January 11, 2016

Reflecting the glory of God

by bzephyr

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Next week, we head to our remote village in Papua New Guinea in preparation for our next Bible translation workshop. This time, our teammate John will be joining us from the States, and we will conduct final consultant checking of Titus and Philemon for the 10 language teams we work with.

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These are relatively small language groups, each between about 400 and 5000 speakers. Yet each one represents yet another community for whom God has done marvelous things to redeem a people for himself — people redeemed from unavoidable selfish and unkind actions, redeemed from false belief, redeemed from fear, from death, from terrifying spirits, people redeemed from the devil — those who will surround the throne of Jesus and give him great glory from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

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These are pictures from the recent singsing at our project’s building dedication. Look at these faces, and see people who were made to reflect the glory of God in Christ.

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From Titus 1:2…

I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. (NLT)

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January 3, 2016

Singsing for a remote building dedication

by bzephyr
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The new classroom (center) and dorm (right) in the morning sun

 

A few years ago, our ten-language Bible translation project in Papua New Guinea started to outgrow our current facilities. We needed more classroom space, more dorm rooms, more staff housing, and a new generator. Before we returned to the States for our home assignment last year, I had worked with teammates, architects, and funding partners to plan for the construction of four new buildings. Most of the build happened during the year that we were away.

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Missy and Emil managed the whole building project while we were home in the States

 

When we returned to PNG, our local colleagues had decided that we needed to do the culturally appropriate thing and host a building dedication. Traditionally, people in this part of the country cannot use a new house or building until they have hosted various groups to come sing and dance on the buildings and officially open them up. Sometimes the dancing is so energetic that it seems to serve the purpose of testing the strength of the new building.

For this opening, our village partners decided that the real purpose of this event was to dedicate these buildings to God and to his continued work through this language development project. So they invited one local singsing group to sing and dance, and various local church and community leaders were also invited to join in dedicating the new buildings to God. It was a day full of decorating the buildings, singing, dancing, speeches, prayers, cutting the tape, cooking, eating, and enjoying sweet fellowship together.

The pictures that follow are just a glimpse at all the beautiful art and joyful activities of the day…

 

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Fastening bilas (decorations)

 

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Adding color – the new and the old

 

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Hold still

 

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Women folk of the local translation advisor

 

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Children getting all decked out

 

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Almost ready to begin the festivities

 

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Many speeches

 

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Cutting the tape

 

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Exploring the new buildings

 

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All dressed up and ready to dance

 

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Singsing Tumleo – a song learned by grandparents from a neighboring language

 

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Watching the singsing from the decorated new verandah

 

Taking a breather before the next verse

Taking a breather before the next verse

 

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The next generation with PNG flag colors

 

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A headdress to match her afro

 

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Learning from the grandparents

 

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The littlest dancer

 

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Too much excitement for this little super man

 

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Someday, he’ll join the fun

 

Cooking kaukau

Keeping the fire going

 

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Cooking fish

 

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Waving the flies off

 

Distributing bread rolls

Distributing bread rolls

 

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Waiting patiently to eat

 

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Time to rest and story

 

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Leading the singsing with a flare

 

October 7, 2015

A Grand Day Out…

by mendibpng

When Ben asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I replied, “I really want to go to Kainantu with the whole family for shopping and lunch.” I know that on my birthday, I can pretty much get whatever I want, for reals. He took time off work, and off we went….
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This is the view from the centre owned van we rented for the day. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the nearest town. I didn’t take any pictures IN the store or at the open air market because it takes all my concentration to figure out what I want & need.
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This was taken in front of my favorite store in town, called Papindos. It has a lot of South East Asian food items that I love to stock up on!
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My most favorite people in the world…this is the first time we’ve ‘eaten out’ together since July.
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The restaurant has a cockatoo (we call it koki in Tok Pisin) and some tree kangaroos, which our kids had fun looking at. (Pictures by Josiah)
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On top of the trip away, Ben and the kids let me sleep in late that morning, tidied up the house, and filled my counter and table with flowers from our garden. I realize that I don’t need a lot to make me happy…just my kids and husband and a fun day out together.  The last couple of weeks have been rough for various reasons (external stressors) but this was an escape from all of that. *Best Birthday Ever!*

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

September 17, 2015

Happy Birthday Papua New Guinea!

by mendibpng

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Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to our family.  We first arrived in 2002 as a family of four, and eventually grew to be a family of seven. Yesterday was PNG’s 40th birthday. I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to our home of 13 years.

