Adventist Frontier Missions

The Dowa Of P.N.G.

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: John Kent


Series Code: AFM

Program Code: AFM000011

00:42 Survival.
00:43 Virtually every aspect of jungle living is centered on it.
00:51 Animists believe that every object in nature, every bug,
00:56 every rock, every plant and raindrop has a spiritual entity.
01:00 They also believe that every sickness and crisis comes from
01:05 this spiritual world. For most animists, physical survival
01:09 is a spiritual battle.
02:03 My name is John Kent. I'm the director of training for
02:06 Adventist Frontier Missions.
02:07 This is our second video report on the work of Adventist
02:10 Frontier Missions in the country of Papua New Guinea.
02:13 In our first program we learned about the Gogodala of PNG and
02:17 how this animistic people group were in search of the
02:20 River of Life.
02:21 There we met two missionary families, David and Cindy White
02:25 and Steve and Laurie Erickson.
02:27 They live and work in the remote villages of Balimo and Kotali,
02:31 bringing to the Gogodala the good news of Jesus, the one true
02:35 source of the River of Life.
02:37 In today's program, we move from the lowland delta of the
02:41 Fly River to the Gulf Province villages of Kukea,
02:44 Suatua and Epakota.
02:46 Dale Goodson and his wife Lety established a church-planting
02:50 movement among the Dowa people living in this rugged
02:52 mountainous region.
02:54 Their goal was to establish an Adventist church where people
02:57 didn't just know Biblical truth but also applied it to every
03:01 aspect of their lives. In our final program, we will take
03:05 a 20-hour canoe ride to our last destination, the May River
03:07 Project. This is the most remote place on earth that AFM
03:12 is working in.
03:23 Today's story relates how God has raised up a brand new body
03:27 of believers among the Dowa people.
03:29 As we begin, I would like to share some fascinating insights
03:33 into their jungle life and culture.
03:36 One of the staple foods of the
03:38 Dowa people is called sak-sak. To make it, they start by
03:41 chopping down a Sago tree. They strip off the outer bark
03:44 and then use a special tool to chisel out the soft middle
03:48 part of the tree. The shavings are gathered up
03:50 and put into a palm trough. Water is then poured over the
03:54 shavings and the starch is squeezed out and collected into
03:57 this container made out of tree bark. Later it is cooked into a
04:00 thick jello-like consistency and then eaten with other things
04:04 like bananas, vegetables and meat.
04:08 Today, you will find many jungle-dwellers in New Guinea
04:11 who continue to do many things the same way they have done
04:14 them for hundreds of years.
04:16 For instance, this lady is picking leaves off of this
04:18 tree to use in cleaning her pots and pans.
04:21 These leaves are special. They have a very rough texture
04:24 similar to a scrubbing pad that you might find in a store.
04:31 Instead of going to a sink like you would to do your dishes at
04:34 home, she takes her dishes down to the riverbank, where she uses
04:38 the leaves to scrub them shiny clean.
04:44 They teach their children to be expert hunters
04:47 using bows and arrows according to the traditions of
04:50 their ancestors. They also use slingshots and traps to catch
04:53 birds and other wild game.
05:01 Tropical jungles can be a very uncomfortable place to be
05:04 if you can't find any fresh water, so Kopeko
05:07 is demonstrating a little- known secret for finding fresh
05:11 water from a jungle vine.
05:23 Having too much water can be
05:24 just as dangerous as not having enough. Working as a missionary,
05:28 I had to cross this river many times. During the dry season
05:31 it might dry up to barely a trickle. Then a big rain would
05:35 come and fill it up overnight. On occasion it would overflow
05:38 its banks, and we would have to turn back or wait for a few
05:41 days for the river to calm down again.
05:43 During emergencies, we would have to chance it
05:46 and just swim across anyway.
05:49 The women do most of the cooking, and it's always done
05:52 over an open fire. When they make a big feast
05:54 they start by gathering food from their gardens
05:57 and what they can find in the jungle. Here, they're
06:00 preparing a huge pile of bananas and an assortment
06:02 of other vegetables. After the food is gathered
06:05 together, they build a fire in a cooking pit and heat
06:08 rocks with it. Once the rocks are glowing hot, they cover
06:11 them with leaves and load the leaves down with food.
