Growing up as a missionary kid in rural Papua New Guinea was a great adventure. Once we took a boat trip up a river to visit a village for Sabbath. The houses are built on stilts to help catch the breeze and keep out pesky mosquitoes. The villagers make a ladder from a log into which they cut notches for steps.
Cassowaries [kass-oh-weh-rees] are large birds like ostriches that live here. They can grow as tall as an adult and cannot fly. Their heads are red and blue, and the adults have a bony “hat” on their head.
After church on Sabbath we walked to the river for a baptism. Two pastors waded into the water, and those who were being baptized lined up on shore. The villagers gathered on the riverbank to watch and sing.
Partway through the baptism, we noticed a cassowary standing on the riverbank watching the baptism. Cassowaries are curious and like to copy what they see. This bird’s beady eyes seemed to take everything in.
Two by two the people waded into the water and were baptized by the pastors. Then they waded out, smiling broadly, as two more people entered the water. The cassowary watched the happenings for a few minutes and then waded into the water on its long legs. As the pastors lowered the people into the water, the cassowary ducked its head under the water too! We children tried not to laugh, for we didn’t want to disturb the sacred ceremony. Each time someone was baptized, the cassowary ducked its head under the water. Finally a deacon saw the cassowary and chased it away. We children were sure that God had laughed at the cassowary just as we had.
Another time Father attended a camp meeting on the same river. The villagers had built a large hall out of bush materials to protect the people from the tropical rains and the hot sun. The people sat on woven mats on the floor. The men sat on one side, and the women sat on the other. The young people and children sat in the front.
Just as the preacher stood to speak, a cassowary walked down the center aisle of the meeting hall. It walked right to the front and sat down, fixing its beady eyes on the preacher. The bird sat quietly, staring at the preacher through the rest of the worship service. When the preacher finished speaking, the cassowary stood up and walked quietly out of the hall.
That cassowary was a good example. It reminds us to sit quietly and listen to what God is telling us. And it helps us remember that God loves us all, no matter who we are. Let’s tell others that good news this week!
Colin Richardson spent much of his childhood in Papua New Guinea.