Friday, May 28, 2010

death, sickness, and fighting

Yesterday (and the end of the day before) was just one of those days that I felt like the frailty of life (not just human life) and the prevalence of death and decay was just so in our face.

It actually began on Wednesday afternoon when one of our own dear children accidentally stepped outside and directly onto one of our kittens. At the time we had Ian and Nadia's kids over as well and between them and our children what a frenzy of screaming and wailing, as they had all witnessed it and it was not a pretty sight. The kittens have been stepped on before (they are forever under our feet), but it just must have been the way she stepped on it, and also the fact that she stepped outside which is actually a drop of the height of a normal step, which meant this poor kitten was hurt terribly and was bleeding profusely and obviously going to die. I took the kitten away from their sight, hoping against hope that it would die quickly, but it didn't. Andrew wasn't home at the time, and I knew we were going to have to but the poor thing out of its misery, but how do you do that yourself? Eventually, thankfully, one of the guards came and took it away and killed it and buried it for us. It took a much longer time to work through the emotions with the kids though, especially the poor child (I won't say her name as she is distraught enough already) who stepped on it. "Mum," she sobbed, "if only I hadn't taken that step, if only...." So we had a good lesson on God's providence in every incident, and even in accidents. Helped with the healing process, but we still had lots more tears that night. Even I had trouble falling asleep with images of that poor kitten going through my brain. I think all the guards in our compound thought we were all a bit crazy. Their children are just so used to seeing pretty awful stuff that they sometimes seem to hardly react, and our poor kids, well, their reaction is huge!

Then to top it off we woke up the next morning to find two more kittens dead outside, killed by what looked like a hard bite to the neck. What a sight to be greeted with when you get out of bed. Thankfully we were up before the kids! We are not sure if the mother cat killed them in a "confused" sense of protecting them from the perceived "enemy" who killed her other kitten, or if a Tom Cat came around (there has been one hanging around). From my internet research both are plausible - the Tom Cat may kill to get the mother cat on heat more quickly. Either way I will not let the mother cat near the 2 remaining kittens unless I am there watching her. She seems to be loving toward them so who knows???

Soon after all this, as the children went to school my mobile rang and I received a call from Agnes' (the lady who has been sick) husband. He started off by telling me that "last night Agnes died" (pure translation of his Tok Pisin). My heart just did a huge flip, and then I heard him say that "she came back, after I threw cold water on her", and I was relieved, but just then Andrew walked in the door and I handed the phone to him, so I could calm down from the shock. Poor Agnes is still so sick. Before starting literacy class this morning I went to see her. She was just so weak. I had spoken to an ex-pat nurse I know and she suggested that she was probably dehydrated. So I showed the family how to make us some re-hydrating solution with water, sugar and salt, and she started drinking that. After the literacy class she was doing a wee bit better, and by the afternoon when Andrew and Ian went to see her she was doing a bit better yet. However, she is still so sick. Typhoid is an awful illness to contend with. She needs her strength to fight the disease. Coupled with this all is a mistrust of the medical system here. I felt so helpless when with her in the morning. We can't afford (and we can't set up the precedent) to take her and all our members to the International hospital all the time, as this costs an arm and a leg, especially for extended treatment. And then even that hospital is still very Papua New Guinean meaning it is not like being in a Western Hospital. But it just makes it so hard to watch someone be sick and suffer. We know we have done what we can - she has been taken to a good doctor, she has received much extra help from us as missionaries, but you always feel like you need/want to do more.

So I drove away from Literacy, after sitting with Agnes and her extended family for a few more minutes, just having that awful feeling in my stomach. And then to top it all off as we (I was dropping the Ladies back off near Biwat) drove home and neared our compound I watched in horror as a woman was being attacked by her husband on the side of the road. She was kneeling helplessly on the ground as he grabbed rocks and threw them at her. And what does everyone else do? Nothing. Just walked by. They can't get involved. Yes, they could stop the man, but after all the woman is his wife, so he can do what he wants with her. And if they interfere, well it will probably come back to haunt them with retaliation from the man and his family. So everyone just turns a blind eye and the violence continues.

