Archive for September, 2013

September 25, 2013

Home

by mendibpng

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(above) The airstrip at Aiyura, where we fly into the highlands of Papua New Guinea, where Ukarumpa is located.

“When are we going home in Agrumpa?” is what I heard from the twins over and over during our trip to Cairns after being gone only a few days. It dawned on me that our home here is really the one they associate best with the word “home” (although they seem to feel at home in the village as well when we go there).
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The word “home” is very emotive for me. It conjures up pictures of family dinners, my messy kitchen and my bedroom (aka my ‘hiding place’). That’s when memories from birthdays, holidays and other events come flooding back. We left PNG for a little over a week, and it only took that long for me to start missing my home in Ukarumpa. A big part of that was the fact that we had left our three older kids, and I missed them, particularly hearing about their daily adventures and struggles. (They did really well, by the way, and were very well looked after by friends while we were gone!) A second part of missing home is the close friendships we have with missionaries and Papua New Guineans here. When I’m away from friends, I can still usually contact them through email/Facebook/phone (we have cell phone service to our village now!) but the thing I miss when we aren’t in the same location is the possibility of seeing them face to face.

These last three years, we have owned a home here. Previous to that, we either lived in group housing (a small apartment, with three bedrooms and small living area) or in a home we rented from another family. When God made it clear to us that He wanted us to stay in PNG, we realized that we needed a place to put some roots into. We started praying on furlough for the right house and the funds to buy it. God provided the right amount just as we left the U.S. through supporters and friends from church!
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(above: the garden in front of our house)

I think if we had bought a house right away when we arrived in 2002, I wouldn’t have appreciated what owning a house does for us: the top advantage being stability. There’s no worry about a home owner coming to PNG and wanting their house back, no moving out when we go to and from the village, (reducing our transition and travel stress!) and making changes to the house is up to us, according to what our family wants or needs.  Just before we left for Australia, Ben hung a bunkbed from chains on the ceiling for Ellie so that there would be more space in the girls’ room. Back in 2009, when we started to ask if we should leave PNG and the answer was “no”, God showed me that He didn’t reveal His plan for us to stay in PNG when we first arrived because he wanted us to come here with open hands–ie not to get tied up in making life materially comfortable. (in many ways, that ship has sailed now, because having our own home has helped us acquire things that we wouldn’t have in temporary housing!)

At any rate, I am grateful. Grateful to be back in my own bed again and messing up my own kitchen with my favorite wok at my disposal. I’m grateful to have had some time away, where I didn’t have to cook much and I was able to spend some quality time with Ben and our twins.

I find myself echoing the sentiments from one of our favorite children’s books “Are You My Mother” by P.D. Eastman:

I love my house, I love my nest. In all the world, my nest is best!

Last night I smiled when Jacob announced at the dinner table it was time to do our “joy, junk and Jesus” (we changed from doing our ‘good thing, not so good thing’ to this when our intern Luke stayed with us earlier this year) Jacob proceeded to announce whose turn it was to speak. We went around the table and told the joys, struggles and where we saw Jesus at work in the day. That’s probably my favorite part of the day and what makes me feel like I’m really home with my husband and kids all around the table, eating food together and enjoying each other’s company.

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September 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Down Under!

by mendibpng

Jacob and Jenny Beth are four today. Four years of adding twins to our family of five to make it seven…four years of laughter, tears, messes and joys. I knew these two little people would bring a lot of change to my life, but I didn’t count on the amount of joy that they bring. They are always playing off of each other, making life very interesting for the rest of us. Of course, they are normal kids who test the limits and have their ‘moments’ of parent testing. But. If you look at the whole picture, as I like to do…the nitty gritty doesn’t matter so much. I love being their mom. I love being Josiah, Noah and Ellie’s mom too. Today we took Jacob and Jenny Beth to the zoo to celebrate their birthday…

On the way to the zoo, Jacob started to sing a song he had made up about the zoo. Jenny Beth started talking about Pippopamuses (Hippos). The conversation went like this “If I call you Jacob, then you will come to me, and help me get on the Pippo, k?” to which he readily agreed. Although there appeared to be mostly Australian animals at the zoo, (and no Pippos) the biggest hit by far was feeding the kangaroos.
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Jacob declared that his favorite animals at the zoo were the kangaroos, koalas and crocodiles. He enjoyed telling people that it was his and Jenny Beth’s birthday as we went from exhibit to exhibit.

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After a fun day at the zoo, we took a scenic drive to Port Douglas, stopping at several beaches to play (and eat). When we asked the twins what they wanted for supper on their birthday, they both said “chips!” So we decided to add ‘fish and’ to that.

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The birthday girl

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and boy!

