Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wrong right place

I should be writing this blog from cool Ukarumpa in the Highlands…at least that was our plan. But, as always, our plans are dependent on the Lord and He had other things in mind for us this week. Admittedly it took us a little while to accept His plans, but He always knows best and we look back on these past few days with thankfulness.
Let me explain…. We were ready well and on time on Friday morning to head on our three or so hour journey to Ukarumpa. Before 8am Alo and Sena (two national girls we were taking with us as babysitters for our conference beginning on Wednesday 1st October) arrived and we were on our way. We were making good time and I even said to Andrew with a happy sigh, “ah, we should well and truly be in Ukarumpa by lunch time”. Andrew just commented to me – “never be too sure,” and I added back, “I know that, but we should be!” Little did I know…
So we travelled up into the mountains, a scenic and beautiful drive, though driving in PNG is always a little tense, especially in the highlands (mainly because of criminal activity.) And then we went through a small town, took the turnoff to Ukarumpa and the children were all so excited because they knew we were on the “home stretch”. Until, the bridge! The bridge was out. That bridge has been out off and on for many months now but usually the river underneath is fairly easily passable by four-wheel-drive. Not this time. Ukarumpa had been inundated by rain and the river was extremely high and fast flowing. Not passable unless you had a boat. We heard that some others had managed to get across the bridge still by paying some extra money, but when we were there no cars were going across and the end of the bridge had been pulled away and armed police were standing guard. Maybe, with a bit of money we could have got across, but we were not locals to the area. We also spoke to someone we knew in Ukarumpa (thankfully we had a mobile phone which worked in the area) and decided that was it, we were not going to be getting to Ukarumpa today! We were so disappointed – to travel all that way for nothing!! We would have turned around and headed right back for Lae, except that we needed to be in Madang (which is closer to Ukarumpa than Lae – though not on the way, ie, we would have to backtrack a couple of hours) for a conference on Wednesday, 1st October.
So I called the SIL guesthouse managers in Madang (our good friends) and asked if they had any accommodation left. The answer was no, as it was at the Lutheran and another guesthouse (the really only affordable accommodation in Madang, especially considering we had two babysitters with us, which means we could not just squish into any hotel room!). Eventually our friends called us back – they had found some accommodation in a PBT (Pioneer Bible Translators) flat. It was a three-bedroom flat (perfect) but we could only have it till Monday (we needed it till Wednesday). So we left the river near Ukarumpa and decided to drive another 4 and ½ hours to Madang, even though we were not sure where we would sleep on Monday and Tuesday night.
Thankfully the Lord gave us safe travels again, and the road was pretty good (though you have to understand that pretty good in this country still means pretty rough!!). I drove on the flat, straight stretch for a couple of hours (Andrew was getting a bit tired with all that driving), and then Andrew took over again on the mountain.
When we arrived at our flat in Madang, we decided that the first thing we would do would be to call around at all hotels, etc, in Madang to try and organise accommodation for Monday and Tuesday night. There was nothing available, well the only things available would have cost us K400-500 per room per night and we would have need two rooms (because of our babysitters). We were so disheartened – to drive all this way now and then to still have to go back to Lae and then come back for the conference a few days later??!! Finally I decided to call PBT and the Lord put our fears to rest. They had another three-bedroom flat too, so when the other family arrived, we could move to that one! We were so relieved and thankful for that. How good the Lord is. And it turned out that the PBT managers decided to just put the other family in the other flat so we did not even have to move!
And now we have been having a great time! Amazing how all works out in the end. We spent the first evening at our friend’s house for dinner (it was their oldest daughter’s 13th birthday). Our kids get on really well with their kids, so they had so much fun. Then the next day we ended up at their house again and decided to do dinner together again (a BBQ). Then yesterday they came swimming with us at a small “beach” near where we are staying (Madang really is a beautiful town in comparison to Lae!), and then we decided to go out for dinner together last night (just with the adults!!!). Our girls stayed home with the conference babysitters we brought along (we waited until Ashlyn was asleep!) and then we had a great night!
So, though this has not been our choice, it was the Lord’s choice and He has been giving us a good break. We are going to try and blog this today. There is a phone line here, so there is no reason it should not work for us to use our normal dial-up here. We just have to record all our calls anyway, so we will see how it goes! When we get back to Lae I will hopefully blog some more and upload some pictures too!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

