“Curt, have you ever rode a motor bike?” asked Dave, a veteran missionary from Australia. I thought back to the one time I drove a friend’s motorcycle around the block and replied, “No, but I grew up riding four-wheelers and a three-wheeler.” That answer seemed to reassure him that I was up for the challenge of riding into an isolated village. Serving with New Tribes Mission means joining a team of many missionaries doing various jobs with the one goal of reaching the lost – no matter how secluded they may be. On this particular morning, I would be joining Dave whose primary ministry is finding unreached people groups in remote parts of the country. He essentially explores the rural areas of the Philippines looking for spiritual life and his primary tool is a Honda dirt bike. I arrived at his house and he gave me knee and shin protection as well as a new shirt to wear. A few minutes later, Richard, another missionary, showed up on his dirt bike. Richard’s primary ministry is being a language consultant to tribal missionaries. I also learned that Dave’s ten-year-old son would be joining us too, so how hard of a ride could it be? Kristin took our picture and then we were off. Twenty minutes into the ride, the ONLY thing keeping me going was my own pride knowing that I was holding up a ten-year-old boy riding behind me. We started off on easy terrain but things quickly changed. Soon we were riding on animal trails along mountain ridges and crossing rivers and streams. In the back of my mind I heard my father’s voice saying, “Curt, there are two kinds of motorcycle riders: ones that have been down and ones that are going down.” My goal for the day then became to not lay
the bike down! At some point I realized getting back on the same trails to go home would be significantly harder. Dave reassured me in his Australian accent, “Not to worry, we’ll take an easier route on the way home.” At that moment, my stress level dropped and for the first time since leaving his home I thought to myself, “I can do this!”
After riding a few hours and crossing a few rickety wooden bridges, Dave said we were not too far from the village we had come to visit. I had been so busy trying to stay and keep up that I didn’t stop to enjoy where we were and the incredible scenery all around me. We had passed countless rice fields which reflected the mountains in the background. In the distance I could see small fires and evidence of people living in very isolated and hard-to-reach areas.
After roughly three hours of riding, we came over a peak and we could see a small village in the valley. We rode into the middle of the village and parked our bikes. The people greeted us warmly and we all sat under a hut to rest while the missionaries spoke to the leaders. I learned that Allen, the missionary to this people group, rode his dirt bike into this location nearly every day. After years of studying the culture and language, he was ready to begin teaching them God’s Word. He told me that when the elders had agreed to let him come into their village he had to help with community development. An elder recently told him, “You’ve helped us with clean water and many other things, but there’s one thing you haven’t done. You haven’t taught us God’s Word yet!” Allen smiled when he said this knowing God’s Word was his sole reason for being there. Allen recently passed his final language check and will begin teaching them God’s Word in their own language for the first time in history.
I thought it was a little odd that in the middle of nowhere there was a village with a basketball court in the center. I later learned that pouring a concrete slab was part of the community development project that Allen had done. This allowed them to dry many of the crops they grow in their gardens. We didn’t have a long time to visit, but I managed to play a little basketball and take some pictures of Dave’s son playing too.
Driving back wasn’t nearly as hard as getting there, however, with pouring rain and diminishing light, it was still a challenge for a rookie like me. At one point we came up to a large river and a collapsed bridge. I saw two small boats and realized that would be our bridge to the other side. We fit four bikes on the makeshift “ferry” and in a few minutes, we were unloading safely on the other side.
Around 5 o’clock, I arrived back at the guesthouse where Kristin and Sadie were eagerly awaiting my return. The whole trip ended up being 90 miles and I am thankful what I was able to do it safely. I came away from the experience having a greater understanding and appreciation for the many people involved in church planting. I am amazed at how God can use someone’s hobby (Dave rode dirt bikes in Australia) to help reach people with the Gospel. I am humbled and eager to see the progress of this work and hope to someday go back and visit brothers and sisters in the Lord.