People and potholes confetti the roads, cars and buses weaving between. The Pacific’s power bursts the rugged shore, children sprint with laughter, playing tag with the waves. Women carry vibrant woven satchels and scrawny-limbed babies. We pass a field scattered with men joyfully in the throes of rugby. In front of us, the door of a moving car opens, blood red spit splatters the road, the excess juice from chewing betelnut stain pavement and teeth. Everywhere I turn clothing boasts colorful patterns though shoes and hygiene are optional. This is Papua New Guinea.
Its tropical climate overwhelms the landscape with nature’s finest - birds, trees, and plants exotically varied in species and beauty. A rich backdrop to a culture only one generation away from its tribal ancestors still tucked away in the mountain villages.
Our first morning graces us with Sabbath, the community gathers down the street for worship. We arrive on time. The open pavilion is empty. I’m told time doesn’t matter here.
The church stage is filled with instruments and musicians young and old, three small boys stand near a microphone, one sings occasionally while the other two just stare. A dog runs up the stage’s stairs, finding a shaded spot near the drummer to rest.
Though humidity beats thick, men are dressed in white button-up shirts, slacks, and ties. Some wear loafers but most are in sandals. Women wear oversized blouses and long skirts, thick afros made thicker by today’s heat.
We sing and we stand and we hallelujah and we amen and we tithe and we praise and on and on and on for three glory-filled hours.
By the time we dismiss, every bench in the pavilion is packed to overflowing, families filling the surrounding lawn.
I don’t want it to end.
It is true what they say. The less you have the greater you must depend on God, if you know Him at all. These people, the ones who call Him “Papa God,” they are rich - rich in joy, rich in faith, rich in love. I don’t know their wealth and they don’t know mine. My heart cries out, “Teach me what it means to be truly rich.”
Today’s message in a language I hardly understand was about humility. These people with nothing encouraging one another to pour it all out for Jesus, as if they have anywhere lower to go. But I take notes because no matter the tongue, it’s God’s Word and it washes over me and for the first time in a long time my soul feels fuller than my wallet.
I don’t want it to end.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9