06:14 More leaves and hot rocks go on top, and the food
06:18 is allowed to steam for several hours. Food can also
06:21 be stuffed into hollow sections of bamboo and
06:23 cooked directly over the fire.
06:26 Roasted bugs and grubs go great with the veggies!
06:33 You might be wondering what these ladies are doing in this
06:36 muddy pond. Well, this is one of the ways they catch fish.
06:39 They get into the water and thrash around until all the
06:42 mud is circling around in the water. The fish dive to the
06:45 bottom for cover. The ladies then run
06:48 their hands through the silt and catch the fish there.
06:54 A quick bite to the head kills the fish and keeps them
06:57 from escaping if they fall from their mouths while
07:00 fishing for more.
07:02 Life in the New Guinea jungle isn't easy. Between the
07:05 struggle to find food and dealing with disease, it's
07:08 a struggle just to survive. On ocassion, unrest develops
07:12 between neighboring tribes. When I returned to the
07:14 jungle for a visit last year, I happened to arrive just
07:17 after an unfortunate incident had taken place.
07:20 It didn't take long to discover that something was dreadfully
07:23 wrong. As we got closer to the turn-off for our village,
07:26 the road was blocked by hundreds of warriors, and nobody
07:30 was allowed to pass through. Fortunately, an old friend
07:33 recognized my face, and after some hugs and
07:36 handshakes, the warriors parted and allowed us to pass.
07:40 It's an old Melanesian custom to dialogue and settle disputes
07:44 as calmly as possible. I was grateful that they
07:46 tried this custom first. Several days of meetings
07:49 were held to try and sort this one out, but nobody was sure
07:52 if it would work or not. One night I was awakened
07:54 from my sleep to hear people yelling and running
07:57 into the bush. A few minutes later, all was quiet again.
08:00 I had no idea what was going on, so I said a prayer and
08:04 went back to sleep. The next morning, we discovered
08:06 a threatening rumor had gotten started, and the entire
08:09 village had been evacuated and run off into the jungle.
08:12 All but my family and my friend, that is - the one
08:14 who took the video pictures for us.
08:16 We have included these cultural pictures, not
08:18 simply for your curiosity's sake,
08:20 but to provide a little
08:22 background to the stories, and demonstrate the unique survival
08:25 skills these people have developed
08:27 over the centuries.
08:28 While they might not think and live like you do,
08:30 this doesn't mean they aren't as intelligent or as skilled.
08:33 They have just had to use their intelligence to overcome
08:36 different obstacles and survive in
08:38 a completeley different set of
08:40 circumstances, that's all.
08:41 I love my Dowa friends. And my greatest desire for
08:44 them is that they might find a new life in Christ.
08:47 My wife and I tried to share the Gospel in words and concepts
08:51 they could understand. Not everyone accepted what we
08:54 shared, but for those who did, we praise God.
08:56 One of the people to give their lives to Christ was my
09:02 friend Titus. Before he was even baptized, he was witnessing to
09:05 people around him. His ministry was
09:07 so effective, his friends and relatives
09:10 soon gave their lives to Christ as well. And not long after
09:13 that, he organized a local school board
09:15 and started a village school.
09:17 His story begins with a sore leg.
09:23 When I became ill, or was in desperate need of something,
09:28 I would turn not to God, but to witchcraft and magic.
09:32 So was my life until one fine day when an AFM
09:37 missionary showed up in the neighborhood.
09:41 That missionary happens to
09:42 be Dale Goodson. He arrived here sometime in 1996.
09:46 I was here at home when he came. He had settled at Malowa.
09:52 But he came here looking for sick people to help.
09:58 My ulcer was a common knowledge to both denominations,
10:02 clergymen and members alike. But no one cared about the
10:06 painful damage it was doing to me. But this AFM
10:11 missionary, Dale Goodson, he took me to his house at Malowa
10:15 to be treated there, and he let me eat and live with his family.
10:19 It was then that I began to see what Adventist Christians
10:23 were like. They did not eat pork.
10:25 They did not chew beetlenut.
10:27 They did not smoke cigarettes. It wasn't long before I
10:31 realized that here was what I had been looking for.
10:37 When I first met him, my friend Titus already knew who Christ
10:40 was and had a longing to serve Him. It seemed the
10:43 more he understood, the more he committed himself to
10:46 serving the people around him as well and introducing them
10:49 to Jesus. Sadly, this past year,
10:52 my friend Titus contracted a liver disease and passed away.
