By Nate Gordon
Nate Gordon, a missionary pilot in Papua, Indonesia, tells stories like this one on his blog http://offthepath.wanderprone.com
I watched the heavy, wet clouds carefully as I approached the mountains and landed the plane just before the rain started. Andi, the local pastor, came out to greet me as we huddled under the Pilatus Porter’s wing in a futile effort to stay dry.
We soon decided we’d be better off waiting out the rain in one of the grass-roofed honais built by the Ketengban people. So we ran inside and joined several men around a clay fire pit.
The Ketengban are very generous, and I soon had a steaming hot sweet potato in my hands, plucked out of the coals. When I finished my breakfast, I leaned back against the ax-hewn planks that formed the walls of the honai and enjoyed the company. I noticed a subgroup of young men holding their own conversation in their native Ketengban language, so I asked Andi what they were saying.
“They’re just carrying on about how amazing it is that they have a real pilot in their hut,” Andi said.
Here we go again with the hero worship bit, I thought to myself.
“Listen up guys,” I said in Indonesian, which they also understood. “How many nails did you use to build this honai?”
They looked down and sheepishly said, “None.” In this little mountain village, the use of modern materials is a sign of status, wealth, and that you’re a forward thinker. To them, I was pointedly calling attention to how backward and primitive they were.
“Look around you. We’re sitting on this beautiful woven rattan floor suspended three feet off the ground where the critters can’t get to us. It’s pouring rain outside, and we’re completely dry. The fire is keeping us toasty warm—and cooking breakfast for us. And you did all this without a single nail? I could never build something like this.
“How long can you guys survive in the jungle?” I continued. They gave blank stares and started to laugh nervously. They couldn’t figure out why I would ask such a question.
They didn’t answer, but their faces said, “Yeah, of course.”
“Put me in the jungle by myself and in two weeks I’m dead.” They all started laughing again—surely I was joking. There’s no way someone as smart as a pilot could be that incompetent. “No, really, I can’t hunt. And even if I did catch something, how would I cook it? I can’t make fire without matches. How do you guys do it?”
One man jumped up and ran out into the rain. He was back in no time and demonstrated how to make a fire using sticks, leaves, moss, and grass in a matter of minutes. It takes me half an hour using a match, lighter, and kerosene.
“Do you see what I’m talking about?” I asked. “You’ve mastered the challenges of your environment. I’ve also mastered the challenges of my environment which include things like computers and airplanes, but I’m no different than you. You’re made in the image of the living God, which means you carry His creativity in your souls—and you apply it to solving problems like how to build a wooden home without nails, and fire without a lighter.
“You carry dignity because you reflect the creativity of your Creator.”
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