Search this blog...

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.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

A Great Day for Flying

Today (Saturday), is a very special day here in Papua New Guinea.  It’s not the first day of its kind and we pray not the last.  As I write this, 80 people are being flown from the SIL translation center here in Ukarumpa to Long Island (about 120 miles by air) off the north coast (of PNG, not east of NYC) to attend the Arop Lokep NT dedication.  These guests are from all over, including some friends from JAARS.  Even though we have four Quest Kodiak planes serving here (praise God), the aviation department enlisted help from MAF (Missions Aviation Fellowship); and their plane came over from Goroka to help ferry people to the island. Each plane will make two trips from here.

Click to zoon
We awoke this morning to the usual fog and low clouds hugging the mountains surrounding Ukarumpa.  While this normally burns off before 8 am allowing our planes to begin their normal flight schedule, the heavier cloud cover delayed today’s marathon ferrying schedule until 5 minutes before 9 am.
Saturday’s are full of catch-up chores, one of which is doing laundry.  Everyone uses clotheslines. (I, yes, Jon, sometimes do laundry!) While outside several times doing said chore, it was great to see the planes go, return, go, return.  In December 2010 Julie and I attended the Malei NT dedication; and, while every celebration is different, we know everyone there this weekend will be blessed. We’re looking forward to sharing the excitement when people return on Monday.

Yes, it’s a great day for flying—especially when it means bringing the Word of God to people who are hungering for it.  Getting there any other way would be both difficult and hazardous.  We’re grateful for people who provide financial gifts and to the generosity of Quest Inc. (manufacturer of the Kodiak) who make missions aviation possible.

Friday, June 06, 2014

What is the church?

We were invited to attend the graduation of Translators’ Training Course 2014, a 6 week course held at the Pacific Training Center here at Ukarumpa.  50 national translators from 14 language groups completed the first level training or had returned for levels 2 or 3.  The amazing commitment of these (mostly) men is evident.  Most are unpaid as translators. Wives and families demonstrate their support by staying behind on their own in their villages during the six weeks.

Some students singing to the Lord
At the graduation, there was time for worship, encouragement and prayer.  Among the speeches was a devotion by the director of PTC, Max Sahl.  His message focused on the church and was really clear. “The church is not a building, and the church is not a denomination. The church is people—believers in Christ,” he said.  These translators had been selected by their church to come and prepare the Word of God in their heart language.  Their job was not to finish it and put it on a shelf for themselves, but to bring it back to the church and ensure it was effectively used there.  Some of these translators would return home, see something in their church they didn’t like and abandon the church.  Max challenged them to not do that.
What struck me, not because Max said it, but because God reminded me once again, is that church is those believers that surrounds me no matter where I am.  Much of my life has been spent moving into new communities (college, Navy assignments, new jobs in new locations, joining Wycliffe, overseas assignments, etc).  The body of Christ has often been my closest “family”, closer to me than my geographically dispersed parents and siblings. (Sorry, family.  I do love you.)

I immediately feel at home here In Ukarumpa because I’m surrounded by family.  Even in a ceremony with many men and women that I’ve never met, who exist in a culture vastly different than mine, and whom I may never see again on this earth, I am connected.
What is the church?  People connected because of Jesus.
And some day we will enjoy another celebration.  We will be the bride of Christ, gathered around His throne.  People from every tongue, tribe and nation … the church.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

i no stret

(pronounced “Ee No Straight")

Life is neither dull nor slow around the SIL translation center.  That’s one of the reasons we’ve had such difficulty finding time to post blog entries as often as we’d like.
The police came for me the other day.
Over many years, the center has had to implement all sorts of security measures to protect the center’s property.  Each missionary family has also had to take serious steps to keep “raskols” (hint: sound it out) from stealing electronics, tools and other desirable items.
All missionaries are rich, don’t you know.  We have so much more than the people we live among; and, if something is broken or stolen, it’s only a couple of months before we replace it.  (Of course, it’s our friends and supporters who come through for us at great sacrifice).
The CTS (Communications and Technical Services) department where I work has two separate buildings, obviously with a lot of equipment in them: telephone system, radios, computers, servers, satellite equipment, and a small store for computer accessories.  In addition to bars on the windows, curtains (to keep outsiders from seeing inside), and double locked doors with deadbolts, the two buildings have separate alarm systems.
The last person to leave my building is supposed to alarm the system. A couple of times I assumed wrongly that I was the last one out.  The building I work in has three work areas.  The IT manager and the telephone guy are in the other two areas.  As I engaged the system one day, the IT manager heard the panel beeps and yelled out that he was still there.  That worked.
Our workday ends at 5:00. On Thursday, I left around 5:15.  I walked out the door to check the other offices.  Manager’s office empty?  Check.  Telephone office empty?  Check.  I went back to my office, grabbed my bag, and was about to set the alarm when I heard the sound of an alarm going off!  At first I thought it was the alarm for the other building; but I checked and it wasn’t.
Just then, the telephone guy showed up and told me he had alarmed the system from the other panel, not knowing I was still inside.  My hearing is obviously not good enough because I didn’t hear the panel beeps as it became armed.  Leaving my office to check the other two offices actually triggered the alarm.
Then the police showed up.  The explanation to them?  i no stret” which, in Tok Pisin, means, he goofed (literally, a mistake or “it’s not straight”).
I guess that’s what I get for working late.  Now, like the other guys, I try to leave with or before everyone else.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

