A Month to Say Thank You

As we enter the middle of October we would like to say thank you to some special families we know.  Nathan and I both grew up as pastor’s kids.  We’ve seen the high and lows that come with being in the ministry.  We’ve seen the sacrifices our parents have made and the faithfulness of God through it all.  We’ve seen the difference church members make who are not only their pastor’s cheerleaders, but also their partners in ministry.  We’ve seen the wounds that run deep when critics go a step too far.  We’ve witnessed the joys when churches come together to support each other and see lives changed.

Besides being PKs, we have many friends who have pastored.  I hesitate to list them, because my tired mommy brain is sure to forget someone, but I think it’s important for the Vavold family, Martin family, Brown family and Torgerson family to know how much we appreciate them.  We pray for you all often and whether you are experiencing the mountain top of ministry or the valleys that come as well, know that your faithfulness has not gone unnoticed.  Thank you for the work you are doing no matter where you are right now.

We’d also like to say a big thank you to the Johnson family who pastor our home church.  It’s not an easy decision to move from the big city to a small town.  It’s not easy having the full time job as pastors as well as another job to help pay the bills, but it has been exciting to see the spiritual growth.  We are grateful for your willingness to follow God’s call.

We’d also like to thank my parents who are pastoring in Medford.  I am grateful for the extra time we had to spend with you before moving here.  I got to see your ministry through the eyes of an adult and appreciate the spiritual depth you both bring to teaching and worship.  Thank you for your faithful example to following God’s leading in your lives.

During this month of October, and throughout the year, take the time to let your pastor know that you appreciate their dedication.  Be their cheerleader and partner in ministry.

Changing Seasons

The weather here is amazing.  It can feel a little humid sometimes coming from Oregon, but it doesn’t get overly hot since Kudjip sits over 5,000 feet above sea level.  The flowers bloom all year long and if the afternoon gets warm, a breeze usually cools us off in the evening.  There’s been a few cool mornings we’ve all searched to find the socks that were shoved to the back of the drawer with disuse.

After a very cold and icy winter in the States, I’ve enjoyed the steadiness of the weather here.  With all the flowers blooming month after month, I didn’t really miss spring.  And hearing about the heat waves back home, I was grateful for temperatures that don’t get much past the 80’s.  So, I was surprised when reading Facebook posts about the coming of fall that I am missing this season.

I miss the cool air that gives a break from the heat of summer, but isn’t the biting cold of winter.  I miss the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin spice.  I miss pulling on a warm sweater to visit the pumpkin patch with the kids.  I miss the leaves blanketing the back yard.  And one day, when I was feeling homesick, I noticed that in our back yard is a tree that is changing colors and the colors are dropping to the ground.  It is blooming with purple flowers and the petals are leaving a purple carpet on the ground with no need to rake them up.  It was a small thing, but helped me remember that there will always be a push and pull with living overseas.  There will be pieces of home that we miss while there are elements of life here that we could find no where else.

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Training

One of the exciting things the hospital is involved in is training PNG doctors.  Some come for three month rotations, but we are also involved in a six year training program for doctors interested in working in rural areas.  Dr. Scott Dooley shares his excitement in being involved in this training.   And Dr. Erin Meier explains more about the program as Dr. Imelda is finishing her rural registry program and Vuia is considering joining us for the next six years in his training.  It’s been a privilege to know Mel and Vuia and see their hearts for bringing medical care to the many people living in rural PNG.

Back to School

It is the end of summer break.  Well, we are in the Southern hemisphere, so technically it’s winter break.  But then again, we live on a tropical island near the equator, so winter isn’t really a thing here.  So, dry season break?  Whatever.  That long break Americans take so their kids forget half of what they learned the year before!

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Anyway, the kids have been back in school for four weeks now.  There are two schools for the MKs on the hospital station, the elementary and high school.  This year the high school is more of a secondary school since half of the students are Jr. high age.  The high school has five students ranging from 7th to 12th grades and the elementary has six students ranging from 1st to 5th grades.  There’s quite a group of younger kids on station, though, so the elementary school will grow a lot in the next couple of years.

