Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Normality

Life has been pretty “normal” this week. Sometimes I wonder what normal even is. Our eyes and ears get somewhat accustomed to the sights and sounds and smells and noises around us. After a while I sometimes wonder how different it is here to back in Australia or Canada.

There are many things which start to feel normal unless you really think about them: When the potholes are so huge that you feel as though you need to hang on to the steering wheel for dear life. When you chuckle to yourself as a man walks down the road in a pair of bright pink lady’s trousers. When your three-year-old wants black hair so that no-one will want to touch her hair anymore. When you come to some road works (they do sometimes repair roads!!!) and you see a sign which says, “detour – keep left”, when really the only option is to keep right. When you see a man walking down the road wearing huge big safety goggles (perhaps to keep the dust out???). When you overtake a car and you have to honk your car horn loudly as the car in front has no mirrors (side or rearvision) so he has no way of knowing you are passing except by your loud TOOT. When you see a PMV (Public Bus) heading straight towards you , except when you look closely you realize that it is just that the steering or something must be broken, which means that the wheels look as though they are heading towards you but the bus is actually not. When you catch another man walking down the road in a pair of boxer shorts – hey, they are cool and comfy you know, plus they have nice pictures, way too nice to hide under some pants!! When dogs are better at crossing the road than your kids are back home (always on the loose, so had lots of practice at dodging cars). When your three-your-old stands up next to you in the car on the lookout for “bad guys”. When you see a bus driving past with a pair of legs hanging out the front windscreen (well where the windscreen is supposed to be anyway!!). When you wait for an hour at the dentist while someone goes to buy some more “power” to add to the meter.

These are just a few items of “normality” that I could think of in a few minutes. There are some things you never get used to. Sometimes we feel like we are in a completely different world, as if we are on a different planet. When we are confronted with huge cultural differences or things so foreign that they are unsettling, then we feel like aliens. There are times when we are frustrated with the way things work here. But mostly life feels “normal” and this is, indeed, a blessing from God.

Monday, May 18, 2009

please pray again...

We’re feeling tired today. Tired from spent emotions. Last night the daughter (Annie) of Andrew and Agnes (faithful member’s of our church) gave birth to a son, who was dead at birth. We heard at about 10pm last night. We had been waiting for a happy phone call all day as we knew she was in labour. Annie (the baby’s mother) and Jerry live at the College in Port Moresby now. They moved there from Lae at the beginning of this year so that Jerry could study to become a pastor of the Reformed Churches here in PNG. A month ago, already, Annie went into labour but it stopped. About last Wednesday/Thursday she went to a local clinic and was told to go and see a doctor at the hospital as she was overdue. She went to see the doctor. Her mother, Agnes, was very distressed already at this time and worried, as Annie was receiving mixed messages, it seemed, about how overdue she was. Anyhow, she was sent home and told to come back in a week if she did not go into labour before then. It seemed everything was well. On Sunday morning, she went into labour and went to hospital. She laboured all day and at 7pm gave birth to a son. He was not breathing when he was born. They whisked him away and it took over 2 hours for them to come back to Annie and tell her that he had died, already in the womb. They estimated 24 hours before. However, I spoke to Annie by phone today and she was also told that the baby’s heartbeat was good when she started labour. How that adds up, I don’t know.
Anyhow, knowing what went wrong does not change the outcome. Yes, I have questions about if she had been in Australia would this have happened? Wouldn’t they have picked up foetal distress perhaps and done an emergency c-section? But I need to stop these questions. Whatever the case, this is true – Our Heavenly Father numbered the days of this little child of His. He wanted to take him immediately out of this world of pain and sin and bring him straight to Himself in Heaven. That gives such comfort and we spoke about that today with both Annie and Jerry (by phone) and Andrew and Agnes (In person). They see the blessing of that, too, and are holding strong to God’s promises.
Well, first thing this morning we went to see Andrew and Agnes and family. So heartrending to see their pain, yet so wonderful to see and hear their faith at this time, too. It is also very hard for them to be far away from their daughter and son-in-law at this time, and especially hard for their daughter, who before the move from Lae to Moresby earlier this year, lived right with her parents most of the time. So in the end we decided that Agnes should go down to Moresby (along with her 3 year old daughter). So we spent most of the day organising their trip to Moresby - organising a ticket, and the photo ID required, and then bringing them to the airport (40 min drive there and another 40 back). Agnes and Leanne (3 year old) arrived in Moresby on time for the burial. The body was buried today already as Annie and Jerry did not want the body in the morgue (not pretty places at all here in PNG).
The Doumas (New missionaries sent out by NZ) have only been in Moresby for a week or so (though they have been in PNG for a few months already, undergoing a training course in Madang - as we did when we arrived in country). We have spoken to them a few times on the phone today. They are holding up well – quite something to organise and be involved in at any time, but especially when new to the country/customs/language.
Please remember the grieving family in their time of loss. Pray especially that they may remain strong in faith and understanding that all this is in God’s hand and that they may continue to trust in His plan for their lives. Pray that they may not be discouraged in their path of study (at the Bible College), because of this heavy burden they have been given to bear. And please pray for the missionaries in Port Moresby and also here as we all seek to support them and comfort them with God’s Word.