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  • Many of our happiest family memories come from PNG: going to the beach in Wewak, making fireworks out of steel wool, swimming in the river, etc.

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  • Since our kids have grown up here, our friends have become family, both PNG and expats. I love that I can get to a close friend’s house in a 5-10 minutes’ walk.
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  • I love the relational aspects of Melanesian culture. Working together, sharing, reciprocating, and being with people are important here.
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  • We have a purposeful ministry in the work of Bible translation. It is mind boggling that where we live people do not have access to God’s Word in their own language. Every Scripture portion that comes from The Aitape West Project is one more piece of God’s Talk for our neighbors to read and hear for the first time in their language. There is nothing like seeing the look on someone’s face when they hear it for the first time, as evidenced in the picture above, when Pastor Peter played the audio of the Gospel of Luke at the market one day.
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  • I love the beautiful foliage, landscape and animals. (I admit I’m not too crazy about pesky insects though!) Every morning I wake up to a bunch of birds in the eucalyptus tree next to my house singing crazy songs.
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  • We have freedom here to serve the PNG people in whatever way they need it.
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  • PNG is the land of the unexpected. I am constantly learning from this that I am not in control of everything. It is a good thing because I tend to hold too tightly to my plans and my ideas. When we first arrived in PNG, other missionaries modeled being learners and respecting the culture and environment we are in; it has helped us walk into situations with open hands.
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  • Our kids are growing up with lots of people from different cultures. They are learning to navigate cultural misunderstandings as well as value different perspectives. Ben and I have benefited from this too.
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  • We live with minimal commercialism here. Being in a place where it’s difficult to get something (and it’s costly!) means that you really consider whether you want to buy it or not. None of us has it perfect, but I feel like our kids have a lot of opportunities to be in nature, to create, and to be free to play.
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  • To sum it all up, the people here are the biggest reason I love PNG. God put them on our hearts years ago, and whispered to us that He wanted us to stay, even though we thought we’d only come for a short while.

We belong here.

September 10, 2015

You are welcome here!

by mendibpng

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I have spent three days pondering this quote,

Hospitality is rooted in the word hospital, which comes from two Greek words meaning “loving the stranger.” It evolved to mean “house for strangers” and later came to be known as a place of healing. Eventually, hospitality meant connecting with strangers in such a way that healing took place. Therefore, when we show openness toward people who are different from us, welcome them into our presence, and make them feel safe, the relationship becomes a place of healing. As we welcome people just as they are and invited them to join us just as we are, it becomes a sacred event reflecting what Jesus did for us–providing us with a healing relationship.

