Monday, January 16, 2017

Magic Words to Appease the Jesus Spirit

One of the hardest events of missionary work is the death of an unbeliever among the people you are trying to reach and disciple. This is particularly difficult when you are in the language learning phase and have yet to be able to share the Gospel with your people, but only becomes somewhat easier after the Gospel has been given to the people in their heart language.

I've been really contemplating a few things after witnessing death over and over in our tribe. We have seen death of believers and non- believers and those we are not too sure about. We had one of those deaths recently. One in the "not too sure category" and while I truly hope she is with Jesus, it has definitely made me think longer and harder about how we are communicating salvation to those in our village.

There are certainly some things about a tribal church that are much clearer and simpler than a Western Church, like when the church building needs a new roof. There are no meetings, committees, budget plans or heated discussions...

Just a group of people gathering the materials needed out of the jungle and assembling a new roof. The End.

Unfortunately, some things are all too familiar. We still deal with those who claim to be believers, who can quote our Chronological teachings from start to finish getting every word correct, but who show no fruit of the Holy Spirit in their daily lives. We have those who can give a clear testimony, saying all the words necessary for the missionary to say, "Well, they know the Gospel," but who stir up drama, dissension, and even lead others away from the truths of Jesus.

I think the better question to ask is not, "Do they know the Gospel message?" but "Do they know Jesus?"

After all, one of the major tools in the animist's tool belt is the use of "magic words." Knowing the right words to use when planting a garden or blessing a newly built house are all key to successfully manipulating the spirits around them to give them what they need to make life work. And the more those words are recited or repeated the more weight they carry and the more likely they are to give you the desire you want. Our co-workers ran into this with some of the new believers in our village who wanted to "practice" reciting the stories from the chronological Bible teaching to them everyday until they got them right. Because of their prior understanding and practices they thought this was the way to know and please Jesus.

We have to be very careful to teach them God's Word with the understanding that these Words are just an avenue that He left to make Himself known to man and make a way for man to know Him better and have relationship with Him. That relationship involves repentance of sin,  the old way of living and thinking, and surrendering to His will even if that includes sickness, death, or persecution.

This is very hard for the animist, who is used to having a measure of perceived control over every detail of their lives. There is always some sort of action you can take to get what you want. Some magic word, or sacrifice, or payment. Even if things don't go your way, then you switch to "revenge" killings or payments, hoping that this will prevent the same thing happening again in the future. To completely surrender to the will of God- no matter what that is or how bad we perceive it to be- and have faith to believe that He is good through is very very hard for the animist whose ultimate goal is control.

But wait... isn't that very very hard for us all? And don't we deal with this same issue in churches all across America? People who can tell you all the stories of the Bible, people who have prayed the magic prayer that gets you into heaven (the sinner's prayer) and who live their lives with no intention of ever surrendering to the will of God?

The more I've learned about animism and the closer I've gotten to those who practice it, the more I see it in my own culture, sadly, even Christian culture...maybe even especially Christian culture. We are constantly looking for hidden secrets in scripture to make God give us what we want- maybe not specific material things, but an overall #blessed life. Remember the Prayer of Jabez? People went crazy over this small scripture referencing one man and his relationship with God and took it completely out of context, trying to use it get something from God. This happens over and over again. People read some obscure text and think it holds all the power to get God to do exactly as we want Him to do. As if He is only all powerful and sovereign because we haven't figured out exactly how to correctly form the words and phrases that will force all the goodness and blessings out of His hands and onto us.

And if that's not animism I don't know what is.

But it's not just Christians. It's humans. And in a secular humanist context we try our best to use science to not only explain everything around us, but to manipulate and control our world through it. We think that because we have "evolved" enough to not need God we are now in control of lives and universe- if we just get all the research and formulas right. Yet somehow in spite of all that research, and all the chemicals, machines, and incredible works of our own hands, humankind is still getting sick, still dying, still forced to face everyday knowing we actually have very little control of the world around.