Friday, May 15, 2009

another riot and homemade kfc

The title in the National Newspaper (PNG) had this headline today “MASS LOOTING – ASIAN SHOPS HIT IN LAE” (There was also a story in the Post Courier). Yesterday thousands of men and boys stormed Chinese shops in various areas of Lae resulting in injuries and the death of at least one (a looter). The word on the street was that a Chinese man was also shot, though this was not confirmed in the paper. They were apparently protesting against some Chinese business owners, and I guess they wanted to show this in force, aware that their sheer numbers made it possible for them to wreak terror. I am sure that many just joined in, wound up in frenzy mode, not even knowing really what they were doing it for. Mob mentality can do that. Some small Chinese stores as well as the main market remain closed and will remain so until Monday. Thankfully none of us were caught up in the middle of it all – they were targeting the areas we often visit, including one second-hand store I frequent. Ashlyn, however, was in “school” right near the second- hand store that was targeted. The manager of that school was in a meeting at Kirilee and Shiana’s school nearby together with Andrew and others. She was called out to go back to Ashlyn’s school (before the looter’s had actually reached that area). Andrew was in the meeting and knew from phone contact what was going on. Soon a group of looters reached the area close to both schools (kind of in the middle of the two schools). This group of the rioters were stopped near where Kirilee and Shiana’s school is. The police disbanded them with teargas. Apparently a few students in school were affected by lingering teargas – red, itchy eyes. Some teacher’s heard about the mob and reacted in fear - Shiana’s class (closest to the road) was told to lie on the floor. However, at no time was the school under threat (apart from the phone calls informing those in the meeting where Andrew was present, there were no obvious signs of the conflict from inside the school premises)– was enough to have everyone worried though. And me? I was blissfully unaware – teaching my literacy class in Kamkumung.
Because of this civil unrest a school evening function was cancelled. We decided to have our own fun at home. The girls (with a bit of help from Mum) organised our own fast food store. The girl’s spent their time making special take-away boxes for our chicken (KFC flavoured) and chips, while I cooked. The girls decorated their boxes and then Dad had to come and order 5 chicken and chips before we could sit and enjoy them. And here is the end result:

mmmmm...

Kirilee's name choice for her fast food store.
Shiana's name choice.
Looks kind of real, doesn’t it? Admittedly there is one local fast food chain (3 outlets – a new one just opened recently), but we have never been overly keen on their food (their chicken is pretty good, it’s the chips that aren’t that great). Besides this was much more fun for the girls, and the chicken (seasoned with an imported seasoning from the Philippines) tasted like KFC (and we definitely have no KFC here in Lae!). And of course it was more work, but a whole lot cheaper than take-away too!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

please pray...

