“Here, take these cucumbers,” a lady said to me, her kind smile stained red with betelnut. “My daughter Janelyn is a Seventh-day Adventist. She attends the church beside your house. I will send you some greens from my garden with Janelyn tomorrow.”
Sure enough, the next day Janelyn brought me an armful of greens. The shy but friendly teenager began making excuses to visit my house, bringing sugarcane and papaya and asking for memory-verse cards.
Soon Janelyn’s mother came to visit me as well. I could tell she wanted to build a relationship but wasn’t sure where to start. Her life is filled with tending two large gardens, one of which is a day’s journey away by bus. Then she transports the produce to town where she sells it for a few Kina at a small roadside market.
“Come visit my house tomorrow afternoon for supper,” she said before leaving.
The next day Janelyn and two of her friends showed up to walk me to her house. It had been raining all day, and they explained that the one-log bridge had washed downstream, so we would be fording the creek at another crossing. Soon I was wading across the swollen stream on a large fallen tree. With Janelyn’s cousins splashing in the pool just upstream, I knew that the worst that could happen to me if I fell was that I would get wet.
When we got to the house, I sat on a floor mat and was given a local supper of sago “bread” served with greens and vegetables boiled in coconut milk. Everything was fresh from their gardens. All the women and children in the household sat and watched me eat, honored by my visit and overjoyed that I knew how to eat their traditional foods. I enjoyed the visit and thanked each family member before I left.
After the visit, Janelyn’s mother walked back with me. As we walked, she talked about the struggles of living so close to all of her in-laws, her concerns about her daughter’s education, and her addiction to betelnut. She believes the doctrines of the Adventist Church but feels trapped and shamed by her addiction.
I am drawn to this hard-working woman. Although our primary ministry focus is two day’s journey away from her home, she lives close to our transit house in town, and I pray that I can be a source of encouragement to her when I am in town.