Monday, August 17, 2009

Traveling Mercies

[Note from Nancy: Sharon has not been able to send any more pictures because their modem is not working. I'm posting this blog with the only picture I have and I'll add more if I get them. Please pray for Sharon, Paul, Andie and Evan. POC is rigorous and challenging. ]

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” ~Lamentations 3:23


The Maxi-Cab had been booked earlier and was scheduled to arrive by 8:45 – enough time to get us to the airport for check-in at least two hours in advance. He arrived after 9:15. This was an opportunity to practice not freaking out and praying instead. God was gracious, and though we did not make the two hour advance, we had no problem getting boarding passes.

We had checked the luggage requirements before leaving the states. Though we were allowed two bags each at 50lbs each from Alabama to Singapore, Air Niugini allowed us two bags each at 70lbs (32kg). This made us happy as we could stuff more into the checked baggage and have to carry less. It made Evan happy because he was allowed to take a box of Legos that he inherited in Singapore (with three boys to play with, he had become a Lego-maniac the past few days.) When we placed the first Action Packer on the scale, it registered 28 kilos and I saw a concerned look move across the face of the woman behind the counter.

“You are allowed 25kg,” she said calmly. “We charge by the kilo.”

I gently reasoned with her, explaining the policy I had found on the website for Air Niugini. Since we had originated in the US, we were allowed 2 x 32kg each, rather than the 1 x 25 each afforded all other international travelers. (Now THAT’S some international relations!) She said she would have to check with her supervisor. While she walked away, I prayed.

Soon she was back, smiling, acknowledging that we were right. The bags were in-processed and weighed a collective 157kg (100kg less than we would have been allowed, so Air Niugini still came out okay.) We walked over to exchange some money so we would have American dollars when we arrived in Port Moresby, and then we said our goodbyes to Joe and Amelia. I don’t normally cry easily, mind you, but their prayer for us was tender and moving.

Singapore airport was interesting – we cleared the immigration official, returning the cards they had placed in our passports upon our arrival (I guess they want to make sure everyone finds their way back out.) As we were working our way to the gate, we finally realized that each gate has its own security! Now we understood why the “boarding time” was a full hour before the scheduled departure.

The airplane, a 757, was packed, and I believe, for a large jet, had the least amount of leg room I’ve ever seen. My knees touched the seat in front, so you can imagine how comfortable Paul was. But, the upside was, contrary to the many jokes that had been delivered on the subject, there were no chickens in the seats next to us. Or anywhere else in the plane, for that matter.

Now, keep in mind that it was 11:30PM when the plane left the gate. The lights were dimmed and people around began to rest. Once in the air, however, the lights (all of them!) were turned on and a full meal was served! Beef of chicken? Um … no, thank you. I had figured that they would serve drinks and maybe a light snack and then serve a full breakfast, but that was not the case at all. So people were eating full meals as midnight snacks – midnight Singapore time being 2AM PNG time. Then they served tea and coffee. Of course.

Unfortunately, the gentleman two rows back had not partaken of the coffee, for within minutes he was sound asleep, and snoring. For the entire flight. Let’s see … chickens clucking or a man snoring? Oh, how to choose! : )

As we landed in Port Moresby, we could see a lot of the countryside and it was, as expected, beautiful. The ocean and beaches on the right, the highland mountains on the left. The kids were both very excited, for which I am very grateful. We know that people are praying!

Immigration went smoothly and we claimed all of our bags. Only one lock was missing. I saw the currency exchange counter, but we forgot to actually exchange our money. Fortunately, again, because people were praying, we were not charged any customs fees. We did declare that we had some gifts (I brought some small things for the kids to take to birthday parties), food (prepackaged – that was no problem), “identical items in quantities of more than 1” (huh? Well, okay … deodorant, insect repellant, etc.), and “goods valued in excess of $1,000 Kina per adult and $500 Kina per child.” The only thing they wanted to see was the food. They asked us what was in our “hard boxes” (the Action Packers – clothes, shoes, towels, sheets, toiletries … personal effects) and handed us our passport. Thank you, Jesus, for favor with these officials! They didn’t even want to see the electronics we were concerned about them charging us for!

