by Tom Steffan
A village welcomes a missionary team—for reasons of its own.
The rooster crowed for the third time. We Ifugao arise early. My brothers and sister were already up, sitting around the fire, having breakfast. Usually I wake at the first crowing, but today my body was extra tired from the long hike from Ekab yesterday.
After rolling up my mat, I joined my family, eager to catch up on the news after being away for a week and also to inform them of what I had heard. When I tried to ask questions about the fields and animals, they politely, but quickly, answered. There seemed to be something else on their minds. Then they asked me, "Have you heard anything in your travels about longnoses’ traveling through our area looking for a place to live?"
I told them what I had heard, "Yes, it is true. The longnoses most likely spent last night in Ungol and should reach our village in two days. Uncle Gumangan told me they are looking for a place to live and want some land to build an airstrip on."
Tonight we will have to have a village meeting to decide what we will do when they arrive.
Everyone quickly ate supper that night and then gathered around the kerosene lights under Thomas’ old house. His newly-built house had tin enclosing the bottom, so we could not meet there. When we arrived, everyone was discussing the anticipated arrival of the longnoses. After a chew of betel nut, Palay called for the people’s attention and asked me to tell what I had heard. There was a temporary silence after I finished, when the calls of night birds and insect sounds could be heard. These sounds of the night were abruptly drowned out by 60 voices all talking at once.
The sound of loud voices startled Thomas’ wife, Aginaya, who had dozed off upstairs. She could not attend the meeting because of her feverish two-year-old. Her child had been sick with a cold and fever for several weeks and was losing weight fast. The family had called in the shaman several times to perform sacrifices, but the spirits were not pleased with the offerings given. Because it was planting season, the day’s trip to Lagawe to see the doctor could not be afforded. Besides, he looked down on pagans who lived in the mountains. Aginaya looked at her restless son and knew it was God’s will that he was dying.
Palay started to sum up the villagers’ feelings. Some of the villagers were suspicious. They thought the longnoses wanted to be friendly so that after we trusted them, they would take us captive back to their homeland. Others said they wanted to learn our language so they could sell it, but the majority were in favor of having them come.
As Palay was speaking, both lights flickered out, the kerosene consumed. Thomas embarrassingly apologized for not having more and quickly climbed the ladder of his house to get some pitchwood. As he left, I heard him mumbling something about this being heavy to carry. When he returned with the lighted wood, the meeting continued.
We agreed to offer them whatever they asked for. The prestige our village would gain by having longnoses living in it, and an airplane coming in and out, would be worth any sacrifices necessary. We would do anything to make sure no other village would beat us by having the longnoses live with them.
The next morning, I rose early, for there was much to do before the longnoses arrived. After breakfast, I chopped firewood and then went to the jungle to gather more. When the sun was beginning its descent, I hoisted a bundle of wood to my shoulder and headed for home.
On the way, I met Carlos who was moving his water buffaloes to a new grazing area. As we walked along, he mentioned that he had been out of salt for some time now for his water buffaloes. We decided that we would make the day’s journey to the big salt rock after planting season. I always dreaded the return trip from the salt rock because the salt is so heavy. But, that’s life. As we turned the last corner, we could hear many voices in the village. The longnoses had arrived.
Pablo filled us in when we arrived. The longnoses had looked at Thomas’ house and were willing to rent it. Thomas gladly accepted, anticipating a new source of income and a new relationship that was bound to be advantageous economically. They asked Thomas to sign his name on a paper, but he could not because he did not know how to write. Pablo was not sure why they wanted a piece of paper with Thomas’ name on it.
He also told us the longnoses would not accept the rice wine Palay offered them. Palay was very upset at their refusal of our village’s hospitality, but they had not noticed his anger. Palay had shown them a site for landing their plane, but they said it was too short. He showed them another place, and they thought it could be built there. The longnoses seemed very pleased that it was so close to the village. They sweated profusely and stumbled a lot on the trails. These longnoses are very different, but we will give whatever they want so they will live with us.
The next morning, the longnoses said they would return in one moon to begin work on the airstrip. After they left, several villagers brought out rice wine, and we celebrated our victory. The longnoses would be living in our village. No longer would we have to make the long trips to the salt rock, as the airplane would bring salt directly to our village-and not only salt, but medicine, kerosene, and clothes.
The longnoses also said they would teach us how to read so we could read God’s Word. The lowlanders will no longer be able to cheat us once we know how to read. We also discussed ways we could sell these goods to other villages. God has surely blessed us. We will become rich.
Meanwhile . . .
Although having traveled rough mountain trails for the last eight days, the missionaries felt an extra source of strength as they started home. God had answered their prayers. He had led them to a village that was receptive to them and desired to learn God’s Word. They could hardly wait to reach home and report this good news to their co-workers.
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