Police or pirates?

Coming to PNG has been such a contrast from Indonesia and Philippines. There we were left alone most of the time, but in PNG everyone wants to know who you are. They are full of kindness and joy to see you, and it is quite an honor to be received like that from complete strangers, but after our first meeting with a PNG village, we were ready to get some rest in our next destination. We also needed to fix our rudder.

When we arrived to Walis Island, we talked to some people from the village who came out to meet us in their canoe. We said we needed rest and wanted to anchor further out. After introducing ourselves and having a little talk we did just that. We needed to repair the rudder which cracked during our encounter with logs in the night. We also just wanted some peace and quiet after a very rough exposed anchorage from the day before.

I reattached the depth sounder that the log had knocked off, while Sammy and Paul started preparing the rudder. While we worked, some canoes came out to talk to us and bring us fruits. At this point we had plenty from the day before, but the pile kept growing. We chatted with them from the back of our boat, but this time we didn’t invite them on board. They were happy and we were able to dismiss them to continue to work on our rudder. We screwed four stainless steel screws through the big crack and then put two layers of fiberglass and epoxy around it. As long as it holds to Solomon Islands, I am happy.

We have a few more canoes come by as the evening goes, all of them friendly. But as night falls we hear a fiberglass boat launch from the beach. I know they will want to come see us as it is too dark to go anywhere, and I go up to the bow to greet them. The boat is full of big Papua New Guinean men and when I greet them they say nothing in return. All serious and looking straight forward. As I move to the back I notice one of them holding a big gun. They come alongside the boat shouting, «police, police!». If I was a pirate, that’s what I would say also… But what can we do but to obey. Now we see that they have three guns…

Their demeanor was very serious and unfriendly, unlike most PNG encounters. We do our best to deflect the situation and invite them onboard, unsure if that is a good idea. They demand to know who we are and want to see our passports. Still unsure if they are police or pirates, we do our best to stay calm and tell them why we are here. Again the title of being a missionary will help us, either way. I have to explain it to them several times and they all seem power hungry and unorganized. All wearing normal clothes and no ID.

In the end they demand us to move closer to the village as there are pirates roaming around in these waters. They will protect us there. Last week there had been two incidents of piracy and the police boat had just escorted a dead body back to this island. We say we would rather stay as the bay was too deep. In the end they let us. Then, just before they go, they wanted to see our passports. They flick through them without even checking for a stamp before handing them back to me. Meanwhile Sammy had gone onto the fiberglass boat, talking with the police men on there. Again, having a local wantok with us has saved the situation. He comes back to our boat laughing as he tells us that one of their big guns have no magazine in it.

If this is what an encounter with police is like, I would hate to encounter pirates. We are all  shaking and Paul refuses to believe that they were police. But if they weren’t, then what were they? In any case, it confirms to us that the threat of piracy is real in these waters and we must continue to do our best and pray for God’s protection.

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