All of these similarities show how much the core of man's sin nature has stayed the same since the very first sin was committed. After all, it was the the serpents words, "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God..." that convinced Eve to take the fruit. She saw it was "pleasing to the eye" and that it was "desirable for gaining wisdom." 

Deep down at the core of who we are. We want to be like God. We want control. We want the wisdom and knowledge of God so we can control every aspect of life that effect us... the elements, the animals, our neighbors, even our own bodies. We want to call ALL. THE. SHOTS...from the BBs to the cannons... which is why we seem to be on an unending quest to figure out a way to influence the One who actually does the shooting.

So the question we must ask ourselves as missionaries is do our people know Jesus or do they just know the stories we have translated and taught about Him? Are they trusting in the person of Jesus and His work on the cross or are they trusting in the magic words that we have so neatly typed, printed, and bound together as a book for them ? 

And the question all Christians must ask ourselves is "Do we know Jesus?" Do we have a relationship with Him that calls us to let go of our desire to control and manipulate the world around us and to trust in His will and work in our lives? Or have we believed the same lie as Eve, and just picked a few words off the tree of scripture that look beautiful hanging on our wall and sound just wise enough to get us what we want from God. 

Are we doing just enough to appease the Jesus Spirit to get us into Heaven? Or have we completely surrendered our lives to His will and have an intimate, growing relationship with Him. The person of Jesus.

Monday, November 7, 2016

An Expat Life

As tomorrow looms and everyone is wide-eyed with panic, I keep hearing (reading, actually) that all Christians should be reminded that our citizenship is actually in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and that we are aliens and strangers on this earth (1 Peter 2:11) and we should all find comfort in that.

I don't see a lot of people truly finding comfort in that truth. This pretty much happens every election season, but this one seems particularly dramatic and frightening, and no one really knows what to do about it.

I feel like one of the true treasures God has given me in the expat life is getting to experience what it really means to be an alien, a foreigner, an outsider experiencing the life of others from the inside. It is a truly unique and valuable experience on so many levels, but the greatest is being able to see the what the Bible is talking about in these passages. Because we are all really expats no matter where on earth we live.

In the airport on our first move out of the country. The beginning of our expat life.

Paul takes it even further and calls us "ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:20) spreading Christ's message of reconciliation. So we are not just expats for no reason. We aren't just hanging out in these foreign places because they are cool and we like the food. We are here for a purpose, to bring a message. For all intents and purposes we are missionaries. Foreign missionaries. Even if you are American living in America.

In my missionary expat life I have lived in two different countries. In my daily life in both places I tried to live as best I could within those countries, being respectful of their customs and traditions without compromising my values or belief systems. I lived under governments that I did not always agree with, but as a guest in the country, respected their authority. If I ever choose not to respect that authority then I would be kicked out of the country and would lose my opportunity to be heard by the people who wanted to listen. In both places our goal has been to seek out people...individuals and small groups to share the message of reconciliation with...the Gospel. We didn't go to the government to reach the people. We didn't try to change the laws of the land in order to change hearts.

So why is that what we try to do in America? Why do we try to legislate people into Heaven? Why do we think that God will judge us by our candidates and not by our hearts?

I think we've been listening to the wrong narrative for too long. The one that says that because America was "founded on God" we were blessed. We forget that our founding Fathers were sinful people who made a lot of mistakes. We forget that not everyone has had a "blessed" American experience. We forget that there have been many MANY wealthy, powerful nations that thrived under pagan rule and leadership. We forget that America is not our home. You and I are foreigners in this country. Hopefully, you and I are foreign missionaries in this or any country we live. And the best missionary strategy of all is through relationships, not through the government legislation.

This was the model of Jesus, himself. He spent time with just basic people. Not the government, not even the religious leaders. Even though that is exactly what they expected...exactly what they wanted from him. They wanted him to BE the government. They wanted Him to restore the nation of Israel so they could live in freedom and not under Roman occupation and oppression. They wanted him to legislate and rule here on earth. They wanted God's laws and precepts to be the ruling authority.

