A Week of the Unexpected

Last week was quite eventful. It started early Monday morning about 3:45am. I woke up to the bed shaking and thought one of the kids was trying to climb into bed. When I rolled over and didn’t see any children, but the bed was shaking even harder, I realized it was an earthquake. In the morning we found out it was located around 100 miles or more to the West of Kudjip and was about a 7.5. Thankfully, the buildings and hydroelectric dam on station didn’t suffer any damage. Some people had things fall of shelves and break, but the damage locally was minimal.  Even this week we continue to feel small tremors.

Many landslides were triggered at the epicenter and buildings were damaged. The last estimate I heard were that 30 people were killed. Here is a link to pictures Connie Aebischer took as Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) assessed the damage and prepared to help those affected by the earthquake.

At some point during the week we also had a lightening strike take out the phone lines on station. They are trying to get those fixed and updated. This biggest problem this creates is when the doctors are on call and the hospital needs to get ahold of them. Thankfully, we have cell phones as a back up and when those don’t work the security guards fetch the doctor to help. The landlines still are the best option for call, so they continue to work at getting those back up and running.

The large autoclave machines also quit working last week. An autoclave helps sterilize equipment for procedures in the ER, for surgeries and for C-sections. We have two large autoclaves and a couple that fit on a table top. Both large machines quit functioning and for a day or so we were able to function solely as a clinic, seeing outpatients and giving medications, but were not able to preform the functions of a hospital. Thanks to the work of maintenance staff, the machines are up and running again. You can read more about the impact this made on Dr. Erin’s blog here.

The power was also going off quite often last week and into this week. Thanks to the hydroelectric dam we have much more reliable power than we could get on national power. I’m not sure the reason, but during the day the electricity was good, but around dinner time most nights last week it went off. Sometimes it lasted for just a few minutes and other times much longer. Nathan’s headlamp has come in handy. Last night he was in the ER stitching up the wound on a lady’s heal. Her husband was mad at her and chopped her with his bush knife, cutting her bone and possibly cutting her tendon. In the middle of caring for her everything went pitch black as the power went out. While he waited for the generator to kick on, he was able to keep caring for her by the light from his headlamp. He was thankful it came on when it did, because all the little nighttime bugs were starting to swarm his headlamp.

One evening last week we made it through dinner and the power went off just as we started chores. The water won’t turn on without power, so in order to do the dishes we had a couple kids run outside with buckets to collect water from the large tanks. We heated it on the gas stove and did dishes by candle light. It was actually a fun evening and just as chores were finished the power came back on.

As Dr. Erin highlighted, there are so many people that help to make the hospital function and last week showed how important each person is, from those working on the phones, to the men fixing the autoclaves, to the security guards and the people working on our power. It takes far more than doctors and nurses to keep a hospital up and running and we are grateful to each person that has a hand to helping to bring physical and spiritual healing to the people of PNG.

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*All typos and poor grammar are brought to you by a busy mama trying to get back into the habit of keeping you updated through the blog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our First Christmas in PNG

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Not because of the cold weather and snow, but because of all the decorations and Christmas parties and church services.  Nathan and I went into town last week and were greeted by a giant inflatable Santa sitting on top of a strip mall.  The stores were full of lights, ornaments and Christmas music.  On station several of the houses have lights strung along the porches and each ward on the hospital has Christmas decorations up.  Here’s a few pictures from various Christmas events from the past few weeks.

 

This video is the kids singing and signing a song at our Enligh lotu (worship) service that happens once every other month.

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The Christmas play at Enlish lotu.  The tall men in black are King Herod’s tough guys.  Everyone did a great job and the play was quite funny.

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Caroling on the wards Christmas Eve.

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Handing out gifts on the wards

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Nathan with the nurses he’s been working with on D ward for labor and delivery.  Friday evening he had to rush to the hospital for an emergency C-section and we got to meet the mama and baby he helped.

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This big sister wants another baby brother or sister to hold, so was quite happy to have a chance to hold one of the babies on D ward.  All the kids love seeing the many tiny babies on this ward.

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Christmas caroling around station in the sprinkling rain.

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The boys at our table for the missionary Christmas party.  The pictures really don’t do the decorations justice.  The decorating committee went all out and it was lovely evening.

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The high schoolers entertained us with a PNG version of the Twelve Days of Christmas with a couscous in a guava tree, three MAF planes, cicadas singing (or screeching) and many other uniquely PNG experiences.

 

Our baby girl wasn’t too sure about Santa, but our big girl was quite happy to have Santa passing out presents.  Santa was played by Uncle Bill.

May you all have a very Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Christ and look forward to celebrating his resurrection!

Preparing Gifts

Even the little ones have a chance to be involved in ministry.  In preparing for Christmas Aunt Gail invited some of the little MKs to come and help prepare gifts to give to patients on Christmas Eve.  We counted through stuffed animals for the kids, toiletry kits for the adults and baby kits for the newborns.  These will be delivered by the missionary families to patients on all four wards of the hospital.

While sorting through the gifts we came across some bottles of neosporin, so we gathered those to deliver to the surgery department.  Neosporin has been in short supply, so we were glad to find these.

We also got to say hi to Nathan since he was in the ER when we walked by.

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Creating a Garden

Our internet has been working well for two days now.  After nearly a month of poor internet, I should be able to get some more blogs up.

Over the dry season Nathan hired several men to help him dig up garden space.   He went down to the river with them to gather stones for edging the garden and filling in a dry well.  I was amazed how quickly they were able to get all the work done.  They also have a great eye for making the edging stones look good.  Nathan would lay in a stone and Pastor A would come over to make it fit just right.  Nathan enjoyed getting to do some of the work with the men and was thankful for the extra help when he had to go to work.

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One of the things they did was dig a dry well.  During the rainy season our back yard gets very soggy, so we’re hoping this giant hole, along with a ditch dug out back, will help the water run off a little better.

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This was the depth after the first day of digging.  The next day they went down several more feet and then filled it in with large stones.

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Knowing how deep the hole was, it felt a little strange to be standing on top once it was filled in.

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All the dirt from the hole was used to fill in this low spot that collected water.  After three months the grass has pretty well filled in all of the dirt they laid out.

The Oregon Gardens is one of my favorite places to visit and Nathan is working to make our own tropical version of the Gardens.  There’s been flowers blooming for months and everything is growing in beautifully.

These pictures were taken about two months apart.  We should be getting some tomatoes, pineapples and kaukau (sweet potatoes) from the garden soon.

 

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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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.

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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Arrivals

There are a lot of comings and goings on a mission station.  Volunteers come for a few weeks to a few months.  Missionary kids visit for a few months and return for college (they get one trip paid for by the church during college).  Family comes to visit.  Long term missionaries leave for home assignment and new missionaries arrive.

This coming week we are expecting the return of Dr. Erin.  She has been serving here for over ten years and after arriving in the US for home assignment in the spring, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It was uncertain if she’d be able return in August as originally planned.  Many people prayed for her, not knowing what God’s plan was, but trusting Him in the process.  Thankfully, the tumor responded well to treatment over the summer and she is able to return as planned.

The Miller family will be arriving along with Erin.  They are a new missionary family that will join us for the next couple of years.  Justin works in IT, Stephanie will be helping at the MK elementary school and their daughter will be entering first grade.  Our family has been eagerly anticipating their arrival for several months.  They are just days away from moving, so are in the middle of the last minute chaos and emotions that accompany this transition.  I know they’d appreciate your prayers during this time.

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