Thursday, February 28, 2008

another day

Another literacy class has passed and once again I/we had a great time. Three more ladies came this time, two of them who also did not even know how to write/spell their own name. It was so much fun to teach and to watch them learn, especially those who have never learnt a single thing about reading and writing before – they are the most exciting to watch. We worked from 9am -12 – 3 hours straight without a break. We have lots to get through each lesson, especially because some of the ladies need to go very slowly to get things properly. I ask them if they need to stop or finish early but they just want to go and go…may the enthusiasm be permanent! Another great development in the literacy course is that one of the ladies who comes each week to observe and to help me (she is able to read and write well already and is fairly well educated), is now going to teach another lady who wanted to join us but was unable because she has two very young children which make it impossible for her to come along to the class and learn effectively. I was trying to sleep the other night and suddenly I thought that maybe we could solve the problem by getting this lady taught by someone else in her community (namely the lady who is helping me with the course). So I approached them both and they were both very excited to do it. The lady who will be teaching her will basically follow the lesson I teach each week and will come to see me if she has any questions/problems. We’ll see how this works…
And more excitement….today was the first day that I dropped Ashlyn off at her “playgroup” (I drop her off there on Thursday mornings each week so that she has some social interaction with other children her age and I get to teach the literacy course in “peace”) without her crying one single bit. Last week she still screamed and yelled and clung to me when I needed to leave, but this time, although she was far from enthusiastic to go, she went without crying!!! And she really enjoys herself while she is there…she is always full of stories when she gets back home. When Kirilee and Shiana came home from school this afternoon she went running outside yelling at the top of her voice ,“Shiana, Shiana no my didn’t cry my go my school!” She was just so proud of herself!
Shiana is also back to good health again! She has a low appetite still, but for the rest is doing great for which we are very thankful! Fevers in this country are always more stressful, because malaria is always on the back of your mind.
The teacher who got shot is already back at school. We saw him the other day and it obvious he is still in pain, but he is doing well. He told Kirilee’s class his story, and apparently he was cornered against the fence of his property when he was shot – apparently he was outside his house when it occurred, though inside his property. I got the impression that they were trying to get his keys to be able to get into his house…anyway, in the process he was shot, but now is doing much better which is wonderful.
Andrew is at an annual general meeting of the school at the moment, the girls are doing some crafts at the table (Ashlyn is trying her hardest to copy her sisters), so I thought I would blog…have a great night all and God bless.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thunder Storms and school

Last night as we were trying to sleep, the rain pounded down (and this is the dry season!). Thunder and lightning crashed and flashed all around us. We rushed around to unplug the phone lines and computers and all electrical goods. They are all already on surge protectors (due to the often broken power supply here in Lae), but at this time of the year the thunder storms come every other night so we are ever vigilant. They strike right on our houses from time to time and have been know to wreak much damage in the process to all electrical goods. And then there is the rain. Our house is just down from a huge drain which passes through our compound, allowing water to gush through from the mountain behind us when the tropical rains fall down. Sometimes, however, when there is a huge downpour the drain gets blocked and it overflows. Then our front porch becomes a raging torrent and we have had it come inside before. So when the heavy rain comes down we gather shoes and other things from our porch putting them inside, we try and plug the gap under our outside door with towels, and we remove any electrical cords/items from the floor downstairs. So down came the rain, we gathered our things in and then lay in bed. As we are dosing off we jump to the sound of a loud grating noise. That means they are opening the drain gate (between our block and the next - the gate is there for security to prevent people coming in through the drain) trying to let debri go through so it will not block. We both turn in our beds and peek behind us out the window as our bedroom overlooks the drain. We watch as it rises and rises. It is blocked but thankfully as it does the rain subsides. Just when it is about to overflow and make a huge mess, the gardener manages to pull the last remaining debri away and unblock the drain. We sigh in least there will be no mopping up for us tonight!!! When it's thundering and lightning and pelting with rain it feels like we are given a glimpse of our All-powerful God...and to think He is way more powerful yet!

We had an information/parents evening at the school tonight. It was great to talk to the girl's teachers and to look in their classrooms. So far we are very impressed with the school and the teachers and the girls appear to be settling in very well. Shiana was not at school today. Since Saturday she has been running a fever and been unwell, but seemed to be picking up a lot today, so we are thankful for that!

