About Papua New Guinea

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Hauna Village

Hauna village is located on the Sepik river, about 110 miles upriver from the town of Ambunti in Papua New Guinea.

When Jesus said to take the Gospel to the ends of the Earth, he surely must have been talking about Hauna Village. Many people in the world have no idea where Papua New Guinea is, and most people in Papua New Guinea have never even heard of Hauna!

Much of Papua New Guinea was catapulted from the Stone Age to the Space Age in one generation. The coastal areas of this strategically located island were occupied by military forces of both sides in World War Two. Instead of wooden spears, bone knives and stone axes, these strangely decorated foreigners used steel machetes and firearms, and talked into little boxes that spoke back to them. That seemed like magic.

But WWII didn’t reach the little village of Hauna, 110 miles up the Sepik River from the coast. Before Marilyn and her fellow missionary Judy first arrived there, the people of Hauna had never seen a white-skinned human being. The locals were perplexed, because these newcomers had a “second skin” (clothes) that prevented anyone from being able to tell if they were male or female. It was finally decided that they were neither – they must be spirits.

Hauna Culture

Hauna culture is rooted in the Family – especially children. Their language, Sepik Iwam, doesn’t even have a word for divorce or orphan! To dissolve a marriage was unthinkable. If a child’s parents died, the relatives would raise him or her as their own.

The family would be together during the day, but at night the men sleep in one long house and the women in another. Children stayed with the women, and when the boys reached a certain age, they would move to the men’s house and be discipled in Hauna traditions. Marilyn, seeing all the pregnant women and all the babies, wondered about those arrangements. Then she heard that a couple’s time alone was in their garden in the jungle. Riddle solved!

Each house would have three medicine men who were responsible for the health and well-being of the people. When someone was sick, these men would call on the evil spirits to relent. They’d use fetishes and animal sacrifices to try to appease them, often without success. They’d also apply medicinal herbs and plants, often chewing some and then spitting on the part of the body affected by the illness. Their word for doctor was “Spitter”.

In many ways, Hauna culture is like that of the Bible, so it’s not surprising that they readily embraced it. They also saw the power of God’s Word over evil spirits. When they heard the story of Jesus healing the blind man by spitting in the dirt, making mud and putting it on the man’s eyes to heal him, they exclaimed, “Jesus is the most powerful Spitter in the world!”

It’s truly amazing how the unique culture of Hauna has been strengthened by the Scriptures. It has helped them resist the encroachment of foreign traders who have tried to cheat them in business, introduce vices, and otherwise corrupt the God-honoring aspects of their traditional culture. They have built schools, clinics and churches. They are healthier, happier and better educated than ever before.

One of their major activities now is to reach out to other villages – to people who were their traditional enemies – to share the love, forgiveness and eternal life that is found in Jesus Christ.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;

On those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

– Isaiah 9:2

If you would like to go on an adventure to visit Hauna, get info here.

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Saturday, December 11, 2021 from Topher: I’m home! I walked into my house last night at 11:45 p.m. from the longest trip of my whole life bar none. But I did it and I’m thankful to be home. All along this trip, I’ve been communicating with Peter and the village and they also have been following my travel adventures. I’ve heard more from the village in the past four days than in the past month. They are excited about the future and are already making progress at establishing a new system for getting supplies purchased and sent to the village.

Monday, December 6, 2021 from Topher:  Well, I don’t know how to say this . . . I ‘m stuck in Port Moresby PNG!

Yesterday I emailed Air Niugini to confirm what I needed in terms of a Covid test. Based on what I could get from the US side and the PNG side I erred with caution to get my test within 24 hours of traveling. I traveled to the local hospital and paid 750 kina for a PCR test. Good to go right? Nope, It’s PNG!

I got to the airport two hours early and was told that my test would not be accepted. I had to get the test there at the airport. It was the only place and the testing facility there had just closed. No one—not the hotel, not the airline, not the itinerary requirements, not their website, no emails said it had to be at that location. They all just say a test within 24 hours. Aaaargh!! To say I’m frustrated, is an understatement. Third world to the max. By the time I got to a supervisor’s, supervisor, it was too late.

Because of very limited international travel out of Port Moresby, the next flight out is not until Wednesday, the 8th. My itinerary will be crazy. Fly out of Moresby to Hong Kong and spend 23 hours in the airport. Nope, can’t leave- can’t even leave the international terminal! Fly to Doha, Qatar and spend nine hours in the airport, nope can’t leave. And then fly a 16-hour flight to Chicago followed by a five-hour layover before catching a flight arriving back at KC at 10:30 p.m. on Friday, December 10th. Because of Covid and limited international travel, there just are no flights everyday between all the key cities. From the time I leave my hotel room in Moresby to the time I walk into my house will be 77 hours of traveling!

Sunday, December 5, 2021 from Topher:  As I sit in this hotel waiting to head for the airport, I have a couple of final thoughts about this trip:

First, I’m thankful that I made it. It was due to God’s providence and the kindness of people I don’t even know. I’m thankful for Paul Hunney, who had a relationship with Johnson Wantowi, who had a relationship with someone on the inner circle to get permission from Controller David Manning. Relationships work all over the world.

I don’t know if this trip could have gone any better as far as Hauna goes. The more I discover, the more I’ve become convinced that Zech was a very powerful leader, but held the village back some because so many people depended on him for everything. I believe that the village will step up and get more done, and more efficiently than even Zech did. We’ll just have to be patient as they learn some of the more difficult things. The future is very positive.

Some of you know my thoughts in regard to the Outward Focus when it comes to raising kids or leading a group. A SCM Hauna staff that is inward focused, only worried about themselves and their jobs, is inherently unhealthy. When this group comes together and begin focusing outward to the mission in front of them everyone is so much healthier. The group is healthier. They have meaning and a reason to do their job. The principle holds true all over the world.

