Gertrude’s Ministry at Kung Island
Dr. Jeff said “Don’t go back to Lossu village until the bat problem is resolved or you might have a more severe asthma reaction.” So, I’ve stayed away from Lossu and prayed that the Lord will speed the repairs on the house. I had some idea of how I would occupy myself but the opportunity to help Tungag teachers came as a surprise.
Since the S.I.L. Center where I am staying in Kavieng is at full occupancy, I gladly accepted the invitation to go do a literacy in-service for elementary school teachers in Taskul District, a group of islands northwest of Kavieng. Over 100 teachers attended the four-day in-service at Kung Island. All of them speak Tungag, the largest language group in New Ireland Province whose population is about 23,000. Although I had trained some Tungag literacy teachers 20 years ago, little had been done to provide curriculum materials and instruction in their language. Consequently, their students were not learning to read by grade three! Although much more is needed, I was able to help them develop reading readiness and primer drafts for publication. Their need epitomizes the needs of elementary educators throughout the province—and probably the whole country.
The Tungag people have the New Testament in their main dialect, Matvung, and it was clear that many of the teachers are walking with Lord. I was blessed to see their enthusiasm and faith in Christ. I am sure their faith has been a source of strength and encouragement through all these years of struggle within the education system.
If you had been there, you would most likely have missed having air conditioning, running water and indoor plumbing. I was glad for the spacious accommodation built of woven sago bark with a thatched roof. I like to think my room was the “luxury suite” among several rooms in the village guest house. It was big enough to fit two queen size beds! Two ladies slept on the linoleum covered floor near me the first night. I was honored to have a comfortable mattress. Just outside the house was my own semi private bath space–four poles with black plastic rigged like a shower curtain plus a gallon bucket filled with rain water. What did everyone else do? The men and women bathed near different wells on the island. My private toilet was located down a “private lane.” There was no need to flush! In the middle of the first night I discovered there were two “lanes.” Barking dogs warned that I was headed down the wrong one. The next morning I found the right lane and the fact that a beautiful white sandy beach was just a few yards away.
I would wander along the quiet beach at six in the mornings looking across at another small verdant island. The sea breeze at Kung was great for my asthma. I loved breathing in the cool ocean air. The trip to and from Kung Island took three hours by speed boat–that’s six hours of salt–water therapy! Only God knew that I would be on Kung Island during Passion Week in April 2011!
It’s amazing what 100 teachers can do within four days. I went expecting to help develop one primer and came away with materials to develop four primers in seven dialects. May the Lord give me grace to complete the task and leave the Tungag with these resources before furlough in November.