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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day!

From Julie...

We are so blessed. This injury could have been the death of me — if my spine had been broken or if I had sustained internal injuries. And even though the recovery is painfully slow (emphasis on the pain), I am improving and expected to recover fully. The Lord continues to meet all our needs and to teach us important lessons along the way.

Church was so good yesterday. To get there, we had to wheelchair to the shuttle bus; bus to the MRT (Singapore Metro Rapid Transit); MRT to a transfer station; MRT to the station near the church and wheelchair to the church. All of this was very wheelchair accessible so it was much easier than we expected. 

And so worth it! The sermon was on the rich young ruler — the very picture of Singaporeans (and most of us) today. At a crossroads — having everything, but not satisfied and feeling empty-a spiritual vacuum in the presence of wealth, position (power) and prestige! The thing lacking is a relationship with Jesus Christ — even for Christians. 

The stuff of the world gets in the way of our walk with Him. We need to make God the priority- the treasure of our heart. We need to find our identity, not in our stuff, but in being loved by Him. Then we should keep the commandments, loving God; loving others. That will move us from success to significance.

Yes, we’re experiencing it all! And all from the hands of God, who love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Pastor Joe Lee and wife Amelia

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Everything's turning up... orchids (and roses, too)

Lord willing, we will check out of the hospital tomorrow morning.  The church Jon visited Sunday has offered to take us and our luggage to the apartment at no charge.  (God is awesome!)  As Julie recuperates and hobbles about more easily, we hope to see some more of fantastic Singapore, using a rented wheel chair and public transportation to get around wisely.

I borrowed a wheel chair yesterday and took Julie by taxi to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a lovely park nearby that includes their renowned permanent orchid gardens. (It cost us $1 each to enter because we’re now senior citizens.) Appropriately I got more exercise than Julie did. She did stand now and then, however, to stretch and for a few pictures in some beautiful settings. She felt wonderful after our excursion, having seen almost nothing of modern, clean, safe and friendly Singapore before now.

God has been very good. With our son’s expert and quick research and his dedication of time, we have found tickets to Guam at reasonable prices that also include 2 bags @ 50 lbs for each of us, meaning there won’t be any problems of extra charges now. We will have about a week more in Singapore before we fly to Guam the 19th and visit family before returning to the US about 2 weeks later.

God is amazing. We found out that the latest physical therapist is also a Christian, one more encounter to reinforce how God has been surrounding us with His protection and love. The therapist has worked with Julie, giving her what he felt was the most realistic and practical counsel and training (such as walk more for health and speedy recovery and how to deal with stairs when she must).

The hospital performed a bone density test yesterday, and there is no current concern for osteoporosis. Thank God! (Some of you may remember that several years ago that was a different case and aggressive and creative solutions have resulted in strong healthy bones). They also want to take one more x-ray before we leave Singapore to verify/document bone healing. Otherwise, we’re ready for the next ‘steps’. :^)

This is all an answer to your specific prayers from the past few days. Our God hears the prayers of His children and, because He hears and loves His sheep, He has provided for us. We treasure your love and concern for us.

As a result of feeling like we’re well out of “crisis mode”, we may not be posting daily but back on a more 'normal' schedule. We always welcome your prayers on our behalf.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Permission to leave... Are we ready?

“But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1: 9b-11

We have much to be thankful for, including so many faithful friends who have been thinking of us and bringing our situation to the Lord, Jehovah Jireh, our Provider. For those that have been praying for us, "Thank you, too!"

Julie continues to progress very well. She began using crutches and was walking (though at a turtle’s pace) the hallways yesterday. The doctor and physical therapist said that this will help Julie’s bones heal quicker and help her adjust to the pain. Julie tires fairly easily and still feels a low level of constant pain but is usually able to move without the sharp, shooting pain she first felt.

The doctor has given us permission to check out of the hospital Thursday morning (it’s Tuesday morning now).  The Wycliffe Singapore couple who have invited us to use their guest room live on the ninth floor, but there is an elevator so Julie won’t need to deal with stairs.  There is also a large pool at their complex that Julie can enjoy doing water therapy in.

