Over the past month we were given the opportunity to spend a couple weeks living in the people group that neighbors Kovol, the Pal (or Mesi, depending who you ask). We went in order to spend time with the missionaries and church there, find out what went well, what could have been done differently, as well as to learn more about the culture and the physical layout of the land, knowing that Kovol would be similar. While there we would also learn a lot about each other, given that we were three families (12 people!) living in one house, sharing meals, and maneuvering around multiple nap/school schedules! Here is a summery, in pictures:

Stacie got to ride shotgun!
Thrilled to be taking my first chopper ride!
Some of us enjoyed our first helicopter adventure more than others…




We ladies (and children) began our journey on a friday, two days after our husbands had started their hike into the tribe. This allowed us to fit more food into the helicopter, as well as giving the guys an opportunity to experience the long hike that the people living in the tribe have to do any time they want to come out to town.

Tribal life lesson number 1: MUD! so. much. mud. Awesome for kids, not quite as awesome come laundry time. It did humble us, though, to know that this was the terrain that the people were traveling for hours, and sometimes days, carrying big packs and often children. They do this regularly in order to hear the teaching, come to the clinic, or to get pretty much anywhere they were going.
We were able to attend church on Sunday, where we not only packed into the church house like sardines, but were also surrounded outside by many listening through the door and windows.
Tribal Life Lesson number 2: FOOD! As with many (all?) cultures, making and enjoying food together is an important way to build relationships. One food that is made and enjoyed by both the group we stayed with and the Kovol people is a sort of taro burrito, where they scrape the taro to make a gloopy paste (use those muscles!), pile that on some leaves, sprinkle some pit-pit on top (the inside pulp of a giant kind of grass), roll it up in an even bigger leaf, stuff it in some bamboo and cook it. What emerges is a stiff, gelatinous tube of starchy sustinance that improves in taste the more you eat it.

One of my favorite things on this trip was attending the midweek Bible study. Believers would meet in various houses to worship and talk about what had been preached on Sunday.

People pile into these small rooms, around their indoor fire pit, reenforcing what had been taught as chickens, pigs and babies add to the ambiance. Reading by the lights of solar and battery powered flashlights they worship and smoke in turn. It was awesome.
Our kids are such an important part of the relationship building process; not only are they something we have in common, but they think our kids are as cute as we think their’s are!
Multiple times groups from Kovol came to meet us, express their excitement, and bring us food! Remember how we were a bit nervous about having enough food due to limited chopper space? Well we prayed, and the Lord provided! He used our future friends and (hopefully) ministry partners to do it. We were brought so much that by the end we needed to give some away!


We were blown away not only by the generosity of the people, but the lengths to which they went to show it to us! Deligations came from Kovol bearing food (and children), walking through mud and sometimes rain, over landslides, often for a full day to get to where we were staying.

One of the days we got to visit the post-literacy teaching, where those who have gone through the initial literacy course get more practice and continue to improve. We valued this glimpse into this training, as this will be something we’ll get to tackle down the road.
During our stay, we experienced what the locals described as the worst rain/landslides in memory. What began as pristine, unbroken, lush green jungle around us ended up looking as if an enormous cat had scratched huge, brown stripes all over the surrounding mountainsides.
Post-landslide efforts: find all 6 feet in this photo!


Whole trees got taken out when rushing flood waters raced through!
Field trip! We and the Hansons were able to make it down to the river with the kids. We got to see the result of God’s awesome power in nature up close and messily.
An accurate picture of the weather during our stay: half sunny, half covered in clouds, sometimes both within the same hour!
Tribal Life Lesson 3: BUSYNESS! Life and ministry do not stop whenever there are interruptions; when your child is sick, and someone else’s is as well, you offer tender care (and medicine when needed) to both, sometimes at the same time.
Once again, we ladies (and children) got a kush ride out of the tribe in the chopper, leaving the guys behind. This time, instead of going directly to their destination, they would be going for a week-long detour through Kovol land, explaining to people in every village why we were coming, and seeing what land was available to build houses.
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