"I was just a little boy when they killed my father," Max told me during our five-week stay in the village of Immi. When I asked Max how old he was when his father was killed, he said that he wasn't sure. He doesn't know the date of his birth. All he knows is that he was about the age of our oldest son Jacob (who is seven) when his father was killed in 2000 during tribal fighting. That would mean that Max is now about 20 years old. According to traditional customs, Max now has the "right" to exact revenge upon the tribe who killed his father, and because he is such a big, strong, young man, those people are very much afraid of him.
Max, however, is a Christian. And as a Christian, he has forfeited his "right" to get revenge upon the people who killed his father. Instead, when he has seen people from that tribe out in the marketplace he has given them food as a way to let them know that he is not going to pay them back for what they did to his father. In Papua New Guinea, and especially among the Engan people, payback killings are a way of life, and so it is extremely rare for a person to forgive rather than to get revenge. But Max understands that revenge is not a "right" but a sin, and that it is his duty as a Christian to love and pray for his enemies.
Max became one of our closest friends during our five weeks in Immi. We saw him nearly every day, and we shared life together eating sweet potato, learning Enga, going on walks, and even going spear fishing. Max felt personally responsible for ensuring that we were safe during our time in Immi and would sometimes sleep outside of our house at night to make sure nothing happened.
Max is one of the few people in Immi who has had the opportunity to go to school and learn English. He dreams of one day becoming a pastor, and is trusting God to provide finances for him to finish his education. And so on our last Sunday in Immi, we were able to honor Max in front of the Immi Assembly of God Church and present him with an English Bible. It will be a challenge for him to understand it well because English is not his first language, but it is a start. I look forward to the day when I can present him with the Enga New Testament!
If you would like to hear Max sing an Enga worship song that he wrote, please click here. It is called Jisasa Epea, which means Jesus Came.