Stories From Miss Ginny • Waterfalls

Waterfalls, Helicopters, Australians and a Cup of Coffee

If you listened carefully after a good rainfall, you could stand in our yard and hear the distinct noise of a waterfall. This was surprising because the waterfall was located over two hours’ walk away, near the village of Sungai Durien.

Prior to the gospel coming to the area, this waterfall was a place that was taboo to the surrounding Dayak villagers. The tribal people were convinced that evil spirits lived there, and because of that belief, they would not go anywhere near it. Even when I arrived on the field years later, I met adults from the closest village to the waterfall who had never once been near this water source.

The Sungai Durien waterfall is a beautiful spot with a series of cascades rather than one single waterfall. The climbing trail to the top of these cascades is through thick jungle along the edge of the water course. At one point, you even walk through a cave sheltered behind a huge rock over which the water cascades. There are even a few inhabitants in the cave—bats!

As you near the top, it is so steep that you have to pull yourself up using tree trunks and roots as hand and foot holds. The thick jungle trees and vines grow right to the edge of a completely open plateau. This meant that one minute, you were still completely hidden in the undergrowth and shadows, and the next, you were suddenly popping out into the open as if from nowhere.

The one (and only time) that I made that climb was with my co-workers, Jim and Robyn. We had two college students with us who were visiting as interns for the summer. I was the first to pop out onto the plateau at the top. It was fun watching the others as they suddenly appeared out of the green jungle vegetation.

Miss Ginny now works in the World Team USA sending center.

Several years before my adventure, sometime in the early 1960s, my co-worker Clara had a very interesting experience there. It had to do with some Australians and a helicopter.

This was a few years before we had airstrips cleared in the jungle and before MAF—Mission Aviation Fellowship arrived. So the chances of small airplanes or helicopters flying overhead were not very likely. However, the Indonesian government was in the process of mapping the more remote areas of the country, including the area near Anik on the island of Kalimantan (Borneo). They were using the services of the Australian Air Force. When the Aussies surveyed the area from the air, they noticed a large grassy plateau. They decided they could land their helicopter there to camp overnight if needed.

As the Australians circled the plateau, the people in Sungai Durien, the village closest to the waterfall, heard this new sound—quite unlike anything they had ever heard before. Then someone spotted this massive thing in the air, like a giant bird, making that horrible noise. As they watched in fascination, this strange ‘bird’ disappeared right toward the plateau at the top of the mountain near where the waterfall was located. Suddenly, it became very quiet.

Many of the villagers were frightened and would not go near the waterfall area to investigate because very few had become believers at that time, and the area was taboo due to the evil spirits.

What to do? The solution they thought of was to quickly make the trek down to Anik and ask for help from “Nona Clara.” They told her of the strange noise and of the big ‘bird’ in the sky. Clara realized that it was most likely a helicopter, so she agreed to follow them back to Sungai Durian. She would then climb up alongside the waterfall cascades to the plateau on the top to investigate on their behalf.

Arriving in the village, Clara asked someone to take her to the trail near the waterfall. A few of the men, who had trusted the Lord and were not afraid, went with her. However, when they got near the top of the waterfall, they made Clara go ahead of them. That way, she would be the first one out of the jungle to see the source of the strange noises!

And it was as she had guessed. Several Australian aircrew members, along with a couple of Indonesian government representatives, were standing by the big Air Force helicopter. They were suddenly startled to hear someone speaking in English, asking, “Hey, where can I get a cup of coffee?” They spun around to see a slender, blue-eyed American lady with curly blonde hair. She had suddenly appeared like an apparition from the edge of the jungle! Were they ever surprised!

The Australians told Clara about the mapping project they were working on in several areas of Kalimantan and how landing on that convenient plateau was part of the flight plan for that day.

In turn, they wanted to know why Clara was there. She explained that she was a missionary nurse and provided medical care in a clinic for villages in that area.

The village men with Clara finally understood that the source of those strange noise was the sound made by the helicopter. They reported this back to the others in the village of Sungai Durien.

These new Christians began to understand that the waterfall, the jungle, and even the plateau were created by God. They were not to be feared as places where evil spirits ruled but rather enjoyed as places that God created as a source of help to them—providing food and an excellent water supply very close to their village.