Sefira is the wife of the tribal believer, Salomo. We discipled Salomo for 3 years in Danowage and hope that he might later become one of the first Korowai indigenous pastors. When he married Sefira, however, he immediately encountered many family problems. This made me wonder whether or not Sefira was also a believer or not, for she told Salomo before they were married that there would be no large price to be paid for her upon marriage. But as soon as they were married Sefira’s parents immediately began to threaten and demand a large bridal payment from Salomo. The demands and threats persisted until Salomo had to leave the area for a time.
Salomo confirmed last week that neither he nor Sefira ever knew that her parents would do such a thing and their actions struck both Salomo and Sefira by surprise. Salomo confirmed that he regularly teaches her the Scriptures and that she is truly a believer. Marriage is not merely a private affair in this region, and the children often suffer due to the sins and demands of their parents.
Now meet baby Marsasila.
Baby Marsasila was born in Waina village several months ago. Her mother and father killed all 5 of her previous siblings shortly after birth. And she was furthermore suspected of being the product of adultery, despised from birth by the husband. Her mother was frequently unfaithful and this baby was about to pay for these sins with her own life. The father repeated over and over again, “Kill it, kill it…” and they began the process of burying it alive, but the ruckus drew the attention of Sefira.
Sefira was resisted as she drew close, but she persisted. She told the mother, “This is a human being from God.” and then scooped up the baby and ran. Sefira and Salomo briefly cared for the baby until an evangelist arrived back into the village and then they handed the baby over to these representatives of the church. The mother and father of baby Marsasila departed the village that same day to go to a local sagu grub worm feast. So much for parental natural affection.
Meet also the complicated nature of Papuan ministry.
Now, for a short prayer letter, the above snippet of information proves sufficiently inspirational. But the context of ministry in Papua proves to be much more complicated than the tidy story above.
The first time I wrote down this story it was very incomplete. Here is why there was uncertainty. There are two Papuan evangelist families living in Waina village. These are Dani families sent out by their highland churches trying to reach these lowland people with the Gospel; Papuan believers reaching the last of the unreached tribes in Papua. Sounds wonderful! But…they don’t always get along. Nor do they always live holy lives. The church throughout all of Papua has serious defects. Many Papuans are Christian in name only.
The wife of one of the evangelists, L.W., first explained this story of saving Baby Marsasila to me and seemed to cast herself in the leading role as heroine. About 9 years ago, unfortunately, we had to request that this same lady be disciplined and sent home by her sending church for a year. Why? Because she attacked a young man with a machete for bumping into her daughter on the trail at night. The daughter was coming home from bathing and the mother assumed that the man had attempted to molest her (instead of merely being clumsy). The mother overreacted…with a machete in hand and the young man suffered many deep cuts. Since head wounds bleed a lot, while we were treating this boy many men from the village gathered with bows and arrows and threatened to shoot L.W. in retaliation until she paid many gifts to appease their anger.
Casting Sefira and all the evangelists into one collective “we”, I was led to believe that L.W. had been the instrumental one in saving the baby. And she had, in fact, been present and involved and pleaded with the parents during the scene. Good for her. Yet the one to take decisive action was not any such leader of the community or formal representative of the church, but was instead the small and meek woman Sefira, who proved to be brave and assertive when it really mattered.
All the evangelists cared for the baby but Evangelist Yusuf Jikwa and his wife claimed her, and adopted her as their own, and gave her the name Marsasila. I suspect that this induced jealousy on the part of the other evangelists. And I suspect that Yusuf, being a very assertive and dominant man may have simply staked his claim on the baby without any discussion, and especially without permission, from the others. But again, welcome to the complicated world of ministry in Papua, where every step forward seems to be a limping advance and even the victories contain many failures and imperfections.
So pray for God’s blessings upon Salomo and Sefira. Pray that Baby Marsasila would have a long and happy life and that she would come to know her Saviour. Pray that Marsasila’s parents would come to repentance. And pray that God cleanses the hearts of several of the evangelists here, grants peace between them, and brings several of them truly to Himself as true Children of God and purifies their work, making their sending churches proud.