Archive for April, 2012

April 27, 2012

my struggles with weight loss and stress eating

by mendibpng

In the midst of packing for the village and getting ready to go to Australia, I thought I’d do a little navel gazing about one of my favorite topics: food!

I spend a great deal of time thinking about, preparing and eating food. Because we live in a country where we can’t eat out or buy much pre-packaged food, I find myself working hard to make things from scratch. It activates the creative itch I have and it settles a basic need for me to feed my family of seven. I usually don’t know what I am going to cook until the day of because I have to have an urge to cook something before I can make myself do it. I usually try out at least one or two new recipes a week just to keep things interesting. I also make large portions of food because my kids are eating more as they get bigger.

I grew up in Indonesia and Malaysia, where flavorful food is plentiful and delightful. In my years here in PNG, I’ve worked on learning to cook my favorite dishes and it makes me feel a teeny bit less homesick for those faraway lands.

One of the consequences of loving to cook and eat is gaining weight (sigh) Before I had children, it seemed like I could eat anything I wanted and the pounds never added up. I added weight with every child and the pounds are a lot harder than I ever thought to lose! I would do it all again, though, for the chance to be a mom to my beloved children.

With missionary life comes a share of transition, culture stress and just general living stress (these are topics which I seem to cycle back to regularly on this blog). I often find myself stress eating…a little chocolate here, a few bites of leftovers there and voila! I’m back where I started. I think cold weather also makes me want to eat more, since when I am in our hot village sweating profusely I hardly wish to eat at all. Ukarumpa is located in the highlands so we have chilly nights…which means I want my comfort food!

One of the things I have appreciated over the past year is encouragement from my friend Kristen, who is a successful Weight Watcher. I tried doing South Beach but got fed up trying to figure out how to do that here with the lack of ingredients. With Weight Watchers, I learned that I could eat vegetarian food for a lot less points AND not go hungry. Also since coming back from furlough, the price of groceries has gone up and so losing weight and keeping my store bills down has led me to work on increasing vegetarian foods in our diet. I found that not only is it serving those purposes but I’ve also felt better physically since doing this. We still have meat but in smaller portions and I limit my carb intake. Additionally, I’ve been working hard to get myself to the market at 6:30 am several times a week so that we have plenty of fresh fruits and veggies…veggies are free on WW.

So far I haven’t lost much weight because I need to start exercising. But, one step at a time, right?

April 25, 2012

denial, concern and trust…

by mendibpng

Here’s how I really feel about having skin cancer…

When it started to dawn on me that this ‘little spot’ I have was not a little something, that I would have to leave my family here in Papua New Guinea and get it taken care of in Australia, I was a bit shocked. I suppose that I had been living in denial for too long, thinking this wasn’t serious and I’d get it taken care of eventually.

My next concern came in the form of our translation project. It’s time to do consultant checking on the book of Acts! We sacrificed and longed for this time to come—because we want our friends and their people to have this important piece of Scripture in their language. Our Papua New Guinean colleagues labored diligently to translate, revise and pour over their work. I felt dismayed, thinking that this medical problem of mine was going to delay this process. (Please note that when I voiced this, Ben quickly pointed out that taking care of my health was the most important thing to him.) Of course, this was going to be a huge expense, to leave the country and then deal with the hospital and doctor’s bills.

I’ve had a couple of months to process this with friends and here’s where I am now. Not once in this missionary life of ours has God ever left us in the middle of a problem. He has always provided the timing and means to deal with things. Sometimes that has come in the form of us making good choices (like saying ‘no’ or ‘later’ to things that were too much for us) but other times it has been plain miraculous how things have worked out. No other explanation besides “God did it.” I’ve already had confirmation that He’s at work: appointments, place to stay, people to help me when I need to be picked up after my surgery, and a bonus visit from my sister Jenny for the weekend before all the appointments start. Why shouldn’t I trust Him now for all of the other things?? Some moments I can trust him easily and other moments I have to tell Him that it’s hard. I want to put my trust in Him more than the doctors I am going to see in Australia as well.

