Introduction / History
The Middle Watut people speak an Austonesian language which is related to many island languages in the South Pacific. They are considered one of the few Austronesian languages to have made it as far inland as they have. Before World War 2 the Middle Watut people lived in mountain hamlets, finding protection and sustenance in the steeper terrain. During WW2 the Middle Watut people moved down into the valley plains for protection from the Japanese by American and Australian soldiers based in the area. They permanently settled in the area and now occupy much of the Watut Valley region.
Where Are they Located?
As the Watut River flows out of the mountains north towards the Markham River, it opens up into the grassy plains of the Watut Valley. Here the Middle Watut people live in villages situated along shallow tributaries flowing into the Watut River.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Middle Watut people are subsistence farmers. They primarily grow sweet potatoes, bananas, yams, sago, green beans, and a variety of other produce. As a cash crop they grow cocoa and peanuts, selling them downstream in the port city of Lae. With the money they make, they usually buy staple goods they are unable to obtain themselves like rice, tinned fish, and salt as well as pay for their children's school fees. Their houses are built almost entirely of jungle materials with grass-thatched roofs and limbum floors.
The influence of the West is definitely present as nearby cellphone towers provide them with fair coverage motivating many to buy cellphones. Small solar-panels and generators can be found in many of the villages as well. Children attend primary schools in the region, but it is rare for many to make it past the eighth grade when they begin working with their family in the gardens full-time.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Christianity has spread through the Middle Watut people primarily through the church planting efforts of the Lutherans during the 20th century. Those who are Christian have a solid, enduring faith free of much of the animistic beliefs of their ancestors. Those who aren't Christian retain many animistic beliefs. There is minimal influence of cargo cults in this area. The primary Christian denominations represented in the region are Lutheran, Lutheran Renewal, and SDA.
* Pray for the Bible to be translated effectively into Middle Watut.
* Pray for the salvation of many in the younger generation who are ambivalent towards Christianity.
* Pray for the medical aid posts in the region to be fully funded and staffed so that people can access medical care much more easily.
* Pray for the safety of crops from diseases so that they will always have the physical sustenance they need.
David & Shelly Midkiff working with Wycliffe Bible Translators and living among the Middle Watut in the central village of Bencheng.
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