Valentine’s Day in the village is a little anti climactic in a way…nowhere to go for a date night, buy chocolate or other gifts. However, when I got up, Ben had already made coffee and since it was Sunday, he and I ate homemade granola together (made by a lovely friend before we left Ukarumpa). On other days, I start the day off rehydrating vegetables, plan out the homeschooling activities, and Ben goes to devotions with the translation team.
But my favorite part of Valentine’s Day came in the evening. One of our translators came asking for prayer for his sick wife. Often when the men come for prayer, they ask for Ben…but he specifically asked for both of us.
We sat across the table as he told us about his wife’s illness, both of us full of emotion and empathy for this man whose wife is a 4 hour walk away, through jungle roads. He told us that he had talked to her and he said many times, “mi laikim em tru!” (I love her very much!) Not being medical professionals, we had no idea what the symptoms meant, but it sounded serious to us.
Ben picked up on a key anxiety our friend had, even though he hadn’t said it explicitly. Did she get sick because of something he or she had done, or because of some problems they had? Or, did someone work magic to cause it? Here in PNG, the cultural perspective is that there is always a reason behind illness or death. People suspect that something or someone has caused this to happen. Ben said, “I know that here, you all have the cultural perspective that sickness happens as a result of problems or someone deliberately caused it. But this isn’t always the case.” He shared story of the blind man….
The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”). The man went and washed—and saw. John 9:2-8 The Message
Ben explained that illness doesn’t necessarily mean that they had done anything wrong, and our friend’s face changed from grief and worry to one of relief and joy. I told him that if he wanted to go and take his wife to the hospital in town, we would support him, because, although the work of translation is important, his wife and family are even more so. Ben confirmed what I said, and added that he would stand up for our friend if anyone said anything about him leaving. Also, he added that we would leave the decision in his hands. We both prayed and I sat there, taking it in, feeling like this was the best way to spend Valentine’s Day with Ben.