What's wrong with that, right? Isn't that what God would want? Isn't that what He wants now for America? It's hard to imagine that is His chief desire for America when it wasn't His chief desire for Israel...a nation He established. But why? Why wouldn't God want His Son to come to earth and set up His Kingdom here?

Because this is not His home...and it is not ours either if we belong to Him. He let Caesar have what is Caesar's. The earthly things, the temporal. Let those who belong to the earth have it. Let them worry about who will and won't rule and what kind of nations they will establish. This earth is contaminated by sin, so why would Jesus ever set up His Kingdom here?

I'm not saying don't vote. I'm not saying don't vote to best way you can as a Christian. I'm saying don't get so hung up on it. Don't think you that the way to spread the message of reconciliation is in the ballot box. Vote. Give to Caesar what is Caesar's. But then get on with your true calling, your true duty as a Christian. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Creating a "Christian" government is not our job. If that is what Jesus wanted He would have done that himself. He would have done what everyone wanted him to do in the first place.

One of the greatest benefits of the expat life has been seeing how Christians in other nations function under their respective governments. I've lived in a place where abortion is not only legal, but sometimes legally forced upon women. Women who are Christians. They don't protest, petition the government because they can't. But they do support each other. They pray and fast and hide pregnant friends. Christian doctors induce labor early so that babies can be born to the mothers that want them.

I've also lived in a place where the government doesn't really take care of its people. They leave the poor, defenseless, and oppressed to fend for themselves. But the Christians feed those who are hungry, and offer safe haven to those who need it. The believers are ambassadors in their earthly countries. They are offer something that their governments cannot or will not. They offer the hope and refuge of their true Home.

There were times when I wanted to scream for all their "rights" being violated. I wanted to change things for them. Make their lives easier, more comfortable, more free to share the hope they had in Christ. But then I realized something. Those governments are not stopping the believers. They were not stopping the Gospel. And no matter who wins the election, ours will not either.

But I think we know that, don't we? Haven't we heard how Christianity thrives under persecution? We just don't want persecution and hardship. We want the comfort we've always had. Our motivation is not to further the Gospel...not to spread the message of reconciliation. Our motivation is fear. Fear that God will take away "our country" just as He did with Israel. We read the Old Testament stories and quiver at the thought of the same thing happening to our new Jerusalem. God's new chosen nation. And in our fear we blame the sin of others, not the sin in our own hearts. The real problem is the sin of the baby killers and the homosexuals and if we don't stop their sin, then God will judge us and we'll suffer. We'll lose our freedom and prosperity, and that most alluring and deceptive of all idols- our comfort- and it will be all their fault.

So we try to take the easy way out and rant and rave at the politicians and try to mark a little box to save America rather than doing the hard work of investing in people's lives and showing them through our time, energy, and love that God has reconciled them to Himself through His Son Jesus.

We are just like the disciples in Acts chapter 1 who asked, "Lord are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel now????" Still not understanding that the Real Kingdom is eternal and not earthly. Jesus died and was resurrected defeating death itself and reconciling us to God through His sacrifice. Yet, they still wanted Him to be the earthly King to deliver them in the here and now. To make their lives a little safer, easier, and more comfortable.

And 2,000 years later we're still doing the same thing. Exiting the ballot box, looking up to heaven, and asking the Lord to restore something to us that was never really ours to begin with. Asking him to shore up the walls of this sand castle forgetting that an Everlasting Kingdom awaits us.

Forgetting that we are just missionary expats. And no matter what happens in our "host country" when our deputation is over we will one day return to our perfect Home.