Anyway, I will keep it short today....till next time...goodnight!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Profession of Faith

What a beautiful, blessed Sunday!! We were allowed to witness the Profession of Faith of 12 new confessing members to our Reformed Churches here in PNG, as well as welcoming 9 of their children too! It was so wonderful to see in these people evidence of God's grace. He calls His children to himself without them deserving it at all. He is a wonderful, Faithful Father. In this joy and knowledge we could celbrate this festive day! All glory to Him.
Ashlyn enjoying the celebratory cake!
Some of the new members

Some of the kids finishing off the icing from the cake left in the boxes

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Literacy Course

Wow! The first literacy class has been and gone. What an incredible time. I was so nervous and at the same time super excited. Teaching grown women to read and write in Tok Pisin! Amazing!! Some of them know the basics of reading and writing but have never learned it well. Still others had absolutely no clue how to even hold a pencil. Some have no clue even how to write their own name. So today they all learnt to recognize their own names and then we did a little bit of writing – just to get used to holding a pencil and to learn the basics of letter writing. They all did so well. One woman, who must be about 40 or so (I actually have no idea how old she is – though neither does she – but that is my guesstimate) had such a hard time learning to hold the pencil properly and getting those lines and mmmm’s on her paper. But she was just so determined. Had I been her I think I would have given up, but she just plugged away and she improved so much by the end of the lesson. It was great to see.
I began the lesson reading the first part of Psalm 127 and we talked about the need for the Lord to bless whatever we do, and that this class too is dependent on his blessing. It is nice to be able to briefly share parts from God’s Word with these women at the same time. And we talked about how it is our prayer that by the end of the course (at least a year – 1 ½ years later) these women will all be able to read the Bible properly for themselves. Imagine not being able to do that!
I was a little disappointed (although I was prepared for it) as a group of women who said they would come did not, and they were the ones who really were excited about it. But they have had a death out there and also some other problems, so I hope to see what is going on when I talk to them on Sunday. However, the disappointment did not stay as those that were there were very enthusiastic and excited and I just had a great time – back to teaching again, and did I ever enjoy it. I am prepared, though, that some students may drop out yet, but that’s okay. Even if only a few learn well, it will be worth it. Imagine how the church can be strengthened even more under God’s blessing, with literate people who can read the Word and teach their children the riches contained therein as well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

a shooting

Just when I think another day has gone by and I have nothing of interest to write about, something always happens...mmm. Actually I just came from my fridge to take a piece of chocolate (Andrew found these bars marked down as a clearance item, as they are past their used-by date) in Foodmart a week ago so we actually have have some chocolate in the house - yay!! Anyway, I went to get a small piece and found a large piece which had teeth marks and had been chewed all the way around...guess Ashlyn has been "shopping" in the fridge. She's such as ratbag. The other day I found her downstairs eating a small packed of chips. I had wondered what the "pop" was which I heard from upstairs, but after coming downstairs I realised she had managed to pop open her chips - guess she learnt that from her big sisters.

Anyway, back to the story. Not a very nice one. The girls came home from school today to say that one of the teachers had been shot and was in hospital. They got a note home from school explaining. The victim is an ex-pat, an Australian man. He is the grade 5 teacher but he takes Kirilee's class (grade four) for English and some other subjects. Well, the note from school revealed that Mr Dixon was a victim of an attempted robbery at his house. In the process he was shot in the upper left-side of his chest (thankfully not his heart!). He is in serioius condition but with treatment is expected to make a full recovery...

This brings home to us once again the dangers in the country we live in (although we do realise things like this happen all around the world...however, it is just more common here!). The girls were a bit more scared than usually this afternoon and tonight, but we talked about it all and reminded eachother that our lives are in God's hands. He is in control...We can't reassure the girls that nothing will ever happen to us, but we do reassure them (and ourselves), that whatever happens will always be in God's control and that it will always work for our good (Rom 8).

Meanwhile, the teacher will be out of action for a while, so the school is trying to make do with the staff they have, and the principal is filling in quite a bit too!

Today I made four large apple cakes. Why four do you ask? Well, I never make apple cake usually as the pie apples I use are very expensive. But this week I found a huge bulk tin of them which worked out a lot cheaper than the single tins (okay not cheap compared to in Australia, but cheap and reasonable for here!)...but then I had to make four apple cakes. But now they are all in the freezer so I'm happy

