We find that "PNG time" is something that we need to get used to. We were told that the service began at 8:30 so we should show up around 9:00am. We left our lodging at Baukop at 9:30, still needing to walk along a beach and cliff path to get to Asini. When we arrived around 10:00am, only the pastor and one elder were present. We sat on a bench on the side of the church, began singing songs, and about an hour later, people began to come to worship. We began the service around 11:00am but who wears a watch anyway? I took mine off on my third day in PNG and have yet to put it on again! This phenomenon has been true at every worship service and continues to amaze us. What is especially precious is that the people seem to have devoted the whole day to worship and rest, the concept of sabbath that sometimes gets lost in our busy lives, so there is no hurry, no complaining, no visible frustration. When people arrive, the service begins and the worship has always been vibrant and alive. We have much to learn about the natural flow life that is the pace of village life, very congruent with the culture, the climate, and the lifestyle.
We worshipped at the congregation in the village of Asini on Christmas Day and met Pastor Steven, a first call pastor serving three small congregations. He had finished his Seminary training in Finchaufen and had come to Asini in September, 2009. He hiked up the mountain with us to visit the Malalo Mission Station and promptly asked Rod if he would preach at Asini on New Year's Day. Rod had been told by Papuans and missionaries alike that he should always be prepared to receive such an invitation and so he agreed to preach. As part of his sermon prep, we had a Bible Study on the text, the naming of Jesus, with Manoa, James, Lynn, and the family. "Wanem nem bilong yu?" is generally the first question asked: "what is your name?"; and we learned very early the cordial response: "Nem bilong mi em Nancy (or Rod)". This is how the relationships begin, not unlike in the United States or anywhere around the world. It was particularly meaningful to talk about the power of "names" with our Papuan friends,however, in our impromptu Bible Study. We are learning that everyone has an ancestral name but many times adopt a biblical name or a more western-sounding name.
Rod scripted out a beginning and ending in Pidgin but opted to deliver his sermon in English with Pastor Steven doing simultaneous translation. It seemed to be the most respectful and authentic way to approach this invitation at this time as we are still learning Pidgin, and Rod's promise to return again and preach in Pidgin is likely to be accepted by this faithful congregation.