Doing it again. More kids, more bags, new country.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Update on Us

**I wrote this as an update letter in my most proper, and official voice. I quietly thought all my sarcasm and weirdness instead of typing out every single ridiculous thing that pops into my head. For you, though, I have added those thoughts in blue.**

It has now been three months since we unexpectedly left PNG to bring John Michael’s mother home and to get some of our medical needs taken care of. (I have finally stopped getting the lump in my throat when I see the parents of friends and co-workers in PNG come and go without almost dying. Also, is it just me or was 2016 The Year of the Parental Visits in PNG? Seriously, there were a lot of parents. Guess how many had traumatic events? Yeah. Just one.) It has been quite a whirlwind of medical appointments, tests, and procedures, but we definitely feel like we are headed in the right direction and will all be well enough to go back to PNG in February 2017. (Probably. Maybe. Knock on Wood and any other animistic thing I can say that won't jinx us or our plans)

(Aaron Jex, please skip the next paragraph)
We were met with some surprises and kinks in our plans after doctor’s visits. After a routine check-up for me, my doctor founds lumps in both breasts that sent me immediately to a mammogram and bilateral ultrasounds. (Why am I even telling you this? I don't really know. It's probably TMI, but at the time it kinda freaked me out, so I just put it in here for dramatic effect.) Thankfully, everything turned out benign, so other than just a really long day, no harm done and I was able to move on with the medical issues that I actually came home for!

Most of you know that I have had strange symptoms for about a year now, including fatigue, low-grade fevers, joint pain, and joint deformities in my hands. (I have a large protrusion on my right thumb. A fellow missionary said it looked like a bunion on my thumb, so obviously we started calling it a "thumbion". I have a thumbion, and some other fat knuckles.) I saw a rheumatologist in September who said I had an autoimmune disease, but at this point the tests are not helping us identify which one. He did start me on some medicine that should help the pain and progression of the disease, but I have unfortunately had some pretty difficult side effects to the medicine. (The medicine drops my blood sugar even though I am eating all the time, so I am now hangry* all the time and fat. It is also giving me very vivid nightmares, which mostly involve planes and cliffs and terrorists. My thumbion doesn't really look that bad to me now.) Right now, there are not really any other options for medications for me, so we are praying through whether or not to just not treat the disease at this time or try to find a way to take the medicine and deal with the side-effects as they come. Please pray with us over this decision, as it has been a little stressful to think about. Right now, most of my symptoms are mild to moderate, and while they keep me from doing a lot of “extra” things, my daily life and function are not really affected too much. I can generally get all I need to do done in a day, just with a little extra pain. The problem is that an autoimmune disease can progress if not treated properly and I don’t know if my future health will be affected by the decision not to treat at this time. (Basically, I would like to keep using my hands and other joints for as long as I possibly can.)

John Michael has been having trouble with sinus infections and headaches for years now, and last furlough was told that he needed sinus surgery to correct this problem. Our busy schedules kept that from happening (he spoke in over 30 different churches last time), but he was really having a hard time with more frequent infections and headaches when we returned to PNG. His sinus surgery became a priority for us this trip, but when he went in to schedule it, the doctor found a mass under his left eye that made him concerned, so he referred him to another doctor for a second opinion. The second doctor looked over his scans and said that the mass was just a cyst, and sent him back to have the original doctor remove the cyst and complete the sinus surgery.  During the surgery the doctor discovered a large bone spur on the underside of his nose, so he removed that as well as what turned out to be a very large cyst in his sinus cavity (the doctor said the size of a large grape) (The doctor actually said a large MUCUS filled cyst the size of a grape. EW). The doctors also advised him to have a suspicious looking mole on his nose removed, so he met with a dermatologist who said it looked fine, but he removed it anyway just to be safe. (He also had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic they put him on and he woke up the day we were supposed to leave for some speaking engagements with a bad rash in a bad place* but benedryl took care of most of, thankfully)

In the midst of all this, my mother discovered that she had to have two major surgeries on her spine (one on her neck and one on her lower back). (Due to the autoimmune disease that I have apparently inherited from her. This is why we are worried about not treating it)  She is single, and my only sister is also a single working mother, so my mom really needed some extra help for these surgeries and their recovery. We are thankful that the Lord allowed us to be here to help meet this need for my mom. The surgeries have to be 6 weeks apart, so the last (and most difficult surgery) will be at the end of December. This will delay our return to PNG by a couple of weeks, but we feel that this is what we really need to do to minister to my mom- without whom I probably would not even be a missionary, much less a Christian (Seriously!)