We are having a difficult time changing travel arrangements to get us out of Singapore instead of the original route through Australia. The flight from Singapore to Guam, where we have family, takes only about 7 hours with a break ( :^) ) halfway in Manila, which will be wonderful for Julie.  Our son is talking to the airlines on our behalf and we pray that flights can be arranged that are both reasonable in cost and will include 2 bags each (to avoid horrendous 'excess baggage' charges). Pray, please.

Our son’s home is all on the ground floor with no steps. We hope to stay there for a few  weeks so Julie can get back on her feet ( :^) ), ready for the long flight through Tokyo, Houston and finally home.

We continue to be blessed by wonderful nursing care. Anything we ask is immediately taken care of, even mundane tasks like reheating drinks. I’m sure that it’s partly a cultural (Asian) situation but, for whatever reason, we lack for nothing (except comfortable beds and inexpensive airline arrangements). We are convinced that we could not be in better hands. Of course, we know Whose hands everything is in.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Step by Step (in a wheel chair)

We hope this posting isn’t as long as it feels. We simply want to keep you updated on how Julie and I are doing, so you can praise God and lift up some specific requests on our behalf.

We’re finding these hospital beds surprisingly uncomfortable so that we’re waking up in the middle of the night with backs that ache very badly. I actually had to get out of the bed before daylight, I was in such pain. The aches have continued through the day.

In addition Julie is feeling very tired and bruised, though encouraged by the doctor and physical therapist to move about the room with a walker every 3-4 hours. We’re thankful that Julie can get on her feet and place weight on her left leg when standing still. She can also shuffle her left leg along and move from the bed to a wheelchair. While moving us from the bedpan stage to the bathroom, it also gave me the chance to give Julie the grand tour of each floor of the hospital. We even wheeled outside briefly to the cafĂ© and watched koi fish beg us for food. (They spurned us when we didn’t produce.)

Nothing the doctor has seen or heard seems to dissuade him from thinking we’ll be able to check out of the hospital early next week. He says it will be 8 weeks or more before Julie's bone has really healed yet it seems he is leaving the decision up to us when to leave Singapore after we check out of the hospital. When we feel Julie is mobile enough to avoid the sharp pains and cope with hours and hours of flying, we will leave.

God continues to bring other Christians into our lives. We understand that about 20% of the 5 million Singaporeans are Christians yet almost every person we meet is one. The doctor who deals with gastroenterology asked us what we were doing in PNG. Turns out he has been to PNG and knows much about Wycliffe and Bible translation.

We then received a visit from a pastor and his wife (he grew up in Singapore, she in Malaysia) who are friends of a family in Ukarumpa who alerted them about us. Jon will worship at their church (of 1,000) on Sunday, which has people from Singapore, Nepal, Korea, China, India, Malaysia, and some from European backgrounds. (Julie will worship in the hospital room.)

Our prayer request is that, as Psalm 139 echoes, God will knit Julie’s bones back together as He knit them together so long ago in her mother’s womb.

Under His care,
Jon and Julie

Thursday, February 03, 2011

No surgery but pain

We’ve received the results of the MRI done late this morning which shows there are no additional fractures and that Julie’s pelvic region is stable. She will need to begin weight-bearing (and teeth-gritting) tomorrow and just tough it out—without surgery or a cast.

I am free to step out for a walk and experience the vast change in culture from the interior of Papua New Guinea to one of high tech and world-renowned shopping. (Lord, help me to resist fast food.) Julie, on the other hand, is rather stuck at the hospital.

We don’t know yet how long we’ll be here — either in the hospital or in the home of another Wycliffe missionary family for extra days of recuperation.

We still hope to continue on to Guam from Singapore and have sent off an email to the airline asking for help changing the original flight leaving from Cairns a week from now to one leaving from Singapore around the same time. The normal cost to get from Singapore to Guam on this same airline is astronomical however.  We’re hoping they treat it as a trade-off.

A quick story about our flight from PNG to Singapore: At one point, with a myriad of stars spread across the night sky, we flew over dozens of lights from small ships below us which left me feeling that I was really surrounded on all sides, even below, by stars. It was an odd feeling to think of flying above stars. At another point, however, I looked out my window and saw absolutely no lights at all, up or down. We were low enough that clouds above obscured any stars and there were no man-made lights below. It felt so lonely. Then I looked out the window on the opposite side of the aisle and was surprised to see that we were flying past an island full of bright lights.