A New Guinean man named Luke who works for SIL, met us outside of customs. He helped us re-check our bags for the flight to Madang, and then he escorted us to the domestic terminal (several hundred yards’ walk down a covered sidewalk.) I had questioned why they would want someone to do that for us, but when it was said and done, it was very nice to have someone who knew the ropes and some of the officials to guide the way. Luke was a very kind young man who is married and has three daughters. He’s on the PNG National Football (soccer) team and will be playing in Australia next month for a tournament. We enjoyed his company. Entering the domestic terminal, I was amused at a sign on the door proclaiming that betelnut was not allowed to be chewed on any flight.

Convinced that we were taken care of, he let us pass through security into the domestic terminal and then left. We sat down, expecting to be called in about 40 minutes to board for our 10:45AM flight.

The call never came.

Finally, at about 10:45, they announced that, due to technical difficulties, Flight 110 to Madang had been cancelled, and that all ticketed passengers should make their way back to the domestic ticketing counter to receive new boarding passes on a new flight.

Though he had had the most and best sleep on the snoring-but-no-chickens leg of the journey, this did not sit well with our youngest. Once we knew when the next flight was, it didn’t sit well with any of us, but we turned on a DVD for the kids, scrounged up some food (we were glad that we had exchanged for Kina now!) and took turns napping. The kids split a chicken pie. I wasn’t sure what that would be like when I splurged the 5.90 Kina for it (approximately $2.35), but they did enjoy it. Andie even asked for a second one a couple hours later.

Finally, our flight was called and we walked outside and out to our plane, a Fokker 100 with significantly more legroom than the 757. Despite the heavy cloud cover and the high altitude (28,000 ft) we were very attentive to whatever scenery we could see during the one hour trip to Madang. Indeed, this is a beautiful country. Rugged mountain, picturesque coastline, plenty of snaking rivers, and green, green, green … everywhere green.

The airport was little more than a paved airstrip and a boarding/luggage shack. We were met by some of the POC (Pacific Orientation Course) personnel who were very friendly and welcoming. Believe it or not, and thank you for your prayers, all of our luggage made it. We only had a couple of wounded bags and one baggage casualty (a bag damaged beyond much further use during a gate check back in Huntsville.)

We loaded our luggage in the back of a people mover and crawled in after it. The POC grounds are on a mountain at about 1200 feet overlooking Madang and the coast, and we bounced and jerked around in the back of the PMV the entire 1km up the mountain. When the ride was over, Andie commented on the steep drop-offs, and said it had been a good opportunity to “catch up on our bravery.” A revamped Japanese military barracks, it is definitely no-frills, but each room contained some shelving, a few simple tables, chairs, and cabinets, and raised bed platforms with thin foam mattresses and mosquito nets. What more could one ask for?

The spiders, grasshoppers, wasps, water bugs, and geckos (one of which was a good 10” with half a tail missing) welcomed us to our humble abode. Having been delayed several hours in Port Moresby, though, we had very little time to find, for example, flashlights before the evening (after dark) meeting. Fortunately, the power did not go out all night, allowing us to almost completely unpack. Eventually the flashlights did, in fact, appear.

With fatigue and fear talking, one of the last things I said before bed was, “OK, I am ready to go home now.”

But true to His word, God’s mercies are new every morning.


  1. And those mercies are new ever morning!

    "Ready to go home now." -- I think I was saying something like that at 9 cm, every time I had a baby.

    Continuing as you begin this stretch of your journey.

  2. Interestingly enough, we had friends from Singapore here in the states for a while - now they are returning to Singapore.
    Glad to hear things have gone so smoothly. May God continue to bless your family.

    Woody clowns

  3. you asked why I was following your blog someone on AQ told me to look your blog up, I think it had to do with a post about you going to the missions field. not sure off hand who told me or what I was to look at.

    Goofy girl Dana Womack
    El Reno, OK


We are missionaries serving God and the task of Bible translation by serving the missionary community in Papua New Guinea through Personnel Administration and MK Education. We thank you for your prayers!

For the Bibleless Peoples of the World ...

(Updated 13 April 2013)