If you live in PNG, you might be able to relate to this rather typical story. This is the Land of the Unexpected. We live with a mindset that we will rarely have things go according to plan and it really helps us to adjust our expectations and accept what comes our way.
On Tuesday we left Ukarumpa, knowing that we would be looking for a car to take us to the village since no one cut our airstrip over the Christmas holidays. When Ben called our friend Gabriel Lazarus who runs a PMV (a car that people pay to ride on), we found out he was already making a run that day and would be willing to pick us up the day after.
We gratefully took the opportunity to sleep whenever we could, and had a chance to take the kids to a hotel pool for a swim and lunch with several other families here.
Meanwhile, we had a phone call from one of our translators, Dominic. We found out that some young guys cut him with a bush knife outside a store in Aitape. When he went to the police to report it, they locked him up in jail! Thankfully they didn’t take his phone away so Ben was able to talk to him several times before his battery went out. We assured Dominic that when we got to Aitape we would visit him and do what we could to help him get out. Ben also called Dominic’s new wife Clarice and prayed with her.
The next day, 8:00 am came and went, and no car, but it is not unusual for people to show up late here. Even 2-6 hours is within the normal range for us, and we don’t even worry at that. Thinking the car would arrive at any moment, I gave away the fridge food and stripped the beds so that the lady who works here could wash them. We made sandwiches and filled up water bottles and packed up the diaper bag. However, night came and I had to go ask for more sheets from the manager. Over the next 24 hours, Ben made multiple phone calls, and we discussed leaving in the middle of the night, even, if the car showed up. Still no car.
At this point, I did start feeling anxious, because I had packed and unpacked everything several times and didn’t know if I needed to get food for our family or not. Plus I didn’t want to be a burden to our friends here, who had graciously provided three meals already!
We sent out an e-mail update asking for prayer for Dominic and for our car situation. A few short hours after we sent that out, Gabriel called us! He said his car had broken down and he was unable to come before the end of the weekend. Since the bush road goes through the jungle and over 32 rivers, and it is a rather difficult journey, we decided we would rather wait for Gabriel and go on Tuesday with the two men who are coming out with us to record the book of Luke.
And so we wait. But we are grateful:
- We have heard second hand that Dominic may be released today or tomorrow.
- The guest house here has space for us to stay these extra days.
- We have been able to catch up with old friends
- Jessie and I went to town and bought food for the next 4 days. A friend here was surprised to hear that we were able to get what we needed without having to fight crowds or deal with theives on a Friday afternoon.
- We have had time to REST and RELAX.
- Ben and our teammate Jessie are still able to get translation work done.
- We have had good phone reception to contact several of the translators and others in Aitape who are dealing with Dominic’s situation.
A friend of mine asked me yesterday, “are you stressed?” I do have to say that from when we were supposed to leave and until we heard from Gabriel that he wasn’t coming, I was starting to feel anxiety percolating. During the night and through the next day, every time we heard a truck we wondered if that was the one for us. However, that passed quickly when we learned that we would go on Tuesday. Our concern for Dominic is high, but he is not giving up, and his council member is involved in obtaining his release.
So we pray.
We don’t know why there has been a delay but underneath it all, I know that God has put this unplanned vacation in action for a reason. Maybe there will be some significant challenges in the village and we need all the fortification we are getting in these few days of rest to deal with them. Or maybe the road has been bad or there have been rascols (bandits) the past few days. I guess time will tell! For now, I sit here, under a ceiling fan, drinking cold water from the fridge, and feeling very grateful.