The weather conditions in the morning were clear enough for base manager and pilot Tom to fly us out to Sinimburu, where we were able to visit the Korowai tribe that live in a remote region of the hot and humid West Papuan rainforest. Our flight took approximately 1 hour, and it was breathtaking to look down at the tropical forest floor of trees stretching hundreds of kilometres.
The Korowai tribe have adapted perfectly to this hostile environment by building their houses high in the jungle canopy, away from the dangers of flooding and unfriendly animals on the forest floor. These homes provide a perfect illustration of the Korowai’s incredible knowledge, skill and ingenuity in adapting to the demanding jungle environment. The tribe show great resourcefulness as all the materials they build their treehouses from can be found in and around the surrounding jungle.
A special feature on the Korowai people for the BBC documentary Human Planet shows one of the tribe’s most ambitious architectural endeavours. At a little over 114 feet off the ground, the incredibly impressive structure was built in two weeks. This also includes the towering ladder constructed to reach the tree house. Sadly, there was not an opportunity to see any structures of this height on this visit, it was still quite amazing to see the amazing effort put into the construction of their village.
The Korowai would have heard our helicopter approaching from a distance, and so they were all ready to greet us and to help unload the helicopter.
During my stay, I was invited into several homes, and while language was a major struggle, it was still possible to get by on basic communication. Three of the men were working very hard constructing a bridge at the end of the village.
It was wonderful to meet those that already have a relationship with Jesus, which is all down to faithful missionaries that have been living amongst this tribe over many years. Peter Jan is the local missionary that has lived amongst the Korowai long enough to learn the language and translate a large portion of the Bible into the tribes unique language. As the only form of communication of this tribe is oral, there is a great need for the Korowai to learn how to read and write. Please pray for this need to be met. While Peter has been trained by Wycliffe to do this translation work, please also pray for him to have spiritual wisdom and knowledge as he looks to finalise the translation of the Bible for these people.
It is so wonderful to see that several of the tribes people are already Christians, and some have even been trained to a degree in evangelism amongst their tribe. Since 2006, the Korowai have been open to the Gospel, however there is such a long way to go in helping them all come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. The religious background of the Korowai is filled with all kinds of spirits, some more personal of character than others. Reverence is paid especially to the (spirits of the) ancestors. To Ginol Silamtena, the creator spirit, the Korowai do not ascribe an important role in their daily lives. Once in a lifetime a Korowai clan must organize a sago grub festival in order to stimulate prosperity and fertility in a ritual fashion. In times of trouble they sacrifice domesticated pigs to the spirits of the ancestors. The Korowai have an extraordinary and rich oral tradition: myths, folktales, (magical) sayings and charms, and totem traditions. With respect to death and afterlife the Korowai believe in the existence of a reciprocal type of reincarnation: those who died can be sent back at any time to the land of the living, by their kinsmen in the land of the dead, in order to reincarnate in a newly born infant of their own clan.
It is so encouraging that there are a handful of full time missionaries like Peter Jan in this region who are faithfully sharing the Gospel with tribes like this using picture books that explain the Scriptures in a basic and clear way.
It was a great blessing to work alongside Sue, who is a missionary from Ireland, who has spent several decades serving in Papua Indonesia. She has a broader remit of reaching Papuan youth in the region in Wamena. The evening youth meeting was well attended and many of the youth gave their lives to Christ. Please pray for those that have yet to come to a full understanding of the Gospel message. Please pray for Sue’s ongoing ministry in this country to be impacting and fruitful.