So that’s it. I’ll eat breakfast, watch some American football that’s on TV here, and then head to the airport for my trip home.

For those that have been following me. Thank you all so much for your prayers. I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated your thoughts and words of support.

Be home stateside in about 36 hours.

Friday, December 3, 2021 from Topher:  As I wake up early again to watch the village wake up, I’m still thinking about yesterday and how extraordinary it was. It marks a new beginning that I think we’ll look back on with significance. A new leadership structure, significant paths for young leaders to be mentored and grow, and a new sense of purpose and mission. I just hope I can communicate to the folks back home how vibrant and exciting this village is. They have a large task in front of them reaching out to this whole river valley, but they can’t do it without our help from America and the donors of Laszlo Mission League.

On Friday after some toast and coffee, I tried to get out of the house early to take some more videos and pictures. Once home, I always wish I had more pictures. I also want to start populating the LML YouTube channel where Marilyn’s memorial is posted. I want to help everyone get a glimpse of village life.

I thought we were leaving at 8:30am for the float plane that was supposed to come get me. But of course, we are in PNG, and it was a delayed, and delayed. I finally asked Tennyson, the radio man, to get ahold of the pilot and plead with him to come earlier because I had so much to do in Wewak that day. BTW – the cell tower started working! Peter was able to contact Courtney via WhatsApp from the village. Which is awesome . . .until the tower goes down again.

My delayed flight gave me time to meet with some more people in the village. I had a good meeting with Clinton figuring out the medical plans.

The float plane finally arrived, and after inspecting the Hauna airstrip – with very long grass – that they can now mow since I brought mower belts, we board from a dug-out canoe to the flying canoe and took off for Wewak.

I drove the SCM van all over Wewak today. We dropped by the Wewak guest house where I toured the living quarters downstairs where villagers stay while they’re getting supplies in town. I made a list of improvement that this house needs. It is three rooms with one bathroom, and there are sometimes 15 people spending the night down there.

Our first and main task was to go to the bank. This trip was better than last Monday – I only spent about an hour at the bank. We got all of the signatures added to all of the accounts including mine and I got the nurses paid for the first time since May. That was a successful trip! The bank accounts are now all secured for future ministry.

My final task as the day was ending was to go to the local Chinese owned store and buy a new refrigerator for the basement of the Wewak house. There is no fridge in the basement of the guest house, so villagers have to get food by walking into town. They would prefer to buy cheaper food at the store but they could not save it because they had no fridge. This purchase has made everyone very happy.

I ended the day still sweating by spending in another hour in Zech’s office trying to get things as organized as I could. I tried to put the most important stuff on top or Jonah and Peter when they come next week. I then had my final meeting with Priscilla to talk to her about the decision by the board and the plan for her. She was grateful, but is still a widow with two kids and a little scared. I asked her to get me a list of needs for their family for which I may work on raising some funds. Even though their culture treats widows a little differently than ours, I feel obligated to help Priscilla and her family out with some basic expenses.

I gassed up the van, bought my helpers a Coke, and I was done for the day and done with all of the important tasks on this trip. I headed back to my hotel and took my first hot shower in several days.

I got up early on Saturday, made my flight to Port Moresby and have been in this hotel for several hours. Which has been really nice. This hotel is actually a very nice hotel as a pretty new Hilton.

However, another little bit of stress yesterday. I found out the US changed their rules and I had to get a Covid test within 24 hours of traveling. That’s hard to do in downtown PNG! I had to go to the local hospital and pay 750 kina ($250) to get another test. And, of course, it took two hours to do that task even in Moresby. But I just got my result and I’m negative so I’m good to head home.

Thursday, December 2, 2021 from Topher:  After a long day of meetings yesterday followed by a poor night’s sleep, I’m up early and watching the village wake up. I wish everyone I knew could wake up in Hauna someday. I have a lot to do today including seeing the new Bible School location, touring the medical clinic, meeting with Noel and Gabriel (the Bible school teachers), meeting with the leaders and a second long board meeting . . . oh yeah, and getting all 87 children in the village who are sponsored to come to the big house to write a letter to their sponsors and to get a current picture that I can send for refrigerators back home.

Gabriel asked me to do devotions for the staff. It was last minute, but I tried to think of when in Jesus’ life he was going through a loss of a friend. I chose Matthew 14 where Jesus finds out his cousin, probably best friend, John the Baptist had been beheaded. Sounds like a good comparison. What did Jesus do? First, he prayed. Second . . . he served people. He fed 5,000 to be exact. You see this pattern – prayer and outward-focused service every time Jesus goes through a rough time, whether it was the night his other friend betrayed him or even while hanging on the cross. He prayed and then served others. Suffice it to say, it was a great morning of focusing on Jesus’ life and the mission of Hauna to reach out to the whole Sepik Valley. The best thing this team can do to be like Jesus? Pray . . . and then serve.

As soon as devotions were over, Christina started gathering kids. She passed out stacks of letters from sponsors to kids that I brought with me, and then had them begin writing letters back. I left to cross the river and go see the medical clinic and the Bible School dorm progress.

They said the dorm site was a little bit of a hike, but I was not prepared. It’s high above the village walking through high jungle grass and I was wearing shorts and flip-flops. For those that know Huana, here’s how you can imagine where the clinic is . . .if you start hiking up heading east through the Waunu clan, past the medical clinic and up towards the cell tower you come to a smoothed-out place. The new Bible school dorm site is quite a bit higher than that up the hill. It’s a hike!