This will also give us more time to figure out what to do/how to treat my issues as well. (Yes, I have "issues". That is no surprise to anyone. But really, I hope the extra time helps us find some medicine that does not make me feel worse than my actual disease does. Is that too much to ask???)

Thanks so much to all of you who have loved and supported us during this time. They have certainly been needed and felt. We continue to covet your prayers over the rest of our time in the U.S. that things will go smoothly (which would be an actual miracle for us) and we will be able to return to PNG in early February.  As always, we couldn’t do any of this without you and are so thankful that you are part of the Hewa team! 

*hangry= hungry + angry
*his butt. the rash was on his butt.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

On This Rock

I know what this picture looks like. Just a guy standing on a big rock. NBD.

But the guy on this rock is actually a HUGE deal. Colossal. Monumental. BIG. FAT. DEAL. 

This is Fawa. He is one of the believers in our village. He's a young married man with a beautiful baby girl who just started toddling around.

His father (now deceased) was an influential witch doctor. When Fawa was a young boy his father told him to never go near this rock, but if he absolutely had to, then he should walk around it slowly with his bow and arrow drawn because the evil spirits inside it will come out and try to eat him.

My husband was on a hike with Fawa and some other believers when Fawa stopped to show them the rock, and told them the strict instructions his father passed down to him . He grinned as he explained the story and then explained to them all how he now knows that was his father's teachings were wrong. That rock is just a rock. Created by God and called good. Ready to cry out their praise to Him if commanded, and there are no malevolent spirits coming out of it to attack him.

But then he did something that amazed everyone there (and everyone who heard the story later). He said, "Hey, I'm going to go across the river and I'm going to stand on top of the rock. You take my picture so that everyone can see that I'm not afraid. I want everyone to know that I follow Jesus' trail and not the old way of thinking."

He then maneuvered through the rapid river, littered with sharp stones, climbed up on this big rock, and flashed that huge grin as his picture was taken.

John Michael and Fawa in front of the rock

I love this story. This testimony of God's truth piercing through generations of entrenched lies from the enemy. But I especially love what it means for Fawa's daughter- this little girl...

Fawa's wife and baby daughter

 This little girl will have a Father who doesn't teach her to be afraid of rocks or waterfalls or birds or any other evil spirits living in the mundane objects in her world. She won't learn to make sacrifices of valuable pigs to spirits who won't help, and she won't learn the magic words that need to be spoken in order to make all aspects of her life favorable. And above all she won't learn that when she loses a loved one, the only way to answer the pain and grief in her heart is to call for the deaths of some other woman or child rumored  to be possessed by an evil spirit.

She will grow up with the glow from a flashlight illuminating God's word as her father reads to his entire household. She will be taught to read and write so she can one day read that Word for herself. She will know that when someone gets sick or hurt she can call out to the God who hears and saves. And she will know that when she loses someone close to her they will either be with their Creator or they won't, but that death is the result of sin and the fall and innocent women and children are not responsible.

She may or may not follow Jesus herself. But she will have a choice. She will hear the Good News... something that her grandfather didn't get to hear... and hopefully, prayerfully, each generation that comes after her from this time forward will get to hear as well.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Where in the World are the Georges?

Several mornings over the past two weeks I wake up in a confused panic wondering, "WHERE AM I?" Until my eyes communicate with my brain and I remember. Oh, yeah. That's right. I'm in________.

At first that blank was filled with Brisbane, Australia. We were in the home of gracious sister in Christ who provided us with shelter in a time of desperate need. Now it is my in-laws' house in Mississippi. That's right. M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.

A month ago, my husband and I were filled with anxious excitement. Our moms were coming to visit Hewa. It was the first time for both of them (or anyone in our families, friends, or from our "world" in America for that matter) to see and experience our life in Hewa. We were so excited to see them and for our kids to get to spend time with their grandmothers of course, but we were also very excited to have them witness our world. To see, smell, taste, hear, and touch life in our remote village. To have other people validate our experience and would reduce our feelings of isolation by two.

