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Young missionary recounts PNG experience

A large amount of material on Papua New Guinea crosses my desk, and some of the most lurid and unreliable stories are published by people who describe themselves as “missionaries”.  Here’s one - KJ

Branderhorst CAITLIN BRANDERHORST calls herself a Christian thrill-seeker.  Which doesn't involve roller coasters or skydiving. It’s spreading God's word that gives her a thrill.

Branderhorst, 19, has returned home to the USA from a missionary trip to Papua New Guinea where she spread God's word to the Pukari tribe.

After attending high school in Costa Rica, Branderhorst spent five months at a disciple training school in Australia. She had hoped to do missionary work in Indonesia, a largely Muslim country.

"Papua New Guinea wasn't exactly in my top 10 places to go," she said. "I was going to the most uncivilised country in the world." All she had were God's word, a backpack, two sets of clothes and a mosquito net, she said.

Once she landed in PNG, Branderhorst was driven through the jungle until the road ended and there was just ocean. There was a man in a bamboo boat who would take her to the Pukari tribe.

There had just been a cyclone off Australia and the waves were high, she said, making the boat ride very bumpy.  "The driver, who supposedly did this all the time, was praying in tongues," she said.

When the boat descended on where the tribe was, hundreds of people were on shore waving palm branches, welcoming the missionaries.  The last missionaries to visit the Pukari tribe in the 1800s were speared and eaten, she said.

One day, a man with a spear came running up to her very fast and stopped right in front of her.  "All of these thoughts came to my mind. I was thinking I am going to become a martyr; ... my parents are never going to know I am dead because I am in the middle of nowhere.

"I looked behind me and the whole village was laughing. It was a joke."

The Pukari people's diet consists of wood and leaves.  "That's what they ate every day, and that's what we had to eat every day," she said.

The closest hospital is a three-day walk in the jungle. There's no sanitation, no toilets, she said.  It was difficult for Branderhorst to communicate because the Pukari speak 800 different tribal languages and Branderhorst's group only had one translator.

"When I prayed in faith, I saw God work at a whole new level," she said.  Branderhorst said she cried when a 70-year-old tribal woman came up to her and thanked her for sharing about Jesus.

Branderhorst didn't just come into doing missionary work. Her parents, Mark and Connie Branderhorst, were missionaries in Latin America. Mark Branderhorst said he didn't know where his daughter was going to do her work.

"I had to look it up on a map, and I did a little research," he said. Branderhorst said he is proud of his daughter for her missionary work. "She has not shied away from His will in her life," he said.

Caitlin Branderhorst said she knows that God is passionate and missionary work is what he wants her to do.  "Half the world doesn't know him," she said. "That's our job."

Source: Visalia Times-Delta

Comments

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Cecilia Davern

Caitlin did did not have to step outside of USA to do God's work.

There are millions of poor starving homeless people in the USA to whom she could teach the word of God; or convert cheating, deceptive business executives who have created the GFC.

She could teach them to put into action that "truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues and without truthfulness progress and success in all the worlds of God are impossible to any soul."

It seems that the poor in the third world are the most romantic people and places for young Christians like Caitlin to test the strength of their faith.

Honestly, eating wood and leaves and speaking 800 different languages by 500 people is twisting the truth just a little!

Nathan Turner

Laughable. If this is indeed what "missionaries" feed the folks back home to garner more funds then it's more like Gullible's travels. This is simply pathetic in the extreme.

John Par Kagl

I am currently working amongst the last people to remain in a zero developed area, with a population of 500+, where there is very little contact with outside world.

Last year during the drought (June-September) 15 people died, including 11 children and four adults. This death toll could have been averted if we had known how to use these trees and the leaves Caitlin is talking about.

I would like to get in touch with Caitlin to help me identify these tree and the leaves.

I am led to form the opinion that this is mere exaggeration of half baked, out of the blue, baseless, evangelistic propaganda to show the world that Papua New Guinea is like this or better still yet to be shown "the light".

No wonder Christianity is failing to take deep roots.

Caitlin, you are insulting my people, my country, my heritage, and my image to the world.

Papua New Guinea is sovereign nation with its own identity.We have our own place in the global village. Please don't tarnish our image.

Are you spreading Gods word or spreading your world?

Peter Kranz

Basil - Yes, this is sad but an old story which shows much about Western ignorance.

Kinde na manmbruno pukra!

Harry Topham

Sounds like the poor innocent abroad might have been fed too much of that woody diet known as buai.

Basil Peutalo

But the story sells for more missionary funds, I believe. Sad.

Lies to do God's work? We are trampling on God and His works for mankind.

Monpi

So Caitlin thinks the Pukari diet consists of wood and leaves? Hmm, one wonders what kind of wood Caitlin eats on a regular basis!

Peter Kranz

PS, For an amusing though very politically incorrect take on how easy it is fool gullible Americans with tall tales about PNG, watch the film 'Krippendorf's Tribe' starring Richard Dreyfuss.

He invents a while fictitious tribe complete with rites and rituals in order to keep his university grant.

He even dresses up as a tribesman (they seem to have copied Hagen-style bilas) and gets into an argument with a skeptical anthropologist and throws our insults in the "Shelmikedmu" language including such gems as 'pek pek het' and 'pamuk man'.

Peter Kranz

On doing a bit more digging, maybe I was being too generous in saying the Caitlin's experiences were genuine.

The same story is repeated in the Carlotte Observer, only this time it is a young missionary called Jaclyn Loftin. And on looking more closely at the photos published under the name of Caitlin, I think they are stock tourist photos of PNG.

The whole thing looks like a hoax, but is doing the rounds of the US evangelical church web sites who seem eager to lap it up.

Peter Kranz

I believe that Caitlin's story is genuine - in fact she has an online diary of some of her experiences.

But this newspaper report has some basic factual errors which I assume to be the result of sloppy journalism, and am surprised that it was published in this form.

The reports states "Missionary to the cannibals: The Pukari were previously known to be a cannibalistic tribe and the last time they were visited by outsiders was in the 1800s."

Wrong.

"The Pukari speak 800 different tribal languages".

No - this is the figure for PNG as a whole.

"The Pukari people's diet consists of wood and leaves. "That's what they ate every day, and that's what we had to eat every day," she said."

Again no - this is physically impossible and quite ridiculous. In fact Caitlin's diary shows pictures of yams, bananans, kau kau etc for sale at a local market.

PNG is described as "the most uncivilised country in the world."

Bit of an insult to all Papua New Guineans.

I am afraid it is stereotypes like these which perpetuate ignorance about PNG. Another argument for improving general western education about PNG.

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