I was so impressed with the Bible school site. It’s a large site that not only has been leveled out, but had galvanized metal posts, buried in concrete perfectly ready for the base joists. It’s going slow, but when it’s done, it will be one of the sturdiest buildings in Hauna. Zech was doing it right by having the foundation posts not be wood. This took significant money, effort and planning. I’m so proud of the work done here.

But the best part of this site is its location. It’s a brand-new location for the Bible school from where it is now which is on the hill behind the big house. This site does several things: 1.) It allows the classrooms to be bigger to aid in expansion. 2.) It has plenty of vacant land around it for expanding the dorm and living spaces. 3.) This location gets the classrooms away from the constant noise in the village of kids playing, men working, and dogs barking. 4.) Due to the vacant land that surrounds it, there is room for students to grow a small garden. Because students are here for a six-month term, there is plenty of time to grow their own food. Things grow very easily and quickly here. Within six weeks every student could be eating their own food grown on the hill. This will help financially and for this culture, growing a garden feels like home.

I was shooting a video with Gabriel and Noel when I panned out and realized that from the vantage point you can see the whole upper Sepik river valley. This is Hauna’s mission field. It’s a beautiful sight! I think it’s apropos that the Bible school, teaching pastors and teachers God’s Word, is overlooking the mission field of Hauna. Right below it you can see the medical clinic which does the same and of course you have a beautiful view of the whole village from this vantage point. It was an extraordinary moment. I’m doing quite a few little videos that I plan to post on the LML’s YouTube channel and to use in churches and communication to donors. Some are more staged, like my interviews with Noel and Gabriel, others are just of me showing different interesting aspects of the village.

After that I hiked down the hill to tour the medical clinic renovation progress. Wow! Again, I was so impressed with the work that has been done. Everything made of wood was either replaced with iron wood, or with this new gypsum board type material. The entire second floor looks amazing and is ready for patients if we take a doctor’s team. For the first time ever the third floor is now usable. It’s been completely planked with iron wood and now just needs some walls for individual or recovery rooms. I did a video interview with Clinton about the medical clinic and his desire to see a group of doctors come there again someday and then headed back to the big house.

When I got back, the main house was over-run with kids everywhere. They were all writing their best English hand writing (which is taught in our schools) to their sponsors back home. I gave my iPhone to Peter and the process of getting a good picture of each student began. There will be some good communication happening between student and sponsor now. We also took pictures of a lot of kids who need US sponsors for their schooling.

While that was going on, I looked at a bunch of equipment that is down because we can’t get parts. The planer needs a master switch, one of the generators needs a regulator, the mower needs a new steering handle. It’s always something. I take pictures, record model numbers, and hope we can find the part to send or bring back next time.

Constantly throughout the day people want to come up and talk to me about their sponsor, thanking me, or telling or showing me what they do. At one point I had to go lock myself in my room just to get ready for the board meeting.

While I was waiting on the board meeting to start, I wanted to go see Vincent and Morrison’s grave site over in the Waunu clan. Peter took me over on a boat. As we were coming back something even more extraordinary happened. I was walking past one of the boys’ houses and it was packed. I looked up and there was Noel holding session with the whole group of boys. I started recording on my cell phone and clumsily made my way up into the thatched roof hut. It was packed with men and boys of all ages all from that clan. Noel was just sitting there teaching and answering questions. I asked him what he was doing and he said this is what he was supposed to do – the old men teaching the young men. WOW!

Here is why this so great to see. I and others have been very concerned for these boys’ houses. In this culture, when a boy starts puberty, he goes to live in the boys’ house and basically stays there until he finds a wife. As you can imagine a bunch of boys living on their own, are very good at getting into trouble. This is being made worse by the introduction of smart phones and more access to western internet junk. I think the boys’ house system is very damaging unless there is a real Christian presence there. I’ve heard rumors that some are trying to change the culture to not have boys enter the boys’ house until they are a little older, like maybe 18. This would keep older corrupting boys from being a bad influence on young boys just going through puberty. People like Noel sitting in this house for hours is Christian discipleship at its best. Un-noticed and un-heralded on the other side of the world. It brought me to tears. This is where real-life change happens.

Our board meeting turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever been in. I proposed basically a new leadership and pay structure for the whole system. The working system for the SCM staff in Hauna has remained the same since Marilyn was there. We needed a new system and this is the time. For this primitive culture, it was a big step in the right direction but still needs to reflect the culture.

We created a list of Core Qualities for each employee that will be used to for hiring and promotion. Qualities like hard-working, faithful, honest, not having a hot temper, not lying, not asking Americans for things were all on the list. All hiring, firing, or promotions will be based on these core qualities not on just their skill or which clan they are from. When it comes to the mission, all clans need to be treated equal.

We then established a new pay structure. By working out this new pay and leadership structure, it creates a standard of behavior which is necessary to be part of the mission and have a job. It is not much different than an American or any other organization. Hire for character, teach the skill.

We also decided to create an “Executive Team”. This means there will always be a group of three to four people who make the hard-day-to-day decisions for the mission.

I got emotional as I talked about people like Michael, Jonah, Joel, Christina, and others who have given years and years and years of faithful service to the mission with no thought of any kind of monetary reward. And then I talked about all the young talent that want to be a part of the mission, like Jaspie, Peter, Wesley, Ivan, Killosky, and others. The excitement for the future was building in the room.

I encouraged the board, that Zech’s passing is hard, but that we relied too much on him and that by coming together and working together, the mission of Hauna could be expanded bigger and farther than any of us imagined. We had a lengthy time of prayer together, hugs all around and then . . . of course . . .eating. Chicken and rice, cow cow (potatoes) and greens.

