Feature

‘Gone’ Bananas

Foundations

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Mom and Dad have always had a soft spot for needy children; whether in Chicago or Papua, Indonesia, Mom regularly cared for orphans. On visits to Papua as an adult, I’ve met several pastors who told me that when their mother died in childbirth, my mom saved their lives.

This concern for children meant that our yard in Silimo was a gathering place for mothers and kids. One of the orphans who hung around our house was a boy named Worogo. He was about my age, and I often thought my parents gave him preferential treatment.

Our property in Silimo included some sheds, one of which was the occasional home of a stalk of bananas, which I considered a great treasure created for the delight of my taste buds—fruit being scarce on that side of the mountain range and I being certain that life revolved around my needs.

In this photo dated September 12, 1973, the author’s sister, Joy, cares for one of many children that passed through the Maxey household in Papua, then known as Irian Jaya. (Photo courtesy of the C&MA Archives)
When I was around nine years old, a fresh stalk of bananas was ripening in the shed. A rope was hung from the center of the ceiling so the stalk, weighing about 25 pounds, would be protected from marauding rats. I’d check on the bananas every few days, grabbing whatever fruit had ripened since my last foray.

One evening I stopped by my shed after a day of play—chasing birds, swimming in the pond, and skipping rocks with my friends—in anticipation of another treat. But to my dismay I found the twine hanging limply from the rafters and not a banana in sight. Off I shot to the house, where my dad was working in the radio room. “Dad! What happened to the bananas? There’s nothing there!”

“Oh, I gave them to Worogo. He was hungry,” Dad said. And he casually went back to work.

I suspected that Worogo frequently played to my dad’s sympathy. “If he was really hungry,” I blurted, “he could plant his own banana trees. He’s just taking advantage of you.”

Dad gave me his full attention. “Maybe that’s true, but I will never have to stand before God and answer for why I gave away too many bananas.”

Twenty years later, it was Worogo—now called Enos—who took up the work with Mom to translate the New Testament into the Ngalik language. Fueled by the energy of some ripe bananas, he continues that project to this day, finalizing the text of the Old Testament so that his people can be fed by God’s Word.

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