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I noticed yesterday that Ashlyn was pretty grumpy, but put it down to tiredness… however, she got up this morning and was crying all the time, would not walk because of pain at the very top of her legs, had a fairly high fever, and a tiny sore on her leg had a fiery red patch about 10cm in diameter around it. So….I figured out her infected sore had spread and was making her very sick. It happened so quickly. True, the sore had been there for a while. She got a couple of mossie bites when we first got back here and she scratched them open and they got a bit infected. But I had faithfully put antibiotic cream on them, kept them clean and put bandaids on to keep the flies out when outside. I had been so faithful because we know from experience how quickly the sores get infected in this tropical climate with an abundance of sore-digging flies! And the funny thing is the sores had been looking so much better the last few days too…
Anyway, I took her straight to the doctor this morning and she felt her tender, swollen lymph nodes, felt her fever and saw her fiery red patch around her saw, and came to the same conclusion. So Ashlyn got an injection to kick start the working of the antibiotics and now she has oral antibiotics too. It seems that the injection must have worked as her fever has subsided and she will walk quite normally now and is not complaining about pain in her legs anymore. However, the patch around her sore has got bigger and redder as the day has worn on, so we pray it may really improve over the next day or so…if not I guess we will be back to the doc on Monday.
Before the day began in this way we had planned to go out to 6-mile to go to the farm store there and to the book store as Andrew needed to buy some Bibles. We also hoped to visit the family who has a daughter in Shiana’s class (they are with EBC mission which originates in Switzerland). Well, later on in the morning we decided to still go as I gave Ashlyn Ibuprofen (neurofen) and she was doing pretty well on that (ah, the wonders of medicine…). So Shiana was so happy. We visited with the family for about an hour and Shiana and her friend just had so much fun playing outside. Kirilee was kept happy because the family has a three-month old baby and we had a lovely visit. We hope to visit with them again some time soon. It is so nice for Shiana to have another Christian girl in her class, and the family said a few times how happy they were that Shiana was in the class with their daughter, too. It’s also nice for us to have some contact with other “Westerners” who are Christians!
Then Andrew spent a few hours in Tent Siti in the afternoon doing some work on the church building. He didn’t come home till just before dark, we had dinner. I just decide to do this while the kids were in the bath, but now it is time to get them all in bed… goodnight all!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another few days...

Well, here I am again…at the keyboard. My fingers are kind of flakey…don’t worry it’s not some new tropical disease, it’s just that I used superglue earlier on and, well, you can guess the rest – I have been peeling my fingers ever since…
But that is not what I am posting to tell you about although I am sure the state of my fingers is very exciting to you all. I just thought I would tell you about our day. Actually I’ll start with yesterday when Andrew spent the whole day out at Tent Siti working on the church building. A wonderful team from the Doulos came out again and they almost finished the building. It was a long day, although thankfully it was a bit overcast for a lot of the day, but of course we are in the tropics so it was still very hot.
Today I brought Ashlyn to school for another “trial” morning at her playschool. Next week Thursday I hope to start the literacy course so these last two weeks we put her into the playschool to see if it would work or if we would have to make other arrangements…well, she was kind of excited about going again, but would sometimes say she did not want to go. After we dropped Kirilee and Shiana off at school she knew it was her turn next and she began to cry while my heart began to break and fall apart – though I put on a brave front (“school is going to be fun, Mummy will come back to get you later, let’s see all your nice new friends, etc, etc…”). Anyway when we arrived at the school she jumped over to lots of seats and into the back very quickly trying to prevent me from getting her (like I can’t open the back door!!!). Anyway, I calmly got her and we went into school after which she calmed down completely, though clinging to me tightly the whole time. I sat with her for a minute, explained what was going to happen again and repeated a number of times that I would be back to get her at lunch time. She screamed as I handed her over and I could hear her as I left….but, the good news is that I called ½ hour later and apparently she cried for less than five minutes!!! Also, when I returned to pick her up I was told that she really joined in with all the songs this time and interacted a lot with the other kids. We are so, so thankful for that!
When I was just about to go and pick her up this morning from school, Julie (a lady who works for us a few days a week to help out with the housework, so my time is somewhat more freed up for the church work here), arrived at my front door looking very flustered. She called to me and I went to her. She told me that her daughter’s husband has been arrested and is being held at the police station until they pay K100 to bail him out. She was worried about her young (and attractive) daughter being on her own in the settlement at night without her husband there, so she begged me to lend her the K100 which I would then take out of her pay tomorrow and a small portion from the next week… I asked why he was in jail and it was because his driver’s license had expired and he was still driving a bus (he works for another man and earns about K100 every two weeks for this...)…so I gave it to her …
But the thing that never ceases to amaze me about Julie, and many like her is how they so easily give their money away. Part of it is cultural – you always care for your family, what you have is theirs too. Just earlier in the week she had asked me for an advance so she could give it to her Papa who had come down from the village and needed to pay the bus fair back there. So this effectively means that her whole pay for the last two weeks has been given away to family. And that is not the first time this has happened. And these people have no bank account with other money in it, or social security to fall back on, or something of value to sell. What she earns week by week is all she has. When I ask her about how she will eat when I know she has given all her money away, she calmly tells me that she has a bag of kaukau (sweet potato) and taro sitting at home and she will cook a few of them each day. Then sometimes she may share some food from another family member. Because we know the way she lives she always has a big lunch when she is here, we try and make sure she gets some fruit and she loves bread and cheese. I often have leftover rice which I can give her to take home, and she will always take things like the outside/brownish leaves of a lettuce to cook up or the skin off the chicken, etc. Initially I felt awful giving her things that I would throw away, so I used to wrap them and chuck them in the garbage without her seeing, but then I just had to wake up to myself. Because of my own pride I would rather waste food that she could eat – how crazy is that?! Anyway, now I ask her if she wants anything that I am throwing away (and she usually does – even leaves of the cauliflower and broccoli I buy) and she is extremely happy and now so am I – sure is better than throwing it away anyway!
Andrew spent the afternoon at the hospital with Ian and yet another team from the Doulos. The team from the Doulos had care packages (hygiene things, eg soap, toothpaste, etc) to hand out and Ian and Andrew delivered short messages on scripture and prayed with the patients. They were all very well received and we pray that it may be a blessing. I could not go as I had to get the girls from school in that time, and also because it is not good to take young children into the hospital because of some of the diseases present there. I spoke to one of the members from the Doulos afterwards and she said that on her time in the Doulos she has been to a number of hospitals but that this was one of the worst (in standard) that she had seen .
Anyway, that’s all from me tonight. Good night

