Adventist Frontier Missions

The People Between

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript



Series Code: AFM

Program Code: AFM000006

01:31 For thousands of years our people have walked
01:34 these jungle trails and paddled our dugout canoes up and down
01:38 these great twisting rivers.
01:40 For thousands of years our world remained the same.
01:44 But this could not always be. Today we know things that our
01:48 forefathers never dreamed of. Strange people have come and
01:53 built great cities among us. In their schools we have learned
01:57 many new things about the changing world.
01:59 We have heard of a new Papa God unlike any other.
02:03 Suspended between the old ways and the new, between life as
02:09 we have known it and the new world of possibilities,
02:12 we are the people between.
02:27 In all the world there is no place like Papua New Guinea.
02:31 Little more than 100 miles north of Australia, across the
02:35 Torres Strait, Papua New Guinea shares the great island of New
02:39 Guinea with Indonesia's Irian Jaya to the west.
02:44 Unless you have seen it with your own eyes, and walked the
02:47 land with you own feet; you will find it difficult to
02:50 imagine what life is like in Papua New Guinea.
02:56 Try to imagine life from within such a land of contrasts and
03:00 diversity. Try to imagine growing up in a family of the
03:04 Dowa People of the central highlands, trekking many miles
03:07 and hunting by your wits amidst mountains wrapped in thick
03:11 living green jungle.
03:14 Or, if your father and mother were Gogodala of the western
03:18 flood plains, try to imagine spending your life on the
03:22 water, paddling your sleek dugout canoe along the greater
03:26 and lesser rivers with the skill and poise of your
03:28 seafaring ancestors.
03:37 Though the great mountains and rivers are the bones and
03:40 lifeblood of the land, they have also proven to be very
03:43 capable fences, dividing the island up and allowing hundreds
03:47 of diverse people groups to develop in isolation
03:50 from one another.
03:51 Over the centuries, the myriad mountain valleys and
03:55 impenetrable swamps of Papua New Guinea have preserved time
03:59 capsules of language and culture.
04:02 It is staggering to consider the number of languages spoken
04:05 in this island nation.
04:06 New Guinea is slightly larger than California, and its
04:11 population numbers roughly 4.6 million people, or slightly
04:15 less than the population of Minnesota.
04:17 But what is most remarkable is that these people speak a total
04:21 of 817 separate languages and over 1,600 dialects!
04:29 What must it be like to grow up sharing a language with less
04:32 than 100 people?
04:33 This situation is not uncommon in Papua New Guinea.
04:43 Since many native languages are spoken by only a handful of
04:47 people in small, localized areas, most people also speak
04:51 Tok Pidgin, a Creole language that borrows from German
04:55 and English.
05:04 The Tok Pidgin language is a good illustration of how the
05:07 peoples of Papua New Guinea approach spiritual matters
05:10 as well.
05:12 They have proven just as eager to mix old and new
05:14 religions as they have to blend old ancestral tongues with new
05:19 western words.
05:24 The traditional worldview of Papua New Guinea is based on
05:28 Animism. As secluded and diverse as the many tribes
05:32 were, for centuries they have been unanimous in this respect.
05:36 For an animist, every moment of life is colored by the belief
05:40 that spirits of animals, rocks, and trees, spirits of wind,
05:45 water, and fire, are flitting everywhere. Greater and lesser
05:49 spirits inhabit all things and require endless watchfulness
05:53 and appeasement.
05:54 Most are malevolent or, at best, indifferent.
05:58 If one is brave he or she might try to manipulate
06:02 the spirits for healing, personal gain, or revenge.
06:05 But the safest course is to just do as the spirits
06:09 require and avoid them as much as possible.
06:21 Many people in Papua New Guinea today relate to their recent
06:25 technological revolution with similar wariness.
06:29 Owned as a colony of Australia till 1975, Papua New Guinea
06:33 leapt from the Stone Age straight into the 20th century.
06:39 As one might expect, such drastic modernization has left
06:43 many people behind.
06:45 Even today people living just a few miles from a large city may
06:49 see an automobile for the first time.
06:53 Bombarded from all sides by new ideas and ways of living,
06:56 many people are overwhelmed by fast-paced modern life.
