Archive for ‘Ukarumpa’

January 29, 2018

Rusty Ole Missionary

by mendibpng


As many of you know, we spent the last six months in Spring Hill, Tennessee, USA,  to help our oldest son transition to life in the U.S. It was a fairly big undertaking, to uproot our family for that period of time, but we haven’t regretted the decision to do this. We feel satisfied that he is doing well with college life and adulthood.

Thoughts on returning to the field after a six month absence…
I realize my experience isn’t unique, in some ways, as many of my fellow missionaries have come and gone from their place of assignment, only to feel the gears inside them noisily turning to adjust to being back. Papua New Guinea is home to our family. We wholeheartedly embraced the land and culture here in 2002, and haven’t looked back. At the same time, we have had trips away, and each time the process of transitioning hits us painfully. It’s a costly venture, this twisting and turning and questioning the space and longing for the stability that seems elusive. All of this has been compounded by dealing with grief of losing one of the most important people in my life, and I’m finding this transition to be the most challenging and painful one so far.

The first week of our return, I hiked up and down my porch stairs hanging up laundry multiple times per day. Although I was grateful to have a covered space to hang out everything, I inwardly groaned because every muscle in my body ached from the exertion. This should tell you how much exercising I did on furlough… little to none!  Added to the physical adjustments, my mind felt like an empty balloon. One of my friends called and was asking me some very simple questions and I couldn’t even answer her. It made us laugh later but was an ‘aha!’ moment… yep. I’m not running on all cylinders as they say.  Then there was that time when I overreacted emotionally… actually it was more than once!

Added to all of that was the great feeling of being back amongst our community. After six months of not living in close proximity to friends, it felt extremely refreshing to see our loved ones again. The youth directors rented two vans for friends and teens to come to the airstrip to greet us, what a feeling to step off the plane and hug so many friends!  The friendships that we have here are deep and comfortable. Ben and I sat in complete gratitude to be back with our small group, knowing that this was a safe place for us to just be ourselves, without having to justify or explain who we are. It felt good to be amongst people who were sincerely interested and invested in us. The years we have spent in that group have paid off a million times over.  Similarly, other close friends have also circled up and welcomed me back, giving me a chance to debrief and process while also sharing their last six months with me.  To say I’m grateful is minimizing the feeling… it’s much more than that.

Along with the joy of seeing loved ones again comes the challenges of community. There is the question of when to speak up in love or when to stay silent. I am sure it’s the same anywhere, but perhaps more intense here in a small community where we have people from many cultures and denominational backgrounds.

Before I left the U.S., a friend gave me ‘Of Mess and Moxie,” by Jen Hatmaker, and yesterday I read this timely advice from Hatmaker

We listen sincerely, we don’t just reload while someone else’s mouth is moving. Dialogue is easily spooked, so you must be vigilant against fear, dismissal, manipulation and apathy—true enemies of safe dialogue.  You’ll feel it at first, deep down, the urge to rebut, rebuke, refute. It will be a cold rock in your gut, tempting you to correct or disagree, or to be offended and center yourself in that person’s story. But that instinct can be overcome, and the results of someone feeling heard and respected are immediate and palpable. It takes a fairly high level of humility, empathy, and courage to keep a space open and healthy. It’s a developed skill that takes practice. To me, that is what love looks and feels like. (p. 81)

My biggest problem is that I want to add something, anything to make a person feel better when she’s pouring out her heart to me. But as my training in debriefing has taught me, the best way to help someone is to listen and not put myself into her story. I struggle especially with my older kids in this area because I want to fix them so badly. I realize that they need my love and empathy more than my fear that something bad will happen if I don’t say the right thing. That’s what I’m rusty on, and where I’m wanting to grease my squeaky gears so that I can be the kind of friend and mother who offers safety and love.

And so we press on…

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. Philippians 3:12-14

January 14, 2014

2013 in review

by mendibpng


Our intern Luke Elliott  (pictured above, with Noah, Joe and Ellie) spent nine months living with us last year.

January: We had planned to go to the village and do a ‘walkabout;’ however, Ben and I became too sick to travel. Once the virus had finished, it took weeks before the fatigue left us. We had to cancel the trip and Ben worked from home. Our teammates Luke and Laura still went to the village to do language learning.

February-March: Ben worked from home in Ukarumpa. This entailed managing the project (reporting, etc), doing advisor checks on 1&2 Timothy as well as dealing with personnel issues long distance over the phone or via skype. I supported him as the team leader by checking in with teammates regularly and hosting team meals and meetings.
Dictionary Workshop participants identify nouns and verbs in their own languages.

