Finally! The day we had awaited for so long. Today we were going to start our journey to May River where we will be working with the Ama people and other surrounding groups. All day long we had been preparing. First we loaded six 55-gallon drums onto the truck, took them to the gas station and filled them with gasoline. (It takes at least two drums of fuel to go upriver and one to get back down, leaving us with approximately three drums of fuel for mission work.) Next we loaded a solid exterior-grade door and some lumber into the truck, and then all our belongings and all the food David and Edie Hicks and Keren and I would need for the next couple of months. Then we waited for evening when we would start our journey.
At 8:45 p.m., a big PMV (Public Motor Vehicle) arrived. We climbed in with our overnight bags, computers and other fragile items. This PMV is a large flatbed truck with a roof and open sides lined with wooden benches. In case of rain, tarps can be rolled down from the roof and tied along the sides.
All of our things had been loaded, and we were just getting ready to have prayer before heading out, when we heard the sound of breaking glass. The driver’s window had inexplicably shattered. As the driver inspected the damage, he said, “This is Satan attacking us. He doesn’t want us to bring new missionaries up the Sepik River.” Our driver and his father, who is our mechanic, are both active members of the local Seventh-day Adventist church. We all gathered in a circle for prayer, and then we started driving. There was just enough space for Keren and me and three others in the back of the truck.
Near the edge of town, someone flagged us down to warn us that there was a fight on the road a couple of hours ahead. We decided to wait for other PMVs so that we would have the protection of numbers before continuing. An hour later, the other vehicles were ready, and we started off again.
We sped over smooth stretches of the road and slowed down abruptly before jolting over the sections where pavement is just a memory. After about an hour of travel, we came to a stop again, and the driver opened the hood and began rooting around. About 20 minutes later, he came to the back of the truck to inform us that the master brake cylinder had failed, and it was no longer safe to continue through the mountains. We would have to return to town. It was now approaching midnight, and our driver had only the PMV’s gears and auxiliary air brake system to slow us down as we descended the mountains. The jolts (brief flying lessons) became more frequent and definitely more noticeable as we no longer had the luxury of slowing to a crawl before rattling across the potholes in the road.
The new plan was to go the next evening after repairs had been made to the PMV, but the police in town informed our driver that now there were two fights underway on different sections of the highway, and it was not safe for us to travel. So we spent another unexpected night in town.
It might have seemed that Satan was succeeding in his efforts to hinder us, but in reality, God had everything perfectly timed. During these two days of delay, the shipping agent called to say that our crates from the States had arrived, and we were able to process all of the necessary paperwork to get them cleared through customs and shipped up to Wewak where we will go for supplies. What’s more, on our last day in town some important paperwork for David and Edie came through from the government.
As we headed off that night, we rejoiced that God had seen fit to delay our departure just long enough for all this to be accomplished before we left the land of Internet and cell phones. We made it safely to the river that night without any trouble, though drivers who arrived after us said that two houses along the road where the fighting was had been burning when they passed. God delayed our departure so we could get some key things done, and then He gave us secure passage through the fighting and brought us safely to the Sepik River. The next day God provided clouds so that the tropical sun didn’t broil us on our first 11-hour motor-canoe ride. Now we are settling in and looking forward to what God has in store for us next.
We serve an all-powerful, all-knowing God. His plans go beyond our understanding, and His mercy shields us from the onslaught of the enemy. Please join us in praying for the tribes of the May River area that they will come to a personal saving relationship with the Prince of Peace.