Archive for ‘travel’

May 26, 2014

Stones of Remembrance

by mendibpng

noah rain
Our son Noah (above) graduates from grade six next week…I found this picture of him in the rain at age 4 when I was looking for pictures to send in for his class slide show. He is not only transitioning to the U.S. this month, but he is finishing his Primary School days.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about our upcoming furlough. I know I’ve probably said it before, but it’s worth repeating…it’s really hard to stay in the ‘here and now’ when there is so much involved in getting ready for the next big thing, which is literally moving our family from this side of the world to the other.

A few things I’ve realized:

  1. Traveling with five children is trickier than I ever thought (and we haven’t even left yet!). Being a family of seven means we won’t fit into a medium sized car, or even one hotel room. Thankfully for most of our trip home, we will be able to stay with family and friends and either travel with them or use local transportation!
  2. Making airplane bookings is agonizing from this distance! Having been gone from the US for four years makes us wonder when the best time is to buy or whether we would use a travel agent or book everything ourselves. Thankfully, we have made all the decisions needed to get us back to Wheaton, IL between leaving here in June and arriving there mid July…it involved hundreds of smaller choices like where we would stop, how long we would stay (and where) and how would we get around in each place!
  3. Leaving for furlough is a lot harder this time around because the goodbyes are for longer or more final than ever before. We have friends of 13 years leaving for good (they leave before we get back) and we have other friends going on furlough before we get back, which means we won’t see them for two years total, or more.
  4. All seven of us experience different symptoms of transition. Noticing how each person handles the grief and stress is a necessary part of parenthood and marriage because it helps us have grace for each one.

Being thankful/grateful for the good things we have had as a part of missionary life has been a source of comfort to me in recent weeks. A friend in our small group led us all in a night of “Stones of Remembrance” where we watched a slideshow of the last 10 years together and then talked about the ways that God had answered prayers for us. These friends, and others, here, have truly walked through some dark valleys with us and have celebrated joys as well. So, in honor of my friend Kelly, who started this whole topic for me, here are a few stones of remembrance for our family that I want to publically thank God for: (this is by no means a comprehensive list but it gives the general idea…)

  •  The births of our five children, including the safe delivery of our high risk twins.
  • Jenny Beth’s heart defect healed the year after we returned. (I took her to Australia twice, the second time we were told she had no hole in her heart anymore!)
  • On several occasions where either us or our kids were in physical danger, God protected us.
  • Provision of all of our physical needs during our entire career as missionaries. We have had some (unexpected) gifts come in when we had medical trips to Australia.
  • A purposeful job, where we get to see people hearing and reading God’s Word in their own language for the first time.
  • “Fun nights” with our small group, where we have literally laughed all evening.
  • Opportunities to host short term personnel and interns in our project. Each one has left a stone of remembrance with us.
  • Close friends, who have journeyed with us through hard times.
  • Community: I love being able to walk to my close friends’ houses in under 5 minutes! I love having the possibility available to me.
  • Supportive family and friends who have prayed for us.
  • A market where I can buy fresh fruit and vegetables three times a week. I know I am going to miss this!
  • Our PNG friends and colleagues, especially Mama Hana who has been a part of our family since 2002.
  • The wonderful school that our kids go to. It is very common for me to bump into one of my kids’ teachers, who will tell me some little tidbit about that child and I am reminded that we are so blessed by the educators here.
  • The other support workers here–too many to list–who have also been called to serve Bible translation, providing technical, medical, financial, transportation and food services. We couldn’t do our job without them!
  • Teammates. Usually you get who you get and you make the best of it, right? God placed some really gifted (fun) and great friends in our team. Some of them work remotely and some we see often.
  • And finally, I’m grateful for the pace of life here. Sometimes I complain about the lack of opportunities to eat out or have ‘date nights’ with my husband. But I know I will miss the minimalistic life we have here.

It’s my goal to have an attitude of contentment wherever I am. Some days I am able to live that way and other days I sink into self pity pretty quickly. I’m anticipating seeing friends and family who we haven’t seen in four years. I can’t wait for my kids to know their grandparents and also to create some memories with family and friends.