I am thankful for opportunities like this that remind me of God’s faithfulness in my life, even when it means leaving my family in PNG to go to another country to get something done medically. In the whole scheme of things, those 10 days might just cause me to love God more and to be grateful for the mundane things I will be doing when I get back. (I will be heading to the village, so that means cooking with no refrigeration, homeschooling, etc.) Additionally, if everything goes as planned, (and they can get all of the cancer out in one go) I will make it back to PNG to meet my family in Wewak in time for the translation workshop after all. If not, well, we will cross that bridge when it comes. No gat samting (no worries).

April 24, 2012

baby oil, tanning and skin cancer…

by mendibpng

I debated writing out the whole story of how we learned that I had skin cancer. I finally decided that if one person reads this and wonders if they should get a mole or a funny spot checked then it’s worth putting this out in cyberspace.

Back up to my teenage years. Do you remember when we slathered ourselves with baby oil or some other kind of burn inducing agent in order to get a good tan? I remember doing it often with my sisters and friends. We believed that the browner we got, the better we looked. Back in those days, we didn’t know the things we know now about skin cancer!

A few years ago, I asked a doctor about a spot right in the middle my forehead, right on the hairline. He said “let me measure it” and then told me we’d keep an eye on it.

On our last furlough, as another doctor filled in my ‘Pre-field Health Forms’ (ie the ones we need to be ok’ed to come back to PNG) I asked him about this spot. It was scabbing over and itching by this time. He explained that it was skin damage and proceeded to freeze it off for me. That was two years ago.

For a while I didn’t notice it anymore. However, it developed into something else. I would annoy me because it would scab over and bleed profusely if I bumped it or got it wet in the shower. I kept putting off a whole doctor’s visit just for that, believing that it was still skin damage until a couple of months ago when I had to go to to our clinic anyway for a toe infection. When the doctor looked at it, she said that our other doctor here would probably want to look at it and possibly biopsy it.

As soon as he began the biopsy, he told me with certainty that he believed it was skin cancer. He mentioned that the location of this spot is one of the most common places for skin cancer. He said I would probably have to go to Cairns or Brisbane, Australia to get it taken care of. Oh, and one side note: my next door neighbor was the nurse assisting the doctor. That is one of the ‘funny’ things around here, we live with the people who take care of us.

We waited five weeks for the results, and my doctor called to tell me I had skin cancer. However, if one is going to have skin cancer, this is the kind to have…it is basal cell carcinoma. Even after I heard it was skin cancer, I wasn’t really sure how serious this was. My first inkling came when I asked if I could wait until my parents visit in June and travel to Australia with them. No, he really wanted me to get it taken care of as soon as possible.

So here I am a few more weeks later. I have three appointments set up, for May 8, 9 and 10, the final of which is a Mohs procedure. Apparently I will be ‘put under’ for this. The two things I am most looking forward to is: I get to stay with a close friend, and my big sister will be flying up for the weekend to hang out with me.

Stay tuned because tomorrow I will post how all of this makes me feel.

April 20, 2012

A pastor’s joy over the translated Word…

by mendibpng

Malol translators Philip Rokus and Petrus Brere faithfully come to workshops because they want their people to have God’s word in their own language. Picture by Dan Bauman.

While the translators discussed how they would print and distribute their new copies of Luke,  Philip mentioned that Father Zachary Miroi was a respected church leader and a Malol speaker. He would be very happy to hear that the Gospel of Luke was now completed. Father Zachary had previously told Philip to make sure and let him know when Luke would be dedicated and he would do everything he could to clear his schedule and be there. Another Malol translator, Petrus Brere, was beaming with excitement as he heartily agreed: “Oh yes, Father Zachary will be… [Petrus failed to hide a huge smile as he struggled to find the words]… oh, he will be so happy.” Others joined in and shared how they had also met Father Zachary on the road and been encouraged to hear how much he was looking forward to having the translated Word of God in his own Malol language.

When Ben passed through Aitape town in June, he distributed copies of the newly published Gospel of Luke in five different languages to district church leaders from six different denominations. He presented them with the bright yellow booklets and said, “We want you to celebrate with us that this portion of the Bible is now available in these languages where you have local churches. This is not SIL’s book, but it is the Word of God for the Church. It is a tool for you to use in the work that God has given you.” Every church leader responded with enthusiasm and expressed how the Bible was needed for ministry in the local languages. Father Zachary, however, was traveling out of town, so Ben left the copies of Luke with a different church leader.

