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Interest: Cultural Challenges

Is My Father There?

Whilst this story took place in 2005, it is still completely relevant today.

I was at home here at Sobega (our Hlds regional base) and received a phone call in the morning. It was a national lady from Port Moresby, speaking very good English! She asked me if I would know a man called "X" (I forgot the exact name), she wanted to talk to him. I thought about it for a moment, the name didn't sound like anyone that works with NTM PNG right now and so I told her that I wouldn't know this person and that he wouldn't work with NTM. She was calling from the immigrations department in Port Moresby, where she was working for several years now and was quite well educated. After talking a little bit more I found out for whom she was actually asking!! I couldn't believe it but then I realised she was totally serious! The man she was asking to speak to was HER DEAD FATHER who died in 1994!!!! She seriously thought that he would have come back as a white man to live at one of the NTM bases here in the eastern Highlands province of PNG. She had also called SIL before, who have a very large Mission Station also in this province and asked for him there. Why all that?

She finally told me the whole story. Over Christmas she has been to her birthplace up here in the eastern highlands, Henganofi. There she attended a big meeting that the local villages had in Henganofi. People from all over the eastern highlands attended it. There they discussed the possibility that many of those white men that come and go to those big centres that SIL and NTM have would actually be their dead ancestors. This rumour actually spread quite a while now all over the eastern highlands together with quite a few other stories as she told me.

So they came together to finally discuss things. They not only met in Heganofi but also in Goroka. Many would be quite disturbed about it, she said (and obviously she herself too). The local people would always see new white people coming and going to those stations, where do they come from? So at the meeting they decided to ask this lady to research in Moresby about those white people to find out if some of them could be their ancestors and alter write a report for them. As she said, all of them are quite upset with those centres like SIL, Lapilo, and the one at "Mount Zion" (Sobega!). They see all those nice big houses being build everywhere with "expensive material" and they discussed the fact that there is a river and a certain pond where the white people would go to get all their material and cargo. She asked whether all that would be true but I did ask further questions without giving an answer yet.

She came up with more things that they discussed during the meetings. The white people would pay others not to tell the truth about the ancestors coming back. She said that they all say that Lapilo would pay the station right across the road too, (I'm not really sure for what). She also mentioned Katagu. They must also be aware that Sobega did build new house on top of the hill, the roof in visible from the road. She said, they are building more and more things, hidden down in the valley! And then she shared that they all are very upset because they would never get anything from those Stations. Those white people wouldn't come out and socialize with them, they don't give services etc. They often don't know what they are actually doing behind the fence. She mentioned that people are more and more turning against the whites. During the meetings somebody must have said that they would know about a missionary from Henganofi who took a local man into Goroka and then went to the morgue at night ( after being in a "nightclub" in the evening!). One result of the meetings was that they appointed this Lady to find out more things in Moresby in the department and then write up a report about it. She will be back in April for more meetings!

After she asked several times if all that would be true I finally told her about the typical cargo cult thinking that we have in lot's of places in PNG and explained to her what we are doing and which things we are NOT doing! Don't know whether that'll help since logical thinking is never part of this whole thing, obviously controvert "facts" are totally fine and not a problem at all!

This whole thing shows us how much alive the cargo cult mentality is and how confused people are and how hard it is for them to understand our status, our past and what we are actually doing! Especially the fact that they are angry about the white man not coming out and socializing with them gives us a lot to think about! I know that several workers in Lapilo expressed that they actually don't have a clue about why those people are living there and what they are working on. This should stir us up, especially those of us who live on those "stations" to go out more and talk to people, tell them what you are doing and share you life a bit with them. We have to work on this, otherwise more and more people will turn against us! I know how hard it is to take the time to go outside the fence and spend time with people, or invite them. If we don't talk to them then they will draw their own conclusions about the things they see happening as we experienced today!! Yes, we probably won't be able to stop the cargo cult mentality... even education doesn't help! BUT THE GOSPEL DOES! it is "God's power", it can truly set them free and bring light into their total darkness that Satan brought them in!

Thank you for your interest in the Tanner's ministry. They appreciate your prayers and support. Their field address is P.O. Box 1079, Goroka, EHP, Papua New Guinea. You can contact them by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Financial gifts should be sent to New Tribes Mission, 1000 E First St, Sanford, FL 32771-1487. Checks should be made out to New Tribes Mission with a notation saying "for Jim & Kathy Tanner."

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