Bang! Bang! Bang! The deep booms reverberated through the mountains behind our house. The explosions seemed close, and they instantly had my attention. “Is that gunfire or firecrackers?” I thought. The explosion must have been a firecracker I decided much to my relief.
For the last five weeks leading up to Christmas and New Years there have been firecrackers set off almost every day. These aren’t the little sparklers or “poppers”, these are ones that send up a firecracker above the trees resulting in a very small show of lights and a big “bang” similar to the sound a rifle makes when it is fired.
I’m not so tense anymore after five weeks, but for many weeks the sound would send fear into my heart and send my young 7 year old daughter running to me wanting to know if it was gunfire. It would instantly send me cringing and wondering if all my family were inside and accounted for. It has only been last week that my kids go running to the window to see if they can get a peek at the show.
I didn’t expect this to be my reaction, and it showed me that the last two years have had their challenges. Before we moved to Wewak, we lived in Ukarumpa where the bangs were not the happy sounds of young boys playing, but were the sounds of high powered rifles as two local villages fought each other. We were never in any danger except for the possibility of a stray bullet, but they were tense moments for us.
We would listen to the shouts of people in the village and see the smoke rising from the burning houses. We would see people jumping the fence surrounding the center where we lived as they fled the fighting. We saw mothers floating down the river until they pulled themselves onto the bank to hide in the tall grass. Most of all, we spent much time in prayer and anxious waiting.
It really affected us because these were our friends in trouble. So much was lost as houses burned. Would our friends be alive at the end of the day? Our hearts ached with theirs. Their crying was joined by our crying. Their relief at finding people accounted for was shared with our relief.
Caring for others often means giving of ourselves both in times of joy as well as times of sorry. It affects us and changes us. And maybe this week I’ll even see some fireworks.
[Editor’s Note: The conflict between the two villages was resolved some time ago and peace was restored. You should also know that during this time of conflict our administration here in PNG was actively monitoring the situation to not only ensure our safety but also to try to do everything within their power to bring resolution.]