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They were literally mesmerized by their sparkler candles! Happy number four you two!!

p.s. Jacob and Jenny Beth will have another birthday party with their siblings when we get back to PNG. Jacob has had enough of Australia apparently…he keeps saying “I want to go back to Agrumpa and see my Joe, my Noah and my Ellie. Tomorrow, right mom?” I say, “nope, we have a few more sleeps left here buddy!”

September 14, 2013

“Stick with me Babe, I’ll take you to all the best places…”

by mendibpng

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(Above) Jenny Beth on the airplane: she loved having a whole apple all to herself!

We left Papua New Guinea last week to take our twins to a pediatric dentist in Cairns, Australia. Our three oldest children stayed behind with friends.  All four of us faced a fairly big adjustment coming here, since none of us has been out of PNG for quite some time–especially Jacob and Jenny Beth. I found myself looking around nervously at night when walking down to the laundry room by myself (I would never walk anywhere alone in PNG!) and looking at the push button lock on my door–feeling a little unsafe, really, without a deadbolt! I still can’t help myself from turning the water off when I brush my teeth or while taking a shower. On the upside, it’s pure bliss to travel on really smooth roads, when the only ‘bump’ we feel is a speed bump near buildings or in busy areas.
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The first day, we had no breakfast food so Ben took us to a sidewalk cafe’. Jacob and Jenny Beth had French toast with ice cream and bananas AND they were entertained by the cars driving by.

The dentist appointment on Thursday went really well. Jenny Beth had a bit of a hard time coming out of the general anesthesia but Jacob woke up more quickly. Thankfully, the dentist completed all of the work in one go, so we don’t need to go back. I didn’t realize until after the appointment was done how fatigued I felt leading up to it. The ‘not knowing’ must have been part of that. {Huge sigh of relief!}

So. What’s next? What do people do in Cairns when their medical things are done?? Since we have two three (nearly four!) year olds in tow, we have tried to balance going to parks/playgrounds/the beach with shopping. This is our only chance to get birthday and Christmas gifts for our kids as well as stock up on luxuries like herbal teas and spices.
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We’ve been on the lookout for things that are overwhelming about the first world for our littlies so here are some of the things we’ve been teaching them:

  • You must wear shoes when we are out and about. We arrived at the mall yesterday only to realize that Jacob hadn’t worn any shoes at all in the car! Thankfully we ducked into a store and got him some $3 flip flops!
  • The proper way to ride an “alligator” (escalator) is wait until you see the step and then get on it right away. They tend to panic at the sight of it even though they love riding them!
  • Don’t sing loudly when in the grocery store or in a restaurant.
  • Look where you are going if walking in a mall full of people (we hardly ever walk anywhere where there are crowds of people!)
  • Don’t make loud comments about strangers In the first grocery store, whenever we passed someone, Jacob would say “do you think he saw us? Is he a bad guy?”
  • You can’t have everything you want in the store. Even though I warned Jenny Beth about all of the pretty things in the store (and that she couldn’t have it all!) she kept saying “pleeeeease, mama, can I have that? I LOVE it.”
  • Stay close to us (hold hands!) Again, we aren’t usually near large crowds in PNG.
  • Don’t pick things up off the [public] bathroom floor!! Oh my word!! I had forgotten public bathrooms!! We were leaving a pool when Jenny Beth asked to go to the potty…which was fine, but then she was touching everything, even some old band aids someone had left behind. I am sure the other women in the bathroom thought I was a teeny bit crazy!

I know this might sound like a huge list of ‘rules’ but it’s more me quietly telling them in their ears about this strange land we’ve come to. [With the exception of the bathroom one–I was trying hard not to shriek in public.] So far, they haven’t been put off by all the differences!

We have been enjoying some of the ‘perks’ of the first world, including fruit we haven’t had in a while (watermelon, grapes, cantaloupe, etc.) and food that we’ve either eaten out or at home.  When we had Indian food yesterday, I told Ben how fun it was, and he smiled really big and said, “stick with me, Babe, I’ll take you to the best places,” which is something he has said to me ever since we started dating.

September 8, 2013

The ‘My life is hard’ fallacy

by mendibpng

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In the last few weeks, I’ve digested ‘The Prodigal God’ by Timothy Keller rather slowly. I’ve seen myself in the younger brother character some but more recently in the older brother character.

Let me explain how this applies to my life.

I am wary of preachers who exhort people to ‘take up your cross’ and ‘give up your lives for Jesus.’ I am wary of visitors who come here, not knowing my situation and who question the way in which we live.

