About Papua New Guinea

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.

Hauna Updates

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.