Bibles to Holuwan: A Light For their Path by Linda Ringenberg
The ladies of the village of Holuwan were waiting. They were dressed up, excitedly swaying back and forth and chanting in their Yali tongue. They were waiting for the MAF plane to land, bringing them Bibles in their own language.
The Cessna Caravan touched down and taxied to the top of the mountain air strip. As pilots Dave Ringenberg and Peter Santana shut down the engine and climbed out, the colorfully dressed village women continued to chant and sway. Dave remarked, “It felt like we were on holy ground. It was a holy moment—one to be remembered.”
Fifty-two years before this moment, other Yali men were waiting—but not in the open. These renowned jungle warriors were hiding, bow and arrows in hand, near the path that wound through their Seng Valley territory. They were waiting to ambush the two strange-looking white men whom they had heard about. These men had brought a new message to the surrounding tribes–one that went against their witchcraft and warring. Finally, they ambushed missionaries Stan Dale and Phil Masters and began mercilessly pelting them with arrows. The two missionaries stood their ground and began pulling the arrows from their bodies and breaking them in two. Over 200 broken, bloodied arrows lay on the ground before they fell and died. They had come to scout out a place for a new airstrip in order to begin evangelizing this particularly hostile Yali tribe with the gospel of Christ.
Three months after the deaths of Stan Dale and Phil Masters, a tragic MAF plane crash claimed the lives of the pilot and the Newman family, with the exception of their youngest son, Paul. Paul miraculously stumbled out of the burning wreckage and found himself in the same valley where the missionaries had been martyred. He happened upon the hut of a Yali man who had not been in favor of killing the missionaries, and that man kept Paul safe until a search party came looking for survivors. This second contact with Westerners opened the door for interaction with this Yali tribe. Amazingly, they believed this second visit from strange white outsiders was a sign and asked for missionaries to move into their village. Five years later the first 35 believers in the Seng Valley were baptized, and church was born in this previously hostile area.
In present day Holuwan, the villagers helped unload the precious cargo from the MAF plane: boxes wrapped in gunny sacks that contained newly printed Bibles in their own Yali language. This was a reprinting of the original Southern Yali Bible that had been completed in June of 2000, translated over a span of thirty years by different World Team missionaries and Yali language helpers. The very first book ever translated into the Yali language was the book of Mark by Stan Dale himself and a Yali man named Luliap Pahabol. Prior to his death in 1968, Stan and his family lived in Ninia among a different Yali tribe where they had established an infant church. Luliap was the very first Yali man to receive the gospel. Stan was working on translating the book of Acts when he was killed.
And now, instead of waiting for war, the Yali church is waiting for more Bibles in their language. There are not enough Bibles for the community. So last year, their church organization (GIDI) ordered more to be printed in Jakarta and shipped to the MAF hangar in Papua.
MAF recently delivered some of the Bibles to the Yali villages of Dekai and Oakbisik. In Dekai the Bibles were divided and given to church evangelists and pastors. In Oakbisik people from neighboring villages walked for a full day to receive the Bibles. The remaining load needed to go to Holuwan.
After the Bibles were unloaded in Holuwan, MAF pilots Dave and Peter asked the people if they could open one box and pull out a Bible to use for a picture. As the villagers agreed, Dave asked, “Which verse of the Bible do you want it open to for the photo?” A Yali Pastor named Minus immediately responded, “Psalm 119:105. ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.’”
Because God, in his far-reaching love, worked through a killing, a plane crash, faithful missionaries and translators, and organizations like MAF, these Yali tribes no longer walk the path of darkness. Their path is lit by the word of God.