Haven’t I given up enough already? Haven’t I left the comfort of the First World to be here, far away from my family, in order to do my part in spreading the gospel through Bible translation?  I left modern conveniences and entertainment/eating out options behind when I signed up. Oh and my stuff. I packed away or gave away a lot of my wedding gifts if they weren’t practical on the mission field. I grieved for the lack of stability while also seeing our life as an adventure. I’ve put myself voluntarily into constant transition and have dropped myself into a culture that I still don’t understand after 11 years of [cheerfully] trying to assimilate and understand. Some days I feel really comfortable, and some days I really hate the skirts I wear here. I really miss being able to walk around at night without worrying about encountering ‘rascals’ (thieves, rapists, etc.)  What I wouldn’t give for a quick trip to a bulk food store to stock up on things I’ve [again, cheerfully] greatly reduced in our budget to save money, like cheese, cereal, and meat. Oh and I will just give a brief mention about how the stress and burnout (in doing work for You) has taken it’s toll on our marriage and family life. I handed my husband over to You, God, keeping a loose grip on him, knowing that You had important work for him to do. I did it all for You, God. I am [mostly] content in all of these things!!!!! (or am I?)

Please Don’t Ask Me To Give Up Any More. PLEASE.

It might be obvious where I’m going here.

The two brothers in the prodigal son (you can read the story here) came from two perspectives, the older brother (which Keller refers to as the way of moral conformity) and the younger son (the way of self-discovery).

The person in the way of moral conformity says, “I’m not going to do what I want, but what tradition and the community tells me to do.” The person choosing the way of self-discovery says: “I’m the only one who can decide what is right or wrong for me. I’m going to live as I want to live and find my true self and happiness that way. Our Western society is so deeply divided between these two approaches that hardly anyone can conceive of any other way to live. If you criticize or distance yourself from one, everyone assumes you have chosen to follow the other, because each of these approaches tends to divide the whole world into two basic groups. (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God)

I had always thought that the story exposed raw jealousy that the older brother had for the younger one…maybe that is true in part, but Keller says that the older brother in the story had even deeper sin issues. By ‘doing the right thing’ and ‘avoiding wrong,’ he really was trying to control his father to get what he thought he deserved. I can see how I’ve leaned towards the same thinking. When something unexpected comes along (or when we meet with our own prodigals) I look at God and say, “Haven’t I been doing what you asked me this whole time? Why is this [bad] thing happening?” A lot of expats I know here in PNG would not even fault me for having this perspective because they get what I’m talking about, I think. At least the people I’ve talked to recently do! But let me go back to Keller, because he explains it so well:

 Elder brothers obey God to get things. They don’t obey God to get God himself–in order to resemble him, love him, know him, and delight him. So religious and moral people can be avoiding Jesus as Savior and Lord as much as the younger brothers who say they don’t believe in God and define right and wrong for themselves.

Here, then, is Jesus’ radical redefinition of what is wrong with us. Nearly everyone defines sin as breaking a list of rules. Jesus, though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviors can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because Sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God, Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life. (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God)

My prayer now is, “Jesus, please help me see where I have put myself in Your place. Help me see where I have tried to ‘follow the rules’ and ‘do good’ to use you to get what I want (comfort, peace, contentment). I’ve tried to control my circumstances by worrying about them. I’ve allowed my mind to circle through things over and over without giving time for You to come in and restore me. Help me to rest in the fact that You have everything under control.” And echoing Peter, “Help me in my unbelief!”

I know that the more I release myself to this way of thinking, the deeper and richer my walk with God will be. He speaks. He gives wisdom. The distractions I dabble in will never satisfy me like He does. I love how the Message translates this verse I learned as a young child:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

p.s. Friends, if you have persevered to the end, thank you. I do want to insert a caveat here: all of the things I listed above are true and I have gone through the grief and loss cycle for some more than others, particularly the one about leaving my family behind. I don’t want to minimize the grief/loss side of this, and I still expect to feel the grief from those things from time to time. I just want to make sure that my attitude towards God is right when I’m doing that.

September 5, 2013

“Follow the yellow (and red) brick road….”

by mendibpng

As all of our bookings are made and paperwork is done for Australia, I thought I’d backtrack a teeny bit and post some pictures from the Ukarumpa International Primary School (UISPC) annual Sports Day.

Our kids look forward to this day, so much that we try NOT to miss it by being in the village. This year, as usual, it went smoothly, thanks to the teachers and administrators who ran the event. My favorite thing about that day is watching the sportsmanship that goes on. For every race I witnessed, parents, teachers and students cheered every single kid on, no matter the final result. I love that. It’s definitely a fun day for our family

The following are a few of the hundreds of pictures Ben took that day.

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In our family, even those who are too old or aren’t old enough to participate wear yellow to show team spirit.
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Ellie participating in a team event: the obstacle course. She and her friends practiced the course often during recess the week before Sports Day.
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Noah doing the long jump.
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“Gooooo Yellow!!”
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Ellie and her friend Amanda in the three legged race!
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Look at all these beautiful children–a long day for sure, but they had great attitudes and made it fun. Thank you, UISPC staff, for all the hard work you did to make this day happen!