We decided to keep it a surprise from our kids because we had long experienced the disappointment of plans gone wrong and honestly it just seemed too good to be true. The thought of having both of our moms in Hewa with us seemed surreal and neither of us could really believe that it would actually happen.

They arrived in country during some political unrest with talks of airlines strikes and protests. We were on pins and needles as their first flight was cancelled which made their window of getting into the tribe very small. After a lot of nail biting close calls, they made it into the tribe just a few hours after they were originally supposed to, and it was such an amazing blessing. I was never more glad about the decision to make it a surprise to our children than when I was hearing over the short-wave radio that their flight might not make it in, and they may be stuck in the city for 3 of the 10 short days with us. I could handle my own disappointment and heartache, but not my children's at that point.

But they made it, so we spent the next week in the tribe having lots of fun family time and showing them what life is like in a remote jungle village. They met all of our friends, attended a Hewa church service and got to eat their food out of a ground oven or "mumu" just like true Hewans. John Michael even got to take his mom on a hike to the waterfall behind our house. (My mom has some back problems that made hiking dangerous for her, so we decided it was better for her to stay around the village).

The moms in Hewa

Their departing flight out of Papua New Guinea was on a Monday and because there were some scheduling conflicts with our aviation department, we all left the tribe and spent three days together on the missionary base in Goroka. It was during this three day time in town that we discovered that John Michael's mom had some infected cuts on her leg. We gave her some band-aids and a strong antibiotic cream to treat them and told her we needed to keep an eye on them as bacteria in PNG is stronger and more aggressive as it is fed by the constant heat and humidity of the tropical climate.

This particular week on the mission base, there was a visiting doctor offering her services to the missionaries there as both of our doctors were away in America at the time. She came and looked at my mother in law's legs one evening and said that she would start her on antibiotics the next day since they didn't look too bad, but could get bad if not treated properly.

Me with "Dr. Shelley." We are so thankful that the Lord provided this visiting doctor to be here when our regular doctors were gone. He knew our needs long before we did.

The next day was Sunday.  Her legs still didn't really look that bad. They appeared to have small spots of cellulitis but not the huge widespread areas that we had experienced in the past. She was running a fever, though, and that sent off alarm bells in our heads, so JM took her directly to the medical clinic on base to get treated while the kids and I along with my mom went to church. The doctor decided to go ahead and treat her through an IV to get the medicine in her faster since she and my mom were supposed to be getting on a plane back to America the next day.

After several hours her condition deteriorated and we realized that she would not be well enough to fly. John Michael cancelled all her flights and planned on rescheduling them in a couple of days when she was feeling better.

A few hours after that her condition deteriorated more and we were told by the doctor that she had sepsis and was going into septic shock. The medical staff began the process of having her medically evacuated from PNG to Australia since medical treatment in the country was not adequate to take care of such a serious illness. At this point she was pretty stable,  so we weren't really worried, but we knew that she would get the best care in Australia and were happy that she could get there.

I left the medical clinic to go pack bags for her and John Michael and to tell my mom what was happening. After this the timeline gets a little fuzzy for me, because after several hours of running around trying to get little things done that needed to be done with all of this, my mother-in-law was still there and getting worse by the hour. The medical clinic had been in communication with the airline that handles all of our organization's emergency medical evacuations and things were in motion for our pilots to fly her to Port Morseby, the capital of PNG, and meet the medevac plane to fly her the rest of the way to Australia. But at some point, they could no longer get the medevac company on the phone and no one knew why or what to do. This went on for hours. Hours of her conditioning deteriorating with no idea if we would be able to get her out of the country and to the help she needed. Hours that extended deep into the night, resulting in much of the missionary staff on base working, praying, pacing, and wondering with us.

