Wamena, Papua, Indonesia.
Not to be confused with Papua New Guinea, which is a separate country. Although, it does share the same island, called New Guinea. Not confusing at all, right? Papua, the province in Indonesia (the western half of the island of New Guinea) used to be called Irian Jaya. Many know it by that.
Wamena is a town of about 40,000 people, comprised mostly of three different tribes. It sits at about 6,000′, and is considered to be in the foothills of the mountains which completely surround it. These mountains rise to 16,500′ at their highest, and remain snow-capped year round, even though they’re situated nearly on top of the equator. Dense jungles cover these steep mountains, and travel is impossible except by foot, and of course, helicopter. Wamena itself is inaccessible except by air; not even by ATV.
One of the most important things to know about the area we are going to is that in the region of New Guinea, it is estimated that there are over 800 languages – that is one-quarter of the world’s languages! In one region. The other thing is that none of these languages relate to each other, and therefore, each requires its own missionary to translate. This process takes decades – most often when a missionary moves in with a tribe (with the tribe’s permission), the tribe doesn’t even have a written language, as there’s never been a need for it. So, the missionary spends years learning how to speak the language, diligently taking notes and spending every moment possible observing and participating in all situations, so as to acquire the most words possible.
The next step is to develop a written language, often taking many more years. Then, slowly, the Bible is translated into the new written language. For several more years, the tribe is taught the scriptures (in context) and then people start trusting Jesus (and only Jesus) for eternal salvation! For years to come, the tribe is discipled and taught how to share their faith and develop thriving churches.
Where we are moving is very remote and what we in this side of the world may call ‘primitive’. We like to think of it as simple, and ready to hear about Jesus.