Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy Independence Day

"When you look at our country's flag, it may seem like no big deal.  But, if you ever leave this country for any period of time, and then you have the opportunity to see that bird of paradise again, you will cry."  ~guest speaker (translated), PNG Independence Day celebration, 16 September 2013

The tropical sun is still rising in the clear Eastern sky, warming the earth from its overnight slumber.  As I approach the gate, I hear cadence being called.  
Left, right, left …

The whoops of the crowd are evidence of the joy and celebration of the day.  A marching sea of red, yellow, and black ends its parade near a small raised platform.  The crowd rises for the singing of the national anthem.

O, arise all ye sons of this land.  Let us sing of our joy to be free, …

A sea of faces, young and old, black sprinkled with white.  Hundreds of eyes lifted toward the rising flag.

… praising God and rejoicing to be Papua New Guinea!

One by one, individuals stand to read verses of scripture in their tok ples, or mother tongue. Though I do not understand the words, the sound is beautiful ...

... for it is the voice of God speaking to his people in their own languages.

The laughter of children rings out behind me, and a rusty trio of handmade swings screech back and forth while a visiting pastor steps behind the flag-draped music-stand-podium.

Usually political freedom comes at a cost, requires bloodshed, he says in Tok Pisin.  But, 38 years ago PNG was offered freedom as a gift.  Then he suggests that God’s continued blessing on PNG depends not on its natural resources, not on its buildings or development, not on any riches it may claim.

Just like God chose David, out of all the sons of Jesse, for kingship based on the condition of his heart, he says, God’s continued blessing on PNG depends on the hearts of its people.

The child next to me crunches on a cracker as crumbs fall on the woven mat on which he sits.  The breeze picks up, and the leaves overhead rustle with its breath.  A smattering of umbrellas shield people from the increasing heat of the sun.

Traditionally-clad dancers (some clad more than others) take their places.  Several hands alternately tap and pound lizard-skin-covered kundu drums.  

Shell necklaces and anklets rattle with every thumping step.  Traditional grass skirts (and some made of yarn) sway clockwise, then counterclockwise in time with the music.   

Feathered headdresses bob up and down as singers chant in haunting, traditional melodies.

Wena, wena moyo …
Ay oh wye-ee ayah …

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Drought Continues; Pray for Rain

"I never drink water; that's the stuff that rusts pipes."  ~W.C. Fields

A couple weeks ago I posted about how unseasonably dry our dry season has been, about how hungry for precipitation the floor of our tropical island has become.  How desperate the local gardens are for water to sustain their fruits and vegetables, how empty and close-to-empty the water tanks around us are.

Well, it has gotten worse.

Just tonight we heard the rain coming across the valley.  We got excited, but our daughter said, "It won't last."  (I have no idea where she got her pessimism ... er, realism.) That "rain shower" and the one that followed a few minutes later, together, probably lasted short of a minute.

It was barely enough to leave a few water spots on the dirty car parked next to our house.  Certainly not enough to clean the nasty, dusty windows.

Like today, the tiny bits of rain that we've received over the past few weeks have done little to relieve the ground or the gardens, to replenish the tanks.

And now, even the river is getting low.

We actually have another source of water besides collecting the rain.  We call it RAM water (though I'm not sure why or what that stands for), and it comes from a nearby creek.  It is pumped up to raised holding tanks at the top of the hill and flows down to homes all over centre.  Almost everyone uses it to flush toilets.  Many people use it for showers, or to do laundry or wash dishes.

No one drinks it if they have a choice.

But, now even that water source is drying up.  Quickly.  We had a couple of days when we didn't have any RAM water.  Paul checked our tank today and it has dropped to about 1/3 of its capacity.  If we have to go too many days on tank only, that won't last very long.

Will you pray with us for rain?

"Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things."  Jeremiah 14:22

Friday, September 20, 2013

Five Minute Friday: She

She was handed to me in all her red-skinned, wrinkly, bald, wailing glory, and I fell hard.  She sniffled, suckled, and looked up at me with those eyes.  She and I struggled through the beginning of this brand new relationship, but every day I found myself more in love.  I told my mother I wished she would stay little forever.  My mother, in her wisdom, reminded me of all I would miss if she never grew up, how every stage was sure to bring unique blessings.

And then, as if I had a choice, I watched her grow.

She learned to sit, to crawl, to walk, to dance.  She learned to colour pictures of flowers and clouds, to shape playdough.  She learned to love a little brother, even when he felt more like an intruder than a friend.  She learned to talk to God, and standing in awe under a star-filled sky found that he could talk to her as well.  She learned read, to add and subtract, to ride a two-wheeler, to sail on a scooter.

Though there were times that just maybe I questioned whether she would live to see adolescence, she blossomed a lovely young lady.

She is a faithful friend, a curious student, an ambitious high-achiever, a skilled musician, a comfortable introvert, a deep thinker.  She is a loving sister, even though he gets on her nerves.  She has embraced the unpleasantness of adolescence and its joys with equal grace.  She leans on the arms of Jesus, and her thoughtfulness and insight blesses me.

At times, though the laundry piles up and the requests for assistance are frequent, though I must give one more reminder to complete the chores and am asked to answer strings of deep questions when she really should be going to sleep, I must remind myself to embrace the unique blessings of today.

