Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday October 25

Earlier in the week I was asked by a pastor to speak at a church on Sunday, he told me that I could give a short devotion for about 5 min and he would preach the rest of the sermon. As the week went on every time I talked to the pastor he talked me into speaking just a little longer until he somehow got me to agree to preach the entire sermon. Now I would have been happy to preach without any reservations if I were able to speak in English. But my reservations laid in the fact that I have only been here for 7 weeks and I barely know their trade language. The church we were going to was a church way out in the bush where the members barely knew pidgin let alone English. But none the less God was with me and encouraged me to take another leap and go to this place to preach his word. The process of getting to the church could be a whole blog post in itself but I will spare you the details. In short we took the PMV (public motor vehicle) with the pastor down the road from the hospital about 10 miles for 1 kina (about 40 cents). Then we walked up a small mountain till we got to the church; interesting side note, the church was such a bush church that they didn’t even have a building, they just sat on the grass outside. This is pretty neat because they didn’t seem at all concerned with the fact that they didn’t have a building, and it was a great model for the church all over the world. When Paul talks about the church he is not talking about a building he is talking about a body of believers in fellowship with one another. Today we tend to think of the church as a building and not a body of people, but at this place all they had was their fellowship, no building yet they still call themselves a church. As we were walking up the mountain together the pastor sprung new information on me. He let me know that once we were done speaking at the church without a building, we would be going to another church that was a 30 min walk farther up the mountain. It was funny how I had first agreed to talk at a church for 5 min and it grew giving full on back to back sermons. As we were waiting for the service to start at the first church we got news that the church I was going to speak at second was coming down the mountain to the first church to combine services. So I only preached once. Once the service was over and I was all out of pidgin words to say we sat around and talked with the people there. Their pidgin was not that good since they rarely use it, they were much more comfortable with their tok ples (native/tribal language) so having conversations with them was difficult. But through the language barriers we still had a great time and the people of the church at Tombil seemed pleased that we came (Rachel and I were, somehow, the first missionaries to speak at this church and the first white people some of the children had ever seen).

This experience was both exhausting and exiting all at the same time. There are so many frustration things here in PNG yet for everything that is frustrating or emotionally draining there are three more things that can make you smile or lift your spirits.


Sorry it has been so long since our last post. This past weekend we had plans to write you all but this weekend was just crazy. Friday Rachel’s students we’re all on weekend getaways with their parents so Rachel got to shadow a doctor for the morning. She got to see all kinds of weird things, people, cases, and some crazy stories from the patients. In the afternoon Rachel worked with me, helping me with my lists of things that need to be done to finish the new hospital. It was nice to have a helper that spoke fluent English. The date for the hospital move is set for November 4 and there is still a lot to be done. So myself and the other workmen have started working much longer days to make sure the new buildings are ready for the move.

On Saturday we went to our first Mumu (moo-moo). A mumu is a traditional feast here in PNG to celebrate just about anything. The main food is mostly pork, a delicacy, along with chicken, cooking bananas (really gross and starchy), and lots of greens. That morning we left our house at about 8am (very early for a Saturday) and walked down the road about 2 miles to a village where a fellow workman lives. He invited us to come to the mumu to celebrate the naming of his new granddaughter. We arrived just after they killed the pig and they had just started to kill the chickens (talk about fresh meat). We were encouraged to watch them operate (gut) the pig, which Rachel found very interesting but I could only watch half of it. After the pigs guts were everywhere and the pigs fat was cut out and laid on the ground in front of me they started a huge fire. When the fire was hot enough they put stones from the river on the fire to heat them. Once the fire burned down to ashes they placed the stones in a big hole with fresh cut green banana leaves. Once the stones were in and the leaves were set they proceeded to pile in the Kaikai (food). A huge pile of greens went in, then some bananas, then more greens, then some cowcow (sweet potatoes, a staple food), then the pig (that’s right all of it, everything but the guts and bones), then more greens, more bananas, more cowcow, and more greens. Once all of the food was in a giant pile in the steaming pit, they covered it all up with more banana leaves. The banana leaves have a lot of moister and evaporate easily, this causes a lot of steam inside the pit and that is what cooks the food. 60 minutes, a hike up a mountain to see a waterfall, a tour of the 500 person village, and a baby naming ceremony later, the food was ready. Before I talk more about the food I have to mention that the baby girl was partly named after Rachel. Rachel and I were with another missionary couple named Mike and Diane Chapman, they wanted to name the baby after some missionaries (which is a common thing to do) so they made a hybrid name from Rachel and Diane to name the baby, Dichel (they pronounced it Dishel, they can’t make the “ch” sound very well). So Rachel has half of a namesake. Ok, back to the food, since we are missionaries and white people they insisted that we eat first and gave us a giant plate piled high with food. The natives know that Americans like the meaty parts of the pig so they happily take the fattiest parts they can get to let the missionaries have the meat (it’s kind of gross watching them take massive bites of pure fat and chew for minutes.) There was no way we could eat all of the food given to us and we were told that we were expected to take some home. So we pulled off all the meat we could, took a few gross bananas, left the nasty greens and a pile of bones and fat (which they love), thanked them for everything, and went home. We got home around 3pm exhausted, and I went to the new hospital to work with some of the guys who were working on their day off. I was so tired but I couldn’t let them slave away while I’m napping and sipping cool water. I got home from work at about 5:30, and thankfully someone had invited us over for dinner that night so neither of us had to even think about what to make for dinner. We enjoyed our Chinese dinner that night and played a quick game of settlers (a popular missionary board game) and went home early to gear up for all that Sunday had in store.

