Hope in the Darkness

Sometimes as a missionary here in Papua, it’s easy to lose hope. Just outside of our gate lies a world filled with shrouded faces and absent eyes, poverty and ignorance. And in the deeper villages, a world filled with immorality, an ensuing AIDS epidemic and war. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, like we’re fighting a hopeless battle.

Dani Woman's Hand

A Dani woman’s hand. Photo by Isaac Rogers.

Recently we attended our first MAF Family Conference here in Papua. The last day of conference, I wandered into the kitchen to see where I could wash out a couple of buckets that were used for trash. An older local woman who was helping in the kitchen gently took them from me and washed them out herself. As she handed one bucket back to me, my eyes fell to her hand. Something seemed wrong with it. Then I realized with a shudder that she was missing the parts of her four fingers above the knuckle. Her thumb was still intact. A wave of compassion washed over me for this woman as I recalled hearing about the tribal tradition that when a relative died, the women who were related to that person would sever one of their knuckles with a little stone ax as a sign of their grief. I had been horrified to think about it, but now I was looking at it.

And then, hope stirred in me. I marveled that she is the first woman I have met with missing finger parts. The fact that this dark practice is much rarer in the younger generations gives me hope that the Gospel has borne fruit in the past, and will continue to work in the darkness that remains. Like a breeze that gently rustles the leaves, though it may not be visible, the Gospel is quietly working.


  • Melanie Grochowski says:

    Thank you, Linda. Just as I can relate to a feeling of hopelessness in a losing battle sometimes, so I am also mutually encouraged by how God encouraged you that He is always working! It is a gift when He opens our eyes to how He has been working all along!

    It’s also been sinking in with me that when He calls me to serve or invest in someone, I’m doing it for the sake of obedience to Him not for the sake of an outcome. He always rewards, blesses and brings fruit in my own life when I am obedient. I’ve been trying to remember that when it feels like what I’m doing doesn’t matter or the person I’m investing in isn’t responding in a way I think she should.

    Love you guys!

    • Linda Ringenberg says:

      Hi Melanie! Thanks for your comment. Just this very morning I felt like God was again speaking to me of the exact things you mentioned! So it was a confirmation to me that I heard Him right. Thanks for sharing! Miss you!

  • Henk Vigeveno says:

    Thank, Linda, for sharing this meaningful experience. We litte realize what people suffer, and how difficultg life can be for them in another culture. We see suffering in the US also of course, but thanks for giving us a glimpse of your world to which you have gone to minister for the Lord.

  • Sharon Clark Paavola says:

    I cannot fathom the kind of traditions that you encounter on a regular basis that are so foreign to us here in America! I see God has given you a heart of grace to accept and love the people as they are and hope for what God will do in the future.
    By the way, Henk Vigeveno was the interim pastor at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church where I used to attend years ago. Small world! I now am a member at Shadow Mountain Community in El Cajon. “Hello Henk!”

  • Christine Molling says:

    Linda, as always, your articles and updates are profound and thought provoking. Please know you are in our prayers as you continue on in the journey of the call God has placed upon your family’s life. May each day, bring a moment of special joy to your heart, be it a lovely fragrance, a beautiful flower, moving clouds in the sky, whatever. God continue to give you and your family, health, energy and renewed strength.
    Joy in the Journey, Marcus & Christine Molling

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