Stars Over New Guinea
October 31, 2023
This week we’re featuring a story from Ryan Harty, one of our Global Impact Partners, who serves with his family as a Bible translator in Papua New Guinea:
“There’s no darkness like the darkness that falls at the ends of the earth in Papua New Guinea. The night sky was ablaze with stars, the moon hadn’t risen yet, and the Milky Way striped through the sky like the Sob people’s footpaths cut through the jungle. We had spent a week helping Igoi village prepare for a bride price ceremony, and this night was the biggest celebration we had seen in our time there. Our friend Ari had paid his bride price, and as night fell, we were eating the bride price celebration meal. Sarah and I were tired from the week of helping Ari’s family, and I was tired from navigating life in three languages.
The village guys were sitting around a fire eating their pig meat with joy. My sons Jonah and Solomon were a little too interested in the camp fire, and I was hoping to redirect their attention to something a bit safer. I took them aside and started pointing out things I could see in the night sky. I pointed out Venus and Mars, I showed them Crux, the Southern Cross. The Sob guys started paying attention to me, so I pulled out my phone and opened my star finder app. “Here’s Alpha Centauri and the Southern Pleiades. And over here are the Bear (Ursa Major) and Orion the Hunter” I said. “Look, the Hunter is chasing after the Bull.” My sons were getting bored quickly.
But the Sob guys weren’t bored at all. They kept asking me to show them more and more. How did we know the names for these stars? When was the moon coming up? Are there really people on the Space Station? Is it true that your people have landed on the moon? I was happy to answer their questions and not be responsible for carrying the conversation. This went on for awhile, and slowly the guys dwindled to just one.
The last young man with me was Elmis. He came in closer to me, and lowered the volume of his voice the way Sob people do when they have something important to say. He said, “I’ve wondered my whole life if Christianity is true or whether the Bible was true. Tonight, I know for sure that it’s true.” I just looked at him stunned. I asked him, “What happened tonight that made up your mind?” He answered me, “God says he was the one who made the Bear and Orion the Hunter [see Job 9:9 and 38:31; Amos 5:8]. I just thought these were stories but not real, but tonight you showed me the Bear and the Hunter. I see that God made these things and they’ve been with me my whole life.”
There are times in the life of a missionary when you walk out of your house and you know you’re heading out to evangelize or teach. There are times when you are sure you’re doing something that will make it into a newsletter for people back home. And then there are mundane moments when you’re just trying to get your kids to bedtime and keep them out of a campfire, and God uses the moment for something profound.
The Lord has been at work among the Sob people of Papua New Guinea for centuries past. Paul tells us in Romans 1:20 that God has never been without a witness, even in the remotest parts of the earth where no one has preached Christ: “[His] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” The ancient mountains of the Sob people, the stars over their heads, and the splendor of the thunder or the rainbow have testified to the Creator God since time immemorial. And now, more and more of God’s word comes each year to the Sob people in their own language. The splendor of the Gospel in the Sob language shines brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way. Bless the Lord who has spread out the stars in the sky, who has revealed himself in his creation, and who lives forever and ever to redeem humanity to the farthest stretches of the earth.”