When passing through Aitape again in October, Ben finally met up with Father Zachary and presented him with his very own copy of Luke in the Malol language. He was thrilled. He related how he was very disappointed to have missed getting it earlier and participating in the dedication. He had been reading someone else’s copy, and he could tell that the translators had done a very careful job of translating it accurately. It was a joy to read the Word of God in his own mother tongue.

And then Father Zachary asked a surprising question: “Could I get a copy of this electronically? I would love to be able to cut-and-paste verses into my sermon notes, or include passages when I print out Bible study materials that I have prepared.” It had only been a few months since the first Malol Scriptures were available on paper. Audio recordings of the Christmas and Easter stories had only just been made weeks before. And already there was a need for an electronic format! They hadn’t been produced yet, but they arranged to meet again the next day with a flash drive in hand. Some things are changing fast in Papua New Guinea. At Father Zachary’s prompting, the Aitape West team realized that they couldn’t wait to convert the newly translated Scriptures for use on computers, the Internet, and on mobile phones.

April 19, 2012

A laborer of God

by mendibpng

Ben and Clement talking after sharing a meal. In Papua New Guinea, relationships are very important. Photo by Dan Bauman.

Clement related this story to Ben, who transcribed it and Jessie Wright translated it.

Clement uses relationships to share about his work in the Bible translation movement…

When I was living in my village and I didn’t know about the work of Bible translation, there were many things in the Bible that I didn’t understand. True, I would regularly go to church, but I didn’t – like the words that the church leaders would read – I would hear them, but as for myself, I didn’t know about some things like Bible backgrounds, or what messages may have missed the point, or what the meaning of the words was like.

When I came and learned how to do the work of Bible translation, I learned many things. Before I didn’t know about them.  For example, the Tok Pisin Bible too, it doesn’t explain it well, or many things remain hidden.  So when I came to do Bible translation, I did much research, so it was like, okay, many things helped me and I understood. Now I understood about God.

When I would go back to my village, I would tell my family,

“God is the source of all things, and when we ourselves see things clearly with the Bible, we need to sit down patiently and read the Bible carefully, and we will understand now how God works in our lives.”

It’s like this: when I went to work with the others in the work of Bible translation, I understood many things. God worked. And I learned many things where the Tok Pisin Bible doesn’t follow the original Greek. The Greek language was the first language – and Hebrew – that they translated into Latin, and later into English, and later they translated it into the Tok Pisin language. And then we come up to the time now where we are translating it into our own specific language so that we can understand the meaning of the words.

So as far as I myself am concerned, I have now come to know many good things that I learned. After I learned these things and then I was back in my village, many men would come up and say to me,

“Come, let’s go do this other work, so forget about it, and leave this work of SIL.”

But I would tell them,

“No, I’m not concerned with whatever other work, I am doing the work of God. I have become” – I would use a certain kind of talk that I like to say – “I have become a laborer of God.”

I don’t want to labor for another man. I want to labor for God, and it’s like this: I live at my village, the work of God is what I do, so he helps me. If I feel there is a thing that I find difficult, then the Word of God helps me, and now I see that I have learned many good things. I am happy about this.

April 18, 2012

The Word speaks more clearly to the Arop people…

by mendibpng

Pastor Peter, an Arop translator and Baptist pastor. Photo by Dan Bauman.

The following is another story as related by Pastor Peter. Transcribed by Ben and translated by Jessie Wright.

Pastor Peter talks about how in 2011 when they first took the portions of Luke and Acts back to the community and listened to it for the first time, some significant discussions came up about a few passages. When they only had the pidgin trade language Bible and they would read Acts 4:12, people still thought there were many ways to God. The message in the Tok Pisin Bible was not clear to them.

After they translated Acts into the Arop language, however, the message of that verse now became completely clear to them in their own language. They now read that and understand that Jesus is this man that God sent to save us, and no one else.

Another passage that became very clear was Luke 19:10. Now they understand that Jesus is this man that God sent to save those who are lost. So the reading of these two Bible verses was a really big thing that happened when they went through the chapters to check the translations.