I spent the rest of the night repacking, collecting hundreds of letters and generally preparing to leave. Of course, every few minutes someone comes to say goodbye and many times to give me a letter to mail when I get home. I went to sleep under my mosquito net with a very deep sense of fulfillment at what transpired that day. It was my best day yet in this village. I feel VERY positive about the future of Hauna and its mission to reach the Sepik Valley with schooling, medical care, and God’s word.

I wish every donor and supporter and sponsor could experience a day like this.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021 from Topher:  The other part I love- and I mean really, really love- in Hauna is waking up with the first hint of morning light, getting the hot water for powdered coffee going, and then sitting in the big house, (which sits on a hill overlooking the river) and just watching the village come alive. Smoke starts coming out of the huts as fires for cooking are started. People are getting into their canoes and heading to the garden or to the bush. Mothers are getting out to catch their fish or two for the day and filling up their water jugs at the few water sources from water tanks. A villager’s day is completely reliant on the sun. Because of the constant heat, most of the activity in the village takes place first thing the morning and at dusk.

After devotions with the SCM staff, I literally met with people all day long. I never left the big house. We had our first board meeting at 1:00. The board currently has 11 people on it with nearly equal representation from all four clans. The meeting lasted four hours. The board had met several times before I got there about what to do, so they were ready for a lot of talking. I came to really appreciate this group of people. For one, they were humbled and rocked by the loss of so many of their clear leaders. But they were also having to learn how to lead as a group without the strong personalities of Zech and Shirley at the table. This will be a good thing.

I took about ten pages of notes and again did a lot of reassuring and encouraging that LML is standing there with them and behind them.

This trip represents a new beginning for Hauna. We’re establishing a new leadership structure that won’t be overly dependent on one person. This will be good for the whole mission and will allow us to accomplish more than ever. We appointed Jonah Maiyak to be the primary signer on all the bank accounts and to be the interim Wewak buyer. Jonah has been working in the mission and has been a key leader for over 40 years since Marilyn was there. He will travel to Wewak at least once a month for several days and buy all the supplies. Peter will be his communication assistant. Peter is young and ambitious and he is exceedingly good at communication. Peter’s role will be primarily communication between us and the village. I also took three new laptops that Peter will be very good at using to their fullest.

Michael Wantawi will continue to be the operations director for the daily activities in the village and will be the second signer on the accounts. Michael is a good manager, but is not the natural leader that Jonah is. He is also getting old and his eyes are failing him. As with many in the village. Eye problems (probably cataracts) are a real issue. Old people just kinda disappear because they can’t see.

I really came to love this group of people who make up the board. They showed real wisdom and thoughtfulness as we discussed issues. We prayed a lot and some of the prayers were so heart-felt and sincere. I sense a spiritual renewal with this group going through this crisis.

As is customary with every board meeting . . .we ate! I chose western spaghetti and tomato sauce. The noodles here about the size of a pencil and the tomato sauce is watery. But they ate a lot and I was able to bring some boxes of cake mix which is always a treat. We continued talking until it was a dark and I fell into bed exhausted but happy that I saw some really great stuff happen that day.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 from Topher:  We were up at the crack of dawn and headed down to the Wewak Airport for our one-hour trip from Wewak to the same Ambunti grass airstrip that Marilyn Laszlo landed on 45 years ago headed to Hauna Village. We flew a Cessna 645 Caravan. This is turbo high wing very similar to the Kodiak, but not as good. Traveling with me from Hauna was Peter (his very first plane ride) and Paul Hunney. We landed safely, skidding down the muddy runway and I was immediately reminded of how hot and humid the Sepik River Valley is . . .all the time. From the time you land you really never stop sweating. You never go without bug spray and you join in with the locals in not worrying about deodorant. Also meeting us in Ambunti was a MAF tech who was installing a new short wave UHF radio in Hauna. We took a canoe for the next leg of the journey. Being on the river is hot and long, but also beautiful. I have to pinch myself as exotic birds and wildlife become common sights.

We arrived into Hauna about 30 minutes before dark. It wasn’t like when Marilyn went back, but the village was very excited about me coming. They had decorated the big house and the bank had signs welcoming me. A bunch of villagers came out to watch me come in and unload. Lots of waving, lots of yelling, lots of hugging.

After greeting (it felt like hundreds) of people, trying to remember names and getting my stuff moved in, I realized that there was a very clear mood of hopelessness in the village. Zech died right after the week-long house cry for Marilyn. The very next day, Vincent, the current chairman of the board of SCM, was struck by lightning while standing in his hut and was instantly killed. The next day, Martin, one of the best carpenters died of something internal and then the next day two older ladies in the village died. Five beloved villagers died in a very short period of time.

As I settle in at the village, I am reminded why I have fallen in love with Hauna. The generator gets shut off shortly after dark. They left it on late for me so it shut off at 8:30 p.m. When that happens, everyone goes to their hut, and it’s very, very dark. The noise in the village slowly subsides and the jungle noises come alive. You take a cold short shower, only to start sweating again and climb under the essential mosquito net. Then you just lay there, hardly able to fall asleep, sweating, and just listen. You hear huge birds fly by, all kinds of animals crawling in the room and on the ceiling, hundreds of insects and night bird sounds, and at least once or twice a night, one of the older bigger dogs would start to howl and then for about the next two minutes, every single dog in Hauna joins in. I really began to look forward to this nightly song.

November 29, 2021: After confirming their flight, Topher went with several villagers to the bank which was already packed to the brim by 9:00am. Fortunately, Peter had made arrangements to go to a back room where a manager would meet with them, so they did not have to stand in the long line and heat. After three hours, they have the accounts ready for new signatories from the village. Getting this done, was the most important thing to accomplish in Wewak.

