Wednesday, January 27, 2010


“As the first printed books were quite rare and valuable, it was determined early on that something was needed to mark one's place in a book without causing its pages any harm.” ~Wikipedia, “Bookmark”

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day.” ~Dalai Lama

I could have been friends with them.

Imagine the scene. A family is leaving your town for good. A good percentage of the population turns out at the airstrip to bid them goodbye. There are hugs, smiles, tears, “don’t forget to email me” …

You are standing toward the back of the crowd watching the single engine plane rumble down the grass runway. As the wheels leave the ground and it soars into the sky, disappearing over the mountains, you think to yourself,

I could have been friends with them.

Shortly after we arrived, one of the leaders here told us that he has found himself in this situation more than once … experiencing regret for what could have been.

“How long are you here for?”

I’ve been told that some people have asked this question of newcomers, not necessarily out of friendly curiosity, but out of self-preservation. If you don’t say you’re here long term, then, well, it’s nice to meet you, but I gotta get going. And don’t expect a call from me. I’m not interested in building a relationship only to have my heart ripped out when you leave.

I can understand why someone might feel that way, but how sad.

Transience is just part of the culture here, but I don’t want to be one of those people who watch the plane take off and wonder about what could have been.

Before I left the states, independently of each other, two of my best friends gave me small gifts: bookmarks. One friend bought two, actually – one with pink and green beads and the other with blue and green beads. She showed them to me and just as she, I thought, was about to hand me the green and blue one (‘cause she’s the more girly girl), she pulled it toward herself and thrust the pink one in my direction. “The pink one for you to remember me by and the blue and green one for me to remember you by,” she said.

Yeah, like I could forget.

A few weeks later, unaware of this previous gift, another friend gave me a lovely suede bookmark with beads and a miniature picture frame attached. With my mother’s help, I shrunk and cropped a tiny little picture of me and my friend to put in the frame.

And thus equipped, I left for PNG.

Two weeks ago, a new family arrived in country and moved, temporarily, two houses down from us. In addition to a thirteen year old boy and a four year old boy, they have a ten year old girl and a seven year old boy, the exact ages and genders of our own kids. When we heard this, even before they’d arrived, we offered to have them over for dinner to welcome them and answer any questions they might have about the great POC expedition upon which they were about to embark.

But, it didn’t end there. We greatly enjoyed each other’s company, and we really came to care for and love this family as much as you can in twelve days. We were very sorry to see them go, but glad for them that they are starting the next phase of the adventure God has for them. Following POC, they will not be returning to Ukarumpa, though. Rather, they will be moving to Alotau on the far southeast corner of the island of New Guinea where they will serve as regional center managers. We don’t know if or when we will see them again.

Yesterday they boarded the Cessna for the trip to Madang. Before they left, however, Kim handed me a small, bulging envelope. Enclosed was a sweet thank you card for all of the really selfish things we’d done to create a social life for ourselves while they were here (they thought we were just being nice, I guess), and a handmade beaded bookmark.

A wide smile spread across my face and I told her the story of my two friends who had given me bookmarks before I left the States.

She apologized. Guess she thought I had more than enough bookmarks.

No, no, no, I insisted! I think it’s great! A little twinkle from God’s eye, the way I see it. I love it! (Besides, someone who reads a lot can never have too many bookmarks, right?)

Each of these friends has been a very special part of my life, in very different ways. Each of the bookmarks they have given me, likewise, are very different, and will forever mark the pages of my life that these friends have graced. What if I hadn’t bothered because I didn’t want to have to say goodbye? What a treasure I would have missed out on!

No, the story of my life is still being written.

And I’ll take all the bookmarks I can get.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Little Better Off Than Gilligan

"Now sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip ... ~Theme song from 1960's TV show, "Gilligan's Island"

Gilligan: Hiya, Professor. What are you doing?

Professor: I'm making notes for a book. It's to be a chronicle of our adventures on the island... I think it's a book people will want to buy, don't you?

Gilligan: Sure, I'll buy one. I'm dying to find out what happens to us.

I gotta get off this island.

No, I’m not certifiably insane … yet. But, I will be taking a mission trip from my “mission trip” very soon. And to do so, I gotta get off this island.

