In PNG, We Travel By Dinghy

By Sister Maria Divina MC

…Be with us Mary along   the way guide every step we take, lead us to Jesus, your loving Son. Come with us Mary, come…

We all smile as our pre-school children, from different denominations, sing with their angelic voices the hymn to Our Lady. I believe Our Lady is smiling too as she listens to their innocent prayer. Their song gives me hope and joy, that indeed we all have a great Mother who never forgets us.

How we start our day

As we finish our apostolate prayer, joined by our pre-school children and sewing-class mothers, we Sisters go to our various assignments. During the day our garage becomes a classroom for the little ones, while the bigger children aged six and seven use the classroom. One of our Sisters is teaching sewing and cooking to the mothers, along with catechism before the morning session ends. Sister Chunjin Rosa MC and I go on patrol to visit the villages along the river with our bilums (strong string general purpose bags, used throughout Papua New Guinea) loaded with medicines, teaching materials and sewing things needed for today's work.

Dinghy Ride

As we're on our way, we hear, 'Good morning, Sisters, just now we saw your dinghy going down…' - a good introduction to the day. Our dinghy is a small speed boat. Here in Kerema, Gulf Province, you'll see it being carried on top of our car from the mission station down to a sloping road to the shore at Hevoro. It's lucky for us if it's high tide, because you just put the dinghy straight from the car into the water. But today it's low tide, so we need to carry it first through muddy water till we can start the motor which Jeorge, a local boy working in the mission station, operates.

The dinghy takes us through the grandeur of nature that makes PNG a paradise. The stillness of clear water mirroring the azure sky and the tops of blue mountains far off, the rugged mangroves on both sides of the river inhabited by thousands of shell fish, the fresh breeze that makes us cool despite the strong heat, the hundreds of fish that ripple in the water and glitter in the sunshine. Yes, God reveals His greatness in His creation.As we finish the rosary, I praise God for the mission He shares with us.

Our Assembly

There are those days when after traveling quite a distance we have to get out of the dinghy to push, pull and carry it over big logs because the river is low. At times we walk through deserted bush in heavy rains to reach a village and find everybody has gone to their own little farm, leaving only pigs and dogs roaming. Then we ring the chapel 'bell,' a piece of iron from a car, and shouting 'ohhhhh' at the top of our voices. As this re-echoes, the people come one by one. Anyway, what counts most is our presence, whether there's a crowd or just a single soul. God never leaves His co-workers alone. He blesses them.

The Miracle Language

Today, after our dinghy takes the last turn in a long series of curves, we see the people. Some are sitting on the neglected bridge, some on the riverbank, but most are enjoying the cool, clear water as they bathe while waiting for us. The Kamia people, a nomadic tribe, heard the Good News only a few years ago. Even with the language difficulty - the tribe has a number of languages - the language of love works miracles. It creates a good relationship with them. The people are simple, sensitive, good-natured, loving and eager to learn. The rugged lines on their faces show the hard life of those whose home is the bush and the jungle. As we walk the few kilometers from the river to the village, we exchange stories, laugh together and enjoy the wonderful smiles that greet us. Yes, Lord God, the harvest is rich because you and your Mother, never abandon us. As we reach the village, we gather the people in the chapel before we group them, mothers and young girls for needle work, children for pre-school. After a while we have catechism for those preparing to receive the sacraments. With Our Lady's statue decorated with flowers in our midst, the whole village exultantly sings the hymn to her:

Maria o Mama, yu Mama bilong Jisas Yu Mama bilong God, God I givim ona na biknem long yu, O Maria Yu pre bilong mi, yu helpim mi… Maria, O Mama, You are the mother of Jesus, The Mother of God, God gives you honor and great name, O Maria, You pray for me, you help me…

Yes, Our Lady is the courage, the strength and the inspiration behind the drama of everyone's mission life. She leads us all to Jesus, her Son. As the sun sets over the horizon, and we carry the dinghy back to the station on the car, we are grateful indeed for the great gift God bestows on us: sharing His mission life.