I wasn’t really ready to give up my slumber, but I haven’t learned the knack of sleeping through pig grunting yet. So, I climbed out of bed—which was a thin mattress on the floor—and headed into the main room in the house. I saw several women boiling water over a fire—on top of a pile of wood—in the kitchen in the back of the house. Soon, they would start cooking rice, vegetables and the bones of a very scrawny chicken.
Last week, we spent a night in this beautiful, welcoming village of Long Nawang. My kids and I flew on the Kodiak, one of MAF’s newest airplanes, to Long Nawang while Brad flew a Cessna 206 in a different part of Borneo’s jungle. I was accompanying a film crew from Britain, offering my services as a translator so they could document MAF’s relationship with this remote village. Brad joined us later. With another MAF pilot and friend, Paul, the three of us took turns translating the villagers’ stories about missionaries, MAF and God’s work in Long Nawang for the past 50 years.
Long Nawang is located over an hour away from the city of Tarakan where I live—by airplane. By foot or by river, it would take months. No road exists to connect the village to Tarakan.
During the various interviews, I learned about how MAFers and Indonesian pastors from Long Nawang joined together to reach villages tucked even deeper into the jungle. I heard horrifying stories of how dozens of missionaries and their children were brutally murdered by the Japanese in Long Nawang during World War II. I saw a glimpse of what is it like to live, and have babies, and raise families in tiny village in Borneo. I heard about how God is loved by these villagers who used to be animists and head hunters.
Evan, age 2, loved it all. He loved flying on the airplanes. He loved playing with the village kids, using a small orange as a makeshift ball, chasing his new friends, then running from them as they chased him. And he loved the food—sweet cakes, donuts, rice, etc. I’m always amazed at how well these remote villagers feed their guests when they have to go to so much trouble to get food.
And Renea was passed around by many of the women, sharing her smiles as they cuddled with her. These women gave our children new names taken from their own folk heroes. Evan was named Jalung. Renea was called Bungan. I added this naming of my children—such a kind act of welcoming us into their culture—to my list of favorite memories of living in Borneo.
I always enjoy watching my husband interact with the pastors and villagers who have become friends. Brad has flown the wives and children of these men—sometimes on critical medical emergency flights to save their lives. He regularly prays for these villagers. And his love for them is evident. Sure, the flying out there is cool, and fun and adventurous. But knowing these people is a greater honor and privilege.
When we headed home the next day, a woman and her daughter and mother rode along. The woman had a miscarriage last month and has been hemorrhaging ever since then. She needed to get to a hospital immediately to stop the bleeding. The woman is 24 years old with a 1 ½ year-old daughter. Her elderly mother had never before flown in a plane. She was scared and held onto my arm for much of the flight. She doesn’t even speak Indonesian—Indonesia’s national language—but only her own local dialect. I showed her how to clear her ears on descent, relying on hand motions.
We landed on our island of Tarakan—which normally seems quite remote, but now seemed to be hopping with modernity. I slept particularly well that night in my own bed and returned to the rather boring ritual of waking up to the sound of my alarm clock instead of grunting pigs.