Both schools use homeschool curriculum, with the elementary using basically the same curriculum for all the students and the high schoolers choosing their own curriculum.  When we were first planning to move to PNG, the elementary school was using a different curriculum than we were, so I planned to continue homeschooling using the curriculum I liked.   However, while we were preparing to come, the parents of the elementary school decide to switch curriculums and it happened to be to Sonlight, which is what we use, so we are sending our kids to school this year.  At the end of the school day the kids have “specials” which are electives including art, PE, technology, and sign language taught by other missionaries on station.

The schools are run by missionary teachers.  Some stay for one year and others stay for years longer.  This year we have Aunt Daniella with her husband Lukas helping at the high school and Aunts Charity and Stephanie at the elementary school.  They all are such a huge blessing to the families on station.  There are so many components to making life run smoothly at the hospital and the teachers are an important part of making it work for missionary families.

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The Elementary school.  The high schoolers were giving speeches the day I went for pictures, so I didn’t interrupt them for a picture.

This year our oldest is in Jr. High going to the secondary school and our second two are attending the elementary.  There was some reluctance to start school by one of our boys, but he is now the first one out the door and is loving attending.  This week and last week our big girl had to miss school from being sick and has been quite disappointed to not be able to go in the mornings.  Our oldest is enjoying the independence of being at the high school.

We are very grateful for our dedicated teachers who are an important part of our lives here.

Where Are The Doctors?

With many villages only accessible by days of walking or by airplane, it can be difficult for people to access medical care.  There are many districts that do not even have a doctor nearby.  This map shows where the doctors are located and how many areas have no doctor.  The work of Nazarene Health Ministries is vital for the people we serve, not only at the hospital, but also in remote areas of PNG.  Read more here about what is being done to provide medical care and see a beautiful picture of the landing strip at Imane Nazarene Health Center where there are no doctors and no roads.

Fear or Faith

It was a beautiful September day at the Oregon Gardens.  The four kids and I enjoyed visiting, but this was an extra treat with all the learning stations for Homeschool Days.  At lunch we found a grassy spot to eat and as I handed out lunches my phone rang.  It was our adoption social worker.  She had called the day before and we had gotten 6 or 8 calls from different social workers over the past several months about different children, but this was first time we got calls two days in a row.  My heart pounded as I searched for a quiet place to answer among all the other families eating lunch.

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The baby girl the social worker had called about yesterday was going to be in the NICU for at least a few weeks and possibly a few months.  She didn’t have any of the major medical complications that can come with a Down syndrome diagnosis, but she wasn’t eating on her own and needed a feeding tube.  A feeding tube.  One year before that would have stopped me from saying yes to her adoption.  In fact, during our son’s adoption we passed over two girls because their feeding tubes were too intimidating for me.  In the year since our son came home, however, God had been working on my heart, asking if I was willing to welcome the child He brought to our family, no matter the medical needs.  He prepared my heart for this phone call.

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If Nathan or I could stay with her in the hospital, this baby girl was our daughter.  I told our social worker yes, went on to ask a few more questions and then called Nathan to let him know he was a daddy again.  Thankfully, a friend of mine took the kids around the other parts of the Garden while I made phones calls to grandparents to enlist their help for the next weeks . . . months?

After arriving home I booked plane tickets and a hotel for myself, packed my bags, prepared things at home and then looked on the map to see where Arkansas was.  Fifth grade geography told me it was down south, but I couldn’t recall where exactly.

I boarded the plane a couple days later with nervous anticipation.  With the other four kids I had had months to prepare for the new addition, but now I was still trying to wrap my head around being a mom again.  And being a mom to a child with a feeding tube.  While I was willing to walk this unknown path, it was still rather intimidating.

And then the morning came.  I walked into a cool room full of the soft peeping of monitors and they placed this bundled baby with soft black curls in my arms.  My daughter.  Over the next weeks I learned how to feed her using the NG tube going through her nose into her stomach.  Learned how to change her clothes with a tube attached and learned about to replace the tube being sure it fed her stomach and not her lungs.