10:56 Titus wasn't perfect, but I can honestly say that he
11:00 became a selfless, giving person; someone who
11:03 loved God with his whole heart. I'm looking forward to
11:06 seeing him again on that glorious
11:08 resurrection morning.
11:09 New believers from Animist cultures
11:11 have a whole different set of
11:12 spiritual questions, concerns and fears than do those
11:15 from the west.
11:17 Effective ministry must take all of this into consideration.
11:21 For multiple generations, people in our area had
11:25 depended upon enchanted necklaces, charms and plants
11:28 to connect them to the help and resources of the
11:31 spiritual world. For example, the tanget plant was
11:34 believed to be the home of tribal spirits.
11:37 They were planted by their human homes for protection.
11:40 Well, new believers wanted to know what to do with all of
11:43 these things once they gave their lives to Christ.
11:46 In many cases, they chose to follow Paul's example
11:49 in Acts 19 and burn them.
11:53 Satan has a thousand ways to confuse and destroy people.
11:57 One of these ways is through sorcery, witchcraft and other
12:00 spiritual practices that are deeply ingrained in the lives
12:03 of so many animist peoples. Once entangled, it can be a
12:06 real challenge to leave all this behind and experience a new
12:09 life with God.
12:10 Though often challenged by jungle living, I found my
12:13 work very rewarding, especially when I saw those
12:16 who had been controlled by Satan completely surrender
12:18 their lives to God. Listen to Kopeko as he
12:22 tells you how he went from living under the fear of
12:24 ancestral spirits to living by the Spirit of God.
12:29 I am here in the front of a graveyard, and I want to
12:33 talk about graveyards, how we Kamea people believe
12:36 and think about dead people. We Kameas, we believe that
12:40 when a person dies, he has a spirit that
12:43 continually lives when the body dies. But the spirit continues
12:47 to live and then communicates with the living people.
12:52 So by planting this tanget, so that this tanget becomes
12:57 like a door that stops the spirit from coming to the house.
13:02 So by planting this tanget
13:04 it helps people, or the living people,
13:07 to keep them in health and in a good place.
13:11 When I became a Christian, I am no more under the care
13:15 of this tanget. So by showing I am no more under this
13:18 tanget, I will burn the tanget to show that I am no more under
13:22 the umbrella of this tanget but I am under the
13:24 righteousness of Jesus.
13:40 So my life no longer belongs to the tanget.
13:41 My life belongs to Jesus.
13:47 My life belongs to Jesus.
13:49 The positive changes that took place in Kopeko's life
13:52 soon convinced family and other community members
13:55 that Christ had something to offer them as well.
13:58 Kopeko studied with them, and a large number of baptisms
14:02 soon followed. This church was then built to accomodate
14:05 their worship needs.
14:11 Kopeko and Titus's stories the freedom, joy and sense
14:15 of purpose animists receive as they move from living
14:19 in the darkness of fear and manipulation of
14:21 spiritual forces to lives of worship and
14:24 obedience to Christ. It's such a beautiful journey.
14:27 Now don't go away. There's much more to come.
14:30 We will be back in a few moments with the rest of our story.
14:37 You know, most people don't think about darkness unless
14:39 we are in it.
14:41 Darkness is a place of shadows and fears,
14:46 of things unknown.
14:48 It's a place where we go to hide.
14:52 A place where we wonder who's out there.
14:56 A place of uncertainty.
14:57 In John chapter 8, verse 12, Jesus declares,
15:05 So, when God steps into the picture, light dispells
15:10 Darkness. Life destroys death.
15:12 Whoever follows Me
15:14 will never walk in darkness.
15:18 Have you ever wondered why the Bible spends so
15:22 much time talking about light and darkness?
15:27 Could it be that behind the veil of darkness are faces?
15:32 Faces of people with hearts and families?
15:37 Faces of people that God loves?
15:41 Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. "
15:46 Will you go and bring the light
15:50 to the people God loves?
16:08 Welcome back to the second half of our video report from
16:12 Papua New Guinea. Through the conversion
16:13 of Dale's two Dowa friends, Titus and Kopeko, and
16:16 their witness to their families, friends and neighbors,
16:19 a brand new group of believers had begun to grow.
16:22 Let's listen as Dale continues his story on
16:26 reaching the Dowa people.