When they left the bank, they headed to the post office. They picked up a package that contained mower belts for the mower that mows the airstrip which was sent from the US three months ago. Now the village has more belts than they need for a long while.

After the long day of driving around Wewak and standing in hot lines, Topher sifted through paperwork in Zech’s office. The office is located in the Wewak Guest House, which is the house is the house in Wewak where villagers stay when they are getting supplies and the house where our future logistics coordinator will stay. It is just a few doors down from the hotel in Wewak, so it’s just a quick walk away.

In the morning, they will load up first thing and head down to the Wewak airstrip where they will be weighed along with all their luggage for a plane trip later that same morning. Balance and weight are very important. These pilots are some of the best in the world. They land 6-9 times a day on very small grass airstrips that are sometimes at a steep angle in jungle terrain. There will be three passengers and some cargo going. They will be landing at the grass airstrip in Ambunti which is right on the Sepik River. Then they will board a dug-out canoe and make the long trip to Hauna. Sunscreen required! It is a beautiful trip through the jungle.

Topher is thankful to you for praying for him and the myriad of tasks, conversations, and decisions that come with this trip. Thank you and keep praying!

November 28, 2021: Topher made it to PNG safely! He left home at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday and arrived at the hotel in Wewak at noon Sunday (which is 8 p.m. Saturday in the time zone he left in the US). He said it is good to be back! The heat, the humidity, the new sounding birds, the bigger bugs…  It was April 2019 since he was last here. Too long.

On Sunday Topher was able to meet with some villagers that are in Wewak. Then on Sunday night, he took Priscilla, Abby and Zedakiah, (Zech’s family) along with Peter out for nice dinner at the hotel. They didn’t do anything except talk about the good memories of Zech and his life. Abby is 20, and Zed is 13.   So young to lose a father.

First thing Monday morning they are going stand in line at the bank and try to get all the accounts organized.  Once that’s done, they will confirm flights for the next morning and buy food for the village.

Topher would appreciate prayers for all the meetings as well as for the preparations to travel into Hauna village.

November 26, 2021: Topher Philgreen, President of LML, received all the necessary paperwork including the sign-off from the country controller to enter Papua New Guinea without having to quarantine for 14 days. He left on the morning of Thanksgiving Day and is currently about half-way through his 36-hour journey. The plan will be to get to Wewak, and meet with Priscilla, Zech’s widow, and then on Monday to establish new signatories for all the bank accounts that fund the different areas of ministry out of Hauna. Pray for safety and logistical connections as Topher winds his way through many airports, security and Covid checks around the planet.

November 2021: Tragedy in Hauna!
Just days after recording a video for Marilyn’s Celebration of Life Service and days after the village “house cry” for her, Zech Naii, the main administrator in Wewak, was loading trees onto a canoe in the jungle with other men from the village. He suddenly complained of an intense headache/ dizziness and sat down in the canoe where passed out. The men rushed him back to Hauna but he died a few hours later. The news is shocking and tragic! Zech leaves a young family, two kids and his wife Priscilla behind.

Topher Philgreen, President of Laszlo Mission League, must get to Hauna to meet with the leadership as soon as possible. New systems and structures for finances, accounting, supply purchasing, and leadership need to be set up. On November 11th, Topher set out on a secure ticket only to be turned back waiting on the proper Visa from PNG Immigration.

As of November 16th, Topher has received his Visa and is now waiting for the main Covid/Police Controller to sign-off on his emergency visit to the PNG in this Covid Lock-down world. Pray for him and his travels and get constant updates on this page.

September 13, 2021: Hauna is in full traditional mourning for Marilyn Laszlo. All daily activities in the village have stopped for five days and four mourning houses has been erected in each of the four clans. People go to the house, cover themselves with mud, and mourn for this special a beloved person. On Friday they will have a large ceremony where they will celebrate Marilyn and what she did there. The village is erecting a monument with her picture and story halfway between the Church building and Bible School building. This is on the Hauna hill where Marilyn lived for twenty-four years.

June 2021: This Covid thing will not go away! The airport and international travel continue to be closed into PNG. They are slowly coming out of a huge Covid surge. There are only 500 doctors in a country with 9 million people (that’s one doctor for every 18,000 people). The PNG medical system is overwhelmed on a good day without a global pandemic. There is no such thing as social distancing in PNG culture and that has contributed to the rapid spread. But because half the nation’s population is under the age of 18 and because there are few old people, PNG is gradually getting through this time. Shirley is still in Boise and Topher is still in Kansas City patiently waiting for things to open.

The good news: Hauna is continuing strongly in their outreach. Three brand new outboard motors, paid for by the faithful donors of Laszlo Mission League, have arrived and are being used today. These outboard motors allow teams to continue their outreach to the other villages, to mow the airstrip (a 45-minute trip down river), and to get supplies at Pagwei, the place where the only road from Wewak meets the river. Getting to Pagwei is a one-day trip, with a motor. Can you imagine how long that journey would take without modern power?

We are counting the days until we hear that flights to PNG have opened up. Then we can return, bring communication and news from the sponsored children and continue the great work of Hauna as it reaches the unreached in the upper Sepik River area.

May 2021: The Covid surge has leveled off in PNG although they are still wearing masks in the cities. As the rest of the world is opening up, there are very few vaccines available for a third-world country like Papua New Guinea. The good news is that the vaccines are reaching the more developed countries in the region and those countries are beginning to show signs of life. Recently, Australia, PNG’s largest neighbor and the one it looks to for leadership, began accepting travel visas for religious workers. Although this does not help us get back to Hauna, we have to travel through Australia and it is the first domino that must fall. Port Moresby, the only airport and only way to enter the country is still closed to foreign travel.

