We arrived in the village of Bili just after dark. It was hard to tell exactly how many people were there, but my estimate was that two to three hundred people greeted us on our arrival with singing, dancing and waving palm branches. Of all the visits I’ve done, many to remote places, I’ve never experienced a welcome quite like this. They even had a palm branch archway that the truck drove under.
It was overwhelming, and it was hard not to cry. Mama Marie (that is Marie Yalemoto, who we traveled with) walked next to me and held my hand as we walked through the excited, singing crowd. They were singing we thank you for coming, we welcome you, we have been praying for your journey, we are glad you are here. Wow. This was a much more anticipated trip than I had realized. They told us later than no foreigners from our organization had visited this village since 1995.
I flipped my camera into video mode, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a light that would stay on. I only had the flashing of the trucks hazard lights to see anything that was going on. However, you can hear the singing and get a sense of the excitement.
I couldn’t help thinking…who am I…who are we to be so excited about. But, it wasn’t about us. Our visit reminded the believers in this community that God had not forgotten them. Bigger than our plans to “capture their story”, God had a plan to use us as his encouragers…and also to use the community to encourage and inspire us…and they did just that.