Julie’s injury was no accident. While we were looking at the facts of fractures, pain, expense, lost vacation plans and tons of effort to get back on track, all we neede to do was look in the right direction. Then we could see that we’re not alone and that there is help near at hand if we need it.

We have already seen God's continuing provision for us. The Singaporean nurse on the medevac flight, a Christian, took wonderful care of Julie. She even visited us today in the hospital and brought us a cell phone to use while we're here. Another patient at the hospital loaned us her power converter so that we could plug this laptop into the electrical outlet and keep it running. God worked in amazing ways through several people to return Julie’s laptop that was inadvertently left on the jet over 12 hours before. I'm allowed to stay in Julie’s room as alodger and avoid the time and expense to travel between a hotel and the hospital. The meals at the hospital are varied and gourmet quality. We've been offered a place to stay in Singapore when we are able to leave the hospital. Our airfare for the flight from PNG to Australia has been refunded. A person from Wycliffe Singapore visited us in our hospital room to encourage us and to trade US$ for Singapore currency.

And we know He loves us. He will see us through this. Pray that we will be faithful to our faithful God.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

I Will Never Walk Alone

When it feels like I am lost
And like hope’s a hopeless dream,
When nothing’s as it should be,
Worse, when nothing’s as it seems,
I remember You’ll not leave
What You, at such great cost, redeemed.

Though I walk through darkest valleys,
I will never walk alone.

When the pain I share with friends
Hurts more than pain I call my own,
When I’m paralyzed by doubts
And by the fear of the unknown,
You remind me in a flash—
Almost as if a light had shone—

Though I walk through darkest valleys,
I will never walk alone.

When in quietness and trust
Is where You’ve said my strength would be
But in chaos there’s no quiet
And my trust abandoned me
You remind me of the truth
And it’s the truth that sets me free

Though I walk through darkest valleys,
I will never walk alone.

With love and prayers,

Krista Besselman
Feb 2, 2011

Leaving Papua New Guinea in an unexpected way

Julie has had a good 24 hours with no new complications and some opportunity to sleep last night. On the other hand, I was able to only get two brief periods of sleep because of clearing out the apartment and taking care of final business to leave for Singapore; so I’m dragging.

It’s 3 pm and we leave for the SIL airport here in an hour. We will fly in one of SIL's planes with Julie in a special bed and arrive in Port Moresby, waiting for the arrival of the commercial medevac plane that will take us to Singapore. It should leave before midnight and arrive in Singapore somewhere around 4 am local time (total of about 7 hours flying). We will be taken directly to an excellent hospital where the doctors will begin a work up on Julie (including an MRI to see if there are any hidden problems). We will then learn what needs to be done, how, and how long we’ll be staying in Singapore. We have been told to expect 5-6 weeks! We don't know anyone in Singapore!

We’ve received so many more emails of encouragement than we could have imagined, even from people we’ve never met, thanks to so many of our friends and ministry partners sharing our situation with friends, church prayer lists, home Bible studies, etc. Thank you! One friend-who was working all night on our evacuation plan- even gave us a poem the Lord gave her for us between 3 and 4 a.m.. We’ll share it later.

There are so many unanswered questions and complications for events we’d planned for the next couple of months. We’re waiting to see what God has in mind for us, either learning, discipline or ministry opportunities.

Keep praying about the medical care we’re about to experience. Pray about the long and exhausting travel we’re about to go through. Also thank God for the wonderful community of believers here that were so eager to serve us in every way. I would say you’ll probably never see the Body of Christ function better than we’ve seen these past 24 hours.

Praise the Lord.


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

An unforgettable last day in PNG

Wow! What a turn of events. We’re asking you to join us in prayer. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

Today we were invited to ride an ATV up into the hills surrounding Ukarumpa. Having looked with longing at those hills for six months, and having never ventured out in that direction, we jumped at the opportunity.  The ride was thrilling--very off-road; and 40 minutes later we were standing on a height overlooking Ukarumpa on our left and a vast green valley directly below us. Reminiscent of another Julie and The Sound of Music, Julie began to run down the 45 degree slope through the tall kunai grass.  But she slipped and spilled and went splat on the slope; so far, so good--no harm done.  However, the ATV driver running behind her also lost his footing and fell on top of Julie, resulting in a very bad chiropractic adjustment. She thought, perhaps, she had pulled a groin muscle.  