So what is Hauna doing?

Recently, through the generosity of US donors, enough money was raised to buy three brand-new outboard motors. These motors are essential to almost everything in Hauna. They are used to pick up supplies in Pagwei–a full day down the river to the closest road, they are used to transport the sawmill to help build schools and churches in neighboring villages, and their use is the only way to mow the airstrip. Hauna’s outreach is limited by their outboard motors.

Because of the remote nature of the jungle, when something simple happens to one of these outboard motors, like a plugged spark-plug or a broken fuel line, it can take days to fix. Hauna was down to one spare and sometimes a dug-out canoe had to sit idle waiting on a motor. Thankfully, the money has been wired to our account in Wewak and the motors are on the way! Thank you to US donors who covered this huge need. Pictures coming in the next newsletter.

Meanwhile, the Bible School building project is continuing, educating young school children continues, and the sawmill is busy every day in outreach to other villages on the upper Sepik River.

March 31, 2021: Covid-19 has greatly surged in Papua New Guinea! There are scattered reports coming back to us that hospitals are full and people are sick and dying in the parking lots of the few medical clinics. Unlike the rest of the developing world, vaccines are not reaching PNG. Australia sent around 8,000 vaccines for health care workers only. But this is a drop in the bucket in impacting the nearly 9 million who live in the country.

PNG, until now, has had relatively few cases. Why this surge?

Imagine if George Washington were alive today. Imagine how honored and revered he would be by our nation. Papua New Guinea is a relatively young nation. After the island was torn apart by fierce fighting in World War II, it was formed and governed by Australia. Similar to the journey of the United States, PNG gained its independence from Australia in 1975, fortunately without bloodshed. That effort was led by Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare. He was the first Prime Minister and led the young country in its fledgling democracy for nearly 40 years. He was 82 and died about a month ago of cancer. The entire country shut down for two weeks for what is traditionally called the “house cry.” After this mourning period, he was buried in his hometown of Wewak. Thousands of people traveled to Wewak for the burial. The combination of this close interaction of people from all the provinces, lack of testing, and a medical system that is “on the verge of collapse” according to the WHO, have all contributed to a crisis in PNG.

We have used every communication at our disposal to get the word to those in Hauna to not travel to Wewak. Although Zech needs to travel to Port Moresby for supplies, we are holding off until this crisis subsides.

January-February 2021:  We are glad 2020 is in our rear-view mirror and we hope 2021 will be a year of new hope and a chance to travel to Hauna again. Peter was able to finish his treatment in Wewak for Tuberculous and returned to Hauna to his office duties and his family. However, while he was gone something happened to our satellite up-link that allows us to communicate via email. We’re not sure if it was hit by lightning or something else. We are working on a solution to fix this from the other side of the world. In the meantime, currently the only way for us to contact Hauna is through Zech in Wewak who can communicate once per day on the ham radio system that all the missionaries use to coordinate flights and emergencies medical evacuations.

January and February are the quietest months in the village with school on summer break. A lot of people use this time and the extra labor to rebuild their houses, put on new thatched roofs, or expand their gardens on the river banks. One challenge we’re having in Hauna right now is with the airstrip mower. This walk-behind mower was generously supplied and shipped to Hauna by a US donor several years ago. The problem is that you can only get belts from the USA and carry them over. Right now, parcels aren’t going through and no one can travel there. The “mowing” of the airstrip is done by having a bunch of boys with machetes to do it by hand. The boys cut and the girls rake the clippings off of the strip. It’s a big party, but exhausting work.

In February, the leaders of the Bible school came to Wewak to get all their supplies for the upcoming session. While there, they had access to email and good cell phone service and it was good to catch up. They are looking forward to a good session starting in March. They were just ready to go back to Hauna when the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea passed away. This was a massive shock to the country – imagine our president dying while in office. They called him the Supreme Chief since “Chief” is the name given to the leader of the village clans. The entire country went into a two-week shutdown. They call it the “house cry”. There was no public transportation or bank service.  The country was on hold for a while. Look for an active March update as school will be starting again and the Bible School will start their next session with a whole new crop of students.

November – December 2020: Even though this recent surge in the Covid-19 Pandemic has wreaked havoc with the rest of the world, life is relatively normal in Hauna Village. They know about the virus and there is a little more talk about it when they travel to Wewak. But in the village, they don’t wear masks or even think about it. Fortunately, Covid-19 has been held at bay in most of Papua New Guinea. This is probably mostly due to Australia where they take it extremely seriously. The main way into PNG is through the capitol, Port Moresby. The only flights into Port Moresby, come from Australia. Due to strict travel restrictions getting into Australia, and because there is no way to get to PNG without a stop off in Sydney, Brisbane or Cannes, it’s nearly impossible to get there. All flights out of southeast Asia, like Singapore, or Hong Kong are banned. It is this travel restriction to PNG that is keeping us from traveling back to Hauna for the time being. We anxiously wait for the end of this pandemic!

May 2020 – October 2020: To say that 2020 has been an extraordinary year is an understatement. Being locked down due to Covid-19 has been hard for many but it has also led to some wonderful things. For Laszlo Mission League, it is the same. It has been very hard for Shirley to be stuck at home in Boise and it has been frustrating not to be able to travel from the USA to Papua New Guinea and Hauna. However, the ministry in Hauna continues on fervently and with great success.

