LONGER REPORT: WET, MUDDY, AND SMELLY:
How is our little corner of the jungle? Well...look at the above title of this letter....it is wet and muddy and smelly.
Lots of rain:
I think it ONLY rained about 27 days of July. We might have had 3 or 4 days without rain.
I read a Papuan newspaper that claimed the south coast of Papua was on track to being the very wettest region of the entire world this year. I believe it.
Yesterday, 2 inches of standing water bogged up our yard. I sank at one point up to my knees in mud. The feeling we get here is much like the feeling one gets during a long slushy winter. Cabin fever in the jungle. I am also very tired of my shoes rotting and my socks being wet. To go outside means to get wet and muddy.
Our house is a wooden island perched above a sea of mud.
Lots of guests:
We are struggling through homeschooling. We've had a lot of guests. Fellow missionaries planned to spend the night in Danowage before flying to town, but 1 night became 3 when they were delayed due to bad weather. Then 2 pilots and planes plus another missionary family stayed over when the mountains to our north totally closed up with bad weather. They were stranded in Danowage for the night. Then we just hosted another missionary guest. It is good to talk and get visits from others. But it does destroy the school schedule for the kids, especially when the visitors have kids of their own.
But, other missionary kid visitors also mean lots of muddy play for my kids.
Another failed airport dedication:
In Indonesian culture peresmians are very important, dedications of houses and new buildings and airstrips. I've seen churches in town that have sat for 6 months completely finished but because there was not a formal dedication ceremony the congregation met in a drab "emergency" building nearby with thatch roofing and did not dare worship in their new building until they first had a formal dedication.
Well, in Danowage there has not yet been a dedication of the airstrip. It opened. Then it got lengthened. Now it is being lengthened again. We are using it. But there has not yet been a formal dedication. Therefore, the minds of many Papuan evangelists seem glued to the priority of dedicating the airstrip. The airstrip has proved a blessing, but also a distraction to some. I wish the Papuan churches prioritized bible teaching and the internal matters of the heart rather than the outward ceremonies so important to the culture.
Three times now the church has planned dedication ceremonies but cancelled.
The highland Papuan churches sent workers to Danowage over the space of 6 years and worked very hard to complete about 90% of the airstrip. It was a great feat of hard work. Three people died while carving it out of the jungle and removing whole trees with simple axes (no chainsaws, machines, or dozers). MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) even "checked out" the rock airstrip and it was judged usable and was opened.
But then, the Papuan churches arranged a relationship with the government. They appealed to the government to come in and complete the airstrip work and pave the runway. Now it is uncertain who owns the airstrip.
So, the Papuan churches want to hold this airport dedication now, but the government doesn't agree yet because they have not lengthened the airstrip.
There are also rumors that the President of Indonesia will come and see the finished airstrip. That sounds crazy for such a remote area, but it actually just might happen. This is because Indonesian President Jokowi has emphasized the need for infrastructure development in Papua. There are political gains to be had by building up Danowage. The Korowai lands have long been a symbol of primitiveness and remoteness. If the Korowai region can be developed, then development can happen successfully anywhere in Papua. Therefore, these rumors of the President coming just might be true...he might come to showcase the quick advance of this region.
I am happy for the progress. But development also brings many dangers. We've been busy warning the local people about some of the dangers of development. For instance, we've educated the people about the danger of palm oil and outsiders entering looking for gold using mercury chemical here (which poisons the river). And we are trying to protect the people from any government schemes as well. For instance, the government has urged local illiterate tribal leaders to sign documents giving up more of their lands. Now these tribal leaders know never to sign anything until they first bring the documents to us or evangelist Jimmy to examine.
Three dates have been planned thus far for the dedication, and all three of them cancelled. The church is hoping for their own dedication regardless of what the government does and is waiting for the Governor of Papua (who is a GIDI Papuan church member) to come visit and speak at the dedication. There is also a hope, of course, that he will come bearing gifts in the form of money (many politicians arrive with bags of money to disperse to the local peoples).
But the region is poor and remote. Money and airstrips and a promised road will help the region. We have already flown a handful of medical cases out using the new long airstrip. The Korowai want the progress. And many of the men now have jobs every day helping the airport worker, and they look proud to work. And there are less fights now that the men are busy doing productive things. So I am supportive of development and glad it is happening in Danowage...though I pray that we will be spared many of the dangers of the outside world encroaching so fast into our area.
A waiting period: Teachers and Nurses on the way!
July and August is a time of waiting for us. The 4 teachers and nursing staff slated to come to Danowage as part of the Lamp of Hope School and Siloam Clinic are now preparing. The living quarters of the teachers is 50% finished. Our anti-pig fence is half-finished. We wait for the new school year.
Pray for a smooth entrance for the school and the clinic. Pray for our incoming teachers.
We have felt in a race. A race against the far inferior government schools and clinics that are being built throughout Papua. The government has awakened to the needs of the Korowai, and in a matter of 12 months many foundations and government entities are flooding in to "help."