A few weeks ago, a center manager on the island of Bougainville issued a request for people to volunteer to go (transportation paid) to work as a kitchen/business manager for some 2-3 week long conferences over the next several months. I decided the one listed for May sounded appealing to me (music and youth together) so I expressed my interest in that one.

She replied that that would be great, thank you, but is there any way you could possibly come for the February conference, also?

Oh yeah. That one was labeled “urgent need.” I guess by “urgent” she actually meant … well, “urgent.”

So, long story short, I’ve made my travel arrangements and I will be leaving here on Monday, February 1. Despite a bit of envy on my husband’s part, I am scheduled to fly on the brand spanking new, nine-seater Kodiak plane to Port Moresby. (If I remember right, we got the fourth one off the production line.)

Tuesday I will get on a commercial airline and fly to Buka where I will be supervising cooks, driving into town on shopping trips three days per week, helping prepare meals for conference participants, washing linens, organizing duty rosters, dispensing medicine, handling the finances, writing reports, and doing inventories. On Friday, February 19, I will fly commercially back to Port Moresby where I will catch a six-seater Cessna back home where I will sleep for three days.

Now it’s true that flights in this country can get cancelled on a whim, as we found out when we were trying to get to Madang back in August. But, I figure that still puts me a step ahead of Gilligan, Skipper, and their rag-tag gang of island-dwellers. They had to wait for a ship.

Oh, and except for episode #46 where, after getting hit in the face with a crate, Gilligan begins picking up radio signals and broadcasts a weather bulletin announcing an approaching typhoon, they had little communication with the outside world. Well, now that I think about it, they did have a radio made from coconut shells and bamboo, thanks to the genius of the Professor who, for some reason, was unable to also fix the two foot hole in the SS Minnow.

I’ll have email, and a digital phone that even works sometimes. No coconuts for me. No sir.

Which brings me to the food prep part of this adventure. Some of you will remember from a previous post how very bad with meal planning I am. That would seem to be a problem since one of the main reasons I am going to Buka is to coordinate all the meals for an entire conference full of people. But, they tell me that all of the menus are set! Recipes are provided, as well as two national ladies to prepare most of them! All I have to do is watch and learn! (Oh, and all that other stuff I already mentioned, of course.)

So, stand back, Mary Anne. Put down your script, Ginger. Lovey and Mr. Howell, step aside please.

I’m leaving the island.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Oh yes, wait a minute Mr. Postman ...

“Please, Mister Postman, look and see if there’s a letter in your bag for me.  Why is it taking such a long time …?” ~the Marvelettes, 1961

 “Every once in a while, someone will mail me a single popcorn kernel that didn't pop. I'll get out a fresh kernel, tape it to a piece of paper and mail it back to them.” ~Orville Redenbacher


It’s official.  I am pathetic.

And I think I’m going to need a new computer mouse pretty soon.  The left button is getting worn out from clicking on “Send/Receive” no less than 2,196 times per day.

The good thing is, for a flat rate, we can be constantly connected so as to send and receive as much email as we want, and it’s even set up to send/receive automatically, if I’d ever give it a chance.

The bad thing is, as you may remember from the last post, I’m “not doing anything.”  And that leads to lots of extra time to feel disconnected from the world.  It was New Year’s Day before I heard about the Christmas Eve airplane incident near Detroit.  That’s how out of touch I am. 

Don’t hear me complaining, because I’m not.  I am thrilled to be here!  This place is beautiful, the people are precious, and we know God wants us here.  I’m just looking for new reasons to laugh at myself, that’s all. 

But, let’s face it.  Almost everyone reading this post lives at least 8,500 miles from where I’m sitting.

Now, while I am not as bad as, say, a certain snack food magnate, who apparently puts faulty kernels in his popcorn bags just so he can get a few letters in his box, I am still pretty pathetic.  We have message boards here where people can post things for sale, wanted items, etc.  I have found that if I post, for example, that I need to borrow a basketball pump and needle, that I will get three emails almost immediately.  And if I post that I am looking for a small piece of lumber to make a swing seat for the kids, there will be nine replies in my inbox within fifteen minutes.

