The Pei Tribe

Pei Allocation Survey

We have returned from our 6 day excursion to the Sepik wetlands safely and with some serious insight to what a work among the Pei people would take, and if the people group wants us to move in to live and work among them. Below is our documentary of the trip. There isn’t a whole lot of footage from our days actually in the tribe… there will be PLENTY of that to come if and when we actually move in!

The Survey Team

We talked in the last post a bit about the whole PGA and Survey process, so check out that post for a deeper look, but our allocation survey was basically a big “Hey, we’re coming soon!” to the Pei people group.

So Me, Evie, Justin, and Mark made the journey out to Pei-land to make the announcement.

HAD to take a second, and highlight Mark here – as this trip NEVER would have happened without him. This guy is BOSS, and such a blessing to SO MANY out here in PNG. This guy was in the same spot as us 13 years ago. Looking for a tribe to move into. He was living in a hut learning the Bagwido tribal language when 9/11 happened.

12 years later, this guy and his team have nearly finished a Bagwido New Testament, and are instrumental in discipling a growing church in that tribe here in PNG. Having lived in this country, and soaked in the culture, Mark was better equipped than any of us to go into Pei, and ask the right questions – in the way they needed to be asked – in order to communicate our intentions clearly and glean the information we needed.

But before the results of our survey… a bit of history.

Pei’s History and Background

In the early 70’s, when PNG was still governed by Australia, Government patrols boated nearly the entirety of the navigable river systems of PNG with outboard motorboats, and called all the indigenous to move to the water’s edge in order to make servicing these remote peoples easier.

This caused a huge shift in the way many of these people groups lived, as many lived on swamp-locked hills to get out of the mosquitos, and catch a breeze and a breath from the lowland heat. The lowland swamps have provided the majority of the indigenous food supply for the peoples living near them for millennia, but respite from daily hunting and gathering activities there was often sought in the sparse hills where villages were often built. The metamorphosis from hill-dweller to river people changed not only the diet of the people groups that were moved, but also the customs, thinking and languages.

The indigenous now needed to learn to fish, build canoes, and speak a trade language in order to function in their ever-changing world.

The Pei were among those asked to move to the river from their hilltop village. They obliged, and have since evolved into competent fisherman, canoe makers, and pidgin speakers. Their proximity to the river has afforded them access to medical care and “town-goods” … bales of thrift-store clothes, steel machetes, AM/FM radios, pots and pans, and even cell phones… but these are still very “tribal people.”

The Pei are between 2 and 3 hundred in number, and live in either of 2 villages (Paru & Pei), a hard day’s swamp hike away from each other. Many of their population speak TokPisin, but their heart language -their tribal language- is much more complex, and used much more often in daily life. Called Pefiyahe, this language has no other dialects, and is THE language that these 2 to 3 hundred people need to hear the gospel in (TokPisin is grossly inadequate for this task). Known only by these 2 to 3 hundred people, there gospel has NEVER been in this language, and there has NEVER been a human being on the planet literate (able to read and write) in Pefiyahe.

Within the last several decades, it has become the desire of a certain Pei man’s heart to hear the gospel in his own language, and he has since written several letters begging for missionaries to come and share the gospel in a language he could understand.

This Pei man, named Erick, faithfully made the long hike and canoe ride (sometimes several times a year) to the nearest aid post to deliver a letter to missions organizations, begging for the gospel to be shared in Pei. Sadly, has since died without a gospel witness in his own language… a privilege we english speakers overlook nearly every day of our lives. Click on the scans of his letters above and below to see the full size (though unless you can read TokPisin, you will have a hard time understanding them).

For years Erick sent these, and our mission organization has, literally, HUNDREDS just like these (often signed by every member of the village, or with bloody thumbprints)… people begging to hear God’s word in their own language for the first time… But the laborers are few (plug, plug).

Our Future in Pei (?)

So our Allocation Survey went incredibly well. We started learning some Pefiyahe, and got to know several of the people of Pei village. We love these people already and cannot wait to see them all again.

But we have a problem. When the Pei moved from their hill in the 70’s, they moved onto land officially marked as owned by the Walio tribe. This neighboring tribe could possibly cause trouble, or charge rent, or… we don’t even know what. This land dispute needs to officially be settled before it is safe for us to move in among the Pei to begin ministry.

2 Weeks

Pei has sent a representative from their tribe to make the LONG trek to town from their village to shuffle some paperwork around at the government offices in order to make their claim on the land their village sits on official. They have paid the Walio tribe for this land in the past, but it is doubtful the correct paperwork has been filed.

Our survey team was impressed by the willingness of the Pei to fork over 1000 Kina (BIG money for these people) to a big man in the village in order to see this thing through, and we are hopeful that this land dispute will be peacefully dealt with. We should know within 2 weeks.

The alternative is to move the entire Pei village to a location that IS officially recognized as Pei territory. Again, we were amazed at the Pei people’s willingness to do even that in order to hear the gospel in their own language. though it would push plans to move ourselves in a bit further down the road (possibly as late as March 2013), we as a team and a mission want to secure the future of a ministry to the Pei, and think that waiting the extra time would be worth it if necessary.

Pray Pei

We are THE missionaries to the Pei tribe. We are in love with our river dwelling friends on the Walio river, here in the Sepik Region of PNG; and we desperately want to see them reached with the gospel, and a strong church planted in their midst.

Our team is sold out to seeing the Pei reached with the gospel, and has set up the website:


to keep you updated with ALL THINGS PEI. Pei is more than just Chris & Evie… our whole team of missionaries (another family, and a single lady) will eventually serve there to see Pei reached with the gospel. Many of our updates will be mirrored there, and if you subscribe there, all the members of our team will occasionally contribute content in attempts to keep you connected with the Pei people YOUR ministry there though us.

You are helping us to reach them just by reading this blog, and many of you pray regularly for (us) the missionaries dedicated to reaching this marginalized people group, and many others bless us with the financial support many of you continue to give…

YOU are helping to reach the Pei.