April-May: We attended our bi-annual branch conference. During this month, we went to the village for a follow-up Dictionary Workshop and a translation revision for 1 &2 Timothy. We also began renovation on a staff housing building. Wayambo supervised the construction of most of our other buildings in our project previously, and came out to do this one. The house he renovated into a three bedroom house plus the downstairs apartment was split into two separate living spaces with their own bathrooms!
Jacob “helps” Wayambo.

June-July: Ben and our teammate John consultant checked 1 and 2 Timothy in seven languages (three first, then four the next week) which was the first time they have attempted to do so many languages at once. The translators and language consultants told us over and over how Paul’s words impacted their lives—it was the first time they had translated preaching, rather than narratives in Luke and Acts. A video team from Wycliffe U.S. come during this time to get footage of the project.
August-September: We all appreciated the stability time for the whole family while Ben worked from his cubicle in Ukarumpa. Meanwhile, we supported our team long distance as Luke and Laura did linguistic analysis, Jerry recorded Acts in Arop and Beth, Missy and Cindy went to all of the people groups in our project to do Scripture Use and Literacy activities. In September, Ben and I took the twins to Cairns to see a pediatric dentist, since both of them had some deep cavities that required the skills of a pediatric dentist.

Josiah helped lead worship at church numerous times throughout the year. He also plays in a Soul Purpose (youth) band and accompanies the Sunday school kids each week.
Jacob and Jenny Beth still talk about seeing kangaroos in Australia!

October-November: Seven of our translators/literacy workers came to Ukarumpa for a Discover Your Language course. Ben mentored the Rombar Onnele group which allowed him time to do some more in depth study of the language, which essentially will help them make the translation more accurate.
Language Discovery Course 05 crop
(photo credit: Phil King) Ben coaching the Onnele men during the Discover Your Language course.

November-December: Ben went Arop for a translation workshop, while the kids and I stayed in Ukarumpa. He took new computers for the translators and spent most of the time trouble shooting how to connect them to the online and local servers (which store data for our translations) It turned out to be a difficult task but he came home having left them all up and running, praise God! This was probably one of the most challenging times of the year, since many of the appliances in our house died (while Ben was gone) Praise God that the shipping office and the Wycliffe buyer in Cairns helped us replace most of them before Christmas!
At Christmas we had our hilarious moments…
but also our more serious ones, when we shared our Jesse Tree (advent) readings together.

December: Ben arrived home safely and hiked out to a friend’s village the next week. He ended up getting very ill on Christmas day but since we had a low-key holiday planned, he was able to stay in bed for well over a week.

In summary: I am sure you are able to read between the lines and see that it has been a very busy, very fruitful year work-wise. Now, we look to the next five months here in Papua New Guinea and pray that we will be able to balance work and family life as we also pack and prepare for furlough starting in June.

December 20, 2013

You know you are having Christmas in Ukarumpa when….(Mandy’s version)

by mendibpng

kids crop

  • Instead of shoveling snow and de-icing the sidewalk, we make sure the gutters on our roof are clear so that the house doesn’t flood during rainy season.
  • Our weekly ‘night out’ as a couple included an annual White Elephant gift exchange, in which Ben came home with the same gift he took.
  • We filter our water and bleach our fruits and veggies so that we don’t get a tummy bug over the holidays.
  • The kids helped set up all our Christmas decorations that we have collected here for the last 12 years. Some things we shipped over, some we made and some we found in country, even!
  • We stockpile our fridge, freezer and pantry because the store is closing for 2.5 weeks. In reality, we probably have enough food to last for 2 months without going to the store!
  • We get excited when someone has a new movie or TV show to share around since entertainment is sometimes hard to come by.
  • We longingly look at the $100 turkeys they got in this year at the store and decide to go with 2 $15 chickens instead.
  • I prepare a special gift of food or money to give our friends who help with our house and yard work.
  • We tell the kids that we won’t take a holiday away from home this year because we are buying a new washing machine instead, and they all shout for joy because they don’t like to leave their friends!
  • All family members breathe a huge sigh of relief once the school holidays begin. It means the kids are free to hang out with their friends, while I am grateful for the more relaxed pace of life: no homework, music practice or tests to study for!
  • My friends and I always discuss the question, “do you think it’s going to rain today?” (because we don’t want our clothes to get an extra rinse out on the laundry line!) On our porch we have Christmas lights, garlands AND clothes drying.
  • We’ve ordered a small present for each of our children 4-6 months in advance so that they will have something to open on Christmas morning along with some goodies sent in a care package for their stockings.
  • I look at my stockpile of wrapping paper that I shipped from the U.S. three years ago and wonder if it’s enough to cover all the presents on our final year in PNG before furlough.
  • We plan each year to make Christmas gifts for our friends. This year we made pumpkin butter!
  • We incorporate traditions from home and new(er) ones from here during the Christmas season. We usually stay in our pajamas all day long on Christmas day, and have sweet rolls, breakfast casserole and hot cocoa for our breakfast.
  • We relish every small (and big) thing that comes in a care package from ‘home’ while the little ones are certain that America is the place where all the goodies come from.
  • We enjoy seeing our children in their Christmas programs and wish their grandparents could see them, too.
  • Homesickness is so natural, it’s like breathing; but traditions like the Jesse Tree (Advent) each night is meaningful, as we reflect on Christ’s first and second coming.


