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Great visit...scary volcano

Dear Friends & Family,

First off, thanks for the prayers for the trip. The motors behaved well and the seas were friendly. 

Our visit with the church was really good. The unity that we pray for often was very evident and the vigilance of the church leadership in their shepherding and safeguarding was so neat to see. They continue to work through issues in a godly way and that is yielding results. We know so many of you pray for the body there regularly and for the leadership families…thank you so much for your faithfulness. I’m convinced the church would not be where it is at now without you upholding them. 

One of the opportunities that the church is most excited about right now is the literacy classes that they are teaching. They had an overwhelming response by the unbelieving community and had to more than double their intake numbers. The neat thing about this is the way in which the believers are teaching the class: with incredible patience and care, and for absolutely zero pay. Needless to say the unbelievers are shaking their heads and we are praying that hearts will be softened to listen to the Gospel in the months ahead. 

As for the volcano on Kadowar Island, the news is not so good, but praise the Lord for His protection and for orchestrating the rescue/evacuation of the islanders. With just hours to spare, the last of the islanders were able to be shifted to a neighboring island and not a single life was lost. The island however, has been decimated as the volcano continues to erupt and there is little hope of any return in the foreseeable future. For those that are interested in the details and more pictures of the volcano, feel free to read the report further below. 

Thanks to you all who stand with us in prayer, financially, and in so many other ways so that we can be out here…the Biem church is the fruit of you sacrifices, and we’re so grateful for you!

-Brandon Buser

We storied with the elders and other believers till 3AM our last night there. What a rush seeing them intentionally discipling other younger believers now. 
Not sure how many more times I'll get to squeeze my tribal mama. "Mama Lucy"  can hardly see these days, but she's still spunky as ever. 

The Kadowar Volcano

Kadowar is one of the four islands in our language group and has a population of 500-600. This is the island that we pass each time we travel to and from Biem (see map below). Kadowar has been covered in dense vegetation for decades now and does not have a sulfur cone, crater, or many of the typical signs of an active volcano.  

On Friday, Jan 5th, smoke started pouring out of an opening on the southeastern side. This was only God’s grace as the bulk of the population resides on the northwestern side. This smoke was seen by a village on the mainland and they sent two boats to help the islanders. Biem also sent a boat over to help out. These three rigs, along with numerous canoes, began the work of shifting the entire population over to the island of Ruprup 6 miles away. We were told that by the end of the day the entire population was moved over to Ruprup, and the timing could not have been better as later that night, near midnight, the mountain erupted violently. 

On Saturday, Jan 6th, my coworker Thomas Depner, Greg Kibai the Biem chief, and myself, jumped on our boat to make the trip to Kadowar and Biem. Despite bad visibility, we could see the smoke and ash of Kadowar from 40 miles away. At about the 15 mile mark we began feeling ash falling on us. We boated up to within a few hundred feet and started witnessing just how violent things had become. After a few minutes we circled the island to the side where the village was (see map of our track below…green show high speeds, purple is slow) to see if any inhabitants were there, but there were only a couple abandoned canoes left on the rocky shore. 

We then doubled back and intended to head on to Biem when the volcano came uncorked. A huge pillar of smoke rocketed hundreds of feet into the air and large boulders started falling straight into the ocean…we exited the area in a hurry (see the fluorescent green streak on the track line). At a safe distance we stopped and kept documenting the event. Shortly after we ran into one of the mainland boats that was returning home from Ruprup and they relayed the evacuation details to us. From there we continued on to Biem Island.

On Monday, Jan 8th, we left Biem for the return to the town of Wewak on the mainland. We stopped off of Kadowar again and documented the continuous erupting of the volcano, but this time it seemed to have found two new outlets from which it was erupting. We circled around to assess the village again and see what structures were still standing…ash covered everything that we could see (though the eruptions are more on the opposite side of the island, the strong seasonal winds are blowing the ash and debris directly over the village location). We continued on trying to cross underneath the ash cloud to clearer seas on the other side…that was a mistake as we got covered by wet falling ash. 

The current status of Kadowar is that it’s completely uninhabitable, with no word yet as to the future of the Kadowar islanders and where they will reside. The island continues to erupt and the magnitude just seems to be increasing. What does all this mean for Biem, well, we don’t know. One thing that is interesting is that in the last year both of the islands neighboring Biem on either side (Manam and Kadowar) have erupted. We’re not sure if that venting is going to benefit or endanger Biem, but there are discussions at the government level of evacuating the islands to to increasing fault activity. One thing we are certain of though is that these things are in the hands of our good God. Thanks for your continued prayers for the islands and the folks that call these places their homes. 

-Brandon Buser


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