Posted by Jeri on September 23, 2010
September 16-19 we welcomed many guests from all over the country to participate in the Church of Christ kibung. (“Kibung” is the Melanesian Pidgin word for “gathering”.)
The theme was Kam Yumi Lotu – Come Let Us Worship.
This kibung travels from place to place and is hosted by a different church throughout the country annually (except for last year). Two years ago, we attended the kibung in Emagave and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was at that kibung that the church here in Alotau committed to hosting the kibung to be held in 2010.
The task was a bit overwhelming since the kibung at Emagave two years ago had over 1000 people in attendance. Our church of about 100 people and the area churches were in for a BIG undertaking.
Fortunately, we had a much smaller group of attendees due to the location of Alotau to the rest of the country. In order to get here, people must travel by boat or plane, which is expensive for the average citizen.
We had less than 200 in attendance at the kibung. It was a wonderful time of fellowship, lessons, and encouragement. Many of the lessons were given in Melanesian Pidgin (a trade language spoken throughout most of the country). Milne Bay Province, where Alotau is located, is the only English speaking part of the country. It was interesting to be joined with even more of the languages and cultures that the attendees brought. (PNG is incredibly diverse with over 750 languages spoken throughout the country. Many of those languages represent different cultures and practices.)
Here is part of our welcoming parade. These four children from church agreed to dress traditionally for the special occasion to welcome all of our out-of-town guests.
Preparing for the Kibung
We’ve known for two years that we were going to host this year’s kibung. The church here appointed a committee (which they named the “servant team”) to get things organized. Craig was on the committee and did a lot of work administratively getting everything ready. We had so many people that helped in the planning process and joined in the effort.
Two weeks before the actual kibung started, we had a big crew who started setting up the camp. This included making “houses” for people to sleep in, digging pit toilets, and cleaning and preparing the venue area. Others worked on arranging speakers and lessons, sewing coconut leaves together for walls, getting wood posts for the meeting areas, collecting fire wood for cooking, peeling LOTS of veggies, finding huge pots in which to cook, and much, much more.
Here we are loading sago leaves to take to the campsite. We had to stop halfway home and unload and reload it all because they were so heavy and were falling out of the truck. The sago leaves were woven together to make walls on the sleeping houses.
The Kibung venue – the two structures on the left and right housed some of our guests. They were made of natural materials, except for the tarps to cover the top. People slept on mats on the ground and most used mosquito nets.
Caleb was worn out after an afternoon of driving around collecting sago leaves and fell asleep like this on the way home in the truck.
Let’s just say that this made camps in North America seem like a piece of cake!
Enjoying the Kibung
The days were packed full of lessons, singing, telling stories, eating together, and a little bit of rest. I enjoyed seeing some people from other parts of PNG who knew Craig when he was a little boy.
Along with the help of some other wonderful women here, I prepared a children’s program. We entertained about 25 children for a few hours each day with singing, Bible lessons, puppet shows, games, and activities. They looked like they had a great time.
The camp was a wonderful time even though we had massive amounts of rain. One day we moved everyone to a warehouse in town because the campsite was so wet. While there, the warehouse actually started to flood because of the heavy rain and we had to move everyone again. People who have lived here for most of their lives said this was the worst flooding they’d ever seen. Somehow I didn’t get any pictures of all the water. I guess you’ll just have to trust me when I say that there was a TON of water. I think we were all too wet and tired to even think about taking pictures.
A snapshot of one of the evening sessions. The leaves you see on the floor were woven coconut leaf mats.
Hannah and Elizabeth taking a little rest during the day
Some young Milne Bay girls performing a song for everyone
Vani Igo preached at the town market one day. Seems like there was a good crowd that gathered around. It doesn’t take much to draw a crowd here. (Makes me think of how the apostles might’ve preached at the marketplace in Bible times!)
After all was said and done, we had a short ceremony to pass on the hosting of the kibung to the next group of people. The church in Mount Hagen agreed to host it next year. This was a special (and emotional) time for many gathered to watch the exchange.
Melva tied the grass skirt around Rose’s waist and placed the basket on her head. It was a touching demonstration.
Here are the rest of the Christians watching this exchange.
Since many people in PNG rely heavily on their family to provide financial assistance, finding boat and airplane fares is not always easy. There were a handful of people who arrived having only paid for a one-way ticket, expecting that someone would pay to get them back home. Also, many people who came on the ship had to find more money and fly back home since the ship was broken down after the kibung. This meant that the church here in Alotau ending up hosting many people for an extra 3 or 4 days.
It was a blessing, though, to be able to spend some extra time with people. We enjoyed having the five extra people we hosted in our home.
Our last guests left on Thursday morning. It’s quiet in the house and we don’t know exactly what to do without extra people around or any kibung preparation. This has probably been the busiest month for us since we’ve been missionaries here.
Maybe we’ll actually have a normal Family Day tomorrow. We’ve been missing that!