I thought I would write a little more about Yagaso for those of you that don’t know her.
Yagaso is a very old tribal lady who has been a special part of our lives for many years. One of the first times I can remember meeting her was while trying to dig a garden. Yagaso would come and watch and sometimes help break the ground, I think all the time laughing at the way a white boy used a shovel. Mom would bring out a glass of lemonade for me and also for Yagaso and somehow, in a very natural way, she became a part of our family. In turn she adopted us into hers.
I don’t know much about the life of Yagaso. This is mostly due to the fact that none of us could communicate with her except with the odd phrase of Pidgin. I never met the man she married and only know of one of her sons. To me, she always seemed like a very old grandmother who was pretty much alone in life. I know that life in the Bena tribe was not easy for her. Fear and suspicion run deep. Yagaso probably experienced life before the Australian protectorate (they did not keep track of birthdays in the Bena tribe so it is hard to know). As a very young girl, the only understanding she would have had of foreigners were the navy pilots who flew overhead in strange winged machines that occasionally trailed smoke and went down over her native highlands. The people of the highlands knew little of the great war being fought in the outside world. Armies on both sides did their best to avoid this part of PNG. It was a rugged land intersected with high mountains ranges and deep gorges. The tribes in this area were known to be hostile. As a little child, Yagaso was not concerned with Japan or the Allies. Her life was caught up in a cycle of payback killings and tribal warfare that had probably gone on for centuries. One never knew if a shaman had singled you out as the guilty person responsible for the death of another. It was a life of continual strife – tribe against tribe, clan against clan, husband against wife, son against mother.
This came home to me one day when one of the national men that I was working with told me that Yagaso was very sick. I went to her hut, which was just down the road, and found her curled up on a mat and barely able to move. Her son had beaten her with a tire iron, nearly to death. In the process she lost her only tooth. Since then I have heard reports from Emerson and Miriam Keung and from U. David and A. Sally that Yagaso has been close to death several more times. From the time we have known her, she has always seemed like a very frail lady that could pass away at any time.
I left the Bena tribe before Rich and Dawn Foster arrived and put in many long days, year after year to learn the Bena language – a language that is tremendously complicated. Now, over 10 years from that day she was so badly beaten, Rich along with Heti, a national believer, have had the opportunity to sit down with Yagaso and teach her through the Bible lessons one on one. Both Yagaso and Rich and Dawn Foster have traveled very different roads. It can only be Gods grace that their paths would intersect at this time, only a short while before Yagaso has left us.
This time of year we celebrate the gift of a child who came into our world of strife to bring us life. Often we are not allowed to see how God continues to draw others in far off lands to himself. But sometimes we do get a glimpse. For the many who have known and prayed for Yagaso over the years, we have had the great joy to see God preserve her life and bring her to himself.
Yagaso will be dearly missed.