It’s in their own language so they do not misunderstand it.

April 17, 2012

Jesus is born among the Sissano people…

by mendibpng

Felix from Wolwale took his turn recording the book of Luke in his own language. Photo by Dan Bauman.

Sissano Translator Kenny Aiprum related the following story to Ben who transcribed it, and then it was translated by our teammate Jessie Wright:

When Kenny first took the booklets of Luke and the Christmas Story back to the three Sissano villages, the response was so enthusiastic in the first village that he managed to keep aside only a few copies to distribute to the other villages.

He made sure to reserve a copy for the Catholic catechist, since that is the majority church in the Sissano area. The catechist wanted to read it over and over and be able to read it with understanding so that he could stand up in the Sunday service and read it well in their own language. But many women came and reported afterwards that when he read it, he made quite a few mistakes since this was the first time he had read something publicly in their own language.

Kenny went back and reported to his advisors in the Aitape West Translation Project that the church leaders were requesting that if a recording could also be made of the Christmas Story on CD, then they could listen to it over and over again.

They could listen along with the recording as they read it on paper and learn to read it much better.

In October, that request was fulfilled as cassettes and CDs were made available.

Others came back after the Christmas services and told Kenny with much joy that they got to hear the story of Jesus’ birth read in their own language.

They reported that when they heard it read, it really pierced their hearts and stimulated their thinking because they heard these words in their own language.

For too many years they had not heard this story told in their own Sissano language.

Evidently, the catechist had listened to the CD and really prepared well before Christmas day.

Kenny says,

“When he read it at Christmas, he knew it completely. The first time when I had given it to them, they were still trying to learn it. But when the catechist read it at Christmas, he knew it well and read it just fine.”

All the people were also really interested in listening. They were surprised, and they said,

“Hey! This man didn’t know before how to read Sissano words quickly and clearly like that.”

April 7, 2012

Next year in new Jerusalem!

by mendibpng




Ellie eats her matzah bread while Ben explains its meaning. We celebrated a Passover Seder with another family last night.

I thought I’d write a quick update about our first Passover Seder since I had written about my pre-seder thoughts a couple of days ago. We did a simplified version but included the following elements:

Hiding/getting rid of all the yeast bread. The children found bread around the living room to hide. On this night we eat only unleavened bread in remembrance of the Israelites flight from Egypt–they didn’t have time to let their bread rise.

Ceremonial hand washing

The Seder plate:

  • Bitter herbs (parsley):  symbolizing the hardship that the Israelites had as the slaves of the Egyptians. These we dipped into salt water, which represented the tears they shed.
  • Roasted egg: representing the cycle of life, endurance of of God’s people and a hope for the future
  • Charoset: a sauce made of apples, raisins, wine, cinnamon and walnuts (we used pandanus nuts) to represent the mortar between the bricks that the Israelites made
  • Lamb shank bone: signifying the sacrificial lamb

Children asking questions

Leaving a place for Elijah

Communion, connecting Jesus’ sacrifice with the Passover

Each activity is done so that we are able to focus on Christ’s sacrifice for us. I think the most meaningful part of the meal was sharing in communion with our kids and the friends who had joined us. We’ll definitely do this again next year!



April 4, 2012

holy week preparation

by mendibpng

Ellie picked these flowers in our yard and arranged them herself in preparation for Easter.

It seems like I am finally coming out of the ‘giving birth to twins’ fog. Last week I realized that although we had read Bible stories to the older kids, we hadn’t really done much of that outside of family worship (mostly singing) with our two year olds. To be honest, only one of them enjoys sitting and reading books at this point—the other prefers jumping off the couch! And yet, they are at the age where they are soaking up everything. I don’t want to neglect the most important thing: teaching them about Jesus.

I have resisted doing a lot of ‘spiritualized crafts’ and things in the past because I was afraid of becoming legalistic or appearing competative with other moms. However, the biggest reason centers around being just plain tired and worn out from the mundane tasks I do every day: cooking, cleaning, urging my kids to pick up after themselves, changing diapers, settling disputes and wiping noses to name a few.