Due to the faithfulness of US donors we continue to send the needed monthly funds for the sponsored students, the teachers in Hauna, the teachers sent to other villages, the medical workers and the Bible school teachers. Technology has helped us stay in contact through apps such as Whatsapp on the cell phone and even Facebook updates when villagers come to Wewak. But the biggest “positive” from the Covid pandemic is the leadership development in the village. This is the longest time the ministry has continued without Shirley or Marilyn being in the village. This is great news as the leaders in Hauna lead the vibrant ministries there. And they are growing! In the meantime, we wait. We wait for international flights to begin once and again, we wait for the country of Papua New Guinea to open its border, and we wait for a vaccine.

April 2020: Everyone is hunkered down in Hauna. People aren’t traveling to Wewak for supplies and the schools are not operating. The water has been high during the usual flood season so traveling anywhere in the village is done by canoe only. About halfway through April the water began receding which means villagers can begin looking forward to working in their gardens. Just like everyone else in the world, the Covid-19 outbreak is restricting travel and keeping everybody stuck in the village. Not going to school has provided the opportunity for a lot more community time playing soccer and volleyball. The village feels, and actually is, very isolated from the rest of the world. There has only been one case of Covid-19 in all of PNG and that was an Australian getting off a plane and he was immediately sent back to Australia. As long as villagers are not traveling to Wewak, they feel confident that Covid-19 is nowhere near the village and life goes on as normal. Just like us, they are keeping themselves busy repairing the huts and using the high water to float Sego trees down from the highlands. Meanwhile, Shirley is in pretty strict quarantine in Boise with her children. She would be considered high risk. Marilyn is in the same high-risk category in her care facility. We are thankful that Marilyn is not in a larger nursing home where the risk might be more severe.

March 2020: Not knowing the future in regards to the Covid-19 outbreak, our Medical Director advised us to not buy any plane tickets to PNG, but to wait it out and see how it develops. So we waited. On March 20th, we were copied on an email from the PNG Government. In it, the director of FODE Schooling system, shut down all the schools with government funding for a minimum of two weeks. For many in the bush, the letter was an introduction to what Covid-19 even was and how it was affecting the whole world. We contacted Peter through our Whatsapp smartphone app in Hauna. He, nor any of the teachers in Hauna, had heard of the government’s decision. We sent a copy of the letter, and just like that, Hauna joined the rest of the world by calling a village meeting, telling people not to travel to Wewak, and shutting down all of the schools, including the school run by Laszlo Mission League in Hauna. If we had not had direct communication with Hauna, it likely would have been another week before the news would have reached them. Thank God for cell phone technology which, though limited, will reach into Hauna village when the cell tower is working. They don’t have electricity, but they have cell phone
service . . . sometimes.

February 2020: As Shirley is in the USA visiting churches and taking a rest, we are preparing for our next trip back to Hauna to begin final planning for the Bible school dorm expansion.  However, our plans are on a slight hold until we know how severe this Corona Virus is going to be.  It’s possible to get to PNG without traveling through Asia, but it is still in that part of the world.  Chinese and Japanese businesses dominate all of PNG.  We are worried that this virus could get into PNG where the medical system is not able to handle the epidemic.  Please pray about this issue.  We need to be making frequent trips back and forth to keep things going, but don’t want to risk spreading this awful virus

January 2020: Happy New Year!  We’re hoping and praying for so many great things to happen in Hauna this year.  Work continues on the medical clinic with the grant we received.  Every day there are 10-15 workers who are tearing out the old rotten, termite eaten wood, and replacing it with this new product that is similar to our gypsum board in the US.  It’s a plywood-like board that is concrete based and termites will not eat it.  We try to use this product and Iron Wood trees as much as possible for new building and repair of old buildings.  The big news for January is the fixing of the cable bridge from the main house to the west.  This connects half the village to the land where the medical clinic and primary school classrooms are located.  The bridge has been unusable until the erosion problem in the bank could be fixed.  I joke that the school parking lot (about 50 small dug-out canoes) is over-crowded.  Now some kids will be able to walk to school over the bridge

December 2019:  Shirley is making more frequent trips home and it usually happens during their summer break.  It was a long trek back.  Shirley is now in Boise where her daughter and son now live.  Much like Marilyn was her whole life, Shirley has become very accustomed to very hot, humid weather.  She is always cold when she is here in the states, but loves to see a beautiful white snowfall.

Life is slow in Hauna during this summer season.  With kids out of school, families use this time to work in their gardens and do group hunts.  Sometimes they will rebuild their huts if the water level is at the right place.  As we speak the water level is perfect.  Low enough that the village can build and fix-up their houses, but high enough that dug-out canoes can still get to the main Sepik for supplies.  Each year the young choirs in the church prepare Christmas songs and perform them on a Sunday morning.  There are usually new outfits to go with the special event.  Christmas is the biggest holiday in the country for sure!  Christmas and Easter are the two holidays that are celebrated by people around the world.

November 2019:  The summer break for schools in Papua New Guinea starts just before our Thanksgiving.  PNG does not have a Thanksgiving holiday like we do here in the US as that holiday is tied to the pilgrims who settled here.  Therefore, the traditional Thanksgiving meal is shared just by Shirley and a few of her closest friends in the village.  Since there is no turkey in all of PNG, fish or maybe a chicken will do.

This school season completes Shirley’s 40th year of teaching in the village.  Hauna, as well as villages from all over came together to celebrate this anniversary for Shirley.  It was a feast of Sego, Fish and Yams!  Congratulations Shirley on your unbelievable faithfulness to these people

October 2019: There is a lot happening in Hauna this month. Zech Naii, our administrator in Wewak, is a very strong leader. He has an American education and is knowledgeable in accounting, business, and building things. Last week, he traveled up the Sepik to Hauna with 250 bags of concrete. For the past ten days, he has led a group of 25 workers who have been finishing the repair of the bank erosion in front of the guest house as well a major rehab job on the medical clinic. Hauna received a $30,000 (K100,000-Kina) grant to fix up the medical clinic. We’ve been shipping materials to the village waiting for this day. The break is being fixed, the medical clinic is being fixed, schooling continues as it nears the end of the school year, the Bible school is looking to expand, the translation (revision) work continues, the saw-mill has been put into full-time use, and iron-wood trees are being purchased. Wow! It is a very busy time in Hauna!

