I went to see Hoax the other day and found him splitting wood in order to make a fence around Ginalyn’s grave to keep pigs from rooting around in the loose ground. We talked for a while about the conclusion of the traditional customs surrounding death and as we talked, Hoax told me the family had discussed Ginalyn’s death and determined the cause. Here is the story:
A few days before Ginalyn died, a man came by the house when only Ginalyn was home and gave her two bananas which she ate. These bananas had been poisoned. The poison made Ginalyn very sick and gave her bad diarrhea (which wouldn’t stop even with medicine) and eventually led to her death. Ginalyn had told her parents about the bananas and the man after the fact, but she did not recognize and could not identify the man. Additionally, at the time he came, no one was around outside to see him.
This type of explanation is not unusual here in PNG where no one ever dies of natural causes. For many people, every death is attributed to sorcery and to a responsible individual.
Hoax told me that some of the family would use their own sorcery to determine who the man was.* Traditionally, the next step would be to take revenge on that person or his family. However, Hoax told me he doesn’t care who it was and that he would just let God judge the man.
You may be thinking, “If Hoax is a Christian, how can he believe the story about the poison when Ginalyn obviously died from the chronic, deadly disease she had been suffering with for more than a year?” My only answer would be: come live here and you will see how he can believe that. It is easy for outsiders like us to identify parts of PNG culture that seem ridiculous, unbiblical or at least unscientific, but it’s harder from the inside.
To me, the more significant thing is this: despite the fact that Hoax has not rejected all of PNG’s traditional beliefs, he is trusting in the sovereignty of God and leaving room for God’s judgement rather than taking things in his own hands. He is trusting that Ginalyn’s sickness and her death were under God’s control and so is whatever comes next. And that is something to praise God for.
*I bet it turns out to be someone they already don’t like.