It was the YWAM Liberty’s first outreach in Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea. When we arrived, the government put on a lovely welcoming ceremony for us in the town square. They brought lots of dancers and a bamboo band for the event. Our crew was thrilled to experience this amazing part of their culture.

While we were sitting there, the dancers kept going up, over and over again, to entertain everyone as we waited for some of the dignitaries to arrive. I looked around and noticed the locals had their arms crossed, staring at us. You could tell they were a little bit suspicious and probably asking themselves, “Who are these people? What do they want?” We had just arrived, so they were checking us out and evaluating us.

Then I felt God leading me to get up and join the dancing. I laughed inside, thinking “you’re joking!” It was a very official ceremony. The vice president was there. I was representing the ship in an official capacity and would be making a speech later. I have experienced God’s leadings enough, though, to know that, if it is from God, it’s best to do it. 

Overcoming my fear, I stood up and slowly walked over to the dancers. Everyone was staring at me, wondering what I was doing. I got over to them, looked around, and then started trying to dance. Immediately some other girls from our team jumped in and began dancing too. Then two guys on our team from West Africa joined in as well!

The locals loved this and began to laugh and be filled with joy. They loved that we were trying to learn their dances with them. The spiritual atmosphere completely changed. No longer were people looking at us suspiciously, instead they were laughing and joking.

Taking that step of faith was not easy, but I am so glad I did. It completely broke the ice between us and the people of Bougainville. It turned into a really beautiful time of being welcomed and seeing who the people there truly are – they are a joyful people with a warm, welcoming culture.

Julie McLaughlin
Advance Team Director
YWAM Ships Kona

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