No shortage of humor

Our experience in missions thus far and reports from others lead to the conclusion that God always supplies our need but not necessarily what’s on our shopping list.
There is a store here on the  center which brings in boxed and canned goods in containers shipped to a port 4 hours away to supplement the wonderful fruits and vegetables available locally from the nationals M-W-F,  6-8 am at market.  Of course, in the store there is only one variety and one brand of canned tomatoes … at least until they’re sold out.  The same is true of many other goods, (except for cereal where there may be 10 types … mostly geared to kids’ tastes).
There is a small fresh meat counter with limited cuts of beef, pork and chicken.  Ground beef (hamburger) is known as beef mince. The store grinds its own, but has not had any most of the time since we arrived.  Yesterday we found out why in a tok save (Tok Pisin for “announcement”) from the soon-to-be next store manager.  We hope you’ll enjoy this bit of typical missionary humor.
'Mince'ing Words
Date: 28 May 2014
We are sorry if you have had a "beef" with the store over not having mince.  There is no more need to have a "cow" about this topic.  If you haven't "herd" yet this morning, mince is now back in stock.  Todd and I were in Lae and were able to find the needed part, which has been installed already.  Please come and help us "moo"ve this product out of our meat department.

Thank You

-The not yet "steer"ing this ship Guy.

Disclaimer:  This message has not been approved by Todd <the outgoing store manager>, but I have his password, so......

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sports Day and Community

In our Thursday night Bible study, we discussed adoption, starting with Ephesians 1:5. Then each person shared what they had prepared earlier. Maybe this is not a common topic for Bible study, but it is a study that has rich rewards. My thoughts tended towards four “R”s: Rights, Relationships, Responsibilities, and Results. One of the relationships that perhaps is overlooked is the relationship we have with other Christians as a result of becoming a child of God. If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a bond with other believers which you feel the moment you meet that stranger… he is suddenly no longer a stranger, but your brother or sister. They may become closer to you than a biological brother or sister because of their proximity to you while your family is far away. I’ve experienced that countless times.

This is one of many reasons we immediately felt at “home” three years ago when we first came to PNG, the land of the unexpected. Though we experienced lots of uncertain and stressful situations then-including patrolling the center at night with just a flashlight when “raskols” (thieves) might be roaming around with bush knives and arrows-we were tremendously sorry to leave. The word that stuck in our mind was “community."   We felt this same sense of community this time as soon as we landed. A team of people came to welcome us at the center airport and to help us settle in. While some were friends from before, two of these welcomers we’d never met before.

People here know how to “do” community; and it’s all under the umbrella of our relationship to Christ and, therefore, to each other.

Three years ago we experienced “Carnival Day”, when the student body of Ukarumpa International School (UIS) put on a day full of activities, some we’ve seen (dunk the teacher and face painting) and some we didn’t expect (log tossing, a student-spun Ferris wheel, greased pig). What fun!

Yesterday and today (Saturday) were the high school’s Sports Days. When missionaries first arrive here, adult couples are split into “Alpha” (red) and “Beta” (blue) teams. Their children, some of which may not even have been born yet, will forever be that same color as they progress through their school years, competing. 

Julie and I joined everyone (and I mean everyone) at the sports field to watch these teams compete for two full days in many traditional and non-traditional events, and to eat and have fun. 

While there is intense rivalry, it is all in the best and most enjoyable sense. After the team competition ends and the winning team is cheered, the rest of the family members can join in relay races around the grass track or other events, perhaps even 3-legged races.

Everyone gets to join in. The community relay race teams were a blend of short and tall, slow and fast, some slow and fast and definitely some tall and slow. We even watched a 5 year old run a relay race. (Young plus short legs equals last place but still greatly cheered on by all.) And no one needs Nikes. Lots of barefoot runners!  Several Papua New Guinean teens who attend UIS competed too and did really well. We watched one high school guy run his leg of his relay race backwards because it helped even up the chances for the other younger/slower teams in the race.