More about Sunday October, 25 in the next post

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


To almost every Papua New Guinean their garden is their life. A woman’s full time job is tending the garden to provide food for her family. Typically, a family’s only source of food is their own garden. I was first under the impression that the unemployment rate was nearly 85% primarily because people chose not to work and that they were content with living a subsistent lifestyle. I recently learned that most Papua New Guineans would much rather work and buy their food like you and I do, but there simply are no jobs for them. Because they are unable to work they are forced to garden/farm what they need to survive. Thankfully the ground here is very fertile and the rain is more than plentiful. If it were not for the ideal farming conditions and the 365 day growing season I don’t know how the people here would survive.
Rachel and I recently started our own very small garden, laughable compared to the fields of fruits and vegetables that a national tends to. In America we do so much to make sure our crops and plants get enough water to survive, sometimes we even build ditches and large sprinklers to get water to our crops, plants, and grass. In PNG we do the opposite, there is too much water! We dig barrets, small ditches, along the edges of the gardens to take the massive amounts of water away.

Though the nationals here say they would much rather buy their food, they have become accustomed and happy with their lifestyle. This is such a testament to God’s provisions and blessings each of us. The people here are not able to work but God has provided the resources, tools, and knowledge to produce food for themselves.

An American may observe the lifestyle of a Papua New Guinean and say they have so little, how can they consider themselves blessed, and if they could observe my life they would say God has truly blessed me. Yet a national friend I work with named John said that he and most Christian nationals consider themselves to be blessed because of the salvation from sin and death God gave them. He went on to explain to me that they do not consider worldly items to be blessings, and that he sees having a lot of things as the contradiction of a blessing. John’s point was simple yet powerful. The things we have and consider blessings from God may be the opposite of a blessing, something that hinders our relationship with him.

This post is now far from talking about gardens or subsistence farming, but there seems to be a lesson in faith around every corner. Today’s was John’s simply profound words that the one true blessing we have is the blessing of Salvation.

Friday, October 9, 2009

We’re not in Kansas/Illinois anymore!

I’m not exactly sure what culture shock is. I don’t know if I’ve gone through it already or if it’s waiting somewhere ready to strike me when I least expect it. Perhaps I’ll never go through it at all considering our house and all the missionaries here make life seem very similar to life back in the States. BUT I do have a story in which I was quite “shocked” by this culture.
Let me start my story out with a few details. First of all, Liz Hollenberg told me similar story before I left for PNG but I guess I had to see it happen myself in order for it to have an impact. Secondly, there is a very common tool used here called a bush knife. Basically it’s a machete. It seems as though EVERY male and some females have one with them at all times. From what I’ve been told, they use them to cut their way through brush, clear land for gardens and such, build houses, and if needed…they will use them as a weapon in a fight. (Don’t worry mom and dad…they don’t fight around us!!)