September 3, 2013

In which a ‘little thing’ becomes a ‘big thing’

by mendibpng

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Today I am working on lists: filling out “Loco Parentis” and “Out of Country Leave” forms, to name a few. Only yesterday, we learned that our nearly four year old twins needed to see a pediatric dentist, something that isn’t available here. So, in less than 24 hours, we went from thinking we’d be here for six months to making plans to leave for Australia on Monday.

This whole process started in June, when each of my kids went to the dentist. We learned that the twins had the most cavities, and Jenny Beth had some really deep ones.The next month, Jacob had one filled but it turned out to be an extremely traumatic experience for him (and me!) since he’s so small, he doesn’t know how to breathe through his nose yet. He threw up, choked and screamed the whole time while we attempted to hold him down. When it was Jenny Beth’s turn, the dentist did another examination and told us that it was very very bad, and that we could come back the next month to see how much they were progressing. Yesterday, Ben and I went back with Jenny Beth and the he told us that we needed to take her to Cairns, Australia to see a pediatric dentist. Since Jacob still had some cavities, we decided that we would take both of them to hopefully avoid another trip to Cairns for the same reason.

I have a lot of conflicting emotions: how did my twins end up with such bad teeth? Is it because we don’t have flouride here? Or is it because we were too lax in brushing their teeth when they were smaller? Maybe it’s all the Tang juice I give them!

Oh, and don’t get me started on my ‘First World Country’ entitlement: as I was explaining to a close PNG friend Hana that we would be going to Australia for Jenny Beth’s teeth, I could only imagine what was going through her head.(note I say “imagine”–she never gave me any reason to feel this way!) She lives nearby in a village in a house with packed dirt for a floor and she sleeps under a thatched roof. In reality, she sympathized with us and nodded that of course we should go because she loves Jenny Beth as one of her own children. What I’m trying to say is…a medical trip for something that my Western self considers completely understandable and even necessary in this context feels extravagant and even a little ‘richie.’ However, if we don’t go, then Jenny Beth may soon be in need of a root canal or some other highly invasive procedure which would land us in Cairns anyway.

So. Why am I writing about this? I think it’s because it is so common for us over here to deal with things that could be considered ‘minor’ in our home countries but yet are huge in this context. It means making bookings and appointments in another country as well attending to details here. It also means finding a place for our three older children to stay while Ben and I go with the twins. Incidentally, this is the first time Ben and I have left Noah and Ellie, for this amount of time.

I should know by now, after having other medical trips this term, that the first day is always the hardest. It’s all the ‘whatifs’ and ‘how?’ questions that circle my head. Thankfully I have a gentle God who kept whispering “Trust Me” all day yesterday. As the day progressed, I could feel His pleasure in providing us with what we needed.

  • The missionary guest house we are familiar with had a last minute cancellation so we were able to book ourselves there.
  • Next, we heard back from the dentist in Australia that they could see the twins on the same day. (The whole trip hinged on this appointment, so having the confirmation the same day was wonderful!)
  • Then, our older kids top choices of where to stay here in Ukarumpa worked out…I didn’t even have to go to plan “B” on any of them!

We are still working on flight bookings but since everything else is falling into place, I am certain the rest will come together.

On top of having peace for today, I began to think about some fun things we could do with the twins when their dental appointments are done: taking them to playgrounds and McDonalds (which they won’t remember from their infancy) and maybe even to see some Aussie koalas and kangaroos! Oh, and Ben is already planning to take me out for my birthday a month early, since there are few options to eat out once we get back to PNG. Several friends pointed out to me yesterday that maybe it will be nice for Ben and I as a couple to only have two of our kids (who go to bed early!) to look after for that week–good point! I love all of my children, but having kids in several different stages of life does mean that Ben and I have precious little time together. So I am looking forward to eating out, being able to hold hands with Ben in public, watching Jacob and Jenny Beth enjoy playgrounds and pools, filling my suitcase with ‘special’ items like herbal teas and spices that I can’t get here and being able to drive a car and go shopping by myself when I want to!

I’ll close with the reading for today from Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

Let the dew of My presence refresh your mind and heart. So many many things vie for your attention in this complex world of instant communication. The world has changed enormously since I first gave the command to be still and know that I am God. However, this timeless truth is essential for the well-being of your soul. As dew refreshes grass and flowers during the stillness of the night, so My Presence revitalizes you as you sit quietly with Me.

A refreshed, revitalized mind is able to sort out what is important and what is not. In its natural condition, your mind easily gets stuck on trivial matters. Like the spinning wheels of a car trapped in the mud, the cogs of your brain spin impotently when you focus on a trivial thing. As soon as you start communicating with Me about the matter, your thoughts gain traction and you can move on to more important things. Communicate with Me continually, and I will put My thoughts into your mind.

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