I know from previous furloughs that there will be some reverse culture shock and that there is no way to avoid it, just to walk through it while hopefully not taking myself too seriously. It means being unbalanced and a little crazy at times and giving freedom to my kids to do the same.

Because we’re not shooting for perfection here: just reality.

And sometimes a little bit of sanity.


March 11, 2014

The Difficulty of Living in the Moment

by mendibpng

This week has flown by, with multiple things taking our attention: our son Josiah is in the high school play, the translation office solar system had a huge problem, the airstrip was closed due to the grass not being cut, and we are simultaneously packing for a village stay plus taking care of furlough details for June. On top of that, all of us are in some stage of transition…and some of us are feeling it more than others.

It turns out sleeping can be difficult with so many thoughts and ideas racing around my head. I’ve experienced the ‘stiff upper lip’ (keep going) stage, the meltdown stage, and now the numb stage where there’s still quite a few things to do but a lot of the urgent stuff is done. I sent several pieces of cargo off to our aviation department, and I have my lists of the few things that need to be packed up Sunday night or Monday morning, like toothbrushes and beloved blankies/stuffed animals. I personally struggle with coping with transition a lot more in recent months than I ever have before in my life…I suspect this has to do with being at the end of a long field term and feeling stretched in so many ways, or maybe I’m just getting old?! At any rate, I’m just feeling weary and moving my family towards a big transition is not My Favorite Thing.

The great thing about walking through a rough week is that the blessings end up being very meaningful.

1 A colleague in the U.S. literally spent hours (often in the wee hours of the morning for him while it’s daytime here!) talking with Ben about the solar system crisis. Others here on the ground have also given him input.

2. Noah and Ellie independently created their own costumes for the Annual Book Parade at their school with no help from me or their daddy (We would have helped if they wanted it, but they wanted to do it themselves.) We just showed up and took pictures! They also packed their own clothes and backpacks, as well as helping the twins with theirs.

3. We had four evenings out to see our Josiah’s performance in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’ We never tired of seeing him and his brilliant co-actors in the play!
algie 1

4. We learned this week that we have furlough housing as soon as we land in Wheaton in July. This means that we won’t have to find a temporary place to live first: a huge blessing for a family of seven about to face a huge transition. On top of that, we have a furlough car booked as well!

5. We added a wall and a couple of doors to our covered driveway, making space for our bikes and other bulky things, which were making it impossible for us to walk through our storage room. Now that the big stuff is out of the way, it’s going to be so much easier to organize everything when we pack up before leaving for a year! Last Saturday Ben and the kids painted it, and it makes us both really happy to see it completed every time we walk by it.

6. One of our children who struggled in a subject area received 100% on a test. The grade itself is inconsequential to me, but the fact that the emotional stress of that subject has reduced is a big blessing. The exceptional teachers teachers and administrators at our school here take great care in their jobs, a fact which is often highlighted by stories our kids tell us when they get home each day.

7. Ben found out on Thursday that they cut the grass on the airstrip for the first time in many months, making it possible for our team to land there (we have many flights going in and out during our village stay!) We have encountered this issue a great many times over the last 12 years, and this is nothing short of miracle!

8. We have five days in our regional town of Wewak as a family to relax a little bit before our translators and their wives arrive. (They are coming to Wewak for our first-ever spiritual retreat!)

9. A friend on home leave wrote me recently with good news. I’m rejoicing with her from afar!

10. My five kids remind me to stay ‘in the moment’…once in a while, I’m on the verge of a meltdown when one of them makes me laugh…just look at this face!

11. I couldn’t resist adding this last one in: this is the view we had flying over the Aiyura Valley yesterday. The thick clouds looked like huge snow drifts, with the mountains peeking up over the top of them! I find that noticing beauty in God’s creation is a huge help in times of transition.