–Cross-Cultural Servanthood, by Duane Elmer

I readily admit that it takes a great deal of courage at times for me to be open and welcoming to strangers. A few years ago, a friend of mine taught cross cultural principles to our Papua New Guinean staff here. The thing that stuck with me from that training was simple. “Smile,” they said, “and shake hands with us. You can even hug us!” (The Highlands culture tends to be much more affectionate than I had originally thought.) So, I started to intentionally smile when we passed people on the road, walk into the store or hardware center, and also to the people we buy veggies from at the market. Here in PNG, walking past people without looking at them communicates that we are busy and that the person we are passing isn’t important. (One person said “I feel like a dog or a pig if you don’t smile at me,” which to me conveyed, “I feel devalued as a person.”) I am not saying that smiling is appropriate in every culture everywhere, this is just something I’ve been conscious of here in PNG because I heard that it communicated value to my neighbors.
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I know, I know, this sounds really simplistic. Aren’t I here to share and live out the gospel? If I am, as Elmer says above, “showing openness toward people who are different from us, welcome them into our presence, and make them feel safe,” then isn’t Jesus present there? I really don’t have to go out of my way to search for people to be friendly to since I live in a community full of people from a plethora of cultures and backgrounds. If you look at me, you’d likely think, “oh she’s an American.” However, if you start talking to me, you might realize that I’m a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and I am really quite odd/strange/unique. I might find something incredibly funny that other Americans wouldn’t, or I might not catch onto a joke that most people would normally get. It is rare for me to come across anyone who has lived where I lived and had the same experiences as me. It is more common for me to delve into friendships here with people who have had completely different experiences. But here’s the thing: we don’t have to be from the same cultural background to share an intimacy with Jesus. He links us together through love. As a student of culture and personality styles, I’m learning how to show love (appropriately) in relationships. In doing so, I feel like I’m holding a small piece of the colors and depths of beauty that I will be seeing more of in heaven.

September 3, 2015

Settling back into life in Papua New Guinea

by mendibpng

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(above) Ellie and our little friend Eowyn. Our friendships here are close, often the kids are like cousins their little MK friends!

I have given myself a full blogging free month to settle into life back here in Papua New Guinea. Knowing my history with transition, it has been a good thing to just focus on looking after my family and reconnecting with both Papua New Guinean and expat (missionary) friends.

I have been pleasantly surprised when I didn’t find it overly taxing to start cooking everything from scratch again. On the other hand, I underestimated the emotional energy it takes to live in a close (and very diverse cross-cultural) community. I wrote about the ups and downs here and here a back in 2011 and still feel the same things now in 2015.

I wish I was able to spout a good missionary story today, but the reality for me most days is that I’m wading through the mundane: going to market, keeping track of our children and their schedules, reading with the twins, helping with homework when needed, and negotiating meaning when interacting cross-culturally with my neighbors and friends.

Since my life mirrors a lot of missionary moms, I thought I might make a quick note of what goes on in a normal day for me. On some days, we have coffee and play dates, which really help break up the days.

6:30
Make sure Joe and Ellie are up
Go to market.
Make fire in the fireplace for warm water.
Start a load of laundry.

7:00
Wake up twins and Noah
Help twins get breakfast and follow their ‘chore’ charts
Make coffee & eat breakfast

7:30
Take Ellie to school, Joe walks to school

8:30
Take twins to school, Noah walks to school

8:45-12:00
Spend time with God & read
Make bread or bagels or tortillas
Start dinner prep
Do errands
Hang up clothes
Make lunch for house and yard helpers
Check email and respond if needed

12:10
Pick up twins from school
Make lunch for everyone who is here

1:00-2:45
Quiet time for twins and I (reading, etc.) Clean house.

2:45-5:00
Pick up Ellie. Supervise homework, instrument practice, playdates, take down clothes, more cooking, etc.

5:00-11:00
Dinner, kids, and more kids…..

I have had several invitations to do other things outside my home, but since I am team leader with Ben for our project and also mom to five kids, we both agreed that I needed to focus on those two roles for the time being. I am glad for the freedom, for instance, to make food and attend a haus krai (literally a “house cry,” or a wake) last week.

Another thing I’ve been pondering is the fact that everybody told me that our kids would grow up fast, and I believed it. However, the reality of just how fast is hitting home, now that our oldest is in 11th grade and beginning to plan out his future. The ‘letting go’ has already begun, although we’re still really involved in his life…in many ways, he and his siblings (at least the next two older ones) are fairly self sufficient. Their lives are busy and full.

I am really grateful to be back here. Both Ben and I are being very intentional about maintaining our spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health, since we both arrived home on furlough in 2014 in burnout mode. It has been wonderful to reconnect with our close friends again.

