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Friday, July 18, 2014

Kid are allowed be kids here

Don't get me wrong.  Kids are well behaved here.  Couples do a great job of parenting.  The kids turn out impressive, noticed as they walk across the High School graduation stage and we here about them (accomplishments) and from them (their goals and plans).

But it's a different world over here (on the other side of the world).  For example, there's a rule that all children must have footwear on when they step on school property.  That's because most of them go barefoot most of the time, even in rain.  It's still odd to me to see kids in Sunday morning worship barefoot.

Or this... I'm walking along the road and hear a racket coming up from behind me.  I look back and see 3 teens galloping full speed on horses up the (dirt) hill/road.  (They have at least 7 horses in the "Pony club".)  This is right through the center of the complex, past work buildings and homes.

Or this... I was walking from the IT building back to my apartment at the end of the day.  Along the way I noticed two children bouncing on one of those outdoor trampolines (with the 5' high mesh walls surrounding it, you know what I mean).  What made it noticeable is that it was raining, they were outside without coats and the mom was happily inside listening to squeals of delight.  Do/did you let your kids play outside in the rain?

Or this... There is a small playground with stuff to climb on, a see-saw and a huge truck tire suspended by a chain for swinging.  It's been raining on and off for several days so you can imagine what condition the grass and ground were in.  So there are a couple of kids running around with mud half way up their thighs, spatters all over their clothes, and climbing onto the tire that is already wet and covered with mud.  As I finished passing the playground, one of the boys reached down and grabbed a handful of mud.  

I didn't have the heart stay around and see what he was going to do next...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mr. Mom

I returned from a 6-day trip from the distant island of Bougainville off Papua New Guinea, working on some network and email projects, to an empty apartment.  Julie had left for New Jersey (and her mom) a couple of days before.

We've probably written before about how daily life takes more effort when you're on the mission field.  Those who live in Ukarumpa for sure certainly have it easier than our peers who are working in remote villages.  We have electricity, local phones, a small "company store' for canned and dry goods and some meats.  We have wonderful schools, a medical clinic, a post office, etc.

Still, it takes more time to "live" on the field.  As examples:

  • We walk every place, rather than ride, even if it's pouring or dark
  • Fresh produce is available from the local market but only 3 days a week.  Plan ahead!
  • We have to bathe all our fresh food in chlorinated water right after our purchase
  • We have no clothes dryers.  We hang all our wash on clotheslines outside (until it rains).
  • Our meals are started from the basics.  No fast food.  No restaurants.  No pizza delivery.
  • One of us bakes the bread.  One makes the salad dressing.  One makes the mayonnaise.   Yum!

Now that Julie is gone, I feel like Mr. Mom.  I do all the above.  No splitting the responsibilities.  Plus guess who gets to wash the clothes, sweep the floors, take out the compost and trash?

I miss her.

I know you're taking this wrong.  I miss her not because I do it all.  I miss her because we're married, a team, friends...

Sunday, July 06, 2014

It was time

If you've been on our Wycliffe ministry mailing list, you know that Julie's mom, who lives in New Jersey had been admitted twice into the hospital with serious concerns about her heart.  That was a great surprise to us because mom had spent the winter was us, had received a clean bill of health from a heart specialist, and had seemed in great condition (for a 90 year old) when we returned her to NJ before we left for Papua New Guinea.  We felt confident that all would be fine for the 3 month assignment here.

We kept in close contact with mom and dear friends to jumped in help mom, thanks to email and MagicJack (which lets us call any number in the US over the Internet).  Over a number of weeks, mom got worse, got better, got worse, got better, went home, went back into the hospital, etc.  Several times we tried to find a way to get Julie to her mom but either travel connections failed to materialize, mom would tell us to remain here, or she might improve sufficiently.

In the end, however, mom had more serious problems and God blessed us with a smooth trip for Julie back to NJ.  While we feared that Julie might arrive too late, God brought Julie to her mom's side fine in early July. 

Mom has improved physically and is now undergoing therapy to increase her strength and ability for her drug-damaged lungs to absorb oxygen.  On the flip side, with the loss of independence, privacy, access to her home (too high up a hill to climb) and much more, mom has been quite discouraged, indicating that she's eager to leave this life.  This is hard to hear.