Such a wonderful spirit throughout the day!  Sundays we gather at the meeting house for worship, including many missionaries going to the Tok Pisin service (the national trade language of PNG) to join in worship with their Papua New Guinean brothers and sisters in Christ.

We enjoyed today and, Lord willing, will serve others tomorrow, because we are brothers and sisters in Christ-a gathered community of adopted children.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

MKs are impressive

Missionary kids are sometimes called “Third Culture Kids” because they are neither part of the culture of their (or more likely, their parents’) home country nor of the country where they are living.  In fact they might have actually been raised in more than one foreign country because of new assignments.  In addition, they have close friends from many other countries who are also MKs.  There are often over 20 nationalities represented here in Ukarumpa.  Finally, growing up in the middle of nowhere (that’s where Ukarumpa is) means that this little island of people develops its own culture (way of thinking and doing things).
The MKs here in Ukarumpa are really special.  We saw that 3 years ago and we’ve already seen it here in the 7 days we’ve been back. 
For example, there was a senior recital for Kei Matsumora, a Korean Ukarumpa International School student.  The auditorium was packed out to listen to this young man play his jazz saxophone.  What a great performance!  Not only did his wonderful talent as a jazz musician and composer show but his character as he introduced each number and gave his testimony and glory to God.  This young man has been accepted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston.  While his English is flawless with no accent, the US will be very different for him.
Another example is Seong Eun Jung, another High School Senior who also happens to be a Korean MK, who gave the message this morning at church. (From what we’ve seen, all the students are excellent examples of what’s happening here, not just those who are Asian.)  Frankly, I thought he was much older, both the way he deported himself and also the way his message flowed.  Seong Eun was humorous and relaxed, but his message about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife was pointed and impacted me on several levels.  His point:  we are all strangers at various points in our lives, including just being sojourners and strangers on this earth, but God is with us.  He is also heading to the US (college in Amherst, MA) where he again starts off in a new place and new culture with no family or friends, but he has a confidence and peace because God is with him.
So, whatever you face this week, as a believer in the one true God, He is with us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Shared Grief

In PNG we ex-pats (short for expatriates, meaning we live outside of our home countries) work alongside nationals. Sometimes our lives intersect on a more personal level. Samuel is a literacy worker and part of the Scripture Use-Media department where I work. This morning everyone from our department went to his home at 10:00 for a haus krai (pronounced house cry).

Last night Samuel took his pregnant wife to a clinic/hospital (PNG-style) in Kainantu (pronounced K9-2) because she was experiencing cramping. The doctor there said she was not ready to give birth and he (the doctor) went home. She went into labor and Samuel himself delivered a little boy about 7 lbs. Then he saw a leg coming out and realized there was a second baby in breach position. Samuel did his best to help his wife, but sadly, the baby died.
Today inside their house, the baby was wrapped in a blanket with his beautiful little head cradled gently on a pillow. Relatives, friends and co-workers (including me) were seated on the floor or standing wherever there was space. Some cried softly, some prayed, some just extended a hand or hug. Samuel expressed gratitude for the encouragement and prayers of those who came. He said if they had known there were twins, he would have driven an hour further to Goroka where there was a better hospital.  Through all this, he expressed his faith in the goodness of God and in the certainty of the resurrection.
Tomorrow Samuel and his wife will take the baby to their home village about 4 or 6 hours away. There, relatives will grieve with them; and there the baby will be buried.
It was a sad reminder that life here is very hard, and the people here do not have what we have in the West. But God gave Samuel the same things He gives us and all His children during times like these—faith, hope, and assurance of his love, power and presence.

Monday, May 12, 2014

“Home” again!

Julie and I arrived in Ukarumpa after an inspiring weekend in the village of Kotidanga with John and Lena Allen and the other missionaries who work with them.  It was great to have this reintroduction to life around PNG nationals and living at higher altitudes than we’re used to before getting to Ukarumpa and to have extra time to cope with jet lag.  Still, these pale to the opportunity to more fully observe and hear stories from the Allens about courage, insight and struggle and yet see clear examples of God’s blessing on the work among the Kamea people.
Julie was able to observe several sessions of back-translation, a process to ensure accuracy, clarity and understanding, as John and his national translator, Ben, translate the book of Luke.  Julie also participated in the recording of one of the Bible stories into a video.  All told, nine videos are now completed and 16 more are on tap to be completed soon.  All nine were shown one after another Sunday night to ~200 people of all ages, and we know of several conversations with unbelievers where the Gospel was shared.
We attended Sunday service and, though preached in the Kamean language (and some in the trade language called Tok Pison), we saw the passion and truth proclaimed as Ben taught about Lazurus during Sunday School and then John preached on Ephesians 1:13-14. 
We had thought that we would be returning Monday by a SIL plane to the capital on the coast and then fly directly to Ukarumpa a few hours later.  God orchestrated the need for one of the SIL helicopters to be in the area to haul equipment into a couple of locations, one which was into Kotidanga.  Without our knowledge, John had arranged for us to fly on the helicopter on its return trip to Ukarumpa, a much simpler trip in many ways.
What Julie and I didn’t anticipate was the combination of terrain (up to 8500’), cloudiness, and rain.  I rode in the co-pilot’s seat next to Duncan, a young Australian, while Julie rode in the back row, so I had a delightful view of everything.  Julie was white-knuckling a bit because Duncan chose not to go the short, direct route over some rugged mountain chains but instead had to poke his way through the mountains, seeking the longer path of least resistance.
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