Some of these foundations are doing dumb things like building boarding schools in major cities for Korowai kids, and trying to ship kids out to the cities for education. I have appealed to them that you cannot "build up" a region by draining it of its kids and separating them from their families. But this dumb boarding school approach has long been a staple of government education (and as well, missionary education) in Papua. So we are thankful for the quality school coming to Danowage to keep and educate the Korowai kids in their own lands and near their families and culture.
The quality of education throughout Papua is very low. We are very glad to have committed Christian teachers heading here to help.
We are teaching several people in a baptism course (half Korowai and half Dani) and look to baptize them in September perhaps. We are also catechizing my daughter Alethea as well, for she is professing faith now.
About 1/3 of my debts are paid off with the missionary flight organizations of MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) and Yajasi (the Indonesian branch of JAARS, serving translators). But we still have more to pay (about 6,000 more). We paid some off, but then the debt climbed right back up when we had to pay the rest of the shipping for our anti-pig fence and help fly people out to help a sick patient.
I am hoping maybe (instead of individuals) that there are perhaps 2-3 churches out there that would just give 3 or 4k each straight to the mission aviation org (bypassing me entirely) on my behalf so that these flight debts are all paid within the month.
The plan for the rest of the year:
(1) We hope to catechize and maybe baptize Alethea, and some other locals here, if they go through the baptismal course well. (2) We hope to help the schoolteachers and new nurses transition well here, (3) We hope to leave the village in November and travel to Jakarta/Karawaci to speak to several churches and tend to health needs such as dental surgery. Then we hope to be back in the village during December for Christmas celebrations together with the villages.
Our long-term plan:
We think we need another 10-15 years here to see the school, clinic, and church firmly established and local kids grown and graduated and ready for higher education and a church running with local leadership. Pray that we can last in the jungle that long. It can be quite wearing here and takes a toll.
How to give:
About a half-dozen folks have asked how to give to our ministry this month.
While we make sufficient in personal funds, our ministry funds are often strained. This is not due to a lack (for we are well supported) but this is due to the high volume of work that is happening right now. We have a lot of projects to support. Some might say this is blameworthy and mistaken - like an army over-extending its supply lines. But...I hope you will judge our ministry aggressiveness in a positive light. How patient should we be and how long should we wait when kids lack basic education every day or healthcare? So, yes, we have over-spent, I know, but I believe we can prove that everything we have invested in is worthwhile and helps the people here. We had 60 kids in the school this year. And we've helped dozens of sick people. The people have been blessed, and many are still alive today, because of your past generosity.
There are 3 conventional ways to give:
(1) Directly to my family as a family gift (Trevor Johnson 712 Coach House drive, Hazelwood, MO 63042). This is good for speed of giving, but less good for recording and tax-deductions (plus there is a limit each year as to the amount). This works best for gifts of books, stuff, etc.
(2) Through my sending church of Bible Baptist (making the check out to "Bible Baptist Church" but adding a note in the lower-left designator box saying, "Trevor and Teresa needs"), 3150 Sutton Blvd, Maplewood, MO 63143). This option allows for tax-deduction at the end of the year, as does option three to follow, and is better for the proper receipting/recording of funds.
Option (3) Is to give through Central Missionary Clearinghouse (CMC), a funds-handling org that has no authority over the use of funds and only uses about a half-percent for admin needs. Make the check out to CMC but add a slip of paper with our names in the envelope and mail to: CENTRAL MISSIONARY CLEARINGHOUSE, P.O. Box 219228 , Houston, Texas 77218-9228.
Or you can give online by going to their website (linked here: http://www.cmcmissions.org/donate). This is the best option for careful recording of totals and for tax legalities (they have CPAs on staff).
And there are several other unconventional ways to give:
(A). I just had a friend gift-card me for Amazon.com. Through Amazon.com gift cards I am able to buy needed supplies to have sent here such as vitamins, or homeschooling books for the kids, or pleasantries such as protein powder and spices. One supporter even sent a gift card (online) for a theology book last month.
(B) You can also pack and send a package to us. We like many things from the US, but if you chose this route, email me first so that you don't send something that can be bought here. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, thank you for your generosity. We've seen the ministry grow here to include lots of education and healthcare. Imagine a US pastor paying to build the school building of the kids in his congregation and financing the transport and medical care of his parishioners. This is much like what jungle ministry is like here. We have paid for medicine, medical transport, operations, food for the hungry, and the construction of school buildings and infrastructure. We have always been adequately supported as a family, yet have often struggled to pay for these extra costs like the medical needs of the people, the payment and needs of the teachers we've hired ourselves, or the medicines and school books we've been using. Thankfully, after getting into some debt, we are starting to enlist governmental and NGO help now more than ever, but there are still substantial needs.
God bless, Trevor Johnson
To email us: email@example.com.