It's been one of those weeks where it has been made abundantly clear that we are really and truly back in Lae. Lest we forget. Lest we begin to think (as some may do when they come here for a short time) that life in Lae is actually pretty "easy" and not really that hard and difficult.
Yes, we got our packing done in two days (all excited to have it done!!!), only to have them not come and get our stuff that day or the next. After countless phonecalls, we discovered that their truck had broken down....so we brought our own stuff to the transport company (all 55 boxes/items). Only to find them "dumping" our boxes in some strange dusty place, open to all the elements (including rain, if it would rain - thankfully it didn't). When we "demanded" that all our things be put somewhere else, they found some empty container to lock them up in. Andrew spent (and is still spending) many hours trying to track down what is going on, meanwhile watching our boxes being wrapped with not much care. And then the proper packing staff were all off drunk, and, well, let's just say we were/are very frustrated.
But that is just our stuff.... material things. Friday night, as we were thinking of getting the girls ready for bed we just stopped suddenly as about 6 loud gunshots went off right near our house. We told the kids to get away from the windows and Andrew ran upstairs to look out of our window which has a great view to all the dramas on the street (and we sure have seen some in our time!). Apparently some criminals had hi-jacked a car and the police were busy "shooting" them off the road. Just another day in Lae.
Saturday was another day of dealing with "hevis" (burdens). As Andrew went for a walk at about midday he went past a small group of men on the corner of the entrance to the Biwat settlement. He waved and said "hi" to them as he always does when he passes people, but they looked a little sheepish and only acknowledged him briefly. He soon found out why. No sooner had he passed them (about 10-20m past them) when he turned to see them holding up a passing car. A group of men, armed with guns surrounded the car, and when the man wouldn't get out they pulled him out and proceeded to bash him. He staggered off, bleeding, as the criminals raided his car after emptying his pockets. Andrew followed the man who made it to a nearby police station.
Then, as I was preparing dinner in the afternoon I suddenly saw the face of Julie (our house help) at the window. She was shaking and disheveled. I rushed outside to her, only to have her tell me that her daughter, Katherine, was dying, after being attacked by her husband in a jealous rage. She kept saying (but she wasn't particularly cohesive) that Katherine "died" (but that also means to be unconcious in this language), but she wanted Andrew to come and get her (she has no access to a car for transportation). I first asked if she needed us to bring her to the morgue, only to have her tell me that Katherine was still breathing (but "just a little bit"). She rambled on and on about Katherine's husband attacking her straight in her heart and Andrew and I were both just picturing him stabbing her. Anyway, of course Andrew went straight out there with her. He arrived to find Katherine okay. She had been beaten and one of her husband's blows hit her straight in the chest and knocked her unconscious and also taking the wind out of her which was why Julie reported her only "breathing a little bit." When Katherine was knocked unconscious, Julie had run to our house (not just up the road - it's a least 5km) in panic and fear to get help. Julie also had a huge bump on her head where she had been hit. Well, we were so thankful to hear that Katherine was alright, but Andrew spent over an hour there opening God's word to both Katherine and her husband (yes, he had calmed down by then), as well as many others around them. However, Satan still has a strong-hold in this family, and this morning Katherine has been "rescued" by her father and brought back to her village, as her husband continued to abuse her the following day.
Then, after church yesterday, as we were cooling off in our pool after a long and very hot service, enjoying the company of our colleagues, a phonecall came through to Nadia from a member of our church who was being attacked by her husband. Ian and Andrew decided to walk into Biwat together. They arrived to find her husband heading up the ladder into their house with a big knife. What ensued was a crazy confusion of Ian grabbing the man and pulling him away from his wife and Andrew getting the knife from him. After the man went down the stairs again, Andrew "stood gaurd" at the base of the steps, and Ian at the door, hoping to keep the man, now armed with an iron bar and rocks, away from his wife. Eventually they managed to escort the woman away to safety. What baffled Ian and Andrew was the way others around them just ran off and kept away. They must have looked quite the sight - two white men standing up to this enraged and dangerous Papua New Guinean, to protect his wife. This goes on all the time in the settlements. Women are bashed, even to death, and no-one does anything. No-one wants to get involved, lest the abusive man turn his anger on them, and continue to harrass them in the future (this is a real fear). But meanwhile the abuse just continues and continues unabated. Even many pastors accross this country seem to feel that it is okay to hit your wife if she does something wrong. How desperate is the need for Christ's love to penetrate deep into the heart of this country, for His Word to be expounded in all its truth!
This is PNG. This is the life that missionaries here deal with on a day-to-day basis, and this doen't even touch many other stressful elements of the work. Pray, pray and do not stop praying. Although we know that it is our time to leave the work here, there is a sense of grief in this area too, not because we enjoy this kind of pain and heartache, but because we see how much work there is to do, and how great a need there is to support eachother in this work. We know the hardship of "being on your own" on the mission field, as the Wildeboers soon will be (for some time, thankfully God is preparing the way for the Sikkemas to come!) It pains us, and yet we know that God Almighty is in control and He will do as He sees fit. He will sustain, and comfort and provide.