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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Creepy Crawlies – Frogs

Frogs are the one critter our kids have wanted to find, but not been able to catch in the five months we’ve been in PNG.  In the evenings we often hear them when we’re out walking and despite making a few outings to catch one, they’ve always remained illusive.

This past week we had a stay-cation.  The week was spent sleeping in our own beds, making our own restaurant for an evening, eating off paper plates (doing dishes in the fire pit made for easy chore time) and doing many of the activities around station that there’s never enough time for.  High on the list of things to do was frog hunting and last night was the night for a good frog hunt.  It had drizzled off and on all day, so we hoped that would help bring the frogs out.

There’s a spot on station near the College of Nursing that we often hear frogs croaking.  It was decided that this activity needed hunters that could remain quiet and not scare the frogs away, so I stayed home with the little two.  Instead of hunting, they got to play in the bath water, which is high on their list of fun activities.  The hunting party arrived home sooner than expected with dejected expressions.  I thought they were handling their disappointment quite well and started to explain we could try again another time when the jumping and squealing began.  Turns out they were just putting on a show and actually HAD caught a frog.

They had seen several frogs and heard many more.  Nathan was trying to get up the nerve to catch this one when our big girl hopped right in and nabbed him.  It was the perfect ending to a great week of vacation.

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Political Tension

You may remember this blog about the elections here in PNG.  The voting has been over in our area for several weeks and the counting has been on-going.  As we get closer to announcing the winners, the tension is getting higher.

As foreigners, we can stay on station and keep away from the tension, but that is not the case for our PNG friends.  Pastor A has been helping us dig a new garden area.  He travels a little distance to come and as he ate lunch with us yesterday, it was easy to see the burden he has for the situation.

As a young man, he was one that was involved in causing problems and fighting.  He easily could have been one of these young men who is recruiting people for his side when the fighting starts.  But he found a new way of life when he decided to follow Jesus.  He is now a man of peace and instead of looking for a fight, he looks for ways to be a light.  He is quick to help those in need and to speak peace to those who are stirring up trouble.

Would you please pray for Pastor A and his family.  If fighting does break out in his area, they could easily be targets.  Pray for wisdom as he tries to calm the mounting tension of those around him.  Pray for safety for his family.  Pray for other men of peace during this time.  Pray that the obvious difference Jesus is making in their lives will draw people to Christ during this time of uncertainty.

A Message for the Ladies

Last week about 20 of us traveled to a bush church.  When I first heard about going to bush churches I imagined long car trips with plenty of hiking to follow.  As it turns out, since we’re already living out away from the main towns, going to a bush church doesn’t take long.  This particular church was a 20-30 minute drive.

I have two choices when driving off station.  Be brave and drive the roads or be a passenger and get car sick.  This time I opted to drive one of the two vehicles.  There are four P’s that a driver has to be aware of when driving here:

Pigs – There are pigs of all sizes (tiny and huge) along the side of the road.  Occasionally they run into the road.

People – The walkways are right along the side of the road and people often use the road itself to walk on (it’s easier than walking in the dirt and brush).  Little kids often play along the side of the road and will sometimes dart out.

Potholes – POTHOLES would probably be a better description.  There are many and they are big.  You can’t travel 80 kph (50mph) very long before having to slow down for the next pothole.

Police – The police have check points occasionally that need to be stopped for.

When I drive there is one more P that drivers need to watch for.

Pokey Little Beckey – I am getting  better, but tend to be one of the slower drivers on the road.  Thankfully, last Sunday there weren’t any vehicles that pulled up behind me and I wasn’t too far behind Scott, who was driving the other vehicle.

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One of the bridges we drove across and then walked across after the service to play in the river

We arrived at the church a little early and soon had a crowd of kids around to watch us.  Most of them enjoyed having their pictures taken and then being able to see themselves on the camera.  Some of the kids were curious, but shied away from the camera.

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On the way in, our big girl  was disappointed to miss seeing the pigs along the side of the road.  Once we got to the the church, though, she was able to go back behind the building and see a little pig there.

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A PNG couple that attends the Nazarene Bible college near the hospital were the special speakers for the morning.  We all were enjoying the special music they shared so much that I neglected to get a picture of them.  Their as ples (place of origin, hometown) is near the capital city of Port Moresby and the music reflected the area.  He made some fun popping sounds during the songs, which were met by roars of laughter from all the kids in the congregation.

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Recently, I was talking with Dr. Sheryl, who is a surgeon that arrived the same time we did, about how hard it is to see the violence against women here.  A lady will come in after being stabbed by her husband and we care for their wounds, but they often times do not come back for follow up visits.  There’s not a lot of resources for women in abusive situations.  I also recently read this article about PNG being one of the worst places in the world for violence against women.

The visiting pastor had a sermon all prepared, but when he saw how many women were in the church he decided to go a different direction.  I quickly stepped outside since our baby girl wanted to help him preach, but was able to hear much of what he said from just outside the door.  He spoke about the Samaritan woman at the well and told the ladies that they are important to God and He has a plan for each one of them through this church.  In the midst of a culture that looks down on them for being women, it is through Jesus Christ these ladies are given value and purpose.  Towards the end of the sermon I stepped closer to the door to peek inside and saw the front of the sanctuary filled with ladies praying.

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As foreigners we can tell women they have value, but the impact is even greater when it comes from one of their own people.  Please pray for the national church leaders (men and women) as they communicate the good news of Jesus.  Pray that Christian husbands will love their wives as Christ loves the church and their clans will see the difference that this love makes in their marriages.  Pray for the women of this church as they seek God’s direction in how He will continue to use their lives.  Pray for the women in abusive situations, that they can find safety and find hope in Jesus.  Pray for the doctors, nurses and chaplains as they treat the ladies whose bodies and spirits are beaten and battered.

After the service we drove down the hill for a picnic and a chance to play in the river.

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It was quite a steep trek down the hill and going back up was even trickier.

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It was a great morning together and an encouraging time at church.

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Meri Blaus

A couple of weeks ago I went to the backyard to rescue our little guy from the top of the monkey bars and something caught my eye through the fence.  On the other side of the road I saw this meri blaus and laplap.  I had been wanting one for when we go to bush church and special occasions so Nathan and I went out that afternoon and bought it.  Meri (pronounced Mary) is a woman, blaus is a blouse and a laplap is a piece of cloth.  In this case it is referring to the skirt that goes under the blouse.  We see many women wearing this combination and it is quite comfortable and cool in the warm weather.IMG_1172