When I got home I was just feeling so deflated. Although we see so much of that kind of thing, we never seemed to get used to it (nor should we). But then I had to refocus. Refocus on the fact that I was just witnessing/sharing in these events. How much worse for those who were actually suffering and for the many, many like them suffering here in PNG and in this world. Then I had to refocus on God, on Him and His enduring Faithfulness, on Him as the only Constant in this world of change and death and decay, on His Word and His promises. And that is always a good thing to do.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Humbled again.

Over the past week it has become more and more evident that Agnes (one of our members) who was suffering from Malaria, was not getting better. She was facing debilitating headaches, fevers and other symptoms. So this morning I took Agnes to hospital, to the Lae International Hospital, the same hospital that I brought Andrew to a few weeks back. The local hospital (government hospital) or the clinics the people here can attend for free (or a minimal fee), but a place like the International Hospital is just way out of the reach of the average person because of the price.

And so it was that I was humbled again today! (Given the amount of times I am humbled in this place one would think I should be the most humble person on earth, but it seems that pride is still a pretty fierce and persistent opponent of my humbleness - perhaps the reason why God keeps working on humbling me, hey??!!) I was humbled when sitting in the International Hospital. You see, when I usually sit there I am still always seeing so many things which do not match up to Western Standards. I see the time the nurse didn't wash her hands with soap, or the way the pathologist doesn't wear gloves when he takes my child's blood. I see this through my Western eyes and I swallow and shudder a little too sometimes.

Today, however, as I sat there with Agnes (and her husband, Andrew) I was suddenly putting myself in their shoes (as much as I could fit into them), and seeing things through their eyes. There they were. Instead of waiting for hours and hours in a local clinic or the government hospital (Angau) just to be seen, we were all done in a few hours. Instead of standing up (for lack of chairs and over crowding), feeling sick and weak, in a hot and stuffy room (or in the heat outside) at a clinic or Angau, we were sitting on comfortable chairs in air conditioning. Instead of seeing a nurse or doctor who may perhaps offer a quick finger prick to test for malaria (on a good day - on a bad day, malaria is just presumed to be the origin of every fever and headache in this country) and then give you quinine which has been laying around in the open air, touched by who-knows-who, and there for who-knows-how-long, and sending you home....instead of this we were seen by a good doctor who took the time to listen to her symptoms and who decided to do a full blood test.

Agnes was diagnosed with Typhoid. The malaria had gone completely for which we are thankful, but when your body is weak then you are also more vulnerable to other illnesses. Typhoid is still very prevalent in PNG, and is caused by contaminated food and or water. Thankfully Agnes is now on medication and we pray that she may soon recover from this awful illness too. She has 6 children to care for (another is married - and is at the Bible College in Port Moresby), as well as a grand-child under her care. It is a big burden for a family like that to have much illness to deal with!

It seems that contaminated food and water still causes many problems for people in PNG. Dysentery is a big problem, Cholera is still a big issue, and is still present in Lae and surrounds and is now also affecting Port Moresby. Both are killers. Then there are diseases like malaria which still kills many people each year. Then there is Tuberculosis (which is highly contagious) which is also still a big killer. Just today we received word that the father of one of our members died from Tuberculosis. I had recently spoken to him briefly in the local hospital (Angau) when I went with some ladies from our church on a hospital visit. He was an elderly man by PNG standards (PNG has a very low life expectancy), so he had little "hope" in a fight against a killer disease like TB. Thankfully just now Ian and Andrew could return from visiting with the wider family and sharing the Gospel with them.

Just dealing with all these things in a day forces you to re-evaluate your own situation and blessings. And it is humbling to sometimes look through the "eyes" of others and to see things from a different perspective!