hello and goodbye...for a few days

Just a quick blog...because tomorrow we are off for 10 or so days! The first five days will be in Ukarumpa for a break (yay!) and then the next five or so days will be in Madang for the Reformed Ministries yearly conference. We will be taking two young women/girls from the Church here with us to babysit for the conference (but they will be coming with us for the trip to Ukarumpa too!) . One of the girls is quite shy so we hope and pray she will settle in alright with us – it will be a great lifestyle change for them for a few days.
Today we were reminded of God’s providence once again. While Andrew was driving our car around, the clutch suddenly gave way. He brought it to our mechanic who said that driving like that would have caused the car to break down and had it happened on our trip into the highlands, we would have been stranded (and this is not exactly the safest or most convenient area to be stranded in!). Andrew had been worried for a little while about the clutch (so we were already toying with the idea of taking the other car)...anyway we are so glad and thankful it happened now and did not happen on a long trip. And thankfully we have Ian and Nadia’s car to take with us instead which we can all fit into (with our family and the babysitters as well)! God is good.
I thought I would just post some pics of Shiana and her performance on Tuesday evening with many of her class mates. They have practiced all term to perform “James and the Giant Peach”. They did a good job. Shiana was the green grasshopper. And what a time we had. She turned out to be allergic to the paint on the costume and her whole body was covered in swollen, itchy, red and white hives. I couldn’t believe how bad it got. She has had hives many times before (reacting usually to a plant she has touched), but never like this. So they made her a whole new costume and I bought some green fabric to cover it. But then one day in practice she touched the costume of another girl without thinking and must have touched her eye. That afternoon her whole eye was almost swollen shut. SO then I warned her not to touch any costumes and asked her teacher to ensure the other kids stayed away from her. She was on Phenergen (anti-histamine) for five days and nights straight! But she still loved the play!

The Old Green Grasshopper, Shiana

Waiting for the show to begin after the interval! (recognise the outfit, Rita and family? - she loves it!!)
Oh, and Ashlyn got a long, tall, round package in the mail today.Thanks to the ladies who organised all the hand prints of the Albany children in the crèche on Women’s fellowship day! What a nice idea!! She absolutely loved it and has it hanging next to her bed. As she was going to sleep tonight I could hear her measuring up her hand against all the hands on the wall and then she kept talking about her cousin Kayla’s hand.
And we received a book today from The League of the Free Reformed Women’s Bible Study Societies in Australia – the children’s book on Worship “Come Join With Me in the Worship Service”. Thank you!! The girls have been looking through it and have even had fun comparing the things mentioned in the book with what it is like in the Reformed Church on mission field (they were able to realise that the basics of the worship service are the same, though there are some variations in how these elements played out).
Anyway, got to go - we'll see you when we get back, the Lord willing.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I hate trying to think of titles

Just thought I would post some more pictures of our Sunday. Today was a bit of a special Sunday as we had a some men officially joining the LCC, being appointed, under the blessing of the Lord, as leaders in our church. Andrew preached a special sermon for this, speaking about the servant-nature of leaders in a church, how they are to be humble and that their task is that of a servant. At the same time the great responsibility of the task was emphasized, as well as the congregations responsibility in supporting these leaders.
Then today was also the first day we used our new song books (in Tok Pisin). I have been busy for a while now compiling, collating, translating, writing songs, etc to get this song book finished and it was great to see them in use today. The songs have just been put into folders for now (what a job to get them all done), so that they can be added too as we see fit (writing/translating new songs, etc), and then maybe in a year or two it can be published into a proper book!
And Shiana had her day made today as well. One of the members of our church, Viviana, adopted a new baby this week ( a three week old boy, the child of her husband’s brother’s daughter….!!!). There is not legal signing generally for adoptions in this country, but it is “official” in their eyes, and this child (in no uncertain terms) now belongs to Viviana and her husband Elias (they have not been able to have any children of their own, though they have adopted some others), and cannot be claimed back by her blood mother. This is very common here, and in this case the blood mother of the child already has many children of her own. Well, anyway the baby did not have a name yet and Shiana was told she could name it. So, anyway, the first name she happened to think of was one of her many cousins in Australia…so she named it Clayton!! So Clayton, now you have a namesake here in PNG. She was quick to tell them that they did not have to call it that, but Clayton he is! Will download a pic of the baby another time.

Ashlyn singing songs in church with Monica holding her

Three of the leaders with holding the new song books

Another one of the leaders who is also our guitar player

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Independence Day

Here's some Independence Day Photos. On Monday the girls only had a half day of school in which all students dressed up in traditional PNG dress from different areas of PNG. It was a fun morning, though Shiana ended up not joining in with her parade and traditional dance because she was feeling faint and sick because she ended up standing in the sun for a little while (they had a shade cover but not everyone fitted under it - she just happened to be at the end of the line).

Kirilee and Shiana looking the part in the crowd - this was during the speeches and official opening of the Independence Day celebrations at their school.

Kirilee all dressed up - the costume was a bit itchy!

A teacher dressedup - Highland Region style (Ashlyn thought he was a monster, and though scared kept wanting to see him!)