07:02 Though many will periodically travel to the city to sell cash
07:06 crops and purchase certain things, they almost always
07:10 return to their villages and their old familiar ways.
07:13 Born and raised in a land where basic survival is the greatest
07:17 test, the rural peoples of Papua New Guinea take only what
07:21 they want from modern technology, society,
07:24 and religion. The rest they abandon in favor of
07:27 more familiar things.
07:36 While this pragmatism helps the people of Papua New Guinea
07:39 survive in a world of dizzying change, it has
07:42 certain drawbacks.
07:45 Dale and Lety Goodson and Jeff and Bobbi Bishop labor with
07:48 this and other issues every day.
07:50 The Goodsons and the Bishops, with their families,
07:53 are missionaries with Adventist Frontier Missions.
08:04 Jeff and Bobbi Bishop work with their daughter Rachel in
08:07 Papua New Guinea's western province among the
08:10 Gogodala people.
08:11 During the filming of this video, Bobbi Bishop was in
08:14 Australia receiving treatment for a back injury.
08:18 She has since rejoined her husband and daughter.
08:26 The Gogodala people have a very rich and unique history.
08:29 The name Gogodala can be translated "wind men. "
08:34 Ancient stories preserve memories of how the original
08:37 Gogodala, a seafaring people, paddled up the Aramia River in
08:42 great ocean-going canoes and began settling along the
08:46 waterways.
08:53 The first British explorers encountered the Gogodala early
08:57 in the 19th century.
09:00 The explorers reported that they found the Gogodala to be
09:02 friendly, hospitable people.
09:05 Soon thereafter, British missionaries established
09:07 schools in the area.
09:09 Because of these early encounters, the Gogodala are
09:12 unique in that they speak English instead of Tok Pidgin
09:15 in addition to their ancestral language.
09:22 The Gogodala are a water people by necessity.
09:25 Vast silty fresh-water lagoons and sago swamps cover
09:29 the land they inhabit.
09:33 The men craft long, slender canoes from the trunks of
09:36 great trees.
09:41 Some canoes can be more than 50 feet long.
09:49 Displaying a fine sense of balance, the men usually
09:52 paddle their canoes from a standing position.
09:55 Most larger canoes now sport an outboard motor and ply the
09:59 rivers at much greater speed than in years past.
10:06 The water level in these inland lagoons can change by ten feet
10:09 or more between rainy season and dry.
10:12 When the water is high the Gogodala canoes travel easily.
10:16 But when the water is low, travel becomes more difficult.
10:20 At low water, streams and channels are often choked with
10:23 dense mats of floating grass that grow on top of the water.
10:27 In many places it is thick enough to walk on.
10:38 At all times of the year, life centers on the lagoons.
10:42 They are the bathtubs, wells, highways, and pantries of the
10:46 Gogodala people. Fishing is a popular job that
10:49 often brings the whole village together in splashing,
10:52 giggling delight.
10:53 They form up lines of beaters that sweep the shallows in an
10:57 effort to herd the fish toward lines of people holding nets.
11:04 Those with nets work together to slowly surround schools of
11:07 small fish and then raise their nets together.
11:11 It is unclear which is the biggest motivator;
11:13 the thought of fish for supper or the fun to be had in trying
11:17 to catch them.
11:26 Though fishing may be an enjoyable way to get a meal,
11:28 making sak sak, the traditional staple food, is plain
11:31 hard work.
11:33 The first step in making sak sak is to select a suitable
11:36 sago palm and fell it.
11:39 After stripping off the outer bark, the women begin to pound
11:43 the starchy heart into piles of fibrous meal.
11:46 Next, they place the pounded sago into bags made of woven
11:50 grass. By pouring water through the bags and squeezing them
11:54 with their feet, the women wash the starch out of the pulp and
11:59 into the pool beneath.
12:00 Modern plastic tarps work especially well to hold the
12:04 water and starch.
12:05 After a few minutes, the starch settles out of the water and
12:09 collects on the bottom.
12:10 When the sak sak has dried, it can be stored at room
12:13 temperature without going bad.
12:18 Sak sak making can keep several women and girls busy all day if
12:22 the sago palm is of any size.
12:26 The outing is a great time to
12:27 chat and pass along skills to the young girls.
