Let’s go visit the bush village where I lived 20 years ago and see how they are doing,” I said to Edie. We had been hearing encouraging word-of-mouth reports coming up the river from Drupas. A layman had been holding meetings there, and people had responded to the gospel.
Our area of labor is based in the May River government station and encompasses a network of creeks and rivers that extend for miles in all directions like the limbs of a giant oak tree. Ama is a day’s travel by boat northwest, and Drupas is a day’s boat ride southwest.
Deciding on a four-day trip, we loaded our 20-foot aluminum boat with fuel, food, Bibles, hymnals and camping supplies. As we worked, we uplifted our trip in prayer. It would be tough navigating through creeks clogged with logs. We needed a guide and someone to help us drag the boat over obstacles, so we invited Jacob, a layman in our church who used to live and minister in Drupas. He was excited about the opportunity to return and see the fruits of his labor. His wife and children were keen to go as well. His wife had just given birth only the day before, but she was undeterred.
We departed May River with our boat heavily loaded with the elder, his wife, their day-old baby boy and other children, our supplies and Edie and me. That first day, we stopped at five villages where Adventists lived. We greeted everyone and traded stories. The church members were so excited to receive Bibles. They were disappointed that we didn’t have enough hymnals for everyone, but we promised to purchase more in town and bring them later. Before leaving each village, we prayed with the church members and encouraged them.
With all our stops we knew we wouldn’t reach Drupas that day, so we planned to overnight at Waiap. However, we soon learned that Satan was working overtime to unravel our plan. As we passed through Mami village, a friend told Jacob that he was in danger if he proceeded with us to Drupas. We pressed the messenger for details and learned that a false story was circulating that Jacob had paid a large sum of money to place a curse on a non-Adventist village we would pass through the next day on our way to Drupas.
We all looked at each other in alarm. The threat was real, and all of us were in mortal danger if we continued downriver. “Lord, help us know what to do,” we prayed. A Bible verse came to our minds: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). We were prepared to face danger, but we wanted to know God’s will in this matter. Sitting in our boat, we prayed and asked God to make it plain to us whether we should go on to Drupas or not. Then we started on our way to Waiap, believing that God would make His will clear. We would not be in danger in Waiap, and we had Bibles and hymnals to distribute there.
By late afternoon we arrived at Waiap and dropped off our extra fuel and our tent at a bush house where we were told we could sleep. We planned to make a quick trip to Iwatri, the last SDA village in the area, to distribute Bibles and hymnals and return before dark.
We hadn’t gone very far when our fuel drum ran dry. As we refueled on the river from a plastic container, it started to rain heavily. We were quickly soaked to the skin as I shielded the fuel filler from the rain as best I could. When I restarted the motor, it shook violently and made an ominous sound. I wondered if rainwater or debris had gotten into the lines during our refuel. Sputtering along slowly, we were able to return to Waiap.
In Waiap, our church members carefully strained our fuel and checked it for water, but nothing was found. We even checked the motor as best we could, but we found no obvious problems. Still eager to visit Iwatri, we hired a motor canoe in Waiap to take us there. At Iwatri we were amazed to discover that the villagers were in the final stages of building an Adventist church. God is certainly at work in these remote villages!
Back at Waiap we were readying for bed when a group of men came to visit us and Jacob, planning to spend a few hours trading stories. Edie was tired and went to bed in the screen tent. I stayed up and talked with the men. They were hungry for the word of God and asked me to tell them stories from the Bible. I started with the first chapter of Daniel and told the stories one after another of the great image, the beasts, the little horn with eyes and a mouth, and the big tree. They were fascinated and asked questions until midnight when I could no longer keep my eyes open. Even after I laid down, I could hear them continuing to talk in low voices about the stories of Daniel.
Early in the morning, the men returned and woke us up. The rain had stopped, and it was decision time for us. Should we continue on to Drupas in the rented canoe or get towed back home? In our group prayer, we asked for wisdom. Was the rented canoe God’s signal that we should continue? Would we be safe from the vengeful warriors downriver? Based upon the circumstances, we decided to tow our boat back home. It seemed clear to all of us that we were being prevented from going to Drupas. But was it God who was preventing us, or Satan? Sometimes things aren’t crystal-clear.
We arrived home by late morning, and I got out my tools and checked the spark plugs in my boat motor. I found that one wasn’t sparking, so I put in new spark plugs, and the motor ran perfectly again. Praise God! Please pray for Drupas and the surrounding villages.