Thiefs in the night

I am tired of writing about thiefs in Papua New Guinea, because this is such a beautiful country with such beautiful people. But this robbery was the worst one yet. Not only did they steal from us but I was also attacked by one of the thiefs with a deadly weapon. I wasn’t hurt but when I realized how bad it could have been, I stood shaking in disbelief. Again, these thiefs were only kids. Teenagers. Opportunistic thiefs who just want some of the wealth of the white man. I see it as a problem of the age, where globalization is playing a huge factor into changing these young lives. It is a battle between the modern and the traditional, and now more than ever do we need healthy relationships, strong role models and good leaders.

I woke up around 0440 hearing noises out on deck. This is not out of the ordinary as one of the crew could be up to go pee. But the person out on deck was not very considerate, walking loudly around. I pop my head up and sure enough, we have an unwelcomed visitor on board. A teenage boy who is carrying some of our stuff. I jump out on deck and chase the thief off the boat. He jumps into a waiting canoe and then throws something at me, which I dodge. I am shouting «HEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?» Billy and Sammy get up on deck too and are shouting at them. They seem to be ready to fight, but decide to paddle away.

Naomi runs to find the security guard while Billy and Sammy lower the dingy to chase after them. Then we realize that they have stolen the outboard engine for the dingy… Naomi returns with four of the PNG guys from YWAM Madang. We decide to chase after them on the Vaka Hop’e. By the time we cast off they are out of sight, but we pursue them in the direction of where they fled.

Not long after we approach a fisherman and ask him if he has seen a canoe escaping us. He pointed towards land a little bit behind us. I go over there and beach the Vaka Hop’e to let the boys ashore. They push me off and head into the bush to look for the canoe and the boys. Me and Naomi stay back on the boat. We noticed a small sledgehammer laying next to her hatch and realized that it had come from the thiefs. We were wondering if this is what he had thrown at me, but I didn’t think so. It was way too heavy and what he threw looked to be more light weight.

Dawn is breaking and the village is stirring. The boys found the canoe and the owner of the canoe who was furious that some kids had used it to steal from us. Nobody knew who the thieves were, but they were going to investigate. This village is part of the mainland and the thiefs could come from anywhere. Naomi starts to make pancakes for the boys when they return. Soon we go over to a wharf to pick them up and we say goodbye to about 50 people from the village who had shown up.

We motor back to our dock and have breakfast together, listening to their stories from the chase. It was then we noticed two big dents in my hatch. Could they be from the sledgehammer? I pick it up and take it over, and sure enough, the dents fit the hammerhead. This kid had thrown a sledgehammer at me! I stare in disbelief and I am shaking. That could have been so bad! If he had hit me, I could have been seriously injured or dead in worst case scenario.

The attack scared me more than the theft. We were supposed to leave that same day, but we decide to stay one more day in Madang, hoping that we could retrieve at least our outboard engine for the tender. I happen to have the number of the chief detective of Madang Police who was the guy who stopped us with machine guns on our way to Madang, and I give him the details. For the rest of that day and the next, I did not feel safe anymore. I started noticing suspicious people and armored vehicles everywhere. It was like I was attuned to the dark side of Madang.

The next night we saw several suspicious «divers» and canoes roaming around us. Even the local guys we had with us said that this is not normal. We scared them off by shining a light on them and we had Billy stay up all night to stand watch. He had to use the torch to scare off several canoes. They could have been, and probably were, fishermen, but there could also have been someone with evil intentions. We were not eager to find out.

It is so sad how a few people can leave you with a bitter taste of the whole population. The PNG people are amazing as a whole, but these many thefts we have experienced have made it feel unsafe to be here. Trust has been broken, several times. Every time it has been youth who have been stealing from us. The next generation of Papua New Guineans. They probably just want a better life for themselves. Maybe they feel entitled to some of our wealth since we have so much of it? But does that make it right?

Papua New Guinea was a dark place of wars and deceit only hundred years ago. Headhunters and cannibals. Thousands of tribes, constantly at war with each other. What changed this country was the introduction of the gospel. The power of peace through the gospel and later government. This is why missionaries have a good standing here, because it is so recent history and the changes the gospel brought were so extreme. Like light and darkness. But the current generation has not experienced this. They have grown up during the age of globalization and all they see is how poor they are compared to the rest of the world.

Papua New Guinea is becoming a dark place again, and what is the answer? I believe the answer is the same as it was before. When Papua New Guinea emerged from darkness to light. The power of the gospel is the same as it was before. It may look different, but it works the same. The love and peace of Jesus is the way to light and life. But this time, I believe the change will come from within. From local Papua New Guineans who are filled with the spirit to show and lead by example. That’s my prayer, and I was greatly encouraged by the many men and women who we met in YWAM Madang. Passionate about Jesus and faithful to the mission. That is where the future lies, lives transformed by the love of Jesus.

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