Shiana sitting down and taking a long break after feeling unwell from the sun!
Then today, actually Independence Day, Shiana went with Andrew for an hour or so, to the nearby stadium to check out the celebrations there. He got some nice pics of that:

Fantastic Colours

Shiana making a friend

Crowds and crowds of people!

Tonight we went at 7pm to the stadium again, this time to see the fireworks! Ashlyn was terrified, and hid in lap the whole time. As we drove home she said, "I thought my might get dead". Aaah, that's why she was so worried, despite our assurances that the fireworks were harmless.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

sunday pics

So yesterday I just blogged some thoughts, and today I will just blog some pics...okay, maybe with a few words tagging along...

Yesterday (Saturday) was a day of homevisits for Andrew. In the morning he went to visit a lady who, though she knew he was coming, got confused and for some reason thought he was coming in the afternoon, so had gone to the market instead in the morning. So instead Andrew made an impromptu visit to another member of the congregation who lives in the Kamkumung area. Then he came home for a few hours before heading back to Kamkumung again to visit the lady he intended to visit in the morning, who once again was out. So he did another impromptu visit with a man who had attended our church for a while (not a member) but had stopped coming, and then finally actually got to visit with the member he had planned to visit all along... That's the way it goes in PNG, but the great thing about the day was that two other visits got done as well. But then that was the Lord's planning, hey? (He always does have His plans, despite our minor frustations!)

This first picture is just of Kirilee putting a bilum on her head in
preparation for independence day celebrations at her school tomorrow (hope to post some pics of this later if I remember to bring the camera tomorrow!).

And then some pics from Today:

How many people can you squish into a ten-seater car on the way to church?

Two gorgeous faces in Sunday school. Christina is on the left singing heartily and Robert is on the right (he was the three year old boy I wrote about on yesterday's blog, who came with us to pick up Shiana) - aren't they just adorable?

Kirilee and Shiana joining in during Sunday School

Sunday School became too tiring for little Yoniche - so she went to her Mum for a sleep (daughter of John and Polena Lanta) - she is also such a cutie!

Then, back at home and playing some games (this one was Racko) with Justine (a Phillipino girl who lives in our compound) and Monique (who also lives in our compound). Hey, Elise, do you see Flat Stanley hanging on the wall above our laptop? That's so Shiana can remember to type all about his adventures on the computer!

While the big kids played games, Ashlyn had the more important task of peeling a cucumber for Mum. Ian and Nadia, please note that the cucumber is from your garden (and they do taste good!!) - oh, and thanks Tim for planting them!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Come Lord Jesus

The other day I went to school to pick up Shiana from an after-school drama practice. At the time I was looking after a 3 year-old boy, Robert, while Andrew was visiting his parents (local members of the church who live in Biwat) and his older sister. He had come over to our house to play with Ashlyn, and then as it was time to go and get Shiana, I asked him if he wanted to come along. Well, he jumped at the chance – any excuse to get a ride in a car - and in he hopped. So there we were negotiating the potholes of Lae, me driving, and beside me two three-year olds. They kind of were snuggled close together, holding books, looking at pictures, staring out the window, talking in two different languages (yet somehow conversing – kind of), white skin next to black skin. So alike, yet so different...

…and then we walked together into the school grounds. Robert holding one hand, and Ashlyn on the other. And as we wandered around the school it just struck me - In my left hand I hold my daughter’s hand, and in my right hand that of another precious child. Both beautiful children. And yet, as I walked around the school looking for Shiana, it just struck me that little Robert would never have the opportunities educationally that we hope and pray Ashlyn will have...

…and sometimes I just get so frustrated and sad and upset, that these precious Papua New Guinean children and adults too (at least most of the ones who we are ministering to in our churches) do not even dare hope for half of the things that we all so often take for granted…
…and then I am so, so humbled, so reminded again and again not to take anything for granted…

…and then I am so blessed with the knowledge that these wonderful people are rich, too. Eternally rich. And I am so, so thankful to know that in God’s eyes each one of his children is precious and that no amount of injustice in this world will ever take that away. His salvation transcends all barriers and boundaries of gender, race and social status…