Monday, February 11, 2008

shopping trip

Well I went shopping with Ashlyn this morning at the supermarkets in town. I was walking through one of the stores to buy meat (it has the cheapest meat by far) when suddenly I felt someone pulling on my bilum (my bag with my keys and purse in it). I immediately pulled my bilum close and began to turn away, when I heard my name. It was one of the ladies from Biwat. But in that moment, my heart raced a hundred mile an hour and it brought home to me that, although when I go out and about I am not fearful, I nevertheless am obviously somewhat tense and always “looking over my shoulder”.
And then after we both had a good laugh… I had to proceed through the rest of the store with this lady by me. Now, don’t think for a moment that her company bothered me as such – she is a lovely lady, and I love her company. But, already at this point my shopping trolley had about K60 (approx $28 AUD) worth of food in it, which included a bit of meat (I stock up for the week or so and put it in the freezer so I don’t need to go out to the stores too often). Then of course she wanted to be really helpful and even went through the check-out with me and helped me carry my few bags to the car before she went back into the store. To know that the lady walking next to you eats meat only once in a while, and to know that she would never consider buying as much as I bought in one go, and to realise that she rarely would even hold K60 in her hand…made me feel very self-conscious while I was shopping (and I didn’t even purchase any more after I met her). It also makes me so thankful over and over again for the many rich blessings God has given us. The constant tension between riches and poverty in this country is ever on our minds and in our thoughts!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Looking back at some events in the past week or so

This morning we went to church and had wonderful worship service...a sermon from Ephesus on the grace of God - that we are incapable of doing a single thing for our salvation, that it is all Grace alone. Now we are back home, and as Ashlyn is sleeping I thought I would take a few moments to spend some more time sharing stories:

As some of you may know, we have the Doulos ship here in Lae this month. And because it is a Christian ship, with a mission-type mandate, we have had a bit to do with them as Reformed Ministries here in PNG. A small team of 5 from the Doulos went into the Biwat settlement, and stayed there for a couple of nights with a family who attends our church. During the days they did some activities with the children and we were very impressed with the way they brought the gospel message and with their creativity and endurance, especially since many of them were not used to the stifling heat. They were a wonderful group of people and it was nice to get to know them.
The Doulos team in Biwat

Our “old” Doctor and his wife from Australia were also on the ship just for a short time (to do medical checks…) and we caught up with them. We had a wonderful time with them – we showed them Lae (at least some of it). They were interested in seeing what we did and where we worked, so we took them to our church building site in Kamkumung and also into the Biwat settlement, where the loving people there welcomed them and even gave them a number of gifts. It was so nice to share our work with some people from back "home". The doctor and his wife also showed us the Doulos – we got a personal tour and we even got to eat dinner with them on the ship two nights in a row. Wow, no cooking - I sure wasn’t complaining!

Then last Thursday a team of hard-working guys from the Doulos went to Tentsiti and worked on the church building there. They did a fantastic job! We have also enjoyed having the Doulos in town and have been there a few times to buy books! I actually have a whole new bunch of reading books!

