MAF relief pilot Rick Velvin shares another encounter where God used him to be a catalyst giving PNG women a voice and have their ideas heard – just as he was waiting on the ground for the people who chartered the aircraft doing their job.
The meeting was being held in the church at Musula, a small community in the PNG lowlands very close to the epicentre of the February earthquakes. World Vision International (WVI) had chartered MAF to fly four of their staff members there, spend four hours on the ground talking and listening to the people to enable WVI to gather information on Musula and the surrounding villages. This assessment would help WVI to design future water, sanitation, health and education projects for the area, greatly assisting with the earthquake recovery and community development.
The four WVI staff called out the names of various village representatives, allocating them to groups for discussion and questions. All men. The women sat in a corner at the back of the church. Several were quite vocal and I gathered from their gestures and tone of voice they were telling or reminding the men what to say.
With four hours to wait before flying back to Mt Hagen, I was sitting at the side of the church observing the process. The people were engaged, very focused and motivated. The WVI staff wrote heaps of notes, the locals speaking and writing out thoughts and ideas. One of the pastors sat next to me and we talked All Blacks (the New Zealand national rugby union team), families and funny things that had happened in recent times among other things. Part of the conversation went like this.
“The groups are all men, do you think that the women want to join in?“
“Yes, but their names weren’t called.“
“Oh, do the women have different, good ideas? Would the men want them to join in and contribute?“
“Yes, but they’re not asked.“
“Some of the men are writing things on paper, perhaps the women could do the same?“
The kind of silence that goes with a new thought and processing an idea that leads to action.
I wasn’t aware of when the pastor got up and walked out but later I noticed many of the women had also left. Around 2 o’clock when things were wrapping up, the women returned with one passing two or three pages of suggestions to a WVI staff member who acknowledged the women’s paper and added it to the other contributions for later reference.
The light drizzle turned into rain as we walked back to the aircraft. Soaked. Normally it would be good when leaving the heat of the lowlands, to climb up high above the clouds to the cooler smooth air for the one hour flight to Mt Hagen. But with no heater in the aircraft and wet clothes, it was quite chilly, in fact rather cold but that didn’t matter, it had been a great day.
Thanks WVI for your commitment to the people of Musula. Your projects will be a huge blessing to everyone.