The interior of West Papua holds some of the most remote tribes known on earth and even the possibilities of uncontacted peoples. For example, it was not until 1938 that the highland regions around Wamena were known to the outside world. Missionaries have been active in the region since the first discovery of the highland Dani tribes and arrived as early as 1954. Cannibalism and intense tribal wars were the common way of life in the highland as recently as the 80’s, and even today around Wamena and the Baliem Valley, you will still find that, amongst the middle aged and elderly, a traditional way of life. For example, in basing from Wamena and conducting missions in the area, we have passed through villages where we have seen ceremonial dances, tribal dress and the evidence of finger amputation. These finger amputations are usually seen in middle aged to elderly women and preformed when a family member dies — as a sign of mourning, they cutoff a finger midway down their hands. We have seen many elderly women who are missing most digits on their hands due to this practice. Men also self mutilate when a family member is lost by cutting off parts of their ears. These practices are actually still preformed today, and although rare, we have encountered younger women who have shown the signs that they have preformed the finger amputations on themselves. War and bloodshed amongst tribes and clans is well known and documented throughout West Papua, but with advancement in technology and development, this has been quelled to rare outbursts. Today, most conflict is from the Free West Papua guerrilla movement that is trying to achieve independence from Indonesia and make West Papua its own nation.
The mission for us in West Papua is the same as it has always been: Preach the Gospel, lay hands on the sick, cast out demons and take faith that no deadly thing shall harm us. Your prayers and support will be needed fervently and immediately for the interior expeditions ahead, as we will next be traveling to the Korowi tribe. In fact, as you read this letter now, we will most likely be on our way or amongst the Korowi who are a semi-nomadic jungle tribe living in towering tree houses. The Korowi, know mostly as the tree people, inhabit houses that sit atop tall jungle trees, some of which can reach over 60 feet high from the jungle floor. The Korowi are completely traditional in their way of life with little contact from the outside world. They are a hunter-gather people and live off of the forest. With such a remote people, it also makes the preparation to outfit an expedition very challenging. We will need a small airplane to drop us at the first interior launching point, then days on motor canoe where fuel is costly, then 6 days of brutal jungle marching to reach the regions where we will find them. But we know and believe that, no matter the difficulties, God will prepare a way and our expedition party will have the opportunity to share the Gospel. This is truly the ends of the earth and missions like these to the Korowi are the forefront of completing the Great Commission.