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!