Update 1: The situation in Bulolo continues to cause much grief. Sepik people continue to try and flee to Lae for safety. The town of Bulolo is still in shut-down mode. Just today the paper had a story of some young teenage boys who fled through heavy bush and rough terrain and walked all the way to Lae, all the while scouting for the enemy, fearing for their lives.

Update 2: It seems that the family of the beheaded woman and terrorized girl has received their wish so far in that no major retaliation seems to be happening (as far as we know). This may also be helped by the fact that some of the perpetrators of these crimes have thankfully been caught by the police.

And lastly....Funny story: Ashlyn came out with a statement the other day which we thought pretty well encapsulated the state of the roads in Lae. As we drove to some friend's house on Saturday afternoon we had to drive on some all roads which were very bumpy due to potholes craters. On one particularly bad road Ashlyn asked with a sigh, "Daddy, do we have to go back over all these hills on the way home?" And that on a road that was perfectly flat (except for the potholes)!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More need for much prayer

I need to write. I need to share. I just am not sure exactly how to do it. My head is filled with hearing and reading so many stories of terror and fear, and also an amazing story of God's care that I feel like I don't know where to start... So I'll just type as it comes and hopefully it will make some sort of sense as it appears on your computer screen.

Firstly, on Sunday as we went to drop of the Biwat people in their settlement after church, we noticed that an unusually large group of people was leaving the settlement and soon after a Task Force (the heavy handed police of PNG) vehicle too. We knew that something must be going on but it was only the next day that we found out why, after reading this (open to see link to newspaper then click on "see report" for the first story - "Mother beheaded, Daughter raped" is gruesome so be warned) and now this morning after talking to the ladies as we met for Bible Study it all became clearer too.

Basically a Biwat lady (Biwat is actually an area in the Sepik, but the Bumbu Settlement -slum area - has a section in it called "Biwat", so called because a lot of people from the Biwat area of PNG live there) was beheaded (actually we found out this morning that she was actually scalped) and cut beyond recognition, and her teenage daughter was gang-raped and had her arm cut off. Why? I found out this morning that it was actually a "misunderstanding". Some misunderstanding! Although the newspaper article (link above) actually only speaks about a radio being stolen, apparently there was more to it than that (there always is). As I understood the story this morning, the son of the woman that was killed was suspected of killing someone from the Pepsi Compound. He did apparently take off with this dead boy's radio and thus was seen as the prime suspect for the killing. And so in retaliation his mother was killed and his sister raped and her arm cut off!! Life is so cheap here in PNG. It just makes you shudder in disbelief. One thing that was beautiful to hear in all of this was that the woman was a Believer and apparently she ended up being killed trying to protect her daughter. Further, another son of this woman as well as her husband are Christians and although many of the relatives wish to retaliate (Payback is a way of life in PNG), they are pleading with people to leave it in the hands of the police. When you understand a little of the PNG way of life, you understand that this response of the Husband and son of the dead woman is a big, big deal. It is not the norm here. The norm is to retaliate in anger, to payback in a big way (that's how the woman died) and then ask questions later. What grief upon untold grief this way of life causes the people of PNG! God help them!

