Archive for January, 2012

January 7, 2012

Unplanned vacation

by mendibpng

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.

January 2, 2012

Christmas Pic

by mendibpng

L to R (Jenny Beth, Ellie, Jacob, Josiah and Noah)

In my last post, I mentioned losing the Christmas pictures Ben took. He found them on a wayward SD card just now, yay!

January 1, 2012

Confessions of a Missionary Wife: Transition and Voluntary Displacement

by mendibpng

R to L: Jacob (age 2) Josiah (age 12) Noah (age 10) Ellie (age 8) and Jenny Beth (age 2). Our kids are becoming transition experts!

And so we circle back to one of my favorite topics, Transition. This topic comes up very often in our lives because we have two homes: Arop: where our translation work goes on, and Ukarumpa: where our children’s school is and Ben advisor checks translation and participates in academic training.

On Tuesday, we plan to leave for the village. We bought food for the next five weeks, and our kids loaded up their backpacks with books and games that will keep them occupied for their time in Arop. I dehydrated ground beef, green onions, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, green peppers, corn, and black beans in an effort to make sure we have enough food out there. I bought canned goods to take as well: peanut butter, tomatoes, ham, and peaches, for instance. Noah and Ellie’s teachers worked over the holidays to get their village program ready (we homeschool so that our kids will stay in sync with their classes here.)

So why do we do this to ourselves? A week long camping trip is fun. However, packing up everything you need for weeks at a time is difficult at best. Fun? Not so much. At least not for me. Especially when I know I will be homeschooling and cooking lunches for 9 people for over a month.

It’s pretty simple.

God’s Word.

The Onnele (Wolwale, Rombar and Goiniri), Arop, Sissano, Malol, Ramu, Sumo, Pou and Barupu people have only portions of Scripture in their own language. Ben’s role as a translation advisor is getting them closer to having the Bible.

And so we press on. Usually I don’t mind working through transition. Wait a minute. Let me revise that. To tell the truth, transition is often unsettling and disorienting for me. It can be most painful in times when I have no choice in the transition. However, it is still hard even if I have chosen it. I used to think that some day I would be able to go through a transition with very little effort. Now, I realize, it’s going to be hard no matter how long I am a missionary. I can either pretend I’m fine or I can let myself feel badly for the duration of the transition and use that time to learn something. Even though times of transition have been some of the hardest in my life, I have felt closer to God specifically in those times. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

I found myself falling apart at small things this afternoon. Some of the Top Deal Breakers were: losing items that I needed to complete a task, cleaning an impossibly messy kitchen and finding out that the digital pictures we took of our kids at Christmas are lost. As I noticed my little “I’m not coping” bells going off, I realized, I am in transition. This too will pass. In a couple of days, I will be in my village, focused on cleaning out the spider webs, cochroach poo and rat proofing the food we brought.

A couple of days ago, the words of Henri Nouwen once again spoke straight into my situation. This term “voluntary displacement” is a new one to me, and it gives me hope, that this painful cycle of transition really does serve a purpose…


“In voluntary displacement, we cast off the illusion of ‘having it together’ and thus begin to experience our true condition, which is that we, like everyone else, are pilgrims on the way, sinners in need of grace. Through voluntary displacement, we counteract the tendency to become settled in a false comfort and to forget the fundamentally unsettled position that we share with all people. Voluntary displacement leads us to the existential recognition of our inner brokenness and thus brings us to a deeper solidarity with the brokenness of our fellow human beings. Community, as the place of compassion, therefore always requires displacement.”

–The Dance of Life…Weaving Sorrows and blessings into One Joyful Step by Henri Nouwen.

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