September 2019: We did it! The new sawmill has been ordered and is on its long journey to Hauna, which is no small feat. Once the money was raised and wired to our account in Wewak, the mill was ordered from Lae, which is the closest port city to Wewak. There is no bridge over the Sepik River, so the only way to reach Wewak is by boat or plane. The sawmill will come on a barge from Lae. Once in Wewak, Zech, our administrator, will arrange for a truck to take it on a four-hour bumpy ride to Pagwei, the closest loading spot on the main Sepik. From there it will be loaded onto two dug-out canoes that will be tied together to support the weight and begin a 12-hour journey upriver with an overnight stop in Ambunti. Treachery lurks at every turn. The road to Pagwei is dangerous, and supporting the weight of a sawmill on the river is precarious. It’s a journey that will take several days. Pray that this piece of equipment will be put into God’s service ASAP. Any money left over will be used to buy trees. The iron wood tree (as the locals call it) provides hard wood that termites cannot get through. It is very good for building things that last. Unfortunately, they are expensive and we must buy them from highland villages.

July 2019: Everyone is extremely busy in their gardens and working on the floors of huts. There is a lot of activity in the village since everyone works together. Now that things are caught up, students are attending school regularly again. The Bible School is in full swing as well with sixteen students attending right now. We are looking forward to getting a new saw mill! There is a great need to be able to cut a log into usable lumber. We have the only saw mills anywhere in the whole northern Sepik River region. Everyone depends on us to be able to cut wood, but especially when another village wants to start or expand their school that Hauna supplies teachers for. They can’t do it without the wood. We have a deal with the neighboring village. They find the logs and provide the labor to build the building. Hauna provides the saw mill and then the teachers to teach in the newly built school. It works great . . . when we have a saw mill that we can take into the village. We are actively raising money for this project right now.

June 2019: Whew! The flood has receded and immediately everyone started doing the things they have been putting off for months. Families are going to plant gardens and the big task in the village is to replace floors in huts that were damaged by the flood waters. Everyone works together in the village. Everyone in a clan works with everyone else in the clan to replace a floor or thatched roof or whatever the case might be. This turn of events has meant that some children have had to skip school for a few days to help mom and dad with the big jobs. We are actively beginning to raise money for a new saw mill. We must have this in order to cut the large jungle trees into usable dimension lumber. The best trees are called Iron Wood by the locals. It’s a type of tree that is very dense. It is so hard, that termites can’t eat it away. If you want anything to last in Hauna, it must be made out of Iron Wood. Just recently, we bought a large Iron Wood tree to replace the ridge of the Hauna church. The current tree is broken and needs to be replaced before the whole roof comes down.

May 2019: School is well under way. It’s been flooded in the village for over three months straight and people are getting anxious. It’s much harder to find food when you can’t supplement with gardening. For awhile now, the only way to travel from hut to hut is by dugout canoe. A big conversation these days in Hauna is about the high school that can only be taught under Shirley’s teaching certificate. We know we need to prepare for the day when Shirley can no longer teach. That means someone within PNG will need to get the required education to obtain the requisite qualifications to teach high school. Please pray with us about this. Also, sawmill #2 is down. This will be very important when the flood breaks as the crew will need to start cutting trees for schools, and churches in other villages.

April 2019: Shirley goes back to Hauna! Traveling to Hauna is not an easy undertaking. It’s a very long trip anyway, but to do so with maximum luggage makes it even harder. We loaded our bags to within ½ pound of the what the international airlines will allow. A group of doctors in the Chattanooga area sent along as much medicine as we would carry. They stocked us with antibiotics and medicine that is sometimes hard to find in PNG. We were joined by Elroy Thieszen our good friend from the church in O’Neill Nebraska who sponsor the Bible School. We arrived in Wewak after 20 hours of non-stop travel. After spending a day with Zech, our administrator in Wewak, Shirley and Elroy were able to take the float plane in to Hauna. We’re thankful that we were able to get the float plane so that Shirley didn’t have to endure the long canoe ride. Topher stayed in Wewak for another day to work with Zech on bank accounts and accountability systems. Having to go via Ambunti and the canoe, Topher joined Elroy and Shirley in Hauna and spent a week working with the local leaders while Elroy taught a few classes in the Bible School. It is really amazing what is happening in the village. As Elroy and Topher pulled out, we hugged knowing that we’d all see each other again soon.

March 2019: The flood is back! Just recently, the water levels came up high enough to breach the banks of the tributary that Hauna is situated on. The gardens were buried under the flood water just as they were being planted. Just the other day, the only air strip to serve the whole area, the Hauna air strip, also went under water. From now on, in order to get to the village, we’ll have to land in Ambunti and take a five-hour canoe ride or try to hire the only float plane available with Samaritan Aviation. Meanwhile, back in the USA, Topher and Shirley traveled to Valparaiso, Indiana for a remarkable final visit to the Kids’ Alive headquarters. Shirley was recognized by the whole staff with a lunch in her honor, testimonials, stories and a plaque commemorating her years of faithful service. After an afternoon of working on book-keeping details, health insurance, and sponsor communication systems, Shirley and Topher headed over to visit Marilyn. The story of what happened there can be read in the 2nd quarter newsletter.