16:30 *children singing*
16:50 As work among the Dowa progressed, more and more
16:53 believers asked the question, "What's the purpose of
16:55 owning a Bible if no one knows how to read it?"
16:58 Three different villages soon formed their own school boards,
17:01 hired teachers, and started their own schools.
17:04 As enrollment increased, the appeal came for assistance
17:07 in building a large school
17:08 building. Although yet incomplete,
17:10 they built what they could with the funds that came
17:12 in, and here is the result.
17:17 I realize that the students - most of them are illiterate.
17:22 They couldn't read
17:28 or write a single word.
17:30 So, we thought it would be best
17:35 to start with the little children.
17:38 I will say it as a question.
17:40 Remember?
17:42 Your eyes? Dry them. *children repeat*
17:47 They slipped through a hole. *children repeat*
17:51 There's no one around. *children repeat*
17:53 When they are still young, we can educate them to
17:58 read and write and give them the Bible to read, so that
18:03 they can read the Bible and know the truth themselves
18:08 and accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
18:11 That prompted me to take
18:15 to switch to education ministry.
18:20 And so I started this year with
18:24 my colleague Mr. Nelson Job.
18:29 And he has done a terrific
18:32 job. Both of us work together
18:36 hand in hand, united together, and came this far.
18:44 I would like to appeal to our
18:47 faithful, cheerful and willing
18:50 friends and sponsors and donors
18:53 of the Dowa project to continue
18:56 the support you have always given us from day one
19:00 since Dale came to this place
19:03 through the AFM initiated
19:07 Dowa Project.
19:09 Hey, my name is Samuel Mora. I am 13 years old.
19:13 I am doing great. Thank you AFM and our
19:17 cheerful sponsors in the USA for the gift of this school.
19:21 Thank you, and God's blessings.
19:45 Hey, my name is Daniel. I am 14 years old.
19:48 The gift of this school is a real blessing to me.
19:52 Now I can see a bright future before me.
19:57 Thank you, and God's blessings.
20:00 This young man is making an announcement about the
20:03 beginning of the new school year. There are no P.A.
20:05 systems out here, so in a voice loud enough so the whole village
20:08 can hear, he yells, "When you hear the sound
20:11 of the bell ringing early in the morning, that means that
20:15 school is about to begin. Leave your hunting, fishing,
20:18 and other business for later and hurry over to class!
20:21 Do you hear me?" "Yes," they all reply.
20:37 AFM sends its missionaries into some of the most remote
20:40 and difficult areas of the world to reach.
20:42 After they launch to their projects, they dive deeply
20:45 into the heart of the people groups they target.
20:48 With the knowledge they learn through the study
20:50 of the culture, they're able to find the clues they
20:53 need to best reach their people with the Gospel.
20:57 Dale and his family lived among the Dowa for many
21:00 years, and while there, they faced numerous challenges.
21:03 Let's listen as Dale describes what his ministry was like
21:06 and what those challenges were.
21:08 Life wasn't easy, that's for sure, but I was probably my
21:11 own worst challenge.
21:12 I went to the jungle thinking that Biblical
21:16 teaching was the same thing as Christianity. So the bulk
21:19 of my ministry was wrapped around either teaching or
21:23 preaching. But I was wrong. Biblical teaching only lays
21:26 the foundation for Christianity. Real Christianity is
21:28 what you get when you take those Biblical teachings
21:31 and then apply them and use them to address the relevant
21:35 critical needs in everyday life. The Dowa people,
21:39 on the other hand, they were, their culture was built on
21:43 animism. And so animism pervaded and permeated
21:46 every aspect of their culture and day-to-day living.
21:48 And that's what they needed Christianity to do.
21:51 And I should have been modeling that to them.
21:53 The Dowa spiritual beliefs provided the foundation
21:56 that their entire culture was built upon, and it permeated
22:00 everything that they did. They hardly ever talked about
22:04 the beliefs, but those beliefs were reflected in their
22:08 entire culture. On the other hand,
22:10 my ministry was talking about
22:13 beliefs and teaching other people to teach about beliefs,
22:17 but did nothing to provide a model of how to appropriately
22:21 apply these beliefs to meet the needs of the jungle-dwelling
22:25 Dowa people, whether emotional, spriritual, physical or social.
22:30 But I was only demonstrating how a Western Christian could
22:34 take Biblical principles and apply them to meet Dowa needs.