12:33 Sak sak is usually roasted over coals in palm leaves.
12:37 It has very little taste, but it fills the belly.
12:46 Jeff Bishop is no stranger to sak sak. He and his family have
12:50 lived and worked among the Gogodala people in the
12:52 village of Kotale since the middle of 1997.
12:55 They have been laboring to nourish the interest of
12:59 truth-seekers in the villages of Balimo and Kotale while also
13:03 providing medical relief.
13:07 Balimo is more than an hour distant from Kotale, the
13:10 Bishops' home village, but Jeff tries to travel there at least
13:14 once a week.
13:18 During low water season, the dense floating grass in the
13:21 lagoon waterways adds time and effort to the trip.
13:25 With the help of some friends, Jeff manages to make it through
13:28 to the Aramia River where the going is much easier.
13:34 When the Bishops first arrived in Kotale village, they
13:37 discovered that the people had a very strong interest in
13:40 learning more about the loving creator God.
13:43 The village welcomed the Bishop family with open arms.
13:46 Giving generously of their time, the Kotale villagers
13:49 helped construct a house for the Bishops and a church in
13:53 which to begin meeting.
13:58 Cutting the grass in front of the church is a
14:00 community affair.
14:07 Next to the church, the members are also building
14:10 a new school.
14:17 In 1999 Kotale village was set ablaze by the smiles of 49
14:22 newly baptized church members.
14:28 Though the Bishops have
14:29 witnessed the Holy Spirit changing the hearts and lives
14:32 of these people, they can still hardly believe it.
14:34 Many of their new church members were infamous thieves
14:37 and drug dealers before accepting Christ.
14:40 Jeff's neighbor recently told Jeff that he should lock up his
14:43 fuel drums to keep the people from stealing fuel at night.
14:47 Then he sighed and added, "Well, actually, no one is
14:51 going to steal your fuel.
14:52 All the thieves in the village are now attending your church!"
15:02 Raymond is one such member. Before his new walk with
15:05 Christ, Raymond was a hardened murderer who trafficked guns
15:09 and drugs between the mainland and the Torres Strait islands.
15:15 Today, he and Foxi, also a former criminal, tell anyone
15:19 who will listen about their soon-coming Savior.
15:21 They regularly travel to other villages where they are raising
15:25 up small groups of truth-seekers.
15:33 The challenge of reaching the rest of the Gogodala people
15:36 with the good news of salvation is a great one.
15:39 To travel the waterways the Gogodala inhabit requires a
15:43 canoe with an outboard motor and fuel. Fuel costs roughly
15:48 four dollars per gallon, and outboard motors cost $1,500.
15:53 Traveling just two villages up the river from Kotale requires
15:57 about $20 worth of fuel.
16:00 Because of the low incomes of
16:02 Gogodala church members, weekly offerings usually amount to the
16:05 equivalent of only a couple dollars. Because of these
16:09 realities, the only way the gospel message can be spread is
16:12 by dedicated laymen who are willing to donate their time
16:16 and energies to this task. Though the challenge was great,
16:20 the pieces of God's plan came together.
16:22 A contributor in Australia sent enough money to take care of
16:26 the basic needs of three eager evangelists from the Kotale
16:29 church for one year.
16:31 Then the Kotale church rallied together and
16:33 constructed a dugout canoe in record time,
16:36 which they dedicated to spread the good news.
16:39 These three young evangelists are now hard at
16:42 work in five work in five Gogodala villages and
16:45 conducting Bible studies with 40 people.
16:55 There is no doubt that God is doing great things among the
16:58 Gogodala people.
17:00 But the Bishops still face many difficulties. Old ideas and
17:04 ways of thinking die hard.
17:06 Ancient superstitions still influence church members.
17:12 One Christian woman warned Jeff never to kill a yellow
17:16 crocodile because bad things would happen as a result.
17:24 The Bishops have come to grips with the fact that, although
17:27 they have a church full of eager interests, they still
17:30 face an uphill battle to undo generations of animist
17:34 thinking.
17:35 But the Bishops stay vigilant and continue to guide their new
17:39 church toward a closer walk with Christ each day.
17:48 Less than 200 miles to the east of the wet lowlands of the
17:52 Gogodala, across the Gulf of Papua, the rugged Owen Stanley
17:56 mountain range juts up from the coast.