It is this same system which is causing more grief to many of our members and their families. Although the story above affects them in that it happened to their tribesmen, and to a lady they know, most of them are distancing themselves from the situation and are able to do so because she was not direct family. However, in some ways this story (press for link to the newspaper, then click "news" on the left and then select the 4th story on the right under "news" -Bulolo at standstill as tribes rampage) affects many of our members even more. To summarise the story: Basically, yesterday a few villages got together to forcibly get rid of the Sepik settlers (settlement dwellers) in Bulolo (a town about 2 hours from Lae). They burnt hundreds of houses forcing the settlers to flee for the lives. One man was also shot dead. Why?? Although for a long time the village people have wanted to get rid of the Sepik people from the area because of the criminal activity that settlements usually bring, an event happened which was the tip of the iceberg. A man (actually the nephew of one of our church members we found out today), killed the son of one the village people in an armed hold-up of the son's father's store. And the payback? Burning to the ground hundreds of homes, killing a man, and blocking all roads back to Lae threatening to kill any Sepik person who tries to get through. As it so happens our church member is actually in Bulolo at the moment, she was staying in that very settlement which was burnt down, and it was actually her nephew that sparked it all. As it stands now she will be forced to hide out there for the moment. She had actually gone there a couple of weeks ago to try and sort out some problems in her family there. Many, many of our church members are from the Sepik and many have close family members in Bulolo. At present they do not know what is happening to them, only that their houses have been burnt to the ground. Some of our church members are also from the tribes who are trying to get rid of the Sepik people (thankfully, however, this is not causing any tension between the women - in fact a few lighthearted jokes were bandied about this morning playing on which areas of PNG the women came from). It gets oh so complicated. However, an amazing story came out of all of this, and I heard it this morning at Bible Study. Let me share it with you:

Agnes, who is a faithful member of our church along with her husband and children, has been very ill with cerebral malaria. However, she is slowly improving and was sick and tired of staying home all day in bed or just sitting around. Her husband, Andrew, is a mechanic and actually, yesterday morning I met him in a second-hand store in Lae. He told me he was heading to Bulolo (with the company truck) to pick up a broken-down car and that he was going to take Agnes and the whole family with him especially because he thought a day out might be good for Agnes. Little did he know!

They headed out to Bulolo and the police told them nothing about the problems although they knew about them (they were picking up a broken-down police car so they could have been told). Also, apparently they were supposed to have a police escort from Lae as Lae had some idea that something was going on, although not the extent of it. Apparently the police escort told them to go ahead that they would be coming right behind them! But they didn't, and Andrew and Agnes and family headed right into the den of fighting. And Andrew is a Sepik man, and apparently (though I can't tell) his face shows obviously that he is Sepik, so they were the enemy! As they came into Bulolo down a steep mountain they suddenly saw hundreds of men wielding bush knives, stones and guns in the valley in front of them. The hill was too steep for them to reverse back up in the truck, so they were forced to continue on. Strangely, as they reached the bottom of the hill, the men on the other side of the "river" they had to cross beckoned them to come in a "friendly" manner. They thought that was a bit strange and soon figured out why it was so strange. Apparently they had dug out a section of the road/river (not exactly sure....I was listening to this story in fast Tok Pisin, so I may be confused a little) so that if they had driven through they would have been stuck fast. Realising this trap, they turned around and tried heading back up the mountain, but as they did so they realised that another huge group of men was blocking their return from behind, armed with stones and bush knives and guns. Agnes said that the children were all sitting quietly in fear and her and Andrew were praying as they slowly approached the men. Andrew told Agnes and the children to stap isi (be still) because if God decided it was their time to die, then that was okay. God was in control. And they continued to pray. Then just as it looked as though they were ready to attack them, raising their hands to throw the rocks and wielding the other weapons, they suddenly put down their weapons and moved out of the way so they could pass. What a testimony to the power of prayer! What a testimony to the overarching Power and Providence of God! How thankful we are that God protected their lives. Agnes recounted to me this morning how so many things were going through her mind as they went through this experience. As a mother she was so worried for her children, especially her teenage daughter who could well have been raped. She was worried for her husband, as he was a Sepik man, and was imagining watching them kill him. She also shared how thankful she was to see God's power and protection over them!

It was good to share these stories in Bible Study this morning. It was good to speak together about these problems and fights, it was good to share and to pray together, it was good to remind each other that God is in control and that He will be our strength and shield. Please pray for all the families affected by these troubles. Please pray that no more blood may be shed and that these senseless killings and destruction may stop, and that the road blocks may be lifted and that peace may be restored. Please pray especially that the Peace of Christ may descend more and more upon this country.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus

I (and I took Kirilee along too) was blessed today, to make a hospital visit with some ladies from our church to the local hospital, to share God's Word, to sing and to pray with the sick. I haven't been there for a while (since last year) and what a reminder of the poverty and helplessness that is raw are real in this country. I say I (as was Kirilee, it was a real eye-opener for her) was blessed, because when you see such sadness, and are able to share such hope and love with these people then it is a blessing.