One day I found myself looking for stuff I could sell.  I justified it by calling it “simplifying,” but on one very real level it was a desperate, backhanded attempt at attaining some kind of socialization.  When the new flip flops I posted for sale didn’t go (my son had outgrown them before we received our shipment), I amended the post to say “make an offer.”  I could have just said, “please, won’t someone send me an email saying you’ll pay me even a dime for these shoes?  In fact, I’ll pay you to take them!  Just so I get to communicate with a real human being ……”



I tried a different approach with the Turbie Twist:


“We got these for my daughter because she had a terrible time trying to wrap up her hair with a big towel after a shower.  She used the purple one briefly.  Now she just doesn't wrap it up at all, but I'll save my commentary on that.  :)

“It is a terry cloth head wrap thingy with a little elastic loop for holding the end after you twist it up.   Yeah, think "info-mercial."

“I've tried the purple one and it works just fine.  I'm pretty sure the problem was operator error.

“The white one has not been field-tested, but I suspect it will do the job.  I'll save the purple one just in case we have a break through.

“White Turbie-Twist


This attempt at lighthearted salesmanship brought no email replies.  :(


The Christmas packages sent by family back in the states finally started arriving last week.  It’s fine, of course … things just take a while here.  But, my son was despairing, and day by day, as Christmas approached, his desperation grew.

“Mom, can we go to the Post Office?”  (*insert pitiful face here*)

I didn’t want him to get his hopes up, and fortunately, he did eventually come to understand that the mailbox was more likely to be empty than it was to be overflowing with little yellow slips of paper indicating that packages were waiting behind the counter.  But, still the dream was alive.

“So what if something comes after Christmas?  Can we open it?”

Yes, honey.  Of course. 


It’s not been so bad since the kids got out of school for the holidays because, frankly, they don’t leave me much time to be bored.  They, on the other hand, are always bored, but that’s another story.  Still, in some slower moments I find myself going back and forth between Outlook and Skype, (*insert pitiful face here*) thinking, “Is anybody out there?”

Click. Open Skype. Click. Open Outlook. Click. Send/Receive. Click. Back to Skype.

Click. Click. Click. Click.



I’m sure the fact that it is the Christmas season has a lot to do with it.  Someone here in Ukarumpa called us on Christmas day to see if we were doing okay being away from family for the first time during the holidays.  I had to confess, though, that out of the last ten Christmas days, we have only been with family twice.  And out of the last ten Thanksgivings, never.  With Paul working at UPS so many of those years, and us living so far from everyone, seeing family on Christmas or Thanksgiving just didn’t happen. 

Instead we spent most of those holidays with friends, and as my mother graciously acknowledged, it was them that we really missed this year.  Not that we didn’t miss our families, too, of course, but you understand what I mean.

I’m sure this is a normal part of adjusting.  And I have come to know in the last few days that I am not alone.  Two other gals from my POC group have confessed to very similar feelings.  So, as pathetic as I am, I am glad to report that I am actually “normal.” 

I think.

Now stop laughing at me.

‘Cause it’s my birthday.

Which leads me to the final, long-awaited conclusion of this post!

I had written up to this point a couple weeks ago (it’s been edited since), but I could not find a suitable manner in which to wrap it all together in such a way that it didn’t sound like a shout out for mercy mail.  What I had so far was one big pity party, and that was not at all what I wanted to convey.

Then, a few days ago, I got three emails from people who should have had no way of knowing when my birthday is; each of them wished me a happy (early) birthday.

OK, someone’s up to something.

I accused my husband, but he denied it, so I figured it must be my mother.  Sho’nuf, she confessed.  Well, not actually confessed

The Skype conversation went something like this:

[1/8/2010 1:11:38 PM] Me: Did you rat me out?

[1/8/2010 1:11:55 PM] Me: You're hesitating ......

[1/8/2010 1:12:19 PM] Mom: huh???

[1/8/2010 1:12:59 PM] Me: that looks like a guilty huh??!

[1/8/2010 1:13:18 PM] Mom: I think it looks like a clueless huh!

[1/8/2010 1:13:45 PM] Me: You didn't tell people my birthday was coming up?

[1/8/2010 1:14:13 PM] Mom: moi???   (and then she added the little sweating emoticon)


Now, I know she took French in high school, but that was a guilty “moi???” if I ever saw one.


Anyway, so for the past few days, I’ve been getting birthday wishes from all over the world!  As of this writing, if I include Facebook emails, I’ve received 41 Happy Birthday wishes! 

Appropriate.  :)


Thank you all for filling my inbox and my heart. 

And we didn’t even have to bother the postman.  :)

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)