This man is my hero.
His name is Peter Haiya. He is a Huli, from Tiba, in Hela Province, Papua New Guinea. 35 years ago he single-handedly helped me avert disaster, spiritual disaster, and keep on the path of my destiny.
I was young and green and thought I could conquer the world. I was the lone foreigner among a group of local men, heading over a range of mountains, as requested by some super-remote people, the Sinali, Bogaya and Agala tribes [population perhaps 700]. Our goal was to make contact and lay a foundation for presenting the Gospel to them.
Early on the second day [of 4 or 5 days of rigorous – 10-hours – climbing up and down over huge, steep mountains] the following happened.
The witnesses there claim I was hit with a sudden, demonic attack. I was shaking, my eyes turned red, my memory sees things as an observer from outside rather than a participant.
The men surrounded me, prayed, and were deciding that we needed to turn back. “How can we take our missionary all the way there, what if he dies. We will never be able to bring him back [meaning, it would be difficult to carry my dead body all they way back, which they would have to do according to custom].”
In the middle of this stress and commotion, Peter raised his voice and spoke his mind. With firm conviction, and sure and steady voice, leaving little wiggle room for debate, he said: “We started this journey believing God is with us. Now that we have a slight problem, we are really giving up? Are we telling God that he is no longer with us?”
The rebuke took hold. The men took hold of me. They prayed bold and fervent prayers, all together, outloud. After some time, change clearly took place. My eyes cleared; the shaking stopped. I was no longer an observer. I joined in with their prayers. And without even discussing things there was a unanimity of spirit, heart and mind among us, that indeed we should proceed with the mission.
Without you, my brother Peter, my life would be a shell of itself. I would have failed my calling and probably never made it back. We made many trips back and forth over those mountains, you even went back last year. You are my hero.
The people not only heard the Gospel, they found transformation. They forgave their enemies. The fighting stopped. They learned of Jesus Christ and trusted Him. They learned to read and write. They got medical help. Life expectancy has doubled. Population has greatly increased. And people in nearly every hamlet worship the Living God.
Peter, I can’t wait to get to heaven and see what rewards our Lord will honor you with! You deserve much. You remain my hero.