By far the hardest ward to visit was the Kid's ward. As a mother, to see so many babies/children sick and even dieing was just heart-wrenching. The mothers all had their stories to tell. Many of the children and babies had malaria. One very sickly and skinny baby (just all bone and no fat) had apparently been adopted out by his birth mother (very, very common here). Except the "adoptive" parents decided to feed this 3 week old baby cow's milk (from milk powder) and the baby developed severe diarrhea and was starving to death. Now the real mother was looking after her in hospital and was trying to feed the baby breast milk again, though it really didn't look like the baby was getting anything. And the baby was not on tube feeding, a drip or anything! I am not a nurse, but it sure looked like this baby needed some more help! Then there were those who had been in hospital for a long time and really had no idea what their baby's problem was. A couple of the babies were doing well and were expecting to soon be released from hospital. There was a set of twins there who had been in hospital for a week but were doing really well now, which was wonderful to see!

I put together a short photo slide show of the photos I took today, with the song "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus", playing in the background. In this broken world, what more can we do than turn our eyes upon Him? Please pray for all these children and their families, that they may be healed, but especially that they may Turn their Eyes Upon Jesus!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A prayer

Sometimes when I look around at all You’ve blessed me with…

When I see…

My tap running clean water into my sink

The counter lined with cups of juice to drink

When I feel…

The coolness of the turning fan on my skin

The cold water refreshing me as I drink it in

When I smell…

The savory warmth of the casserole as it cooks

And the freshness of clean towels as they’re hung on their hooks

When I taste…

The sweetness of pineapple, pawpaw and more

Or the lingering of sweet chocolate which I so adore

When I hear…

Soft music as it plays in the background

Or the sounds of our children as they play around

Then, O Lord,

I stop.

And I pause.

And my heart give thanks

I am humbled

That you would bless me in so many “small” ways

While so many around me…


As they see…

Their water polluted with flies and laden with dirt

To drink and to wash with, to clean the sores that hurt

And feel …

The burning hot sun in stagnant, stale places

With no coolness to ease the sweat on their faces

And smell...

The sickness and death that’s all around

The toilets that with flies and mosquitoes abound

And taste...

The same foods day in and day out

Lacking in nutrients – they make do without.

And hear...

The anguished cries of a sick, loved one's pain

Or the screams of a woman as she’s beaten again

And, oh Lord

I stop

And I pray.

And I pray -

Help me to trust

Help them to trust…

That You are who You say You are.

That from Your loved ones you’ll never be far.

That one day they and we in glory will be…

At rest…

at peace…


Just a prayer/poem I wrote yesterday when I was having one of those moments of thankfulness as I smelt our supper/dinner cooking in the oven (which I should really have far more often!) It was written using extreme opposites. Of course, we ourselves have times when things are not so easy and pleasant, just as the people here sometimes experience situations that are better than those described in this poem. However, generalizations aside, the poem is what it is: a prayer expressing how I was feeling at the time!

Friday, May 7, 2010


Well my cheerful Saturday (which I posted about last week) was followed by a much less cheerful Sunday. As I wrote the blog post on Saturday, Andrew was beginning to feel more and more ill. Overnight his conditioned worsened and he had a terrible night (had we been in Australia I think I would have taken him into ER!) culminating in a even more awful morning where he was so weak that he fainted as I was about to bring him to hospital, where when I arrived no one was around to help and where I had to bang on the locked hospital doors and yell loudly to finally get let in (after waiting and waiting!!), and where finally he was put on a drip and slowly re-hydrated. After a morning on the drip (and his colour slowly returning) and a battery of tests, I could bring him back home (they wanted to keep him in overnight, but we knew he would be more comfortable at home) where he could recuperate.

