Last week a man that had worked in our community for almost 40 years died unexpectedly. It was a great loss and many from the community people attended his funeral. They asked me to photograph it and so I did, even though I had never photographed a funeral before. It was definitely a cultural experience for me.
So what are PNG funeral customs? Arua had died at a hospital in Goroka, a few hours from here. Then the day of the memorial service, a group went to Goroka to fetch the body. A memorial service was planned for 2:30pm, and it started on time, but the body didn’t actually arrive until nearly 4:00. People filled the time with giving testimonies of his life and how this godly man had impacted their life. The body showed up in an ambulance with the family and the police escorting them with wailing sirens. The trucks decorated with red streamers and followed by many of the friends and family in vans. At the service the gospel was shared, and in many it was much like a memorial service that we would have in the States. It was amazing to hear the impact that this man, Papa Arua, had on so many people and how many people he had led to Christ just by his example. He was a security assistant and so he was greatly known in the community for being a “peacemaker”.
After the service real haus krai began when the body was taken to the home and people stayed up all night literally crying over the body. Papua New Guineans are not stoic in their greif – wailing is expected.
As the employer, our organization had an obligation to provide certain things – we bought the casket and paid for transportation of the body back to his home town several hours drive away from here. There was a cultural expectation though that we couldn’t send the body back by itself. It would look very bad if we didn’t also send thousands of kina worth of food gifts to his home village as a sort of thank-you for letting us “borrow” him for so many years. There was a community collection and people donated towards this gift, and then a director went and bought gifts like oil, flour, sugar and rice to send back with the family to their village. The next morning a caravan of people drove about 7-8 hours into the Southern Highlands to his village where they will have another haus krai and then bury the body.
Please pray for this family and their loss, he leaves behind 4 children and his wife, Rose.