Julie has also sensed a change in mom's behavior and her thinking.  Is mom's body unable to absorb enough oxygen to the point that it's affecting her brain?  All Julie knows is that lately her mom's personality has changed and that mom is not the positive and agreeable person she has always been.

So, why was Julie's trip to NJ side railed so often until now?  Of course, we know God is sovereign, that all that happens is according to His plan.  The short answer is that God provided an ideal  opportunity for mom to be ready to listen to our friend  share about Jesus, read from the Bible, and to pray.  God has opened mom's heart in a way that she hadn't over the many years Julie had longingly tried to share about our God.  Wow!  It was time for mom to open her heart.

And it was then time for Julie to go home.

Monday, June 23, 2014

If you don’t like the weather, just...

At home Julie’s almost first question each day is “what is the temperature”, followed by “what’s the weather going to be like today.” She starts each day here with the same questions. It doesn’t matter that we’re on the other side of the world without The Weather Channel, our smartphones or weather forecasts posted in the local paper. In fact I would have doubted that there was any weather service in the whole country of Papua New Guinea except that our Aviation department seems to get information from somewhere.

John Allen, our missionary friend in a remote village in Gulf Province who we visited on the way into PNG, had 610 kg of supplies that needed to be flown in today. Our pilots didn’t know if they would be able to land at his nearby airstrip because weather always closes in unexpectantly. John asked Jason to run to the top of the mountain separating his village from the airstrip and look at several distant mountains and report back by cell phone. Able to see these mountains clear enough and seeing that things were improving, Jason told John who convinced the pilots it was okay to head John’s way. So much for weather forecasting.

Typical early morning weather
So, where do I turn when I want to know what the weather is like? I turn and look in four directions (five if you count looking up). What I see invariably every morning are low, gray clouds hugging the mountains less than a mile away that form the Aiyura valley. The day either stays cloudy with no-so-high clouds, or it burns off into a beautiful day. Well, at least until afternoon when dark gray, angry clouds always appear suddenly over the mountains and everyone wonders if it will rain. You have to take a clue from the native when they carry an umbrella with them everywhere every day!

Actually, rain is considered good since each building’s potable water tanks collect rain water for drinking, cooking, showering and, if there’s enough, washing clothes (to keep them white). The alternative is using water from the nearby river, but it’s brown-ish and requires boiling before use.

So, if I don’t like the weather I’ve gotten used to the past month+, how about introducing the onset of winter when there’s no heating in the apartment? And how about trying to shower or wash dishes using solar heated water when there’s been no “solar” all week? And, just to make a change, how about a deluge that I have to walk to work in with streams running down the dirt roads, so that I arrive at work soaked from the waist down?

We're in a pretty active area (click to enlarge)
And, if you want something a bit different, how about an earthquake. We awoke around 4 am today (Monday) to a bed shaking, building swaying, 5.4 earthquake centered about 35 miles east of us.

Maybe it’ll snow tomorrow… (just kidding)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What does *that* say?

Julie and I know we work for an organization comprised of workers from all over the field.  We really enjoy that.  The JAARS Center is the crossroads of not only Americans coming to/from the field, but people from all over the world as they travel to conferences at JAARS or Dallas, TX.
About 20 nationalities are represented here at Ukarumpa.  For a language-challenged guy, I still get along just fine because English is the working language of missionaries.  God is merciful to me, a speaker of only English...  Missionaries here normally use Tok Pisin, PNG’s trade language, with Papua New Guineans but these people also have a fairly good understanding of English. 
Of course, I do have my challenges.
June is the month when many missionaries head to their home countries, mostly because it’s the end of the school year and makes it easy on their students/children.  I’m heavily involved in helping these families move from the Ukarumpa email system to the main Wycliffe email system, and I’ve had a couple of sessions this week with Soong-Hwan (Korean, a physical education teacher) and then Takashi (Japanese, a translator). 

I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was.  I discovered that their computers displayed everything in their heart language, which I couldn’t read.  Even though the steps to change their email programs were very familiar to me, I had to keep asking them “What does that say?” to make sure that I was selecting the right options or entering the right information in the correct field.  In Takashi’s case, his keyboard was typing Japanese characters.  In Soong-Hwan’s, the keyboard was laid out differently so that I had to hunt for a while to find the @-symbol.

Add their Asian pronunciation of English words to my less-than-perfect hearing and you can imagine what happened.