I’ll end with a quote from my favorite transitions writer, William Bridges
“It is ironic to realize that one of the gifts I have received from getting old is the ability to be in the moment. I’ve been trying to learn to do that for the past thirty-five years, but it has been only with the natural slowing down of my mind with the losses I’ve been through that I am starting to find the present moment sufficient in itself. Loss has given me that gift, not by “teaching” me that moments are limited and precious. (That would be learning it the conceptual way.) And the writers I used to read, who urged the same shift in awareness, couldn’t “teach” me that either. It is something that came only with time and with the natural sorting process that goes on after loss. As the mud swirls around in the watery pan, the gold-flakes settle of their own weight. Time doesn’t fly–it swirls, and the moments settle from their own gravity. Without serious loss, the water isn’t agitated enough for that to happen.” (The Way of Transition, p. 206)

I haven’t arrived yet at the same level of contentment that Bridges talks about, but I feel myself moving more and more towards this awareness. I love the metaphor he uses of the gold-flakes swirling about. That’s exactly where I’m at with finding joy in the small and big things this week.

February 2, 2014

Light shining in the darkness

by bzephyr

The Gospel of Luke was translated and published in the Malol and Sissano languages for the first time in June 2011.

For those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9.2b)

Since then Luke has been recorded on audio, distributed on solar and hand-crank Scripture audio players, and used to begin training local church leaders how to incorporate the translated Word of God into family and church life.

Now they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed. (Isaiah 6.10b)

Beth introducing Scripture audio players to Malol church leaders in September 2013

Beth introducing Scripture audio players to Malol church leaders in September 2013

This year, the Jesus Picture Story DVDs were created with Malol and Sissano audio tracks, and it’s ready to be projected almost every other night in all the Malol and Sissano communities for the next 37 days. Two days ago, our teammate Beth left the town of Wewak with seven newly arrived YWAM team members in the back of a pickup truck for the long trip over rivers and muddy roads in order to start this ministry in Malol country.

Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them… I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. (Isaiah 42.10,16b)

These eight people along with the Malol and Sissano translators and literacy teachers will make up the teams who are taking the light of the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for the first time on screen and with the translated Words of God into these dark places.

I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 42.6-7)

Left to right: Caleb, Ben K., Effy (leader), Ben H., Natalie, Courtney, Stephen (leader)

Left to right: Caleb, Ben K., Effy (leader), Ben H., Natalie, Courtney, Stephen (leader)

The plan was to start driving at the crack of dawn and arrive by truck at the first Malol village in the early or mid afternoon. They would meet Malol literacy teachers John and Benedict if the road was impassable, and a team of local volunteers would then help them trek through the mud to the first overnight. Little did they know that the Malol translators, Philip and Petrus, had decided to leave the translation workshop for the weekend and surprise them for their first of 10 two-day programs in the Malol language area.

Left to right: Benedict, John, Philip, Petrus

Left to right: Benedict, John, Philip, Petrus

Teammate Missy, also decided to make the trek with Philip and Petrus and help the team through their first experience of bathing in the sago swamps, locating pit toilets, setting up mosquito nets, and possibly doing this all in the dark. Why are they going through all this trouble? To provide hope to those who rely more on the light of their torches than on the light of the Lord. Consider…

Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50.10b-11)

Left to right: John and Philip listening to Luke on audio while Benedict and Missy demonstrate how to read along

Left to right: John and Philip listening to Luke on audio while Benedict and Missy read along

Here’s how that first day panned out…

  • 6:00 a.m. – Beth and the YWAM team depart Wewak by truck to Malol country
  • 12:01 p.m. – Beth texts “We are at Yakamul 3. A car is stuck in the road. We wait til they get it out. Lots of flooded rivers. Will text when we get to Aitape.”
  • 12:35 p.m. – Missy, Philip and Petrus depart translation workshop in Arop village by foot to Malol country
  • 1:37 p.m. – Beth texts, “We are in Aitape. We are heading straight to Malol. We will text as soon as we get there and find the network there.”
  • 2:30 p.m. – Beth texts, “We are at the Yalingi River now. It is flooded. We will wait to cross and then will find John. We may have to walk to Malol because of the river.”
  • 5:37 p.m. – Missy texts, “Made it to Malol. Will try to send message later.”
  • 9:28 p.m. – Missy texts, “Hi Ben, wow it’s a long way. Minus the 30 min canoe we walked almost constantly for 4.5 hours. My legs are tired but I’m doing fine. Everyone is here, beds set up, almost all washed, ready to eat and sleep. Hope the rest of ya day went well. Missy.”
  • Next day – Petrus texts that Beth and the YWAM team had arrived in Malol really late in the evening, and they were welcomed at that time. Now they will rest and start the program on Monday.