18:00 These mountains are home to an equally rugged and enduring
18:03 people, the Dowa.
18:06 Unlike the Gogodala people, not very much is known about
18:09 Dowa history.
18:10 What we do know is that the Dowa migrated south from
18:14 further in the mountains.
18:16 The Dowa are known for their long treks on foot all over
18:20 these mountains.
18:21 Filled with deadly vipers, biting insects, and stinging
18:25 plants, the jungles they hike are very inhospitable places.
18:29 But the Dowa are as proud as they are tough. They never
18:32 admit to weariness or pain. A Dowa woman may regularly walk
18:36 several miles with 90 pounds or more slung from her forehead in
18:40 a woven bag called a bilum.
18:42 To live in such an unforgiving
18:45 land, the Dowa have become very wise in the ways of survival.
18:49 They can start a fire with a strip of cane, some dry wood,
18:53 and grass almost as quickly as you or I might strike a match.
18:56 They beat the bark of a certain type of tree to make a garment
19:00 which functions simultaneously as raincoat, sun shade, bed
19:04 sheet, and mosquito net.
19:07 By rolling fibers together between the hand and the thigh,
19:10 they also make string for weaving bilums.
19:13 That the Dowa are able to eke out such self-sufficient living
19:17 testifies to their resourcefulness and grit.
19:19 But their simple way of life is under mounting pressure from
19:23 the outside world.
19:26 Lumber mills are moving into
19:29 the area. A massive construction effort is pushing
19:32 a new highway through all the way from the capital city of
19:35 Port Moresby.
19:36 The Dowa are struggling with new issues they are hardly
19:39 prepared to face.
19:41 With their old stability crumbling around them, they are
19:43 reaching for something they can hold onto.
19:53 In 1996, Adventist Frontier missionaries Dale and Lety
19:57 Goodson, with their children Bonnie, Dale Jr., and Paul
20:01 answered a call to live among the Dowa and teach them about
20:05 the peace and stability they could find in a life of
20:08 friendship with their creator.
20:17 The Dowa are a nomadic people and rarely stay
20:20 anywhere for very long.
20:23 But they liked what they had heard about this new
20:25 "Papa God" who had sent His Son to die for their misdeeds.
20:29 A God of love made no sense when compared to the angry,
20:33 demanding spirits they had always served, but they were
20:37 intrigued by the idea. So they agreed to come together
20:40 and live with the Goodsons in a little village called Kukia.
20:51 With prayer and lots of hard work, the Goodsons threw
20:55 themselves into meeting the spiritual and physical needs
20:58 of the Dowa. Their needs were many.
21:00 Malaria, typhoid, hepatitis, and snakebite frequently
21:05 claimed Dowa lives.
21:07 Children suffered an extremely high rate of mortality.
21:22 By implementing a water supply and passing out mosquito nets
21:25 treated with pesticide, the Goodsons were able to
21:28 substantially reduce the incidence of malaria and
21:30 typhoid.
21:32 What diseases they could not prevent they treated with
21:35 modern medicines and home remedies. They are also
21:39 assisting the village in other ways. Lety teaches a Tok
21:42 Pidgin literacy glass on weekdays. Dale is constructing
21:46 a village workshop where the Dowa can manufacture crafts for
21:49 sale in the city, instead of selling beetlenut.
22:00 While the Goodsons can address the health needs in a
22:02 straightforward manner, the spiritual needs of the Dowa are
22:05 much more complex.
22:07 There is one primary difficulty
22:09 in introducing the loving creator God to the Dowa mind.
22:12 It is a difficult problem for lifelong Christians to grasp.
22:16 To begin to understand, you must try to imagine that you
22:20 are a Dowa.
22:22 Imagine that your whole life and culture,
22:24 like that of your parents before you, revolves around
22:27 avoiding conflict with thousands of dangerous,
22:30 moody, malicious spirits.
22:33 To survive you must appease them. If you wish to
22:36 tap into their power, you can attempt to manipulate them into
22:39 doing your will.
22:41 But for the most part, your relationship to them is one of
22:43 dread and aversion.
