A small flame

A small flame

Down Memory Lane - Fourth Grade

This is the sixth post in a series of 12 posts scheduled by Mommy's Piggy Tales, which encourages women to record stories from their childhood for future generations to enjoy.


In about 1980, my Dad had begun working with a remote group of people in an area of PNG called Simbai. Some young men from a village there had come to our little town to go to school. During their time in school, they had heard the Gospel and had begun personal relationships with Christ. They eagerly shared their new faith with their families and a short time later Dad, as their missionary contact, got an invitation to visit the village.

For the next 20 years, my Dad made regular trips to the Simbai - a 45 minute flight by small airplane, and then a 5 or 6 hour hike through the mountains into a village called Timbai. His ministry there has born much fruit and there are now many small churches tucked into the valleys and mountain ridges there.

When I was in fourth grade, my parents planned to take our entire family to Timbai village. Packing for the trip must have been a huge undertaking, though I was young enough that I don't remember much about it. What I do remember is that I was not allowed to take any dolls with me. My parents explained that it would be a unnecessary distraction to our time there for me to take things like toys and dolls into this village where people had next to nothing. I tried to understand their reasoning, but I wasn't happy about the decision!

Knowing that my Mom and 4 small children could not make the rigorous hike he made each time, Dad had hired a local mining company that owned one of the few vehicles in the area to take us part-way to the village. The 'road' was the rough, winding, very-narrow-in-places trail that my Dad usually walked. Crowded into the open back of a beat up truck with all our gear (no cage or tarp this time!) we bounced and jolted along for several hours. Eventually, we came to the end of the place the truck could go and we unloaded. We were met by believers from the village who hoisted our bags and boxes onto their shoulders and heads and took off over the mountain while we followed slowly behind.

with Mom outside our hut in Timbai

My Mom was the first white woman and we were the first white children who had ever visited Timbai village. While some of the men had ventured outside of the village at some point for work or school, the elderly, the women and children had lived their entire lives in its isolation and had never seen white women and children before.

Needless to say, our visit was a huge event! Someone in the village had vacated their hut so we could stay in it during our visit there. They had dug a new outhouse for us and had even made us a special 'bath house' whose walls were made with a covering of lush, green ferns. As the week wore on, the ferns slowly wilted and dried and the bath house became more and more 'air conditioned'.

the bed sleeping-bag room

Our visit to Timbai came at the height of corn harvesting season. There was more corn available than I had ever seen in one place, so I guess it had been a good growing year. Each day, the village people brought us coal-roasted corn and other vegetables to eat. Delicious!

Since there was so much corn around the village, my Mom suggested that we make me a corncob doll to keep me occupied during our stay. We fashioned her body and head from husk-wrapped corn cob pieces and gave her a corn husk dress, twigs for arms, and even a little face stitched on with thread Mom had brought with her. I named her
Priscilla, which seemed like a suitably old-fashioned name to me.

with Priscilla outside our hut

I think I may have made a few other similar dolls to play with that week too, but Priscilla was the masterpiece. When our visit in Timbai ended and we trekked back home, I took her with me. I still have her, carefully tucked away in a box in the attic.



Mom2three said...

I have so much enjoyed reading your stories. You had such rich experiences and memories. I cannot imagine being the first white people that the village encountered. Does Pricilla still look the same? When was the last time you saw her?

Gretchen said...

Rachel, I had chills and was CRYING. . . what an amazing adventure. I know you were just a child at the time, but don't you see that now, looking back? WOW! I love your little Priscilla doll. I'm SO GLAD you kept her. Precious. Also fascinating to hear about the corn harvest and the food you were brought!

scrapbookeasy said...

I really love your stories. You had such an adventurous and fulfilling childhood. It's amazing how much your dad had to hike to get to those people. What an amazing family you are apart of.

Zempel Family said...
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Donette said...

Wow, Rachel. I just can't even identify with your upbringing. Someday you must write a book! To think that we growing up at the same time and experiencing such different lives is amazing! And how cool that God brought us together those few times during childhood, and then again at this point in our life? I seriously can't wait to read each installment. Thanks for writing this!

coolestfamilyontheblock said...

How sweet that you still have your dolly after all these years. See, if you would've brought a doll with you, you may never had made Priscilla. Has she held up well?

Amy@ MomsToolbox said...

What an adventure!

Thank you so much for sharing your story... and what an amazing one, at that!

MrsH said...

Your parents must have been incredibly faith-filled people, to have taken you and your siblings on all these adventures. I'm always touched reading your stories.

Rachel said...

Thanks, everybody, for the supportive comments!

I didn't play with Priscilla much after we went back home. As the materials she was made of dried out, she became more and more fragile and I didn't want to destroy her by playing with her. She is in a little clear protective case in a box of things from my childhood and she looks just like she did all those years ago in TImbai.

It has taken me a very long time to see my childhood as unusual. To me, these adventures were every-day reality - my personal 'normal'. Even as I write these Piggy Tales posts, I sometimes have the sensation of it dawning on me all over again just how unusual it all was, compared to {for example} what my sons' growing up experience is.

Janna said...

I agree with Donnette- a book should be written but I'm just happy for these wonderful posts.

It really makes me want to allow my daughter to have mission experiences early on so like you it just seems normal to her.

I've always thought the mission field would be an incredible place to rear children though very hard I'm sure.

you always hear about missionary stories from missionaries but it's neat to hear them from a child's perspective.

Jessica said...

I'm reading your story backwards I guess. I'm wondering when your dad became a missionary. Maybe I should start at the beginning.