Though the Dani had little notice, they immediately wanted to celebrate John’s arrival with a feast. The men sent out a hunting party and children and women gathered wood for a fire, sweet potatoes and local delicacies for food, but Steve had no choice but to decline. He radioed base to get approval to continue the route that day without John. After he was sure John would be taken care of, he checked the plane, and lifted off into the early afternoon sky.
Four elder men sat under an overhang of a grass hut contemplating life. As they squatted in the shade, John tried to imagine what they were talking about. These men reminded John of all men everywhere. Whether huddled together in the middle of a jungle, in a barber shop, or a street corner, these gatherings were practiced religiously in all walks of life.
Still, this was a harsh environment. Here, a cold could turn to pneumonia, a fever could kill, and small cut could turn into gangrene. Food wasn’t guaranteed and water wasn’t pure. No wonder medical personnel kept vigil over westerners in the region and stressed sanitation. In Vietnam, John had witnessed firsthand what could happen to a platoon of soldiers who relieved themselves too close to water and food; days of cramping sickness.
“It looks like you have done well adapting to this primitive life,” John said, not fooled by the tempting beauty, but noting the intimidating terrain.
“It’s not the sort of life one would normally subject oneself too, at least not without a firm commitment to helping others learn about God,” Marta replied.
“Don’t get me wrong, but aren’t you intimidated out here? I mean there is no running water or any of the comforts that I would consider basic. Wasn’t it or isn’t it still extremely difficult for you?” John asked.
“It took a lot of getting used to. The food was strange at first and the customs even harder to fathom. But these people, my family, honestly enjoyed Raymond and me. They adopted us to their ways, caring enough to help us survive.” Marta found an opportunity to brag about the people.
“How did they accept you so easily? I understood that missionaries had to more or less be welcomed here, but often reluctantly,” John said.
“Most have had difficulties, and some even turned back.” Marta stopped, facing John, while sweeping the scene with her arms. “We took an interest and sincerely attempted to complement their lives. They were impressed that we didn’t try to belittle them by changing their lives, as others had. We wanted to share God, but try to leave their culture intact.”
They stopped near the chapel and sat on a wooden plank.
“I guess your motivation for being here and desire to learn helped out. But what did you begin with to fit in?” John asked.
“You mean what was the first thing?” she asked leaning on one arm, pressing her hands into the bench. Marta looked up pensively.
“Yeah, exactly. There’s a lot to absorb.” John noted.
“Well, as you noticed, their dress is strange and hard to get used to. Except we tried not to be as obvious as you were about what was hard to accept,” Marta replied.
“You mean how I reacted to the gourds.” John suddenly felt embarrassed.
“Exactly! You know, you could have offended them. If they gave any thought to it, you may have lost all credibility,” Marta scolded.
“Come on, I didn’t react all that badly. I thought I reacted pretty well with the unexpected sight. Admit it, it’s funny looking,” John said.
“It is funny looking, but it doesn’t relinquish you from a somewhat diplomatic duty. We should consider ourselves God’s ambassadors. The last thing we want to do is offend them,” said Marta.
“I didn’t mean anything, really. Besides, how could they be that sensitive in such a rough environment?”
“It is rough out here. But look at how the huts are arranged. The tribal councils’ lodges are in the center of it. Everyone works together so no one person takes too much of a burden. People are rewarded for hard work, and slackers are not tolerated. Respect is very important and so are manners. In a world so harsh, consideration of others’ feelings is pertinent to tribal harmony. Plus, I told you they are my family and I really can’t tolerate rudeness toward them, or their way of life. Do you understand that much?” Marta asked.
“Yeah, okay. I guess I can.”
Remember, 100% of all royalties will be applied to Jeff's mission trip to Asia. Jeffrey W. Bennett, ISP is the owner of Red Bike Publishing. Jeff is an accomplished writer of non-fiction books, novels and periodicals. He also owns Red bike Publishing. Published books include: "Get Rich in a Niche-Insider's Guide to Self Publishing in a Specialized Industry" and "Commitment-A Novel". Jeff is an expert in security and has written many security books including: "Insider's Guide to Security Clearances" and "DoD Security Clearances and Contracts Guidebook". See Red Bike Publishing for print copies of: Army Leadership The Ranger Handbook The Army Physical Readiness Manual Drill and Ceremonies The ITAR The NISPOM