A dear friend gave this verse to me last week:

You are chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be holy, God’s instrument to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night and day difference he made for you–from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. 1 Peter 2: 9, 10 (The Message)

I want to start each day being drenched in the love of God, so that as I go about my daily (mundane) tasks, I will be God’s instrument of grace and love. Whether I’m at the store or market, or passing someone on the street, this is my prayer.

September 2, 2015

Does the rain have a father?

by bzephyr

The wisdom and power of God is simply awesome. In Job 38:25-28, the Lord says to Job…

Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
to water a land where no man lives,
a desert with no one in it,
to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?

Truly, we are dependent on God who controls the rain and the dew and the miracle of sprouting plants.

We’re in the midst of a drought here in Papua New Guinea, and the need for rain becomes more and more urgent as water tanks become depleted and our local neighbors are running out of food in their gardens. Everything is drying up outside, and the green hillsides and colorful flowers are all turning brown. Please pray to our heavenly Father that he will send rain on this dry and thirsty land.

A few days ago, I started a new hobby. I’m growing sprouts and herbs. In the context of the dry conditions surrounding us, it’s a good reminder of how dependent we are on God for the wonders he performs every day, like the sending of rain, the germination of seeds, and the growth of his wide variety of living creations.

My new sprouter trays

My new sprouter trays

I picked up this little sprouter tray system when we passed through Cairns, Australia, on the way back to PNG in July. Having grown sprouts before in a glass jar, the thing I’m really enjoying about this multi-tiered tray system is that each tray has a small water outlet to allow water to wash over each level of the trays. I think this will prove to be really helpful with growing sprouts, because one tip to keep them from spoiling before they’re ready to eat is to water them frequently. This system makes it easy to do.

I was amazed how fast the alfalfa seeds began to sprout…

Alphalfa sprouting within 24 hours

Alfalfa sprouting within 24 hours

The mung beans were the next to sprout with the soya beans not too far behind…

The soya beans are not too far behind the mung beans

A few soya beans are trying to keep up

The Japanese radish, black mustard, and rocket only show a few signs of sprouting…

Rocket, mustard, and

Rocket, mustard, and Japanese radish

The basil, sunflower, and more rocket are proving to be the slowest to start.

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Basil, sunflower, and rocket

As I went outside just now to check on one of my herbs, I noticed the ground was wet. It’s not raining outside, but it’s misting. Praise the Lord! Please send some big rains.

June 26, 2015

A Missionary Tale of Moving…

by mendibpng

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(above) Jenny Beth getting in a last hug from her grandpa the night before we left Chicago.

As I laid awake at 2am, the questions flashed through my mind like,

“did I get enough sunscreen?” (insert any item your family regularly uses)

“how much luggage do we get from LA to Melbourne? Melbourne to Cairns? etc…”

“did I respond to that urgent email?”

“when will my visa come?”

“will they take (spices) off me going through customs in Australia?” (so should I put it on my Australia list?)

During the days, we kept packing “just one more” trunk for shipping, and “just one more” piece of luggage. The number for each grew, and I felt more and more guilty because “why do we need all this stuff??” Which was followed immediately with relief because, “we do have five kids!” And, we’ll have no more access to Costco/Walmart/Target or American pharmacies for the next two (or so) years.

Between the strategizing of packing and packing itself, we took everyone to the dentist, optometrist, and family doctor and then had follow ups with specialists. In the middle of all of that, four of our kids had oral surgery, Ben had knee surgery and Noah broke his arm! I remember Ben saying that it felt like every appointment we went to led to another set of appointments. On top of that, we squeezed in homeschooling our kids in between going to the appointments. I remember feeling significant relief when, during the week before we left, there were no more doctors or dentists to visit!

Then there were the piles and boxes accumulated everywhere. We couldn’t see our floor in our bedroom–the staging room–for six months! Our ‘give away’ piles for Good Will got bigger and bigger as well, which gave me a huge sense of relief. (Have I mentioned how wonderful it is that they are open 7 days a week???)