Next day – Ben texts Missy: “Was Beth totally surprised to show up after dark and see you?”

Missy: “No, she wasn’t because Philip couldn’t help himself and he had to tell John, who told her. But she was soooooooo happy!”

Isn’t that the way it is with good news? It’s so good, you can’t wait to tell someone. Even at the risk of spoiling the surprise, you just can’t hold it in. You’ve just got to tell somebody.

Will you pray with us that as this team shows the story of Jesus’  life, death and resurrection and as the people hear it in their own language that they will be sooooooo happy to hear and see the light? And that they too will feel compelled to go out and tell others?

Also, Philip and Petrus will accompany Missy back to the translation workshop within the next few days so that they can continue to be a part of the ongoing translation work with 9 other language teams as they draft Titus and Philemon together into their own languages.

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. (Isaiah 60.20)

January 19, 2014

Furlough Fever: TCK thoughts

by mendibpng

In June, we’ll be flying on a Kodiak airplane like this one on the first of six flights which will take us from: Ukarumpa–Port Moresby–Brisbane–Melbourne–Fiji–Los Angeles–Chicago, IL. It took us (well, Ben, actually) over four weeks to figure out each leg and which flights would be the most economical for the family.

We’ve been in PNG now for 3 1/2  years, having left the country only a few times for medical reasons to the closest neighboring first world country, Australia. As I’m going about my daily tasks and ministry, I’m constantly thinking about our return to the U.S., planned for July of this year. I started writing what I thought would be a short blog post but it turned out that I needed to make it into a series because I had so much to say. So this one is dedicated to my thoughts about our TCKs (Third Culture Kids) and the transitions they will face in a few months.
5kids1stBirthday sm
(above: This is what our kids looked like a few months after we arrived in PNG in 2010). When we left the U.S., our twins were nine months old, Ellie was five, Noah was eight and Josiah was ten. Now Josiah is in high school, Noah and Ellie are in primary school, and the twins are four! Here are all of them together at Christmas this year:
kids sm
I talked to my older boys about friends and relatives we want to catch up with when we reach the U.S., and one of the first things they started joking about was how people would say how much they had grown. It’s just a fact of life that if you are gone four years, your kids will look different and they will be that much less connected to All Things Related to their home country.  So a great deal of my thoughts circle around how to make the transition back the U.S. a happy one for the kids, and how to help them with grieving the loss of their home and close friends for an extended period of time.

I’ve spent many hours researching homeschooling materials for the kids and thinking through logistics related to schooling on the road. Our oldest needs a program that is accredited, while we have more flexibility with the younger ones. I am not quite sure how we will keep a routine while traveling and get work done. That might be something we’ll have to scale and adjust to as we get started. We have dreams and expectations of visiting some historical sites in the U.S. and spending time in national parks as part of our homeschooling experience.

Even though we live in the bush a lot of the time here, we don’t have the opportunity to do tent camping as a family. Our plan to travel on furlough involves quite a bit of camping as this is the most economical way to visit a lot of places with our family of seven. Some of the questions we have may become clear after we’ve seen what camping looks like with five children like, “how will we make significant amounts of food while camping?” It could be a blast….or…it could be difficult. I’m just going to add that to the list of unknowns, but I’m comforted by the fact that this is our first furlough without a baby in diapers. Plus, we can always find info and ideas on the internet once we get there!

I know that we can’t physically prepare our kids for everything they experience they arrive, but we want them to have the freedom to talk to us about anything.  It’s fairly common for Third Culture Kids to grieve the lack of belonging anywhere and to feel like strangers in their home country. (I know this because I am a TCK).  It’s also common for them to feel antagonistic about things that they don’t understand, whether it’s cultural differences or simpler things like the lack of autonomy and freedom to be outside as much as they are used to. Incidentally, the loss and grief side feels significant this time around because Josiah has hostel brothers and sisters who will be graduating while he is gone, and he doesn’t know when he will see them again.