In His strength she has the capacity to dream, to discover, to pursue, to achieve. As she walks in faith, she daily has the choice to believe, to bring joy, to bless.  

And I watch in a near-holy anticipation as she continues to venture down the path of becoming.

Five Minute Friday
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Friday, September 13, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Mercy

"Have mercy!"

My kids have been watching episodes of "Full House" lately.  To say that Uncle Jesse has a thing for women would be a understatement.  In the first couple of seasons he goes from woman to woman ... to woman to woman to woman (ad nauseum) and with each innuendo, each suggestive flutter of eyelids or swing of the hips, and in response to every pouty pair of lips that moves to proposition him, he declares with a groan and a lolling of the eyes, "Have mercy."

Just who is he talking to, anyway?

I don't remember any episodes where he reflects back on his string of shallow, meaningless relationships.  But, having survived more than a few myself, I can imagine what he might think if he did.

In Season 4, John Stamos's character marries and though he initially speaks his catchphrase in relation to Becky quite a few times, my kids tell me that by the last couple of seasons his exclamations of "Have mercy" have all but ceased.  Maybe that indicates he's maturing.  Maybe it diminishes as the tedium of marriage and parenthood sets in.

Maybe the producers got sick of hearing it, too.

The show began when I was in college, and I remember finding Mr. Stamos quite attractive, though his flighty dating habits left a bit to be desired.  It would still be a few years down the road, though, before I recognized my own propensity to do the same thing (without the groaning catchphrase, of course).  I had a few long-term relationships, but otherwise I tended to flit from guy to guy, seeking validation, every successful chase reinforcing my sense of self-value.

Years later, I would apologise to more than one of them on Facebook.

I finally gave up.  I realised that what I was doing was self-destructive, not to mention hurtful to others, and I gave up.  I begged God to strip me of my restlessness, to make me satisfied with Him alone.  With a groan of regret, I cried, "Lord, have mercy!"

Eventually, I met my husband, who I have already said I chose over Orlando Bloom.  I suppose I could also say I chose him over the Jesse Katsopolises of the world.

As it turns out, I would need more mercy along the way and God knew just the man to give it to me.

"Where is the god who can compare with you— wiping the slate clean of guilt, Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, to the past sins of your purged and precious people? You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty."  Micah 7:18 (The Message)

Five Minute Friday 
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life. ~John Updike

I helped my daughter study for a science test Tuesday morning.  As we discussed the differences between rills, gullies, and rivers, alluvial plains and deltas, erosion and deposition, I could hear the steady patter of rain on our tin roof.

It’s a beautiful sound – a sound that I missed when we were stateside last year, where houses are more sound proof.  And a sound that we often take for granted here because, as we explained time and again to friends at home, our seasons generally include “rainy” and “less-rainy.”

Though this is the “less-rainy” season, it has been exceptionally, unusually dry.  Typically “dry” season isn’t so much, but this past few months has been refreshingly cool and dry.  Many times I have walked outside, bundled in a sweater, and relished the crisp “autumnal” air.  Occasionally I could even hear the sound of our marching band practicing down at the high school, and it would take me back to the homecoming game, crunchy leaf, pumpkin-and-hayride days of yesteryear.

But, despite the personal thrill I found in these deja vous moments, reports of water tanks (which collect rain water for drinking) running dry have become more frequent.  We have never run out, or been in danger of it, because we use (the rather dirty) river water for many things, including showers and laundry.  But some families (understandably) prefer to use the cleaner “tank water” for these purposes, especially during the rainy season when the supply is readily replenished.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to predict when the regular, heavy rains will come to an end, and occasionally people neglect or forget to switch their plumbing valves before it’s too late.

An equally important complication of the drought, most PNGns rely almost completely on home-grown produce for their sustenance, and the gardens are suffering, too.

But it was as I was mowing our lawn last Saturday (I should specify that I was mowing our scattered weeds, as the grass had only almost imperceptibly lengthened since the last time I had mowed two weeks prior) that I noticed the fissures. 

The light sprinkles (locally referred to as “giaman” rain, or false rain) received sporadically over the past few weeks had done nothing to satisfy the thirsty ground.

And now, even over the roar of the little Honda engine, I could hear the parched earth crying out, the craters begging for relief.

Great canyons of desiccation, desperate for refreshment.

And I realised I could relate.  Can you?

I could see myself in those great, dehydrated cracks.  The past few months have been difficult, and I have tried to make it in my own strength.  My soul has cried out, desperate for spiritual and emotional refreshment.  And though I know the path of true relief must include God and His Word, I have neglected far too often to water my thirsty soul.

Neglected the very Word we are here to see produced in more than 300 languages where people are even more parched and desperate.

What’s wrong with me?

Yesterday, our maintenance department began grading the road I normally take between home and school. I thought this was a good idea since it is rather steep and I regularly try to skate downhill on the piles of loose gravel. 

It’s a medivac waiting to happen.

But last night it rained.  I mean, really rained.  Like a good, steady downpour.  The rain I could still hear tickling our roof during the morning hydrogeology cram session.

After walking down the freshly graded, but unpacked, road, my sandals were caked with a good inch and a half of mud (which, to be honest, is quite a common occurrence).  I kicked them off, washed them, and went barefoot for the first couple hours of school.  (Don’t tell the kids.)

But I was not complaining.  Relief is in sight.

Yes, Lord, send the rain!

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)