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In all she was in the hospital for one month and I was with her for 3 weeks.  Nathan came out the final week to finalize the adoption and we flew home with our fifth child.

Now, in 2017, our life with disability doesn’t look all that different as it did before we became a family living with disability, but it wasn’t that way in the beginning.  The first 18 months of our daughter’s life were challenging as we navigated doctors, specialist, therapies, surgeries and hospitalizations.   Our parents helped as much as they could living a distance away and God brought a wonderful family into our lives who stepped right in to help.  At times disability can be all consuming and isolating.  Caring for medical needs can be high maintenance and in turn our family became high maintenance.  We were often in need of help and seldom able to give back.  But this family and our parents were there time and time again as we needed help one more time.

During all the challenges we had our beautiful daughter that melts everyone’s heart.  Aside from her medical needs she was our easiest baby, sleeping through the night and seldom crying.  If time allowed I could have sat for hours with her snuggled in my arms.

At 18 months she was eating all on her own and was able to have her G tube removed.  Life began to even out.  She still had some therapy, but the day in and day out needs became much less demanding.

Now, three years later, she still gives the best snuggles, although she is much noisier than she once was.  She is curious and opinionated and a joy to have around.  And she loves to eat!  Any parent of a tubie graduate will know how incredible that is.

God took us down a road that, at one point, I was determined not to walk.  He asked us to trust in His plan.  I look at her see what we would have missed if we had chosen to walk in fear instead of faith.

Refugees in the Bush

Dr. Erin explains in this blog   what can lead to families becoming refugees in the bush.  Recently, I was talking with a friend of ours about school.  Her children are attending school and her husband attended school as a child, but because her family had to live out in the bush to avoid fighting she was not able to attend.  She wanted me to know, though, that even though she didn’t go to school she knows that God has given her a smart mind.

Head over to Dr. Erin’s blog to read more about why families must flee and pray for little C as she recovers from her condition brought on by living as a refugee in the bush.

God on Top

We finally arrived back at base camp on on Mt Wilhelm around 11 after our 9 hour hike to the summit and back.  We spent the afternoon resting around the lake soaking our feet in the ice  cold water and taking naps.  After dinner I walked to the cook house to get some dishes from our PNG guides to wash.

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The warm air was inviting and I sat down in the thatch house around the warm fire and began talking with Ben, our guide, and his friends.  Soon I was joined by Scott Dooley our hospital administrator.  The friendly banter and warm fire was relaxing as we tried some fish from the lake.  Soon other missionaries began to join us around the fire as the sun slowly set behind the mountain.  Gail Dooley asked Pastor A, one of our PNG friends that help set up the trip, to share his testimony.  He began to share in Pidgin how he had been a criminal and robber and how God had turned his life around.  He shared how his wife left him and his 2 young boys.  Then his cousins took his land, chopped him with a bush knife, and killed his mother.  He chose to forgive them because of what God had done in his life.  He felt a call to be a pastor and eventual completed three years of seminary at the Nazarene Bible College just down the road.  God gave him a new wife and now he has two more children.  He now preaches at a local Nazarene church with his wife.  When he finished his amazing story B, our guide, spoke up and shared that on top of Mt. Wilhelm he felt the presence of God.  He had wanted us to pray for him at the summit but had forgotten to ask as we left the summit so quickly due to the cold wind. This was his 40th trip up Mt Wilhem and the first time he had felt the presence of God. He wanted to give his life to Christ and stop smoking.  We prayed with him as he made his commitment to God.  His one concern was his wife who was not a Christian.  He asked if we would come to his house the next day and pray for them.

The next morning we packed our bags and  began the two hour track down the mountain.  Sweaty and covered in mud we finally dropped our packs into the back of the Land Cruisers.  A short 5 minute drive brought us to the school were B works.  He brought his wife up to our car and an impromptu revival service began as we shared how God had changed our lives, Pastor A’s life and now B’s life.  The growing crowd of men, women, and children steadily grew to around 20.  Our impromptu Sunday morning service ended with an invitation for all to follow Jesus and experience the life changing transformation of the Holy Spirit.

