearby school, who both attend this church

The kids had fun drawing in the mud on the truck before we left

Packed up and ready to go home after church
l to r: Amelia, Regina, Rita, Teny, Tony

On the way home it was drizzling almost the whole time, making the roads even more slippery and slimy. We did not get stuck, but sure did a lot of slipping and sliding and spinning and jostling around. The drunk men were gone by then. I was so relieved when we safely reached the paved road 15 km later, but after that there were people everywhere, many watching rugby games, washing their trucks and laundry in the river, and just walking along. Many trucks were on the road filled with people in the back. That is allowed. Sundays are busy days for meeting friends, playing sports, and chatting. And you can be sure a lot of drinking happens too.

And so a Sunday in Beretete is an adventurous and all day event. We arrived home at 4:00, all quite tired from such a stressful drive. But the people there were happy to hear the Word again. It was wonderful to experience the communion of saints with these people and hear how God has worked in their hearts. And how grateful we were when we arrived home safely! 

As of that day, we have renewed appreciation for the work of missionaries and what they all do to bring the gospel to what seems to us indeed to be the ends of the earth.

And if the Mission Board ever asks whether Rev. Versteeg really needs a 4x4, we have an answer ready: "the only alternative would be a bulldozer"!

No comments:

Post a Comment