So what are we doing to prepare our kids?

  • We’re talking with them and consulting them about our plans, so they don’t feel like everything is completely out of their control or that they are blind sided by decisions. The decision to home school, for instance, came easily for Ben and I, but we had to make sure that the kids were on board. My impression is that they are excited, even the ones who were reluctant in the beginning.
  • We’re showing them pictures of friends and family they will see so that it’s not a complete shock to meet unfamiliar people (to them, not to Ben and I.)
  • We’re planning to visit some of their former PNG friends/colleagues along the way so that not every single visit is a new encounter and those friends will know where we have come from.
  • We’re planning on significant ‘down’ time here and there, where it’s just us so that we can relax and not worry about being on our best behavior.
  • I’m planning on creating photo books for the younger kids of all of their favorite places and people here in PNG so that they have these to look at whenever they are sad and missing their home here.
  • We’ll create a scrapbook of our travels for the kids to remember all the fun places we’ll visit and wonderful people we will see.
  • We’re also talking about the fun food we will get to eat (grapes! cheese! Doritos! Portillos hot dogs!).
  • All of us are working on a ‘bucket list’ of things we want to do while in the U.S. (we might not get to everything but it’s a good way to find out what each of us values.)
  • We’re taking advantage of Wycliffe Connection, a program for our whole family, focused specifically on reentry. Some of our friends will be attending as well, which I think will make it very fun and relaxing!
  • We’re planning to have significant time with both sets of grandparents to strengthen those connections.

I hope that we will be able to be an example to our kids of trusting God and ask Him for wisdom for every small and large decision. We often use our family time to pray about the decisions we need to make, and we will continue ask God to show Himself to us in supernatural ways, rejoicing when He answers, as He did last week by providing all the money at one time that we needed for our return travel to the U.S.

As with most things in life, there are no set of rules or one good checklist that works for every family. There are just too many variables and too many different personalities to navigate. It all just boils down to the fact that we can’t plan enough ourselves or rely on our own wisdom for all of it. The only solution I can clearly see is just simply laid out in verses like this:

James 1:5-8 (NLT)
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

What about you? If you are planning a big transition for your kids, what kinds of things are helpful/useful to do? I’d love to hear comments if you have any to share!

September 14, 2013

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

by mendibpng



(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.
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.

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 3, 2013

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

by mendibpng


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.

August 5, 2013

Beautiful PNG: views from the sky

by mendibpng

We translator families have many opportunities to see the vast mountains and coastlines from the sky because we travel so often. I love the cloud formations!





This final picture illustrates just how skillfully our pilot Christopher flew over the Aiyura Valley last week in order to land safely at our airstrip. Notice the thick layer of clouds over the mountains, which he wove through expertly, past Yonki Dam and home again for us. We are always grateful to have a safe way to get to and from our village!


August 2, 2013

Beautiful PNG: Wewak town

by mendibpng

On occasion, we’ve been able to spend time in one of our favorite places: Wewak.

Wewak Town from the sky



…and the town itself:


…my favorite store, pictured below (we have Papindos all over PNG) because I can get things like sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, wonton wrappers, spices, noodles and other Southeast Asian food supplies that make my cooking here fun.  Down the block a bit is a fairly large department/grocery store where we can buy apples and icecream, two things we highly prize here!


Next, here’s a scenic drive back to the guesthouse our mission runs. One of the thing that strikes me often is how many hues of green there are to feast my eyes on…



and the Kodiak plane lands at the Wewak airport to whisk us back to our home in Ukarumpa!

I had so many beach pictures I decided to make a separate post, so stay tuned for the next one.

February 1, 2013

Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: Transition

by mendibpng


Although transition happened very differently for me as a child (compared to how my kids experience it now) we share a lot of commonalities…the adjustment to living in different places is just one of them:

I experienced transition every time I left my parents and went to live at boarding school. Home and school were completely different environments for me.  During the school year, I lived at an institution where all the students were expected to follow a similar set of rules and schedules, and yet I felt fairly independent most of the time, responsible for myself. I learned very quickly at a young age to fend for my own physical and emotional ‘stuff,’ like buying my own toiletries, etc. In most of the dorms I lived in, there were 20 or more students looked after by one set of dorm parents. The number of roommates I had varied, usually it was two but one year we had all of the 8th grade girls in one room together!