Julie was somehow able to climb back to the top (about 40 feet), and we were able to get her to the clinic over very hard terrain without doing additional damage. The clinic staff here are very professional and attentive. And where else in the world could you be where the nurse and the doctor are your neighbors and friends?  They took x-rays, blood and urine samples and checked her vital signs to determine the extent of her injury. Her pelvis was fractured in 3 places on her left side. Julie was completely alert and kept coming out with very funny one-liners, putting everyone around her at ease. She spent the night in the clinic under close monitoring.

Friends from our Bible study
After reading the x-rays, the doctors were concerned about the stability of the injuries and the possibility of additional undetected breaks. There is no MRI available here. To get a better diagnosis and just in case there is need for surgery or a cast, we are being medically evacuated. Instead of leaving on a tomorrow headed for a few days of relaxation in Australia, Guam and home, plans are being made for an SIL plane to take us to Port Moresby (PNG capital)  so we can fly from there directly to a hospital somewhere.

Because of a force four cyclone (typhoon), both the airport and the hospitals in northern Australia are closed. This would have been the normal medical evacuation destination for us. Instead, we understand that we are to be taken to a hospital in Singapore for an unknown length of time to get further testing and treatment. After that we do not know if we will be able to continue recovery in Guam or if we will miss that precious family time and be sent directly home.

It’s all up in the air from our perspective; but we are thankful that God is in control. It's all in His plan, so it will be for His glory and our benefit. Humanly, Julie is very distraught about causing so much disruption for so many and for the resultant change of the plans that we’ve been looking forward to. She is still hoping that we can stay in Guam and visit our son and his family there.   Please pray for her, both physically and emotionally.

That’s enough for now. Now i need to finish packing all our suitcases tonight (it’s 11:20 p.m. right now) and have them ready for leaving whenever they can schedule the plane, perhaps as early as 6 a.m. Pray that I can remain an encourager in the face of such uncertainty.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Given a Feast (posted by Julie)

I think we might be facing a big adjustment when we return home. We have loved the community and our work here. We have lived with and loved the people of PNG for six months. They have nothing—yet they share what they have. When you develop a bond with someone here, you are truly family with them. We don’t know if or when we might be called here again, and it is very unlikely that any Papua New Guineans will ever come to the US. So goodbyes are emotional and very precious.

Just three more days here—and we’ll be heading home. We’ll take something with us that can’t be measured, and we may not know until long after we are home what we are leaving behind.

Today we were invited to a traditional mumu. A pit is dug and a fire built in the pit to heat stones until they are like steaming coals. It takes several hours to heat the stones, but then food is layered in the pit and it is ready to eat after 90 minutes of steam and heat. Kaukau (sweet potatoes), carrots, taro, corn, pumpkin, pitpit, greens and chicken (carefully placed on top of the greens so they would be flavored by them). Everything was covered with banana leaves, then a layer of plastic and several inches of soil to keep the heat and steam in.

But this was not an Ukarumpa event. We were the only non-Papua New Guineans there. It was at the home of the haus meri who had worked for us (and with us) for the past 5 ½ months while we were renting a home here. During that time we developed a close friendship with her, her husband-Sakias, and their children Natali and Blake. Today we met her older son, brother, cousin and elderly mother. Though my Tok Pisin is still Baby Tok Pisin, we were able to convey how happy we were to meet each of them.

There was so much food. The land is fertile here; and as long as there is enough rain, gardens grow well. Irie acknowledged how blessed she and her family are to have such an abundance. She filled a very large bowl with some of everything for Jon and me—enough to feed a family of 8 in the States. Before we ate, Sakias removed his hat and blessed God and thanked Him for His mercy and blessings.

And Irie really is blessed, too. Though her house is small, it has a door, concrete floors, electricity, telephone and wooden walls and the roof does not leak. The homes in the village just across the river have none of those things. She lives inside the fence in Ukarumpa so her family is safer here than in the village—though the same Raskols who break in and steal from missionaries here steal from the gardens, homes and chicken coops in her neighborhood. She has good employment with people who love her and where she is able to get a hardy lunch for herself and her children, do her laundry and use the oven for baking. Irie’s husband is a godly hardworking man. They have a son in college and two children at the school here on the center, and a garden overflowing with produce.