Finally, through the work of our administrative staff we got a plan in motion to take her to the capital city and admit her to the ICU there, and wait until the medevac plane could come and take her to Australia. It was 2 am. The pilots and aviation staff had been sleeping in shifts at the NTMA hangar waiting on the word that she could be evacuated. The flight out was risky, but we are so thankful for the aviation staff and their families who are willing to serve in this way and take these risks that end in saving lives. You can read this amazing testimony from the wife of the pilot who flew my mother in law out that night here.

At 4:10 am, Monday morning, they arrived in Port Moresby and she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit in a hospital there. Although she was in a bigger hospital, the care was still inadequate for her needs and she continued to deteriorate. At 9:00 am the medical emergency plane and staff arrived there and took over her care. They intubated and sedated her but had to wait to for an ICU bed to open up in a hospital in Australia. At 3:00 pm they heard from Mater Public Hospital in Brisbane, Australia. They had a bed open for her and a doctor reviewed her case, gave the emergency medical team orders to switch her antibiotic (one that we could not get in PNG, but the emergency medical staff had) and at 4:00 pm they took off for Brisbane. They landed around 7:00 pm and she was admitted to the hospital. John Michael was able to be with her the entire time and on both flights. The staff at the hospital arranged a meal and shower for him and let him stay the night in the ICU waiting room even though it was not usually their procedure to allow family members to stay the night.

At this point we had been up for 36 hours- John Michael with his mom- and me still in PNG with the girls. Even though I had lots of offers of help with the girls that day so I could nap, I couldn't sleep until I knew my husband and mother in law were in Australia where they needed to be.

John Michael's mom being medically evacuated to Australia

After many ups and downs, she began to improve. After a couple of days they transferred her out of the ICU and into a regular ward. A week later, she was released from the hospital and the girls and I joined John Michael in Australia as we waited for his mom to recover and become strong enough to fly home. We realized early on that she would not be able to fly by herself, so after a lot of praying, thinking, and weighing our options we realized that the best option for our family would be to all fly home with her. John Michael and I both had some medicals needs that needed to be treated in America anyway, and after what we just experienced, we just felt like our family needed time to process and breathe.

After two weeks in Australia, John Michael's mom was recovered enough to endure a long haul flight so we boarded a flight to America and arrived in Mississippi at 4 am on August 8th.

We are currently at his parent's house, but are looking for a place to rent for what we estimate to be about 6 months here in the States. We do plan on getting around to speak to our wonderful supporting churches and friends, but right now we are trying to just get some rest, schedule doctor appointments, and give our kids time to process the shock of this transition. (We had months to prepare them for our last furlough- this time they were just kind of thrown into it).

We are praising the Lord for sparing John Michael's mom's life and for so graciously providing for us throughout this whole experience through the Body of Christ. Honestly, in the darkest moments I felt nothing but desperate terror. I felt no faith, no hope, I was crying out to God not knowing if He was listening. But there was always someone there. Holding my hand, praying out loud, reading scripture, providing the hope and the faith that my soul needed to anchor it to Christ. This is why God wants us to live in relationship. We need each other. We need to be part of One Body because there are moments in this life, in this world of sin and suffering that we won't be able to make it on our own. When the eyes don't work blinded by fear and panic, so the voice speaks truth, and the hands stroke peace, and the arms encircle with comfort.

We experienced God's love through the Body of believers in PNG with our friends, and co-workers and even in Brisbane, Australia where we didn't know anyone. God sent strangers- yet brothers and sisters to help us during our time there. They gave us a place to stay, groceries, warm clothes (it is cold in Brisbane in August and we had come from the tropics), and even blessed our family with some fun outings.

The good news now, is that we are in America. Land of the internet, so we can hopefully communicate more frequently with all of you while we are here. Once again, thank you so much for what has to be thousands of hours of prayers you have lifted up on behalf of our family. As you can see (read) they are never ever in vain.

The church in Brisbane blessed our family with tickets to the Steve Irwin Zoo

Kangaroos are not afraid of wheelchairs :)