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We then descended the hill to spend time  praying with B and his wife M.  As we sat in front of their wooden house surrounded by gardens she gave her life to Christ.  Both have made a commitment to follow Christ and allow God to lead their family.

After praying over them we hiked up the hill and got in our Land Cruiser and headed for home.  Pastor A plans to follow up with them soon.

So what was the highlight of my trip to Mt Wilhelm?  The summit was good but having a new brother and sister in Christ that was the best.  Please join us in praying for B and M.  Also pray for those that heard the message of Christ that beautiful Sunday that they will open their hearts to our loving Savior.

 

On Top of the World

It was 2 AM in June when we started out in the black of night, a full array of stars over our heads.  Our small headlamps lit the way.  We began to climb steadily upward toward the black outline of a mountain ahead.  Each step brought us close to our goal and higher up Mt Wilhelm.  Periodically we had to stop to catch our breath in the depleted oxygen environment but not too long or our muscles began to cramp from the cold wind.

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The day before we had driven from Kudjip for 3 hours to the base of Mt Wilhelm and hiked 2000 vertical feet to around 11,000 ft elevation to stay the night in a small cabin on an ice cold lake.  Five out of eleven of us had decided to try and summit Mt. Wilhelm, which is 14,793 ft.  It is the highest mountain in PNG.  We arose at 1:30 and grabbed a quick bit to eat and got instructions from our guide.  “Walk carefully.  Don’t fall backwards, if you are going to fall, fall forward and toward your left.  There are many places you can fall off a cliff on your right.  Stay together.”  With those sobering words we started out.  As we climbed higher and the hill got steeper my legs began to burn.  All we could see was the world illuminated by our head lights.  Repeatedly there was a sense of emptiness to the right.  At some point on the trip each of us reached a point of mental or physical exhaustion but with the help  of our companions we found new reserves to climb ever  higher.

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Venus began its arc across the Southern sky.  At around 5am a faint red glow appeared on the horizon This was the first time we could see how high we were and how steep the slope beside the trail.  An ice cold wind  began to blast as we skirted the mountains ridge line toward the summit.  Full light set up in time to make the tricky last 1/2 mile.  There were times, climbing over ledges with 45 degree drop offs, where my fear confronted my willpower but little by little we cleared the ridge line and began ascending the rocky shoot to the summit.  Over giant boulders and up granite slopes and then over one last ledge and we were on top looking across the majesty of PNG.

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Lukas, Pastor A’s son, Charity, Nathan and Pastor A

The sun shining on our faces and the icy wind blasting our tired bodies.  We stayed on top long enough for a few pictures and a quick look around and then the cold wind drove us off.  The descent would reveal the full scope of how grueling our dark hike had been.  It would take 9 hours round trip.  As we had ascended we had briefly discussed why make such a hard, long climb with so little oxygen.  Because it’s there and we wanted to see God’s creation.

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A Quick Delivery

It was Sunday afternoon as I walked on to Labor & Delivery to check several patients.  The nurses were concerned about a newborn that had been born prior to arriving at the hospital.

We’ll call the mother Harriett.  This was her 4th child and she had been at home when the labor pains became rather intense.  She lives in a house on stilts with a surrounding veranda just a short drive from our hospital.  As she hurried across the veranda to the stairs, the baby was born.  Baby of Harriet dropped from the birth canal and fell from the edge of the porch.  The sudden jolt severed the placenta and the baby plunged 1.5 meters, impacting on a plank walkway and then  rolled into the dirt.  Harriett then scooped her child up and raced to the hospital where the staff delivered the placenta.  The nurses cleaned the little baby boy who had dirt everywhere.  He still had a little dirt in his ears when I came for the examination.  Other than that he looked pretty healthy.

After an afternoon of observation Baby of Harriett finally started nursing and we all took a sigh of relief.  On Monday he and Harriett were both doing well.  I hear and see many things in PNG I have not seen elsewhere.  This was a first.  A newborn trying to bungee jump.