Exploring the ship
Here’s a story for you from last Wednesday. Andrew and Ian (Wildeboer – the Wildeboers are our co-workers here!) went off at about 9am to a Pastors' conference… I was busy in the kitchen tidying the dishes and sweeping the floors when I noticed Benny ( a Tentsiti church goer) outside our window. I headed outside and immediately noticed that he looks a little bewildered and dishevelled. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that he has the body of his friend ( a nephew of Martha, a Tent Siti church member, who actually lived with Martha rather than his parents in their village) wrapped up at the water's edge and could Pastor Andrew or Ian please come and help them transport the body to the morgue…
Andrew and Ian were called out of the conference and came home… as the morning goes on the “whole” story comes out. Apparently the boys (Benny and the other boy) were out working in their gardens the day before (Tuesday), when the other boy decided he wanted to cool off for a swim. The river nearby was the Busu river which has a very strong undercurrent and flow. Anyway, they decided to cool off and the boy got pulled away by the water and then disappeared. Benny searched frantically all that afternoon and began again at sunlight the next morning. He eventually found the body of his friend the next morning in the sea, where he pulled the body out , wrapped it and came to us for help.
And so, of course, Andrew and Ian transported the body to the morgue with a group of friends. What a stark reminder this was of how differently things are here from the west. With very little sympathy they were ordered to undress the body and the body was brought into a room (fridge) full of the stench of death, totally overwhelming and repulsive. Bodies piled on top of each other, many unclaimed, and left indefinitely. Truly a difficult experience…
But this is the reality of the life of the people here. Death is so stark and cold. But the grief of those losing loved ones is very real. Ian and Andrew spent the rest of the morning with the family in prayer, Bible reading and talking. Please pray for Martha, a faithful church member, the aunty of the dead boy. She cared for this boy under her roof and in this culture your nephew (or niece) is treated as one of your own. Pray for the boy’s parents who live in a village many hours away and would not have found out about the death till some time later. Apparently the boy came to our worship services the last number of Sundays and sat under the preaching of God’s Word for that time. We do not know how the Lord worked with this Word in his heart, but He is Almighty and His Will is always good, His timing is always perfect.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A new blogger and a New School

Well, we have finally succumbed to the world of blogging! For a number of years now I have enjoyed reading other people's blogs... and finally have decided to give it a go for ourselves.

Here we are back in Lae. As I sit the rain drips down, and yet I sweat! The constant drip, drip outside means I should really pull the washing back inside as it has the girl's school uniforms on it, which need to be dry by Monday!
Speaking of school uniforms...the girls began school on Monday at a new school. This is an international school, which has international standards of education. So far we have been impressed, but time will tell if we feel it is the best for our children. One heartening thing was that on the first day we met some other missionary families who send their children to this school and the great thing is that Shiana has one of them in her class! We met two families from the EBC Mission whose children are at this school and they both seemed like wonderful families. We hope to go and visit them some time and get to know them better. The girls have both enjoyed their first week, which has been a real answer to prayers. Kirilee and Shiana have both been at 4 different schools and they are only in grade 4 and 2 respectively, so it has been quite unsettling for them. However, God is good and they have coped well! The first things which the girls commented about at this school is that the teachers control the classes a whole lot better than at their old school, that the students can sit quietly and listen. And the other wonderful thing is that the get "home readers" (just like in Australia) and Kirilee got to paint in Art in the first week of school! Anyway they were pretty excited about all this!

Here's a photo of them in their school uniforms...

And our little Ashlyn went to "school" for a morning too! We are trying to get her to be happy to go to this playgroup centre for one morning every week. Her first time was this past Thursday, and though she cried for the first half hour on and off (even though she really wanted to is so hard to be brave!!), she really enjoyed it after that. She got to paint and sing and swim too! Why are we putting our 2 1/2 year-old in a playgroup you ask?? It's a good question! Not because I don't want her at home with me that's for sure... when she was gone last week I did nothing but mope about wanting her back home! The reason is two-fold. Because we are here in Lae she does not have a great deal of interaction with other kids her age...the social contact will do her good. Secondly, this year I (Natalie) am running a literacy course on Thursday mornings to teach some of our sisters (and maybe brothers) here to read and write in Tok Pisin (some cannot even write their own name!). So we thought we could kill two birds with one stone. If it really doesn't work out at the school (that is, if she does not get used to it and really hates going), then Nadia will babysit some of the time for me and Andrew will need to take time out of his daily schedule to do the same some of the time.

Anyway, here is a pic of Ashlyn going to "school"...

Well that's about long enough for this post. I feel like I have tonnes of catching up to do...maybe I will tell you another story later on today. This post was all about our will read something of the work we do here later on too... but the two kind of go hand-in-hand!