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4. The church that was burnt down, but on the other hand was not

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Sven told us a few stories that illustrate how the natives of Papua New Guinea convert imagination into "truth."

One of our missionaries, Paul Eaton, once told us the following story. Paul got a letter from John Lapukali, who was the pastor of a church located on the outskirts of Tari in the Southern Highlands. In the letter he told Paul about his house and church being burnt down due to tribal fighting. Sven asked where John was when he wrote the letter. Paul replied that John was situated in the "centre" of Tari. He had run to this location in order to escape the tribal fighting.

Sven said to Paul:

"I would not be surprised if both his house and church are intact."

"What do you mean? He clearly wrote to me that they had been burnt down?"

"We'll see."

I went up to the place and like I thought – both the church and the house were unharmed. Once I got home, I told the missionary about what I had seen. He became very upset and said:

"Then he lied to me."

 "No, he did not. John believed that it had happened and was a hundred percent sure about it. When he heard the warriors approaching, he and his family fled towards the center of Tari. During the time they ran away, he could picture in his mind how they entered his village and how they burnt everything down, even his church and his house. When he later on arrived at the center of Tari, those imagined scenarios had become the only truth for him. All of what he wrote to you was true in his mind, but the reality differed from his perception of the event.


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