22:37 I wasn't demonstrating how a Dowa jungle-dwelling person
22:41 could take Biblical teaching and and apply them to meet
22:44 their own needs.
22:45 I could show slides, exciting movies and PowerPoint
22:47 presentations. The Dowa couldn't do any of that.
22:51 My wife could go get the food and clothes and bring
22:54 them back and give them to the orphans.
22:56 I could go to the United States, or I could send a message
23:00 back and try to raise funds so that we could use
23:03 those funds to build bridges and a school and a clinic.
23:06 The Dowa people couldn't do that. I could get medical
23:09 supplies and come back and start a medical ministry.
23:12 The Dowa people couldn't do that. What the Dowa people
23:16 needed was someone to demonstrate to them or show
23:19 them how to take Biblical principles
23:21 and how they could
23:22 apply those to meet the needs of the Dowa people.
23:26 In Matthew 7:21-25, Christ said the truths he taught
23:30 laid a foundation that we could safely build our lives upon.
23:33 You might say the foundation supporting a house is like
23:36 the plate supporting healthy, delicious food.
23:39 Offering spiritual truth with no practical application
23:43 is like a plate with no food on it.
23:45 Having the plate would make people hungry,
23:48 but this hunger, if it wasn't satisfied, would leave people
23:52 worse off than they were to start with.
23:54 Our lay pastors found it difficult
23:56 to focus on this practical side
23:58 of ministry until one day Paul, a new believer, had a dream.
24:03 In the dream, I saw that Dale was
24:05 in the house, and the pastor and
24:07 I had gone to my place. In his hands, the pastor had
24:10 two plates, one containing nothing
24:12 but pieces of bread, but the other
24:14 was filled with rice and vegetables
24:16 and a variety of delicious food.
24:17 The pastor offered me the plate with
24:20 bread and told me to eat one.
24:22 I said to the pastor,
24:23 "Please, I prefer the other plate
24:25 that contains a variety of foods. "
24:27 "No," said the pastor.
24:29 "We will eat from that plate later. Not now. "
24:31 But instead Dale said
24:33 that we should eat from that
24:35 plate now and should share some with the some others in the
24:37 community. They would be hungry, too.
24:39 I love eating rice and
24:41 the other foods I saw on that plate.
24:43 But the pastor insisted that we
24:45 wouldn't eat from that plate now.
24:47 That was the dream.
24:48 When I woke up, the dream had seemed so real that I felt
24:51 surely the plate of food had
24:53 to be somewhere in the house.
24:54 I kept looking around for it, but it wasn't there.
24:57 It was only a dream.
24:59 After that dream, Paul was convinced that Christianity
25:02 was more than Bible studies. It needed the flavor, colors
25:06 and delicious smells of community life.
25:08 It really was to be found in the house.
25:10 As he and his wife began applying what they learned,
25:13 every aspect of their marriage and community existence
25:16 began to change. As they learned to pray, they taught others to
25:19 pray, too. As they learned to clean
25:21 their homes and care for their children,
25:23 they helped others do the same. Before long,
25:25 their influence had transformed the
25:27 entire community.
25:28 They had learned the value of presenting the Gospel
25:32 on a full plate, and now others were enjoying it, too.
25:36 This was a special torch-lighting ceremony
25:39 held at the new Dowa school.
25:40 I had the privilege of giving a new Bible to each of
25:43 these young men and lighting their torches.
25:49 They are being commissioned to continue applying God's
25:51 Word to daily life and serving full plates
25:54 to their native communities and beyond.
26:02 *singing* Jesus you come...
26:49 I really hope you've enjoyed this video on the Dowa Project.
26:52 My wife and I found living in the jungle
26:54 and working with the Dowa people challenging at
26:57 times, but it was also the most rewarding eleven and a half
27:00 years we've ever lived. It would also be fair to
27:03 say that the Dowa people probably taught us as much
27:06 about God and the meaning of Christianity as we ever
27:08 taught them. And I'll be forever indebted to them
27:11 for that.
27:12 I'll pray that God will continue to guide them,
27:14 and lead in their lives, and that He will guide you, too,
27:17 as you seek His will in your life.
27:33 If you have felt God impressing you to support Adventist
27:35 Frontier Missions, then please send your donations to:


Revised 2014-12-17