Despite the task taking at least twice as long as it would have taken if everything was in English, I thoroughly enjoyed spending the time with these two servants of God.  Both have distinguished themselves as gentle and patient, serving when any need arises, and greatly desiring to see God glorified.  I was happy to get to know them better and to be able to prepare them for going home.

Speaking of preparation for going home, we need to tell you about how God has used the time we’ve been on the other side of the world, separated from Julie’s mom, to bring her mom closer to His kingdom (home)…

Friday, June 13, 2014

What lasts?

Don't ask me why this popped into my head now 'cause I don't know why, other than God brought it to mind.

When I was a naval officer, many years ago, I was stationed on the USS Skate, a nuclear submarine, and then the USS Forrestal, a conventional aircraft carrier.  The USS Skate was decommissioned in 1986 and awaiting scrapping in the Puget Sound in 1994. 

USS Skate in 1994, awaiting scrapping with other subs

The USS Forrestal was decommissioned in 1993 and sold for scrap for 1 penny in February (2014) and towed to Brownsville, TX.

USS Forrestal (CV59) underway
USS Forrestal (CV59) under tow (February 2014)

After leaving the Navy in 1986, I worked for Polaroid at manufacturing plant in Waltham, MA which made the (then) well-known Time-Zero film for the popular Polaroid SX-70 camera.  The plant was a huge, 3 floor facility that operated 24x7 except for the traditional holidays.  (It’s here that I first began my career in Information Technology.)  Production of Time-Zero file ended in 2005.  Out of nostalgia I drove by the plant ~5 years ago, only to find the plant abandoned.
We invest so much of our lives in areas that we remember fondly or believe have lasting value, only to find that we were investing in something that simply ceases to be of any importance.
You probably learned about the "Law of Entropy" in science.  I learned about this in High School Physics.  In short, the law says that everything is running down.  Everything wears out, runs down, and breaks. Nothing is forever.
Or it there something?
Julie and I are working for the Kingdom now.  We serve an eternal God.  He never grows weary.  He never runs down.  And 1 Peter1:25 says “… but the word of the Lord ensures forever.”
We may be missionaries on the field in Papua New Guinea (currently), serving He who is from eternity past and for eternity future, living by His word, which also stands forever (and is forever true). 
If you, our reader, are also a Christian, rejoice that this is true of your life as well.  Work for that which lasts forever… God and his word.  Invest your life in something that lasts.  It may not be as a missionary but you can have your own ministry: in the church, at work, in your community.
If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, seek out someone who is.  Learn about what lasts.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

A Lost Day, or Was It?

Many years ago we knew a guy whose nickname was “Johnny Freshlegs.” He could run long distances and seemingly never tire. He still runs today, but occasionally now someone passes him on the trail or track.

Since we arrived in PNG, we have hit the ground running—taking part in every community activity, working long hours, visiting with others, buying and preparing food, doing laundry the old fashioned way, basically running one continuous marathon.
On Friday, June 6, (Saturday here) Julie’s mom went into the hospital in NJ for the second time since we left home. She is experiencing a racing heart, shortness of breath and general weakness. The doctors are very concerned about the condition of her heart. And since we are so far away, we are very concerned as well.
Julie spent most of Saturday night (daytime in NJ) up running between her computer and Jon's, checking and answering messages, posting updates, praying, and calling mom from the MagicJack unit that turns Jon's computer into a phone.
Meanwhile, Jon spent the night running to the bathroom with an intestinal bug.
This morning, Sunday, Jon was finally asleep. Julie called mom and she said she had had a good day.  Then Julie—having had very little sleep—got up, dressed for church, and started into her regular run of the day. But she was too tired and weak.  So church clothes and all, she returned to bed and slept for hours. In fact, both of us slept the day away.
So this was perhaps a lost day. We didn’t accomplish anything productive. Or did we?
In Psalm 46:10, the Lord tells us, “Be still and know that I Am God!” And Moses brought us these words from God: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day, you shall rest.”  We took a day of rest.
Tomorrow is a national holiday throughout the British Commonwealth and here in PNG. It is the Queen’s birthday—not really—but this is the day it is celebrated publicly.  So, we’ll sleep tonight and see what tomorrow brings. We may need another day of rest; but if we do, it won’t be a lost day.