Yes, we’ve been given a feast. When we look at what she has compared to what we have, we are astounded and humbled. In our eyes-by comparison-she has nothing. Are we as grateful for all that we have? I don’t think so. Do we acknowledge God as the one from whom all blessings flow? Would we see it as blessing if we had so little?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


We moved out of the house we'd been renting since arriving in August because the owners have returned from furlough. We had three more weeks before leaving so moved into a visitors center that Wycliffe Associates built and manages.

We're in a one bedroom apartment on the second floor. It's a very nice place despite the small kitchen that is poorly equipped. There are a few relatively small annoyances and one bigger one. Our windows face the road down which many vehicles and tons of foot traffic travel. Besides the noise of diesel engines and the chatter of both adults and children, we have a bunch of dogs who like barking and howling to each other at pretty odd hours. Of course there are several kakaruk (roosters) who cock-a-doddle-doo every 10 seconds throughout the night sometimes.  The biggest on is the center's backup generator starting right outside our bedroom window many times a day (and night).

We're down to less than a week in Ukarumpa and have the challenges to finish our work, figuratively pack 10 lbs into 5 lb bags (SIL charges us by weight to fly to Port Moresby and Qantas will charge us by the number of bags and weight), and leave the apartment empty when we leave.

So, we're into a series of "lasts".  We've had our time with our Bible study, probably our last time seeing Darasi (the Agarabi translator), our last time in any village or town (other than the airport in Port Moresby).  Sunday will be our last time worshipping here.  We made our last loaf of homemade bread and last batch of mayonaisse.

We're even down to building a list of what foods we have and how we''ll balance starving (not buying more food) with eating up what we've already got on hand.  We're down to counting slices of bread, servings of Cheerios, scoops of powdered milk.  How many more raw eggs will we need and, if we hard boil the rest, will we have enough for lunch-time egg salad sandwiches (90% of the time the menu for noon)?

Julie's been feeling the normal effects of pending separation.  Everyone goes through that when a special period of one's life comes to an end.  In PNG, those who leave without plans to return are described as going "finish".  It sounds so final, doesn't it?  We're going "finish" next Wednesday.

Fortunately, God is never "finished".

As Christians, we are a new creation.  God is not finished with us yet.  We don't have plans to return to PNG but God may.  We will see our PNG friends in the future.  Perhaps they'll pass through JAARS.  Perhaps God will call us back to PNG.  Ultimately, we'll join the friends we made here before the throne of God in heaven.  We'll also join with people of every tongue, tribe and nation after the last judgment and sing praises to our everlasting God... forever.


Monday, January 24, 2011

What you won’t see back home

People have been telling us since our arrival that the rainy season starts some time in December and becomes regular and heavy in January and February. We were told, because the roofs here are invariably made of corrugated metal, that there are times when you can’t hear others talking on the phone or even when in the same room.

We even brought along rain gear from home. We have bright yellow rain slickers that we use when sailing in Maine that don’t let a drop of water through. We even brought galoshes (aka rubbers) to keep our footwear clean and dry.

Not that it hasn’t rained in Ukarumpa nor that it hasn’t rained hard for brief periods. It has but we can certainly say that the rainy season hadn’t started on time. Up until now we haven’t used the slickers much but the rubbers have come in handy.

Rain water collection system
 The rainy season seems to have started now. It’s late. It’s almost the end of January and we begin to see regular, heavy rains each day. That’s okay by us (especially since the best water to use is not the river water but the rainwater collected off the gutters of every house). The only real problem we have is when we’re out and about and have forgotten umbrellas or our slickers. A lesser inconvenience is when we have to walk someplace (like from work to home) on the roads which have turned from dirt gravel into slick mud.

I walked home at the end of the day during a brief intermission of heavy rain so I only had to deal with the slick muddy conditions. Of course a number of others were also on their way home. Six months in PNG and it still catches my attention when you see someone happily walking home barefoot.

Here I am, dancing from rocky surface to grass-covered tuffs and back to avoid all that mud, winding my way down the road. Here comes a barefooted person happily making a beeline up the road, sometimes even carrying shoes they’ve pulled off to keep them clean, at the sacrifice of clean feet. All I can think of is how squishy and cold their feet must feel.

And often the person may be a missionary kid (aka MK). You wouldn’t see this at home. The parent would be scolding the child for bringing mud into the house.