…Come Lord Jesus, Maranatha!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

rains, quakes, sand, bread, wine and falling trees

It must be Sunday again...it’s not that I don’t think of blogging during the week. To the contrary I often have “blog concepts” going through my head, but for some reason they just stay in my head and only transfer to the computer on Sundays. Hey, you never know, maybe this coming week will be different...
The rains really came down at the beginning of the week causing Lae to experience its worst flooding in recent years. It did not affect us too badly, but the people we minister to in the settlements, were really flooded out. The local paper had photos of people in the Biwat settlement wading through waist deep water. Water went inside their houses and one of the biggest problems is the inability to cook when it floods as they all cook outdoors on open fires. The roads were like rivers around town and the heavy rains served to widen the already deep potholes/craters in the roads. We also experienced another fairly small (though enough to awaken us and some of our kids) earthquake (much bigger than the tremor we felt last week as I typed my blog!). So it has been quite the week for experiencing the power of our Heavenly Father as manifested in “natural” occurrences. When speaking to the people here about these events, it is obvious that things like the bigger earthquakes are rather frightening to them. Flooding, and the inconveniences it causes is something that they are much more matter-of-fact about (admittedly, much more accepting than I have been in the few times our house has been flooded since we have been here!). But in all this we are thankful that they and we recognize that all these things come from the good hands of our Heavenly Father.
Oh, and I have a story about sand. Beach sand... Ashlyn constantly asks for a sand-pit/box at the moment. Well, though we live on the coast, the beach sand around here is very dark, and I mean very dark – pretty well black, and there seems to be no where locally that we can get any sandpit kind of sand. 400km away, in beautiful Madang, the sand is white, but it would be quite the effort to bring it back from Madang. So I thought I would tap into some local knowledge...our haus meri, Julie. She said that she didn’t think there was any white sand around Lae, but she would have a look the next day (the next day being Saturday). Well, about 11 am on Saturday Julie rolls up at our place. We were outside and she said she had a little bit of beach sand with her, and that I should come and have a look. She warned me that it was not very white, so I followed behind her imagining not white sand, but somehow greyish or brownish sand. I was mistaken...badly mistaken. Julie had lovingly carted (with the help of a youth) two fairly large bags full of black, completely black beach sand to our house. But the thing was, it was definitely beach sand. It was grainy, and although black, not really dirty. What I mean is, it wiped off clothes and hands easily without leaving black, dirty marks as soil does. So I hauled out an old inflatable pool of Ashlyn’s (now I know why I did not throw it out even though it had holes in it!), and we filled it with the black beach sand. And Ashlyn had quite the time playing in it, after getting over the initial shock of it being black, and stayed in there for a good while. We had to erect a temporary shade cover for her, as the morning sun was pretty strong, but by the afternoon that area is in beautiful shade! I loved just watching Julie’s reaction. She really lit up when she realised how much Ashlyn loved what she had done for her and was quite ready to go for another long walk and cart some more bags of sand to our house, until I assured her that Ashlyn had enough sand for now! Here’s some pics....

Oh, and something to add about this morning. We had Holy Supper today, and I had quite the time with Ashlyn (no, our young children are not tucked nicely away in babysitting/crèche!!). When she saw me receiving a piece of bread, she was quite upset and let it loudly be known (to the enjoyment of those around us), that it was highly unfair that “big people” got bread while she had to be content with her crackers. As I held it in my hand (we wait and eat the bread together, as one!) she kept trying to grab it and then with the wine (we have individual cups), she loudly told me after sticking her fingers in the wine and getting a good taste, that “no it’s not yucky, Mum (yes, I told her that she wouldn’t like it anyway!) my like it!”, before throwing her fingers in again for another good lick. Thankfully, children (including Ashlyn) often disrupt the services here in one way or another, so it was not as if it was a really big scene. It’s more just when we think about it and compare it to our church services back in Australia (or Canada), that we just have to laugh sometimes...
...and then as we were standing up to sing the last song in church this morning I had to have another laugh. The lady sitting in front of me was wearing a laplap (sarong kind of thing, really a large piece of hemmed material wrapped around to look like a “skirt”) which was obviously very appropriate for worship. It had “I love Jesus” written all over it and then I noticed another print all over it which said “God bress you!” The bress was meant to be bless, but obviously something went wrong in the editing process...mmm...not that unusual out here. One thing can be said though – at least people in this country are proud to wear clothes which proclaim their joy to be a Christian. Can you imagine some of our Western Countries mass producing and the actually selling a material with a print like that on it (with the correct spelling)??
...and then another laugh this afternoon. Andrew and I were busy watching a DVD of a church service in Launceston (we try to listen/watch something most Sundays), when suddenly we hear a big bang and notice a buai (beetlenut) tree (tall palm tree) crashing onto our neighbour’s roof (within our compound, actually his house is about 10m away from our house), just missing breaking a heap of wires which would have affected our house as well. I ran upstairs to get a good look over the fence where the tree came from. I see a man standing with a bush knife looking surprised and scratching his head at what had just happened – he obviously had not expected it to go that way when he cut it down, though judging by the angle of the tree, the odds were pretty high for it to land on the house next door - and a bunch of women just losing it laughing!! The gardener and the guards in our compound were soon onto it and in no time they had it removed (though there were a few tense moments on the wires....) and Andrew washed down the neighbour’s house with his hose. Well, all is well, that ends well...
...and I guess this a good time as any to sign off.
Goodnight...till next time.