At home I either shared with my little sister, or I had a room to myself. My parents had expectations for us girls but were able to give us individual attention, something I lacked at school except for a few trusted adult mentors and class sponsors. I had a lot of freedom at home as far as schedule because I was always on holiday there BUT I wasn’t used to my parents telling me what to do. I remember the huge suitcases my dad would pack for us girls, full of clothes and possessions that we needed (or wanted) for the school term. Often our field director would comment about the Hobbs girls huge suitcases under his breath. 🙂  For me, having my favorite things with me was comforting when faced with a big transition. Even now, I like to have my comfort objects with me when I travel!

Similarly to my experience with transition, my kids have two homes: one in the village and one in Ukarumpa . (Although every 3-4 years, there is the big transition of going back to Wheaton, IL, as well.)  Transition for the kids involves external things: packing, planning for weeks in advance, and storing things for our return, as it did with me. Just like my parents let me take things with me to school, our kids take a backpack with the things they will want with them for the village stay. Josiah takes nearly all of his possessions to the hostel as well. Our kids also have the internal adjustment of saying “good bye” to loved ones in both places. Since relationships are highly valuable to them, leaving is painful, particularly if they know when they get back from the village that a close friend might be gone for good.

On top of the emotional adjustment, they have to transition mentally to a completely different way of life in the two places. For instance, in the village, our kids are home schooled, while in Ukarumpa they go to school with their TCK friends. It’s a huge adjustment! They are also together 24-7, which means sibling rivalry (or the opposite, they learn to get along well!) happens a lot.

We have a lot of conversations about transition and how it affects each one of us. Sometimes transition makes relationships difficult, but we try to have grace for each other when we know we’re going through it. For the smallest ones, we expect a lot of tears and tantrums during the first week. The older ones might pull into themselves a bit before they are ready to go outside and play with their neighbors.

For a really good books about transition, I would highly recommend

“The Way of Transition, by William Bridges
“Transitions: Making sense of life’s changes” also by William Bridges

p.s. thank you all for your comments on my last post! I really enjoy hearing about your experiences and having the opportunity to discuss things further.

January 6, 2013

The bad #1: Stuck in the mud

by bzephyr

With PNG teammates who are motivated and capable of making great progress in Bible translation, the last thing we want is for us expat members of the team to be the obstacles that impede their way forward. But that is exactly what is in danger of happening. This is felt most keenly in my dual role as team leader and translation advisor, especially as we incorporated new opportunities and met several unforeseen obstacles this last year. But these stresses have not only affected me, they have had a significant effect on my wife and five children, and on the other members of our team as they have all been burdened with the relentless urgency to fulfill our plans.


Due to roads in disrepair and great difficulties in arranging transportation, on one five-week trip to the village in January/February, I spent fifteen days on the road trying to get to and from the translation workshop. Then in March, I left my family for 22 days to go to another translation workshop but only managed to get to the village for 8 days due to similar transportation problems. My work was slowed, and this also slowed down others who were waiting for my contributions. So we are now dialoguing with our leaders and with partners in the region and at JAARS about a land transportation solution.

The road has not been the only transportation obstacle. When the Aitape West Translation Project started twelve years ago, there were four airstrips in the area that were relatively close to our training center in the bush that we might have used. These days, only one is ever open, and for most of 2012, there were none. This meant a lot of phone calls and face-to-face meetings to see about the possibility of the grass getting cut and the airstrip opening up. The Kodiak airplane doesn’t need a long landing strip, but it does need the grass on the strip to be cut so the pilot can see dogs, pigs, and small children close to the landing area and still land safely.

When the airstrip didn’t open, we have been very grateful for the possibility of flying by helicopter. That helicopter pilot has been our best friend on several occasions this year. But this solution has also meant more work for me in an already full schedule to arrange the logistics of it all. It is also a much more expensive option that tugs at a tight budget.

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