It seems one of sisters is faced once again with great hardship. This sister is the one who’s daughter was bashed and who herself was badly bashed by her husband recently. Now it seems the ways of violence have once again entered her life. Today she did not come to our Bible study meeting. Another woman shared the story. Apparently our member’s son decided to bash his wife after a weekend of fighting with her. Apparently he bashed her so badly that her face looks terrible and that she has no feeling down once side of her face. I was already thinking, “like father, like son”. He bashes his wife, just as his father bashes his wife.
Then the lady sharing the story said something else which surprised me. She said that the father (that is the husband of the lady who is a member of our church) got angry at his son for bashing his wife. I asked the lady telling the story, “How can he tell his son off if he does exactly the same things?” I was so upset when I heard the reply: “Oh, he wasn’t angry because he bashed his wife as such. It was because he hasn’t paid her bride price yet. He told him that if he had paid the bride price already then it was okay, he could do what he wanted with her, but now, because he has not paid the bride price yet, her family will probably come after them all for compensation money.” Can you believe that? No concern for the young women, and all other women being abused and battered. Only concern for self.
And our sister in Christ, who suffers so much through all this, how we feel for her, but sometimes we feel so powerless to do anything to improve her situation. Except pray, and show her the Love of Christ for her. And we must remind ourselves that the power of prayer is no small thing. God will be close to her, and comfort her, and love her. We know God will not give her more than she can bear, but it seems He gives her such a great burden to carry. Please pray for this lady that she may be comforted and strengthened in all things.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

oh how I would love to post a witty title but i am all outwitted tonight

The other day I was driving in the car with Ashlyn. As per usual, she was talking away (she never stops!). Suddenly she said, “I don’t want to go to heaven.” We weren’t even having a conversation anything about heaven, so that really came out of the blue.
I naturally asked, “Why not?”
The reply was simple and very 3-year-oldish. “Well, my scared the Lord might make me eat carrots.”
“mmm…” I said, “But last night you said you like carrots now.”
“Oh yea, that’s right,” replies Ashlyn, “But my still scared that the Lord won’t cook nice things.” 3-year-old logic. Don’t you love it? Of course I tried to explain that everything in Heaven will be happy and perfect, but I am not sure what an impression that made. Though at night when we were reading a Bible Story she was happy to go to Heaven again!

It’s been a good week and, as always, an interesting one. On Tuesday there was some drama near the girl’s school. We received a note about it at the end of the day (although the principal had already contacted Andrew during the day as Andrew is the chairman of the School Board). There was a riot right outside the school between two opposing schools (local high-schools, nothing to do with our school). In the process rocks ended up being thrown over the fence of our school, so some students were evacuated to classrooms on the other side of the school. All the students from our school were forced to stay indoors for a while, even after the police arrived, as the police dispersed large quantities of teargas, and fired warning shots into the air to disperse the crowds! The two schools involved were closed and classes are still suspended at the moment, though I think they are due to reopen this week. Anyway, the girls came home full of stories, of course, as they could also see the action a bit from their upstairs classrooms.