The second Sunday we were here one of doctors at the hospital was invited to speak at a “bush church” (a church in a fairly remote area). Since we were some of the newbies at the time, we were invited to go with. We jumped at the chance to go out into the bush and “experience” the culture!! The church ended up being a small hut of a building with woven walls, a thatch roof, and dirt floors covered by a grass mat. There were no seats so we sat on the floor (which I have come to prefer over hard wooden benches with no backs). Typically, women and children sit on one side and men on the other…so I found myself sitting next to a little boy. On his other side sat a woman who I assumed was his mother. After all the singing was over and the pastor began his sermon, the little boy began to get a little whiney and fidgety. (It reminded me of the days when we would get a little cranky in church and mom would pull a Tupperware container of cheerios out of her bag…or maybe even a coloring book) Since this was what I was used to it didn’t surprise me when the lady started to rummage through her bag. In my head I was even thinking, “See, this lady isn’t even that much different from my own mother.” When she apparently found what she was looking for, she pulled out a pair of scissors. For a moment, I was a little disappointed. She wasn’t looking for something to keep her child quiet…she must have found an out of place thread. BUT to my shock she handed the scissors to the boy!! This is what she had decided would keep her child occupied. (Important point: these were NOT some plastic fisher price scissors. They were big and metal and sharp). Of course the little boy took them, happy to have something to play with and put them directly into his mouth while his mother turned her attention back to the sermon. I tried to do the same but the boy began to swing the scissors around and eventually I began to fear for the boy’s fingers, my skirt, my skin, his mother’s arm, etc! Finally the mother moved the boy to the other side of her so that my life was no longer in danger, but I did feel the need to look over at the boy every once in a while to make sure that none of his fingers or toes were missing. I’m happy to report that we all left the church with our appendages intact.

I’m not sure why this shocked me as much as it did…especially considering I now remember seeing very young boys a little older than this fellow carrying bush knifes. BUT, for some reason this is the moment I remember realizing…”This culture is very different from ours!”

Friday, October 2, 2009

A whole month? No way!

It’s really been 4 weeks since we arrived and the time has flown by. Yet looking back on the past 30 days, a lot has been accomplished. Rachel and I are both well acclimated, not only to the mile high elevation, but to our new lifestyle here. After getting settled into our new home, recovering from 15 hours of jet lag, and meeting all the new people here we are starting to feel at home. Though we are beginning to feel somewhat comfortable we are still looking forward to the countless things this place has to offer.

Truly God has shown us that big homes, nice cars, and the American dream is not the place to find happiness. It is in relationship with him. The thought that keeps coming to mind is that we are equal to each person here. I may have a car, a bank account, and a computer but the man I am working next to whose pair of new boots is his most prized possession is my brother. God desires the same from us both, to honor him in what we say and do.

The new hospital is very close to being finished. The project has been finishing for nearly 4 months now. The anticipation of moving the hospital instruments and supplies into the new buildings is growing. Giving an estimated time of when the new hospital will be done and things can be moved seems to be a running joke around here. I have heard estimated times from October 1st to November 15th of when things can be moved. The Hospital move doesn’t concern Rachel at all, but my job is now focused on finalizing lists of small projects that need to be done for the hospital to be ready.

Rachel’s job is going well. She’s got her teachin’ “groove” back and seems to have a really good handle on her classroom and how it runs. She is most excited about the series of art projects we are doing with the students every Friday afternoon. Rach decided to go with a theme on Surrealism. The kids seem to really like the projects. Surrealism is something that the students have never done before, so they not only have a creative outlet but they are learning something along the way.

Please let us know how you all are doing, we love getting emails from people back home. Updates on what’s new in the family, news from church, or just a funny story, we want to hear it all. Our email is

Sorry no Melanesian Pidgin translations this week. But I do have a puzzle for you all! The following is a bible verse from the New Testament in pidgin. Take a guess and let me know what you think by email, or you can just enjoy the jumble of letters below.

“God i got wanpela pikinini tasol i stap. Tasol God i laikim tumas olgeta manmeri bilong graun, olsem na em i givim dispela wanpela pikinini long ol. Em I makim olsem bilong olgeta manmeri i bilip long em ol i no ken lus. Nogat. Bai ol i kisim laip i stap gut oltaim oltaim.