Thanksgiving greetings from Papua New Guinea! We hope each one of you has a special time with friends and family this year.
In the land of perpetual summer I completely forgot to pick up all the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner on my last trip to town. The kids assured me, though, that pizza would make a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. So we enjoyed a lovely pizza dinner together with crystal light sent by friends from home and Nathan’s homemade french fried onions.
We are thankful for each of you. The support we have felt in preparing to move here and, now, in being in Kudjip has been amazing. So many of you let us know that you are praying for the ministry, have sent us packages from home, have made it financially possible for us to be here, and have checked in to see how the adjustment to life in PNG is going. You are helping to bring physical and spiritual healing to the people of PNG and we are deeply grateful for each of you.
On Friday morning Nathan was examining a child in the club foot clinic. He looked over to the ER just adjacent to the room where he was casting and saw Dr. Bill McCoy treating a patient who had been accused of sorcery.
In PNG and other countries around the world, death is not seen as an accident or natural part of life. It is believed that death comes because someone else brought it about. A woman is usually accused of causing the death and she is tortured for her supposed sorcery.
Just a few months ago a toddler chocked on some food and died. Two women were accused of causing the child’s death and were tortured for 36 hours before the police rescued them. One died shortly after and the other woman was brought to the hospital, but she, too, died from her injuries.
In an effort to stop the torture, the woman will sometimes accuse another of sorcery and the cycle continues as the blame is shifted to someone else.
Several years ago a woman was accused of sorcery and was burned alive. Her young daughter was taken to a place of supposed safety, but on Friday this little girl was brought to Nazarene Hospital because she became one of the youngest victims of torture after being accused. Six years old. Six.
We are here to help bring medical care for people who would not otherwise have it, but more than that we are here to bring the hope of Christ. He will bring freedom from the chains of evil. He will mold a society that is uniquely Papua New Guinean. A society that is not bound by superstition but instead values each member as a child created in His imagine. In the midst of horrible situations like this, there is hope that is found only in Christ. Will you pray with us that God will break the bonds of this practice. Pray for this child as she walks the long path to physical and psychological healing.
This morning we joined some of the hospital staff and other missionaries for hospital evangelism. It is a time we come together and visit each ward in the hospital to sing songs with the patients, listen to a devotional and pray with each patient.
This morning Rachel Thompson gave the devotional and shared about the stories of Jesus calming the storm and Peter walking on water to Jesus before being distracted by the storm around him. She shared that no matter where a person lives, whether in PNG, Australia, China or America, we all face storms in our lives. Just as Jesus was there with Peter, holding his hand in the midst of the storm, Jesus is there for us as we face trials and sickness. Jesus is faithful.
The group started in A ward, which is where the children are cared for. Next came B ward for the adult medical patient and by the time we got to C ward, for the surgery patients, our kids were ready to go home and eat. We told them we’d visit the last ward, D ward, and then head home. Once we got in they were glad they didn’t miss out. This is the labor and delivery ward and they enjoyed getting see the tiny babies beside their mamas and see the even tinier babies in the nursery that serves as the NICU.
The kids and I don’t often get to see what goes on in the hospital, so this is a special time for us to spend time with the patients and the patients are eager to talk. Those that Nathan has been following are excited to meet his family. We are grateful for the opportunity to minister together as a family.
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.
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.
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.
Knowing how deep the hole was, it felt a little strange to be standing on top once it was filled in.
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.
A quick update to let you know that we are doing well. A cold has been running through the station and our family seems to be through the worst of it. Daily rains have returned and our water tanks are once again full. The internet this month has not been working well, so I haven’t been able to blog much. Hopefully it’ll start working better again so I can catch up on blogging and emails!
It was startling to see when we first arrived. Drops of bright red are found all over the ground at the markets and in town. It comes from chewing betel nut. The bright red stains the user’s mouth and leaves red splotches on the ground from spit. It gives the person a high and a sense of euphoria. It also causes mouth and throat cancer. This article by the BBC describes the growing problem of betel nut use in Papua New Guinea. It’s not uncommon to see young kids with lips and teeth stained red from use. The soaring use along with limited medical care available means the incident of oral cancers will continue to increase. Please pray for the staff as we treat patients with this cancer and pray that as people find freedom in a relationship with Christ, that they will also be freed from the addiction to buai.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.