What was his problem? Well from reading the test results ourselves and from listening to the doctor talking (and continually mentioning the word amoebic "something", as well as parasites, cysts, etc) and from doing our own research at home we concluded that he was suffering from amoebic dysentery. Anyhow, whatever it was, he was thankfully re-hydrated firstly by the drip and later by Oral Re-hydration Solution at home, and also was given medication to get rid of the nasty parasites. Wow! What a day! Amazing and humbling how one can go so quickly from being fit and healthy to so very sick. Truly a reminder that we all desperately need God's grace for our daily sustenance.

Thankfully, throughout the week he has really improved and today he told me that for the first time this week he feels "pretty much back to normal". What a blessing good health is....what a blessing that we were able to get medical help. Reminds us to remember those who are much less fortunate than us, also in this country. No wonder so many people die of Dysentery, Cholera and the like. If a fit and healthy man like Andrew can get so sick, so quickly, no wonder so many people die here in this country, when they are often not so healthy to start with and then often reach medical help too late. Many people need our prayers!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Why I love Saturdays....

... well, actually, I love almost every day... but here's why I love Saturdays - because most Saturdays I spend most of the day at home, do very little "outside of the house,i.e., church" work (not that I don't love that too - I do, but Saturday is a "different" day), have the girls home all day, and I think I basically feel like a housewife and mother all day (sounds strange, I know....but that's the only way I can explain it).

It's the day I try out new baking projects like...

....donuts! Yesterday Ashlyn was eating a store- bought donut and didn't finish it, so I did. It made me realise, however, that for some reason here in Lae the donuts are always chewy and just not light and airy like they are back in Australia. So I said to Ashlyn that we would have to make some of our own. And so, using trusty old Google, we found this great recipe and they were delicious (and so easy to make!!), complete with cinnamon sugar and all, and just like the ones back in Australia!

Or a new dessert like the one above....Lemon Creme Freeze....given to me by an American friend! Can't tell you how it tastes yet, as it was made for a get-together tomorrow night!

And there is good reason for this photo in my Why I love Saturdays post. Kirilee was home and hung up the washing for me this morning. Didn't she do a great job? She didn't appreciate the sweat dripping off her face though by the time she came inside after standing in the full Lae sunshine to hang it (shhh...don't tell her that's why I conned her into the job! I was hot enough from all the baking.)

And I love Saturdays because it's a time the girls can have friends over for a play. Here Shiana is swimming in our compound with her friend Irish from her class at school.

And I love Saturdays because they often involve craft projects for the kids (well, actually, I love the idea of that more than the actual process, as craft usually means a lot of mess, and well me and lots of mess sometimes don't get on so well together!!) But this one was mostly done outside by Shiana and her friend and though the house stayed clean, dear Shiana still managed to get paint all over her shirt and shorts despite the long old paint shirt she was wearing. She actually got so much paint on the shirt that it soaked through the paint shirt and onto her good shirt underneath!!

And I love Saturdays because the girls always invent some great games to play together (okay, albeit with a bunch of argumentative outbursts from time to time). Here they are playing house.

And I love Saturdays because we always have a homemade German grain bread.. (well, helped along by a delicious store bought bread mix, and a bread maker...but I do only use the dough setting on the bread maker, preferring to do the final rise in a pan and to bake it in the oven - so that's kind of homemade, right?) And it is just so delicious! So hearty and tasty! I took a photo of it too but somehow it got deleted before it ended up on my computer.... So you will have to use your imagination for that one.

And, well, this last picture has nothing to do specifically with Why I love Saturdays, but I thought I would share it with you anyway. Here are our recent additions:

...3 days old and oh so adorable!

Hope your Saturday was a blessed one!