What behaviors will I take back to the US from here that will catch someone’s attention?

I hope that my life in Christ causes me to catch someone’s attention, no matter where I am.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


In November I was asked to travel to Lae to work on an office networking solution for the SIL office and guesthouse. The guesthouse helps provide missionaries, their family and friends a place to stay while moving around the country or for a brief, relatively inexpensive vacation for missionaries. Because Lae has the best port in PNG and is the closest city to Ukarumpa, the SIL office also has staff to help get much of our materials (parts, supplies and personal goods) processed, loaded on a truck. and sent over the difficult roads to Ukarumpa.

It was traveling the roads to/from Lae that I remembered best. I rode as a passenger in a minibus driven by others from the SIL center. I’ll just summarize the experience by saying that, as we came within an hour of returning to Ukarumpa, I saw another minibus (which are commonly used as privately owned buses for hire known as PMVs – Private Motor Vehicles) coming down the hill from the other direction. On the front, stenciled in 8” letters was “Survivor”.

On a related thread, Julie and I had been hearing all during our time here how wonderful it would be if we could visit Madang, another large (it’s not) city on the northeast coast, and spend time relaxing and snorkeling. SIL has a guesthouse in Madang as well where we could stay and, with a kitchen, eat in and keep our expenses low.

We finally worked out a plan with friends who also wanted to spend time in Madang, who had access to a SUV and who had a PNG driver’s license. (Julie doesn’t want to drive on the wrong side of the road and I mistakenly left my US driver’s license at home.) We left Ukarumpa early on January 6th and we would be back the afternoon of the 10th. The road heads to Lae for just over an hour and then turns left (north) to head to Madang. We expected the ride to take ~6 hours.

I’d heard that the road over the mountains to Madang were tough. Hah!! Imagine one of those modern 3D computer video games. You’re in command of an older, dusty SUV. The challenge is to drive to the coastline in as short a time as possible (before it gets dark) and simultaneiously cope with:
  • figuring out where to turn because there are no road signs
  • detours that take you from what appears to be a perfectly good, paved road and onto a rocky dirt road heading off 90 degrees from where you want to head
  • Probably the result of an earthquake
  • finding half the road closed because it has caved in and fallen into the gulley
  • dodging pigs, dogs and chickens as they cross the road
  • swerving to miss a series of wide, deep pot holes that you don’t see as you drive up to 100 kph (60mph)
  • This doesn't show how uphill we were going
  • stopping because young boys are collecting a “toll” (~50 cents). They are either pretending to repair a bad road (shuffling rocks into ruts) or playing “traffic cop” to let vehicles from one direction and then the other go through a narrow area. They don’t fool anyone but everyone still pays.
  • moving toward the center because lots of people are walking on the road (on both sides) and there are no sidewalks, breakdown lanes… in fact, they have to step into tall 6’ grasses to get off the road
  • swerving widely because the locals just stepped into the tall grass for the vehicle just ahead of you and then stepped back into the road without looking to see that you were bearing down on them
    Anyone coming the other way?
  • looking beyond single-lane bridges (all bridges in PNG are) to see if someone is coming from the other direction. Figure out whether you have the right of way and if the other driver is going to give it to you.
  • finding vehicles coming toward you on your side because their side of the road is worse than your side
    Fording the river
  • driving across a shallow river (no bridge)
  • dodging large trees that have fallen across the road and only part has been cut away by previous drivers
  • hiding your money and disguising your other valuables (like cameras) in the SUV just in case “raskols” stop you to rob you
  • climbing hills in 4-wheel drive in first gear over rutty, muddy roads that rattle and shake everyone side to side
  • headaches caused when you are suddenly thrown sideways and hit your head on the side of the car
  • short sections of paved road that just let you get up to speed (and get your hopes up that then worst is over) when you are dumped back onto another long stretch of rocky, rutty road
  • keeping the SUV working because there is no repair station (actually no towns) between departure and arrival points
  • staying friends with your passengers after bouncing them around (just kidding, Bruce!)
Wanna play?

I think I’ll see if I can get the stenciled letters for “Survivor” and put them up someplace.

By the way, we had a nice time in Madang.

Overlooking the Madang coastline

Shoreline in Madang

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Will this change last?