It dawned on me that Easter was just around the corner and I had done NOTHING with the kids. Nada. I haven’t felt much like doing anything about Easter since the twins came along, aside from making sure everybody had enough chocolate Easter eggs to eat. When we were home on furlough it was easy to let the church fulfill that role. So last week I asked for some ideas on facebook and did some internet searches…and one night I thought about putting on a Seder that explained the Passover but also highlighted Jesus’ sacrifice. It all seemed very foreign to me but as I was researching it, I started hungering for tradition and rituals. Being over here without many of the perks of our churches back home, I wanted to do something that would help us focus on Jesus this Easter. Ben was still enroute to home, (he’s home now!) so I talked it over with him and he was all for it, in fact he was making the Passover connections before he even saw the material I was working with.

The thing is, I didn’t realize how putting together this meal would affect me. I took a powerpoint from a friend and simplified it greatly so that hopefully the littles won’t get too distractable. As I went through the slides, the words from “Once Again” by Matt Redman came to mind, especially the words “thank you for the cross…thank you for the cross my friend” washed over me. And so, as this holy week progresses, I hope to keep the cross at the forefront of my mind, not because I have to or because I want to look spiritual, but because I love Him. And I want to share that with my kids. If we get around to taking pictures I’ll try to post some of our Seder, and hopefully it won’t be a flop. I guess if it is, I will have had the benefit of the preparation I had going into it. I want my home to be a holy place where God is evident…

April 1, 2012

Decisions, guilt and doing the right thing…

by mendibpng

This week has been an emotional one for me personally because of a decision that we had to revisit.

The Plan seemed like a good one: Ben goes to the village for three weeks, while I stay at our regional center of Ukarumpa. The reason the family didn’t go with him this time mainly centered around difficulty in traveling. Being on jungle roads which are muddy and slippery for hours on end did not seem like a good option for the kids and I, so I volunteered to stay here in the comfort of our Ukarumpa home. Not only that, but Ben and his translators were making a push to get through Acts and if he didn’t have us there to distract him, they could make really good progress.

Having Ben away has been difficult, not because we have had any major things go wrong but it’s just regular life that can get exhausting. It’s the ‘normal’ happenings which require my attention and concentration and with five kids, it feels like I’m dealing with something all day long. I am tired and I miss my husband, who I rely on to help make the steady stream of decisions that rush at me throughout the day. With our pre-teen I’m making more emotional/mental decisions, whereas with the two year olds it is more physically demanding.

The original plan was for Ben to come home, stay for a week, and then go back to Wewak for 2 ½ weeks for a Dictionary workshop that our team had signed up for. We have three or four translators going from our project plus some literacy people in addition to Emil and Jessie who are advisors.

Last week I came down with a sinus infection and for various reasons had a couple of sleepless nights. I think it took something like this for me to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to cope with Ben going to the Dictionary workshop only a week after he returned from being gone for three weeks. Since he was away, my option was to e-mail him or Skype chat, so I chose chatting. It was a really hard conversation to have, but I knew that I needed Ben to be home or else I might have to be medevac’ed out of here. Although it was a bit of a shock at first, he agreed and arranged for the team to go without him.

On top of living cross culturally and dealing with hard things about living in community, if my sanity starts cracking, I won’t last long here…there are definite triggers and I know when the alarm bells are going off. So I’m following the advice of a good friend and doing the right thing and learning to live with a little guilt.

I won’t lie to you, I feel like the weakest link in the chain. For many of us missionary women, if we find that we need to STOP or CHANGE plans it is painful to admit, because we don’t want to be the reason that The Project isn’t moving forward. I feel enormous pressure from the people who fund our project. (ie supporting our national translators) What if they find out that it’s my fault that we aren’t progressing? What if I’m just being a big wimp and I really should be able to handle it? Since I have had these thoughts recently and I have heard them time and time again from my friends and colleagues, I thought I would put it out there so that you can pray for missionaries who are making these same kinds of choices. Yes, we are trusting God. Yes, we are doing so prayerfully. But we are still human and have to deal with a lot of human emotions when we have to say “enough” “I shouldn’t do this” or “I really need a break.” Thankfully the friends who I confided in this week affirmed the things I was saying (and so did Ben!) so the angst only lasted a few days.

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