We sit around the fire with our new friends. Pete, Ann, and I, the flames make our white skin glow. Joshua* tells us about his village which lies deeper in the jungle, further up the incline; it’s an 8-10 hour hike away. He tells of woes which we cannot fully understand.
I study his face, but try not to meet his eye line too often. He’s handsome and his smile is pleasant. He converses with his companions in Pidgin and then catches us up on what they’re discussing. His English is very good and he talks to us of their need for a road into their village and equipment that would make their lives easier. He wants the government to respond to these needs. He asks for Pete’s advice. I already know where this is going.
Pete asks him if he’s a Christian and he responds by telling us he is a non-practicing Catholic. Pete speaks truth to him: “The best thing you can do for your people is pray and give your life over to Jesus.”
Joshua’s believing sister and brother-in-law nod their heads, they’ve likely said all this before. He looks at us a little suspiciously, but there’s no conspiring going on here, just truth.
I can’t shake the stirring within my gut; the feeling that he is a man of peace. If only he would give himself fully over to Jesus, his influence could be greater than what he can imagine. I lean over to Pete, I’m not sure if it’s culturally appropriate to address him directly. I ask him to convey this to Joshua. I watch his face again as Pete shares. He drinks the words in, processing them silently. And we all sense that he has taken to heart what’s been said.
You see, this is why I’m returning to Papua New Guinea. Because it has a face, or faces rather. And there are people just like Joshua with untapped wells deep, deep inside of them. And there are needs and complex problems that require complex solutions. But it all boils down to this: they are loved by God and he is the answer. And they need to know this.
We eventually say our goodnights and I lay down in the jungle house for the second night. After my eyes adjust to the darkness, I stare up at my mosquito net, replaying the events of the evening over again in my head. This jungle has a face. And its ears need to hear about Jesus.
I sit and sip tea four months later and tell a dear friend about my trip. She asks me what my most impacting experience was. This event immediately comes to mind. It’s something to hold on to- a reminder of one of the reasons we’re doing what we’re doing. Because when you put a face on something, once it has a heartbeat, there’s no going back.
In one week our little family will board a plane and I’ll return to the place where the jungle has a face. And God will continue to establish His Kingdom and we will join in on what He’s already doing. We will sit around fires with new faces who have different stories and the love of God will overtake us because He sees us. He sees us all.