These scenarios occurred over and over in the weeks leading up to our moving out of our furlough home. So many large and small details to attend to, that my mind and heart were in complete chaos. That tight wad of unease in my stomach just lived there, and I can feel it coming back, just writing about those weeks. I did what I could to keep my focus on God, listen to worship music, and I knew He was walking through it with me. But there was just the matter of walking through it. Not really anywhere else to go, except just keep going.

If you had seen me during that time, I might have said something about being overwhelmed but I really did try to put on a brave face and keep going. Stuffing down my emotions is really my coping mechanism, something I perfected in boarding school starting at age six.

I’m on the other side now, relaxing at my sister’s house in Australia for a few weeks on our way to Papua New Guinea. In many ways, we went through a lot of things that normal people in America do when they are moving. (What to pack, what to give away, what to throw away) But we have several categories of each thing (ship it, leave it, or take in our luggage, for instance.) plus all the other things mentioned above needed for our return, which almost puts us into ‘crisis’ mode.

Since I’m on the other side, why am I waking up again with my mind racing at 2am in the morning? Jetlag? Or maybe it’s my anxiety kicking in again, trying to process the unknowns ahead of me…I’m heading back to a lot of knowns and a lot of unknowns. I’m grieving the loss of face-to-face time with friends and family that we’ve left behind or who have left Ukarumpa in our absence. And once again, it just ‘is.’ The difference this week, is that I actually have time to think about my emotions and process them. It’s times like these when Davids words from Psalm 91 comfort me,

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

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May 20, 2015

Common Ground and Gratitude

by mendibpng

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I am not a stranger to grief. In fact, I feel like it’s a regular part of life for a transient overseas worker like me. So as our third furlough wraps up, the cycle of grieving has begun. Along with the grief of saying ‘good bye’ there is the roller coaster of anticipation of returning to our life and ministry in PNG. It can change hourly, even by the minute, these deep and often overwhelming emotions. The kids are feeling it, too. I know our twins and their little MK friends have been talking about the day when they will have to say “good bye” to each other…and then in the next moment, they talk about going “home” to the country they have spent most of their time growing up in.

We have been able to reconnect with dear friends and family (although we did not get everywhere we had hoped!) and had some new unexpected friendships develop during this furlough. For me, especially, coming back to the U.S., feeling like an anomaly/stranger, these old and new friendships were my lifeline. God used these people in my life to help me piece together the broken parts, something I didn’t even know I needed. I’m never keen on being the ‘needy’ one but I found out along the way that as I was willing to open up and share the hard things, people began opening up to me and sharing their hearts. Often there were ‘life giving’ moments where someone has shared something meaningful, and it has stuck with me. Very rarely did someone expect to ‘fix’ me or give me easy answers; rather, I felt heard and cared for. Something I noticed were threads of common ground, even with people who had completely different backgrounds, occupations and circumstances. Work stress, parenting, marriage issues are all things that a lot of people can relate to, whether you are a missionary or not. Following Jesus and loving each other are also threads of commonality amongst believers. There is nothing like the deep spiritual connection we have with one another!

So I am leaving with a sense of deep gratitude for the relationships I’m leaving behind here in the U.S. This is mixed with sadness. Because there’s nothing like seeing someone face to face, even if you are good at communicating over the miles! To me, it’s a little piece of what I’m expecting from heaven…not just walking into Jesus’ arms but being able to see my loved ones anytime and just “be” with them.

To you all who invested in us, knowing that we would only be here for a short while, thank you. I know that it isn’t easy to share a piece of yourself with someone who is going to leave in a few months. For me, even though it grieves me to leave, I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had to learn, grow and receive healing through these old and new friendships. Those impactful moments are stored away for those lonely times overseas when I can pull them out of my memory and remember you.

May 8, 2015

The Pehrsons in Papua New Guinea

by bzephyr

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Is it worth the sacrifice to live so far away from home in Papua New Guinea with our five children?

Watch this video to learn about our life in PNG and why we answer that question the way we do.

Mandy’s PNG visa was granted today. That’s one more hurdle removed so that we can return to PNG in June.

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