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41. To travel among arrows and spears

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Sven speaks: We experienced various types of episodes as we traveled around the Highlands. Sometimes I had to drive through areas where there were tribal conflicts. When I was alone in the car, it was generally not a problem because I do not belong to any tribe.

As I mentioned earlier, I held gatherings for a number of national pastors from 1982 to 1983. Before these meetings, I drove around to pick up the pastors in their villages. If a tribe that one of the pastors belonged to was at war with another tribe, I was forced to drive a long detour in order to avoid the risk of the pastor's life being taken. Our church members did not participate in the tribal fighting, but the warriors did not care about this. At that time, there were only a few tribes that had completely renounced themselves from the tribal battles.


Once, as I had driven home the last pastor and was alone in the car, I drove home on a road straight through an area where there was tribal fighting. Suddenly, thanks to the car’s spotlighting, I saw a large block of wood placed straight across the road a little further away. There were also a lot of men with bows, spears and axes. On top of that, the log was located outside a Lutheran church. I understood that I would be stopped. Before I arrived where they were standing, I opened the car window and shouted: "What are you doing? I could hear them talking to each other: "It’ the repentance car." I repeated my question, and they responded that they thought it was an enemy approaching and they wanted to stop him. "Is that what they teach you in this church?" I ask them. This made them completely silent. They removed the log so I could drive away.

Another time, I was driving through the same area with Kundi Pok and another person who was sitting in the back seat. I didn’t know he belonged to one of the warring tribes. This time there was also a log across the road, but not in the same location as in the incident above. We were stopped and they looked in the car. They spoke kindly to us since they only saw the two of us in the front seat and told is to drive over a small ditch by the side of the log in order for us to get pass the road block.

I started driving, but now they saw the man in the back seat. They shouted "Wait, wait!" and began tugging the back door in order to get this man out of the car. "What do you want me to wait for?" I shouted back and pressed the accelerator to the floor and drove over the ditch. If they had managed to drag the man out of the car, they would have killed him. However, it took some time to get the speed up so they had time to throw a stone through the rear window. I drove to the police station and reported the damage. The police went to the scene and spoke to the people involved. The police made it clear that they would have to pay for my rear window. A few days later, I went there myself and talked to them. They promised me to pay the window by a certain date, but even though I spoke to them several times, I never got any money.

On another occasion, there were fights going on between the tribes from Baiyer Zoo and Poroma. We had a couple of churches in this area and I drove there to see how our friends were handling the situation. There was a small road leading to the area where our churches were situated. On the way I suddenly met about 30 warriors with bows, shields, spears and axes. They even had some self-made rifles. The men stopped me and asked "Where are you going and what is your business there?" "I have heard that there are troubles in this area so I'm going to visit our church members to see how they are handling the situation." "That’s okay, you may continue." they said, "but first you have to preach to us." A bit surprised, I replied, "I’m more than happy to do that."

I stepped out of the car and the warriors sat down on a grassy slope. I mentioned that we must love our neighbor as ourselves. When I finished, the leader said "What you have said is probably true, but we have to defend ourselves when the other tribe attacks us." "The devil has really fooled you for the other tribe says exactly the same thing, in other words that you are the ones fighting them." I was later allowed to drive on and meet my friends in the area.

Another time as was I driving the same route, there was a drunken man standing on the road. I slowly drove towards him but he did not move. Instead, he put his hands on the hood. I waited for a while, because you can never be sure what a drunken man might do. Suddenly, another man came up and pulled the drunken man off the road. They ended up in the ditch by the road and began to fight. I then took the opportunity to drive pass them and continue on my way.

When I had accomplished my errand and was on my way home, the man who had pulled the drunken man of the road stopped me. "Look here." he said, "I'm bleeding because I helped you to get the drunken man out of the way, so now you owe me a compensation." "Well, I don’t have to pay you anything, but here you have two kina for your trouble." I said. 100 meters further down the road, the drunken man was standing on the road yet again. He stopped me and showed that he, too, was bleeding. He said I had to pay him compensation. "No, see, I don’t have to do that." I said. "Your trouble is entirely self-inflicted. If you want to get compensation you’ll have get it from the one who gave you the beer to drink." He then laughed so much that it almost made him fall over and I could continue.

On the road between Keminga and Kalinga, there is a bridge just at the boarder of the two tribes. We had two quite new churches there, one on each side of the bridge. There were tribal quarrels here as well, and yet again I wanted to go and see how our church members were doing. This time, I brought my whole family.

When we arrived at the bridge, it turned out that this was the place where the fighting was taking place. Arrows and spears flew through the air. As usual, I pulled down my car window and asked what was going on while I slowly drove through the combat zone. It was important to drive very carefully, so that you would not surprise them. Marianne sat with a strained smile as she whispered to me: "Do not stop, do not stop." Sonia, who sat between us in the front seat, said, "Dad, I think you have to stop the car because I think mom probably needs to go to the toilet." The boys, David and Andrew, who were sitting in the back seat were "dying of laughter".

Today, there are two active churches in this area.


At one point, as an Australian pastor was visiting us, we were going to Baiyer Zoo to attend a barbeque. I used not to bring my camera when I was out driving. But now I had heard that tribal battles were going on along the road so I took the camera with me in the hope of being able to take a few good photos. When we arrived at the place where the fighting was in progress, I jumped out of the car and stood on the hood in order to get some good shots. Marianne sat in the car and screamed for me to get back into the car. Even our visiting pastor stepped out of the car to photograph, but quickly changed his mind as he saw the arrows and spears flashing through the air. He quickly jumped back into the car. I myself managed to get some really good photos, but it had not really been safe.


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