This week there was a heartening story from a member of our church, who has not been attending for the last month or a bit more, even though she was faithful before that. She was a member of Tent Siti, the area where we had lots of trouble in last year. As she had not been for a while, we presumed she was falling by the wayside. But, God is amazing! Last Tuesday she turned up at the Bible study, and on Thursday she came to the literacy class (she is very literate but she wants to come and observe and help, with the aim one day to start a course of her own). She arrived here early on Thursday morning and I chatted to her for a while. Anyway, to cut a long story short, she was previously working 2 jobs as a haus meri (house help). With such a full load, she was also often asked to work on Sundays. Anyway, after a lot of prayer and time in the Word, she realized that Satan was using this heavy workload to keep her from gathering with God’s people. So she gave up one of the jobs (which is a big thing to do as haus meris earn a pittance, and people here really struggle to live) and has decided, with God’s help ,to commit herself more to church work (women’s fellowship, literacy and Sunday worship). She has also left the Tent Siti area and is now living in a settlement closer to Kamkumung and Biwat (central to them both) in a small house (settlement house) provided free of rent by an associate of her husband. We hope and pray that this commitment will remain – there are many things which work to pull people away!.
Andrew had a great fellowship in Biwat Settlement on Wednesday night. There was a good turn out and enthusiasm. Some times fellowships just seem to go really well! A blessing and an encouragement.
Then some things disappoint – only a small turn-up for the youth gathering yesterday– 10 people came. First of all this got me down, but as we worked together as a small group, my mood changed, and I decided to be thankful instead for the enthusiastic group I had, rather than lamenting those that did not come. And we had good fellowship, a time of Bible Study, singing and prayer, followed by a good game of Yatzee. Yatzee took a full hour – well have you ever tried playing with 10 people at once????!!!!
And today was another blessed day of worship. Once again, it is hard not to be disappointed at the non-attendance of a few people who should be there, but then once again the Lord filled up the church with a bunch of newcomers. So often we see new faces in church. Sometimes they don’t come again, sometimes they do. We don’t know how the Spirit uses the Word. We are just thankful to know that it is in His hands, and we pray that many more will turn to Him.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

through our eyes

Sometimes we wish we had a camera attached permanently to us, so that we could capture all the different things we see/hear each day, things that remind us over and over again that we are in Lae, PNG.

Like...

...On Friday morning when Andrew and Ashlyn drove to Kamkumung to visit the school where some of our members are attending. On the way back he witnessed a bunch of youth jumping onto the back of a truck loaded with, what appeared to be, flour. They jumped on the back and with their knives hurriedly opened a bunch of the packages which held the bags of flour and started removing bags of flour. This, while onlookers initially did nothing, and eventually happily reaped some of the benefits as some bags fell to the ground. The truck driver either drove on unknowingly or simply realising he could do nothing to stop it. Who knows?

...on the same morning as I drove with a friend to play a game of tennis we witnessed a fountain of water gushing out of an obvious pipe burst on the side of the road. It was not long before people walking by were filling up their water bottles! Wouldn't you if you had no access to town water in your home??

...or in church this morning sitting in front of two grown men (about 50 year olds??), struggling to find the songs we were singing in the song book before church actually began, not because they do not know the numbers, but because they did not understand the concept of alphabetical order. Kirilee was finding the songs and then pointing out the number for them. They just looked so "cute" huddled together paging through the book. I had to smile, despite it being a bit sad that they were not educated enough to understand something we just take for granted. They did fine during the actual service as the song numbers were announced and written on the board.

...or the fact that we are writing this blog in the hope that our Internet connection will continue for a few more days. Why?? Well, we were due to renew our Internet connection, and we were sent an email a few days before it was due. Not wanting to be disconnected, Andrew immediately sent off a cheque (has to go to Port Moresby as they have no office in Lae). So we thought that was all done, when a few days ago we received another email stating that our connection will be cut off as they have not received payment. Andrew has called them a number of times over the last few days, and we were told that they have not received our cheque so they have no choice but to cut us off. When Andrew said that we sent it at the soonest possible moment when we received the invoice, well we were given a day's grace. Anyway a third (or was it fourth or fifth?) call revealed why they have not actually received our cheque. They have not had a driver all week, so no one has been to the post office to check the post. MMMMM. Wonder where our cheque is? So, naturally they are continuing to extend grace to us and continuing our account indefinitely, at least until the check the post??? No way. It's still our problem. We've got till Tuesday...and they might check the post on Monday....if they find a driver!!!

That's PNG. And we still love it (even though it frustrates us to max some times!!!)