Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Calf-Deep Mud, Clouds, and Colds

The village was down in the valley; we are halfway up the mountain and an hour into the walk. (You can see the ocean above the last mountain at the horizon line)

The mud came up to my calves.

I wrenched my foot out of the red, sucking goo and slid forward, bracing myself on a tree as I continued the descent. The eight-year-old girl next to me, Alice, grabbed my hand. “Be careful!” she warned. “It’s slippery!”

That’s the understatement of the year, I thought as I yanked my skirt free from the clinging branches and skidded forward, like a cross-country skier. Just think what it would be like if it had rained yesterday!

It was early Wednesday morning, and we were in the process of hiking out of the Dedua language group to the airstrip where the Kodiak was waiting to take us home. Only five days earlier we had made this same 3 ½ hour trek up and down the rugged Morobe mountains to celebrate with the Dedua the dedication of the Audibible—the oral recording of their New Testament and Genesis (I’ll tell you more about that later). Except this time, due to the extensive rain nearly every day in the village, the hike was taking even longer.

I paused on a ridge, trying to catch my breath. Hmm… the trees are sort of fuzzy up ahead. I squeezed my eyes shut, and looked again. Probably just the mist. Or maybe I’m a bit dehydrated. Better drink more water. I sucked on my camelback hose and climbed over the fallen tree, gingerly wedging my foot between the greased tree roots and the cliff that fell into fog to my right. The clock was ticking in my head—we needed to get to the airstrip by 11 am, or the clouds would close in over the mountains and the plane would be unable to take off that day. Keep moving!

The Kodiak!
It was just before 11 am when the first part of our group broke out of the jungle and was greeted by the waiting Kodiak. We cast anxious looks at the graying sky as we loaded our bags—please, Lord, let the clouds open up!—but it was only minutes before the all-too-familiar drizzle of rainy season began to soak our clothes. As the second half of our group trickled toward the plane, I realized, with a sinking heart, that we were in the middle of a cloud—for 360 degrees, I couldn’t see any of the surrounding mountains. No leaving today.

The plane clearing the mountain peak the first time it dropped us off.
But, our ever-optimistic pilot kept shoving our bags into the cargo bay. “Let’s see what happens,” he said. So we prayed and packed…and as he locked the last door in place, the clouds twitched, shuddered and opened. A window the size of my fist revealed the one mountain peak directly in front of the airstrip.
Time to go! As the Kodiak scrambled down the grassy strip and leapt through the hole in the sky, I twisted in my shoulder harness for one last look. Trees closed over the muddy paths and my friends’ smiles blurred into crowds; it had been a good week.

As it turned out, the timing was even better than I realized. Only a few hours later, I found myself very sick with flu-like symptoms and far too dizzy to sit up, much less stand or hike (no wonder the trees were fuzzy!). Had we needed to spend the night at the airstrip, it likely would have required an hour’s hike down the mountain to a local village, and then another hour’s hike back up early the next morning…which I would not have been able to do. Praise the Lord that He knew what I needed before I even realized I was getting ill! Although the flu has passed, the common cold has remained with a vengeance for the last two weeks, hence my silence on here. I’m slowly catching up on the responsibilities of life, and I look forward to sharing with you more about the exciting events at the dedication!