I came to PNG expecting to lose weight.  First, I could stand losing some pounds though I thought I didn't weigh too, too much, ... 175 lbs.  And as we prepared to come to Ukarumpa, four facts kept staring me in the face:
  1. Julie and I had heard many stories over the years about the mountains of PNG and that one could slip and slide down one wet, muddy hill and then immediately face climbing another mountain on all fours.  The roughest terrain on the planet is a huge reason why, on 1/2 of this island (the other being part of Indonesia), there are 830 different language groups.
  2. Julie and I had also heard that the SIL center here in Ukarumpa is about a mile in diameter and built on the side of a hill.  We would have no car and be walking everywhere.  For me, that meant walking halfway up the hill twice a day (morning and lunch) to get to work.
  3. We had also heard about the abundant choice of fruits and vegetables.  The locals sell their produce at our center's open air market 3 times a week at very, very low prices.  Additionally, many homes (as does ours) have their own gardens.  Now, I ate my share of fruits and vegetables in the US but consider them as the sidedish for my meat.  In PNG I expected to be meat-starved and waist (!) away eating what was abundant and cheap. 
  4. We found the variety of meats limited, the cost several times US prices, and sometimes too expensive to even consider buying.  (Hamburger was $10/kg last week.)
So there were good reasons to think I'd be able to lose some weight.

And then, once we got to PNG, we decided to attend the dedication of a New Testament before returning home.  The only one that seemed to make sense was the Malei dedication coming up in mid-December.  We heard there was an option to hike out with the added benefit of saving a bunch of money by not using the SIL helicopter on the way out. 

The translator, John, took a look at us back in September when we talked to him about hiking out.  In the US we had been exercising often in a gym.  We've done some day hikes in the mountains of Vermont and North Carolina.  We had been taking walks around the hilly perimeter of Ukarumpa several times a week since arriving in August, feeling pretty good.  We had been using the Ukarumpa weight room at least a couple of times a week. Julie was part of the hour-long ladies aerobics group 3 times a week.  And then John got us worried when he looked down at us and declared, "you look like you might be okay." 

Uh oh...

And so we hiked out of Yemli a few weeks ago after the Malei New Testament dedication.

Rugged, no?  What we hiked.
 After hiking out, we told John and Amy (his wife) that this shouldn't have been called a hike out.  It should have been called a climb out.   It included fording streams, crossing swaying suspended bridges, walking narrow trails in jungle and on mountain tops, sleeping under mosquito nets two nights, sliding down a muddy trail the last morning to get to boats waiting at the beach.

Suspended, swaying bridge of branches
Descending from mountain top to the next river (and eventually back up)

The first woman gladly serves by carrying my pack
It was beautiful.  It was memorable.  It was rewarding.  It was different from anything we'd ever done.  It was challenging.  It was very, very hard. 

And, while we were thrilled to have done it and would recommend it (to anyone in good shape), we don't think we'd do it again.

Looking down at the Pacific Ocean, the end of the hike out

So, about 4 1/2 months after landing here, the scale says I now weigh 157 lbs!  I haven't weighed this little for at least 25 years.  I'm on the last hole in my belt and most of my pants look baggy on me, looking really odd with all that extra material collected by the belt.

I wonder if I can keep it off or if returning to the land of too-many-choices, the land of meat-abundantly-available, the land of fast food will triumph.

Switch horses:  I've also been wondering how my take on consumerism is going to change.  Julie and I don't feel we spend a lot on ourselves at home.  (We have two 10 year old cars.)  Still, living in Ukarumpa with long term missionaries, living in and visiting many PNG missionary homes here at the center, and having gone through the biggest/longest holiday season (Thanksgiving thru New Years) with few shopping opportunties and no pressure to "get" has really impressed upon me what we can/should live with and how wild the holiday shopping season back home can be.

And as I received many, many email deals and sales flyers from places like Sears, Best Buy and all those special "Black Friday" sales stores, I felt the pull to spend money, get that gadget at reduced pricing, even though I was on the other side of the planet and actually without the ability to use what they wanted me to purchase.

So, now having seen how the Malei people live, how simple their lifestyle is, having had my focus on God's work and not on the world's focus, I wonder what changes and adjustments even I, reasonable spender and budget keeper that I am and a missionary to boot, will be making when we return home to the US in February.

"Seek ye first..."

I hope both my lower weight and my different outlook will last.  This will be interesting.