Voice from the Jungle of Papua

Let's work without complaining.

Jeane Manusama Edited by Gina Wahlen

Jeane Manusama, along with her husband, Alfian, and four children, ranging in age from 20 months to 9 years old, are serving as missionaries in the jungle of Papua, the largest province of Indonesia. In this article Jeane shares the joys and struggles of ministry in such a challenging area.

Jam Jeane Manusama, my husband is a pastor, and we have been serving in the jungle of Papua since February 2005. To get to the part of the jungle where we are serving, we must first fly in by small plane, and then we hike about six hours to reach our jungle home. We have four children—the oldest is 9 years old and the youngest is 20 months. I don’t have any background in theology but have studied management, though I am still working on my degrees.

Living in the jungle is not easy. There is nothing up there in the jungle—no stores, lights, phones, clinics, or schools. Many of the people are still naked, and most of them speak in their own dialect rather than in the Indonesian language.

We live 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) above sea level, where it is very cold and sometimes very hard to get oxygen. During our ministry I help my husband in house­to-house visitation, going from village to village finding people to help. We mingle with them and eat what they eat, and I teach them how to keep their bodies clean and healthy and also help all the mothers learn how to keep their babies healthy. I also teach the women how to read, and we give them Bible studies.

I thank God for the great opportunity that Jesus has given to me to serve in the jungle with my beloved husband and children. Yes, this is an “altar calling” to be a missionary, just what Ellen White talks about in The Desire of Ages (page 195) when she refers to the Samaritan woman at the well.

Many tears have gone into our ministry here in the jungle of Papua. It is very hard to tell about these burdens in my own words, but I hope the Holy Spirit will lead my fingers in typing this testimony.

We have served in various parts of the jungle since 2005. We live in the villages with the native people. In our first assignment we lived in a wooden house, 9 by 6 meters (about 30 x 20 feet), without a kitchen or bathroom—we had to go outside in the forest.

It was very cold, and to get things we needed in the jungle, we would climb the mountain for four hours to reach a terminal where we could get to a car that would take us where we could make some purchases. Our stipend was very small when compared with the price of food in Wamena (the nearest large village), but praise God, He always sent many angels to help us in the jungle.

After two years, the mission office moved us to another jungle called “Ndugundugu,” located in the central mountains of Papua, which is where we are now. For six months I did not see my husband because he was living alone in Ndugundugu while building a house for us and becoming acquainted with the people and helping them with basic medical needs before the rest of the family joined him.

From the West Papuan capital city of Jayapura, it takes more than two hours by small aircraft to reach a small jungle airstrip where we land. Then we climb the mountain for six hours to reach our mission field. In Ndugundugu almost everyone speaks their own dialects, but a few can speak broken Indonesian. All of the people are farmers—they plant sweet potatoes for their daily food. About 75 percent of the people are uneducated, 15 percent have finished elementary school, 10 percent have finished middle school, 4.7 percent have completed high school, and only 0.03 percent have gone to college. Those who finish high school don’t stay in the jungle—they want to live in the city. So my work up there is to teach the mothers how to be clean, healthy, and faithful and to teach them how to read so that they may read the Bible in their own dialect.

I am sorry to say this, but this work is not easy because the people there smell bad. But I thank God that He empowers me to embrace them, to eat together with them, and to visit them in their houses where pigs and people live together under the same roof. Praise God I am still in good health.

We face many challenges. Several times we have had no rice (a staple in Indonesia) to eat for many weeks and sometimes months. Sometimes we only have burned sweet potatoes. There are times when my husband must go to the mission headquarters, and he has to walk for three days through a large forest, cross a dangerous river, and climb a high mountain. But the Lord is great, and He takes care of us.

As a wife and as a human being, sometimes I am so afraid when my husband must go away for his work, leaving us for one or two weeks while he arranges for branch Sabbath Schools in other places and arranging documents with the government. But I can always feel God’s protection. Yes, God promised in Matthew 28:20 that He will be with us forever and ever, and I believe that.

Last year when we returned to our mission field, the weather was bad. As the small airplane was landing on the jungle strip between two mountains, we suddenly we heard a loud noise and the airplane stopped in the middle of the airstrip. As we climbed out of the plane, we could see that the airplane tire was flat, but we were safe because the Lord was still taking care of us. 

A few months later many people came to our house and wanted to kill us because they didn’t want my husband to enter their territory. Many people had seen our ministry and had invited us to open a branch Sabbath School in their area, but the head of another mission there was really angry and wanted to kill us. So we prayed a lot and waited for God’s instructions. Finally, some people came with the head of their tribe to tell us, “Pastor, come to our people. If not, we will have tribal war.” We decided to go, and I prayed for my husband during the meetings that he held there. Ten people were baptized, including the tribal head. Now we have two branch Sabbath Schools in that location. Our members worship on the ground on a plastic tarp so that they can be comfortable during worship. We also use the tarp for our jungle school.

As a pastor’s wife, some­times this life is very hard for me. Yes, sometimes I want to have a life like those who live in the city. But having my Bible meditation every day at 4:00 a.m. gives me strength to do God’s work with my husband. God is so good, and even though this work is very hard, we can survive in our ministry. Here we serve as doctor, pas­tor, carpenter, and teacher. We have now built a school (even though it is very simple) so that the people will have a good fu­ture and so that we can help them to be good Christians in the future. A church member gave us money, and my hus­band and I decided to use it for the needs of the school in Ndu­gundugu and to buy medicine.

Oh, sisters in the world, many times I sacrifice because I am very hungry and there is no food. Many times my tears come when I see my kids crying because they are very hungry. Sometimes I ask God, “Why? I am doing my best to serve You here in the jungle. Sometimes the people get angry and want to kill us. But why no food, no airplane schedule from the city? Are my family and I going to die because there is no food?” Many times I have asked God these questions, but the answer always echoes in my mind that “Follow Me” means to die to self. “Follow Me” is what Jesus said to His disciples, so I have decided not to complain while I do my best in God’s service.

And when we have no food, God sends His angel to our family through the local peo­ple, when they give us sweet potatoes so that we can sur­vive. And sometimes when we receive our paycheck, I ask my husband to please find some­thing—salt, noodles, cooking oil—that I can share with our church members so that I can become closer to them. Praise God, since I’ve been doing this, I have made many women friends in our mission field.

I know that God has made many sacrifices; He even died on the cross for me and for you. Let’s work without complaining, and God will give us a crown when He comes. God bless you.

Jeane Manusama Edited by Gina Wahlen

Jeane Manusama, along with her husband, Alfian, and four children, ranging in age from 20 months to 9 years old, are serving as missionaries in the jungle of Papua, the largest province of Indonesia. In this article Jeane shares the joys and struggles of ministry in such a challenging area.