September 25, 2013


by mendibpng

(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).

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!
(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 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.


In our family, even those who are too old or aren’t old enough to participate wear yellow to show team spirit.

Ellie participating in a team event: the obstacle course. She and her friends practiced the course often during recess the week before Sports Day.

Noah doing the long jump.
“Gooooo Yellow!!”

Ellie and her friend Amanda in the three legged race!

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!

August 14, 2013

Beautiful PNG: my garden

by mendibpng

I cannot claim any credit for the elegant flowers in my yard: the former owners of our home worked with a local man to plant and nurture it. We have orchids, roses and dozens of different kinds of other flowers in addition to the guava, banana, grapefruit and moon fruit trees. I often jokingly say that I have a black thumb, because everything I planted in the past never came up or ended up dying quickly. Two young men come every other week to work in the yard and since this is their only employment, I am happy to leave the work to them. Some day maybe I will have some time to learn but even though I don’t know much about gardening, it doesn’t stop me from enjoying it and being thankful.












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July 22, 2013

Belonging: having a rightful place

by mendibpng


When I typed the word ‘belonging’, I stared at it for a long time, without really knowing where to start. Why, all of a sudden am I back to talking about Third Culture Kid issues? Well, that’s a good question! There are often triggers for me, like when I was asked in two separate conversations where I am from last night. I stumbled in this question, as I usually do, but ended up saying “I grew up overseas, in Indonesia, but Ben is from Wheaton, IL, so that is where our home base is now.” But then there are the next real triggers: Goodbyes and Transition.
Goodbyes: We just left our village again, this time for six months…life is really hard for my neighbors who don’t have good access to medical care. As I shook hands with the men and hugged the women, I thought, “I don’t know how many of them I will see again.” It is not uncommon for us to come back to our home there, having heard that someone we know and love has died. Then, a few hours after having left the village, I got teary as I waved goodbye to teammates Beth and Missy, who we won’t see for several months. Those two women have been lifelines for Ben and I in more ways that I could write here. And finally, our intern Luke left last week after living with us for 9 months.

And of course, the other big trigger. Transition: Where do we come from? Where are we going? Who are we? All these questions jump around in my head as I process the road ahead for  my family and me. One of the perks of coming back from the village this time of year is that a good number of our friends have arrived back from a year or more furlough. All of us are looking forward to catching up with old friends who we haven’t seen in a long time. But along with the good parts of transition, there is always the ‘anticipatory anxiety’ I wonder, “how are the twins going to do in preschool?” and “what the next few months are going to look like?” After a grueling two years work-wise, I can’t quite picture it. Why? Because we haven’t lived in one place for six months in a long long time. Maybe this is an indication that this is a long time in coming!
I went here and looked up the word “belonging” and ended up skipping over the definitions and going straight to the synonyms:


If you scroll down a little, you’ll see “go, fit in: have a rightful place”
(Taken from

When I read those words, I think of the people I belong to:

  1. Ben, my husband and best friend
  2. My family as a whole. A close friend who has known us since we came to PNG told me a while back that she thinks my family is MORE cohesive and close since the twins arrived.
  3. The Aitape West Team (our expat and PNG colleagues, the ladies who cook for the translators, the people in my village)
  4. Our Bible study group in Ukarumpa
  5. Friends and acquaintances we live in community with in Ukarumpa
  6. Friends and family back in our home country
  7. Partners back home (churches, individuals and groups) who pray for us

After I wrote this, I asked my twins, “where is ‘home’?” Jacob said “in A-grumpa” (Ukarumpa) Jenny Beth piped up, “and the Billage” (Village)Then  Jacob shouted, “and Wewak!” (that’s where we are right now) Yes. Next year, they will find out what their passport country is like and hopefully they will feel like it has become their ‘home country.’ We brought our twins here to PNG at nine months old, and they will be nearly five years old when we arrive on U.S. soil.  I can’t resist this picture of them, it’s from 2011 we first arrived back to PNG and they were skyping with grandparents:
And now, I must get them their second breakfast…

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