Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Friend Jon

I have been friends with Jon Opa since the first week Rachel and I arrived in PNG. Jon was working on the new hospital as a painter. Jon's skills as painter leave something to be desired but, after seeing the other guys paint, Jon is a pro. Anyway, Jon is not the smartest person you will meet but he has a heart made of gold. But Jon is more than a painter and a nice guy, he is a quote machine! His English is pretty good, but he still doesn't understand that different cultures have different social standards. All that on top of not have a verbal filter makes for some pretty funny stuff. Every time I see him he will say something that makes me want to burst out in laughter, but I have to hold it in because he didn't say it to make me laugh, he said it to be informative. He are a few of the most memorable Jon Opa quotes...

-"Jordan is like my son, they are both very fat, and my son he takes after his mother." (This isn't as insulting as it might seem, being a little fat in PNG is a good thing since it means you are healthy and well fed.)
-"When I was young, one day I went to Mt. Hagen (a large town near by) and I got very drunk. Since I was drunk I started to play card games for money, and I took everyone's money. Then I ran away because I was afraid the men would want their money back.
-"In PNG we do not like our wives, we like our children. Our wives give us the children, so that is good, but we like our children more."

There are many others, but those seem to be a good sample of the hilarity of Jon.

Soon after i became friends with Jon I learned that he, like many other nationals, did not know his age let alone his birthday. So I declared that he would turn 53 on October 22nd (just an educated guess). So when October 22nd rolled around Jon came over for lunch and I gave him an umbrella, a practical gift in the land of constant rain. I told Jon, "this umbrella is for you, you can't give it to anyone else". By then I had figured out that Jon liked to give things to his family, which is great but he really needed that umbrella. From his house, Jon walks an hour and a half down the mountain to the hospital station and if it is raining he holds a piece of cardboard above his head the whole way down and the whole way back up. In spite of my insisting, Jon gave the umbrella to his wife so that she could have some shade while selling extra fruits and vegetables at the local market. (So Jon really does love his wife he just loves his kids a lot more)

Jon's heart really is made of gold when he is with his young grandson (pictured above). He loves that kid more than life itself. Jon makes about 60 cents an hour, when he has a job, so he doesn't have a whole lot of money. But when he does have money he does what ever he can to make the lives of his son and grandson better than the life he has had. Jon's shoes are always falling apart yet when he does get some money he will buy shoes for his grandson and everyone else in his family before he buys anything for himself.

Jon's life has not been easy and hearing the stories of his youth makes me very thankful for the life, opportunities, and safety I have had. When Jon was young he lived on the land he does right now, but before Jon came of age his father died. After his father's passing his mother took Jon back to the village she was from, a long way from here and any familiarity young Jon had. Once Jon came of age he moved back to his fathers land the land that was rightfully his and began a life of his own. But moving back to his fathers land meant that he was leaving his family, his seven sisters, some he has not seen or heard from since. Jon told me that he thinks four of his sisters are dead and three are still alive, but he only knows the whereabouts of two. But Jon did make the tough decision to leave his family and start a new one of his own. In starting his own family Jon married not one but two wives, an acceptable practice for non-Christians in PNG. After becoming a Christian Jon repented the error of his ways and gave his second wife the choice of staying with him and his first wife only as a worker, not a wife. Or returning to her parents free to remarry if she wished since the second wife's marriage to Jon was not valid in the eyes of God. She returned back to her parents. Also before becoming a Christian Jon was not afraid to fight in tribal disputes. I won't go into detail but Jon sustained a bullet wound to the neck which nearly took his life. Since He gave his life to the lord Jon does his best to avoid fighting since he knows that is not how God wants him or his people to settle their disputes.

Jon's life has been noticeably changed by God through Jon's faith and commitment. He says he is happier now with his life than he ever was when he was getting drunk, fighting, or had two wives. His life is a true testament to the will of God being fulfilled not only for the good of our faith but for the good of our own lives here on earth. Seeing Jon's commitment to his family and the sacrifices he so willing makes for them everyday brings new insight to what my parents did for me, and what Rachel's parents did for her. Like Jon they sacrificed of themselves to give their family the best they could. Without our parents support throughout our lives we would not be able to be here right now. Weather or not they knew it, they were fulfilling God's will in preparing us for the ministry we are involved in right now. And for all this, Rachel and I are thankful. Thankful to our families, and thankful to our God who provides.