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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.