Jesus in the Jungle – 13

I left Bougainville 16 days ago and a piece of my heart remains there. I can’t stop thinking about her inimitable people and the raw unspoiled beauty of the land.   Truthfully, I’m ready to go back now. I feel like there’s something unfinished between us.

What is there about this island that is 75 miles long and 50 miles wide with a population of 175,000 that is pulling on me so strongly?  Before we arrived, I wondered if I would have culture shock. What would the islanders think of us?

We landed at Buka airport (Northern end) and there was plenty to process immediately. I actually found it exciting and exhilarating  to be somewhere so different from home. I took it all in – as much as I could. We piled everyone and all the luggage into taxis and went a short distance down to the waterfront where we loaded into a banana boat (water taxi) to cross a short waterway from Buka Island to the main island of Bougainville.


Once across we loaded all the luggage into the back of Dave and Royree’s truck and  headed to their adopted village to spend the night. Piling in the back of trucks is the way the people travel the island. It was the ultimate “convertible” experience! We garnered plenty of attention from the locals.

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As soon as we arrived in the village, we were given a very warm and inviting welcome. The girls made us leis with tree leaves and presented them to us. Dave had been in the village for nearly two months working with them. He’s doing his best to help them get tin roofs on their huts so they can collect clean rain water for drinking.  They love the Jensen family so much they adopted them into their family and gave them the land to live on. It will stay in their family forever. They even made Dave one of the chiefs. They were very excited to see Royree and Sharene (Dave and Royree’s daughter) and their grandkids Eric and Amy. That night they had a special gathering for us. Poppa Joe, one of the village chiefs, welcomed us and the people sang after Royree gave a short greeting and message about Jesus. Many of the Bougainvilleans speak English but their native tongue is Tok Piskin – or Pidgin.

The next morning Royree showed me around the village and we shared gifts with the children we had brought. Family, community, and land are everything to Bougainvilleans. That and their freedom that they have been fighting so hard to win for many years.  I’ll tell you more about that in the coming days. I had an instant affection for the people. They know no pretense, they honor others, they share everything. What belongs to one belongs to all.   These islanders survived an ugly war for over a decade in the recent past and they lost 10% of their population. They know what is important. Family members are never disowned.  They don’t have the luxuries we have in the West but they have something on the inside that we don’t.  I found myself envious of their strength, loyalty, and courage. I wanted to get to know them better. I know I must go back.

Pictures truly are worth a thousand words (and I’m a filmmaker!) so instead of describing what I saw here’s another video so you can see for yourself.

The next day we drove down the island to Arawa. It was there I met the most intriguing man I have ever met.  I teared up every time I was in his presence. I’ll introduce you to him next time.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear from you!

Sondra Martin Hicks

Jesus in the Jungle – 16

Being vulnerable…….ugh.  My definition of this is exposing our heart and soul to others, much of the time with fear and trembling I might add. And why do we have this fear and trembling?  Because of the beast called – FEAR OF REJECTION! What does this have to do with Jesus in the Jungle? Well, here goes.

Before we left the states for Bougainville, I had a dream where I saw Jesus in the Jungle. Toward the end of our trip, we were treated to an afternoon at a private island. Private meaning that no one lives there.  We had the island to ourselves. I took a walk on the beach by myself and ventured into the jungle. I stopped in my tracks. The scene in front of me was just like the scene in my dream except Jesus wasn’t standing there. I waited. I looked around wondering if I would see something unusual. I didn’t. I turned on my camera and recorded as I walked through the jungle. The atmosphere was rich with animal sounds. I didn’t see Him with my eyes but I felt Him walking with me. It became a very intimate moment between Jesus and me. I felt such love for Him that I began to sing a song from my teenage years, “I Love you Lord” and it was recorded on the video. My singing is so bad that I felt awkward even with no one else around. But I knew that Jesus didn’t hear my voice as terrible because He was hearing my heart that was so full of love for Him.

Now to the vulnerable part. When I woke up yesterday morning I felt the Lord ask me to share this video with you. I said, “This is a joke, right? Please tell me you’re kidding?” Well, He wasn’t. I did pray for humility one time and apparently He hasn’t forgotten!!! As I thought about His directive I began to realize something.  For nearly all of my life, until the last three to five years, I wore fear of rejection like a suit of armor. I classified myself as a Non-Hugger. People often remarked, “You just think you’re so tough but I know you’re not.” I hated hearing that. I wasn’t tough and I hated that I came across like that. So I made a conscious decision to start tearing that wall down. I asked God to melt my heart, to heal my heart. Every one of us has deep wounds and hurts and we all avoid rejection like the plague.  We all put up walls to keep others at a distance to avoid getting hurt. But here was my big “aha” moment.  The walls I put up weren’t keeping me from getting hurt — they were keeping my heart of love and compassion from coming out like I felt on the inside.

Over time, the lover of my soul answered my prayer inch by inch, foot by foot.  Maybe I still have some wall up and that’s why I need to share this video. I don’t really know what His wisdom is but I know He does. But I do know this, we fear vulnerability and it’s vulnerability that draws people to us. It’s what begins a true deep relationship with another. When we expose something on the inside it gives room to another to do the same. It builds trust. It builds a “I understand and trust you and you understand and trust me” relationship.  I’ve learned that being vulnerable is actually the best way to live. Of course, we have to use wisdom to know when it’s ok to open ourselves to another and when it’s not.

The most satisfying way to live is the way Jesus told us to — to give ourselves away and love. Love without needing anything in return. “….but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Phil. 2:3  Tearing the walls down around our heart is essential to doing this. Love has to be able to flow freely back and forth. It brings freedom and nothing beats freedom.

So what about the dream of seeing Jesus in the jungle? Was He there or not?  Maybe in the dream He was telling me it was ok to go to Bougainville and that He would be there waiting for me.  He was, every moment.

Something has happened to me since April 2nd.  I think in all the beautiful encounters I had with Him before I left He was giving me a revival of sorts. He gave me a new revelation of His love. I love others more now because I feel more loved. And feeling the prayers of so many that covered us Has been the best part of the experience. Knowing that I am part of God’s family that loves one another because He loves us is the best feeling in the world. If being vulnerable helps me feel more of that then sign me up. I’m all in.

Loving Him – and You,


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