Big trees are great. But riding in one up a jungle river for 13 ½ hours was not exactly what I expected. Maybe the problem was that I expected something in Papua New Guinea, the “land of the unexpected.”
Our journey up the Sepik and May Rivers to visit David and Edie Hicks took place in a 50-foot-long motor canoe carved out of a single gigantic tree trunk. We were covered from head to toe because of the intense tropical sunlight reflecting off the water. Sitting in front of me, Diane was splashed constantly by spray from the bow. The only reprieve she got was when we went through the dozen or so creek shortcuts, but these brought their own challenges, like getting stuck in shallows and ducking tree limbs dotted with spiders, bugs and biting ants.
As the hours progressed, we looked up to marvel at the colors God was painting in the sky. The vivid, dynamic sunset seemed to last forever, and it flooded us with peace to know God was ever with us.
Traveling by day was one thing, but once the darkness enveloped us, our ride became quite different. I could barely see Diane in front of me, let alone the tree limbs crawling with creatures. The inky water seemed to melt into the moonless sky. We were fully relying upon God to see for us, sustain us and protect us. Micah, our skipper, expertly maneuvered us past undercurrents and whirlpools, through thick debris, over logs, under low limbs and around sharp corners. We would have been lost in the watery maze without him. Micah was familiar with all aspects of these waterways and knew just when to adjust the speed of the motor, where to enter the current and everything else, all with precise timing. I marveled at how he moved us through the darkness with the help of large flashlights. I was very impressed and sometimes very frightened by the whole ordeal. It made us feel extremely vulnerable as we swished through waters that were home to large crocodiles. (It didn’t help when Micah told us about a croc that had recently eaten a village woman as she was out in her canoe.)
After so many hours of travel in this roughly hewn-out tree, it was hard to find comfortable positions to sit that didn’t leave marks on our backsides. Even the pads Edie Hicks had purchased for us couldn’t prevent soreness.
We arrived at 1:30 a.m. and hauled our bags to the top of the hill where the Hickses are residing temporarily. They are actually staying in the Kent family’s old house. During our time there we experienced a couple of earthquakes and realized that truly God was keeping this rickety old place standing.
During a few of our explorations up the May River we felt like we were part of a National Geographic expedition from half a century ago. People flocked to see the “foreigners,” and we marveled at how ingenious these people were to live with so little.
The trip back downriver with the current took us only six hours, followed by a very hot 10-hour stay in an old clinic boat with the skipper and his spotter. We got up at 2 a.m. to finish the last three hours of our canoe ride, dodging logs and debris as they appeared in the beam of the spotter’s flashlight.
At the end of our canoe ride we got into a PMV (public motor vehicle) for the seven-hour ride back to Wewak. We marvel at what our missionaries have to endure just to go to town for supplies. The Hickses do this quarterly. Sleepless nights of travel drenched in sweat, overexposure to sun and rain, plus close encounters with creepy crawlies. The blessing is that many people up and down the May River are hungering for the truth of the Bible. We are excited to see God working through David and Edie to feed them the Bread of Life.
Thank you for your prayers, your love and your continual support! You are a vital part of this team.