We landed, however, to be greeted by several former friends from Ukarumpa, a couple from JAARS serving their own short-term assignment, and the manager of the IT department (and his wife).  We were taken to our accommodations at the Wycliffe Associates visitors center, provided a quick lunch, and then helped to get our initial stock of groceries (~$175 of which the only meat was one lamb chop!).
We’re still dealing a bit with jet lag but, after finishing some “checking in” tasks at the finance office, HR and the post office, we hope to begin the work He has called to PNG to do.  Though much has changed since our time 3 years ago, we already feel at home, thanks to the many friends waiting for us here in PNG, the many friends at hone supporting us through prayer, but mostly because we have consistently understood that this is where God wants us at this time.

Return to the Land of the Unexpected

People have suggested we will know what to expect in PNG since it is our second time serving there. But PNG is “The Land of the Unexpected.”  Even before we left home unexpected things happened.

On Sunday morning I jogged up and down to the 4th floor to Sunday School. But later after packing for hours on the floor, I awoke Monday with tight muscles in my right leg, hip and thigh. I tried to walk it off; but by Tuesday when we left for the airport, I could hardly walk. 
On the flight to LA, my heart was touched by my young Cambodian American seatmate who was hoping to reach her father before he died. She had a 24 hour flight ahead of her and was distraught. The Lord gave me opportunity to share and pray with her. When we parted, she asked to hug me.
At the LA Airport, my noise-canceling headphones were stolen from Jon's carry-on bag. In PNG I wear headphones 6-8 hours a day while recording and editing scripture. I need headphones that don’t press in on my ears.
After 24 hours of flying plus lay-overs, we reached Cairns, Australia. By then I was in so much pain I could barely hobble. And I was coughing and congested.  I emailed asking for prayer, but there was no internet connection. The email finally went out the next morning (Thursday night NC time) and within an hour, I was walking pain-free and breathing again. Just in time for our flight to PNG.
Many people were praying that we would not be asked to pay Duty (up to 40% of the value) on the 500 donated micro SD cards we were bringing to PNG. At the airport in Australia, we met a missionary family headed back to Ukarumpa. They recognized us from 3 years ago (though we hadn’t known them before). Noel told us Customs only charges duty on the value above a certain amount. They offered to take some of the SD cards with them.  This put the value of the remaining cards under the amount on which duty is charged. When we went through PNG Customs, we declared the micro SD cards.  The agent asked, “Who are they from? How will they be distributed? Who specifically will get them? How much did they cost?”  We told him they are for SIL (Wycliffe) PNG and listed some of the people groups that will get scripture in their own languages on these cards. The agent said, “Have a good day,” and waved us through.
2nd hardest PNG airstrip.  Must fly over ridge just before landing.
People were also praying about our weekend visit to Kanabea--John and Lena Allen’s village. Flights to Kanabea use JAARS/SIL planes which fly out of Ukarumpa. Thick afternoon clouds and steep mountains make takeoff and landing in Kanabea, the second most challenging airstrip in PNG. SIL could get us into the village in the morning May 9th, but they were doubtful they could ever get us out because of afternoon weather conditions. 

Planes always draw a crowd

Church in lower left, clinic in lower center right, housing on far right
Finally, they decided that the plane would pick us up Monday morning on the way to the capital and then to Ukarumpa (to avoid Kanabea’s afternoon clouds). But something better and very surprising happened instead.
John Allen got a call that an SIL helicopter would be delivering a fiberglass water tank on Monday to a nearby village and picking up a portable sawmill to deliver to the Allens. After that the helicopter would return to Ukarumpa. This project had been “on the books” for about 7 months and "just happened" to come about now.  (Yeah, right!)  John asked if they could take two passengers and suitcases. SIL was relieved. The plane would not need to stop for us. The approach and flight, though challenging, was much safer and easier in the helicopter. There would be no extra charge.
Everyone loves to see pictures of themselves
So we left the village like dignitaries.
We probably can’t know what to expect in “the land of the unexpected”; but in every situation, we are confidently assured of the faithfulness and providence of God.