22:48 What, then, would you think when some missionary began
22:51 telling you about a new Spirit with supremacy over the
22:54 spirits - a Spirit who loves you and personally died to save you
22:59 from your own wrongdoing? You would be excited to hear of
23:02 this Spirit's power, but you might be doubtful about its
23:06 true intentions.
23:08 How can this Spirit possibly love you when all other spirits
23:12 deceive you and sometimes harm you?
23:16 For generations, your
23:18 ancestors have lived by firmly established rules of how to
23:22 coexist peacefully with the spirits.
23:27 These rules affect everything from shaving yourself to
23:30 burying the dead.
23:32 Can you possibly abandon these rules?
23:38 This is the nature of
23:39 the struggle that takes place in the mind of an animist when
23:42 faced with the bewildering possibility that the greatest
23:45 Spirit of all loves him.
23:53 Many such people are eager to please their missionary and
23:56 anxious to get on the good side of this new powerful god,
23:59 if only to avoid trouble from Him.
24:02 They may eagerly adopt whatever doctrine and lifestyle the
24:06 missionary teaches, but their motives remain unchanged:
24:10 they simply want to survive and avoid trouble.
24:20 Many missionaries who didn't understand this have been
24:23 crushed by disappointment when they realized that their
24:26 animist converts are not actually enjoying a
24:28 relationship with Christ at all.
24:30 Their faithful attendance and offerings are only means to an
24:34 end. They are trying to satisfy this newest and strongest
24:38 Spirit who has pushed its way into their already crowded
24:42 spiritual world.
24:43 Only a miracle can cause a person with this mindset to
24:47 truly begin to relate to God in a loving and trusting way.
25:06 The Goodsons understood this danger from the beginning.
25:10 To plant the seed of gospel truth as deep as possible,
25:14 they began the slow process of developing deep and
25:17 abiding friendships with the Dowa people.
25:20 As they overcame the people's suspicions and prejudices and
25:24 let the love of God pour out through them, they began to see
25:28 some promising results.
25:33 One major breakthrough happened when Dale decided to try
25:37 something brand new.
25:38 When he was in the States on furlough, Dale had taken a
25:41 class on the concept of worldview - the way a person
25:45 thinks and relates to the world.
25:47 One of the exercises in this class had been to examine your
25:51 own worldview, looking for the underlying reasons and
25:54 principles that cause you to believe and react as you do.
25:58 Dale had found it very useful in helping him mentally catalog
26:02 his own core beliefs and motives.
26:05 "What if, instead of trying to shape their worldviews, I could
26:10 get them to analyze and reshape their own?" he wondered.
26:16 With a prayer in his heart, Dale took a select group of
26:19 interested men up into the mountains for some deep study
26:23 and soul searching.
26:24 What happened up in those mountains is something Dale
26:28 will never forget.
26:29 These tough mountain dwellers, slaves so long to the demands
26:33 of the spirits, began to really open their hearts to this new
26:37 loving God.
26:38 Many began to see themselves and their fickle commitment to
26:42 God for the first time.
26:45 Men who had considered themselves good Christians wept
26:48 as they realized that they had been treating God like one of
26:51 the spirits, merely to be appeased, manipulated, or
26:55 simply avoided.
26:57 Bit by bit, the Holy Spirit watered the seeds of gospel
27:01 truth in their hearts and set their feet on a new path.
27:10 Theirs will not be an easy journey. The dangers they face
27:13 are the same ones we face today in our comfortable western
27:17 churches. It is just as easy for us to forget the amazing
27:20 love God wants to share with us, and revert to serving Him
27:24 just because we think we should.
27:32 Nevertheless, the Goodsons and the Bishops both rest in the
27:35 knowledge that God will surely finish the good work he has
27:38 begun in the hearts and minds of His beloved people
27:42 in Papua New Guinea.
27:52 The People Between was produced by Adventist
27:55 Frontier Missions, reaching the unreached by establishing
27:59 vibrant Adventist churches trained to raise up new
28:02 believers and churches among their own people groups.
28:04 For the latest information on
28:07 the Gogodala and Dowa
28:08 mission projects, Adventist
28:10 Frontier Missions, or to
28:11 order a copy of
28:13 The People Between, visit...
28:24 When you call, please
28:26 mention where you saw
28:27 this program.


Revised 2014-12-17