Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Charlie Brown Christmas

We just spent our third Christmas in PNG. 

The first Christmas here was relatively easy. We still lived in town and had internet and were able to Skype with our parents. Of course we missed our families, but at that point our homesickness wasn't overwhelming and we had lots of Western families to celebrate with. 

The second Christmas we were in the tribe and were celebrating in our very own home for the first time in many years. The newness of our life and ministry in Hewa was fun and exciting and helped ward off some of the longing for our families.

This year was a little different. John Michael was stricken with some sort of stomach sickness for two weeks. He has been on three different medicines with very little improvement. Mia had malaria, and Mattie and Mia's mystery rashes had come back (the rashes we previously thought were scabies, but apparently are not actually scabies and can't get rid of completely no matter what we try). On top of all that we are all just worn out. This has definitely been a stressful year. 

Six deaths in our small village, including two suicides. 

A cancer scare.

A five year old with a broken arm that still hasn't healed right. 

Malaria, cellulitis, and we recently found out that our oldest child is allergic to the sun. The Sun. And we live almost as close to it as a human can. 

Yeah, we're tired. And we were having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. John Michael and I were both a little moody on Tuesday and ended up arguing with each other. We are not big gift givers. We only really give each other gifts if it is something cool and unique…like a soccer scarf from Germany or a personal letter written from Elisabeth Elliot. This year was no different. I wanted my gift from him to be not having to cook on Christmas and he wanted his gift from me to be a nice big traditional Christmas dinner. It is like "The Gift of the Magi" in reverse. 

We woke up yesterday barely speaking, and I begrudgingly started baking. Our kids on the other hand were so excited they couldn't stand it and spent all day crafting gifts for all of us and our coworkers from pretty much nothing. After I pulled the blueberry muffins (this was a special treat because I found frozen blueberries in Goroka when I was out with my foot) that I was preparing for breakfast the next day out of the oven I looked over and saw a huge mess of cut up paper, glue, red string, crayons and markers all over my table. I also heard my three year old singing "Jingo Bewws" and I just had to laugh. Kids have the amazing ability to rapidly melt the Grinch right out of you. Christmas day is the highlight of their existence and their excitement is more contagious than SARS on an airplane.

We spent the rest of the day preparing to have our coworkers over for all the kids to sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, eat cake and exchange presents. By the time they came over and the house was filled with five kids- seven and under there was nothing that any of us could feel but joy. By the end of the night our Christmas spirit definitely returned when the we recited Luke 2:10-11 as a family and remembered that the day God humbly came to earth as a tiny baby is worth celebrating no matter where we are, who we are with, and what we are given.

This morning we woke up to a cool mountain morning and hearts full of Christmas fun. It ended up being one of our best days as a family. The kids spent the day playing with their new toys. John Michael spent the day telling me that I really didn't have to make a big meal, and I spent the day telling him, no really I want to. I won the "argument" and we ate roast and potatoes, green beans, fresh corn from the garden, biscuits, and leftover cake before he went outside to show "The Nativity Story" movie to the Hewa believers. It has become a tradition that they really enjoy.

Overall, I would say that even though we got off to a rocky start with everything seeming to go wrong- just like Charlie Brown, this ended up being one of our best Christmases yet. And the thought of getting to spend the next one with our families in the States makes it even sweeter. 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas,
The Tribal Wife

P.S. I am really not doing any cooking next year. A heads up to our families- I will be the one bringing the oversized can of Christmas shaped shortbread cookies with read and green sprinkles to any and all gatherings. God Bless America and its endless supply of previously prepared and processed foods for any occasion!  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Today is my anniversary. I got married on this day nine years ago. John Michael and I woke up today and gave each other high fives for making it this long and then went about our normal routines until…we found out that one of our church leaders was getting married this afternoon! It was very fun and exciting for us to attend a Hewa wedding on our own anniversary. 

When I think about all the preparations that went into our special day nine years ago, and how far in advance we let people know with save-the-dates and invitations, it is comical to hear word-of-mouth in the morning that there will be a wedding later in the afternoon.
Before the Gospel came here there really wasn't a "wedding".  There was just an agreement between two families and a time where the groom's family tied up pigs and clipped money to stakes on some neutral ground and the bride's family came and collected their share of the loot. The bride and groom were no where to be seen. It really wasn't about them anyway. It was simply an exchange of goods. 

Now the people have decided that marital exchanges between believers should be different, so there is not really a focus on the payment, but a focus on bringing the bride into the family line of the husband. But the husband and wife still don't get anywhere near each other because that would just be scandalous. No one talks about the two people getting married and all the preliminary discussions are done in secret to keep from embarrassing everyone with such talk.  At the end of the wedding a female member of the groom's family comes and takes the wife by the hand and leads her to where his family is sitting to symbolize that she is now leaving her family to join his. 

For me, the wedding guest, it meant a lot of garden work. The ladies told me that there would be a mumu (cooking a lot of food in the ground with hot stones) after the ceremony, so I had to quickly get to work to add my gift to the feast. I spent the afternoon in the garden digging out root vegetables, and by the time I had an appropriate amount for a village feast (a huge bag full) I was sweaty and covered in mud. When John Michael came out we laughed about how I dressed for our special day…and how great I smelled too. We carried food up the very muddy trail and came home while it cooked all day in the ground. At about 5:30 in the evening our neighbors came to tell us it was time to go back up the same muddy trail to witness this wedding. 

It was a sweet and fun time for the whole village and at the end we forced the bride and groom to take a picture with us as we explained to them that we thought it was special that they got married on our anniversary (we first had to explain what an anniversary is). They were totally embarrassed but humored us anyway by actually standing next to each other in the picture with us. 

As we walked back down the sloppy trail to our house in the rain with our three kids I couldn't help but smile at where our nine years together has lead us. I quietly thanked the Lord that He put a call and dream in both of our hearts and allowed us to experience such a unique and special life together. And I thanked Him for allowing us to celebrate the day He made as a family by witnessing Him create a new Hewa family. 

I think this has been my favorite anniversary yet. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy (American) Thanksgiving

Happy American Thanksgiving everybody! Yes, I do have to specify "American" because Canadians have their own Thanksgiving and it was a month ago. When you live an expat life and have expat friends from other countries you learn about and celebrate lots of different holidays. We have celebrated Chinese New Year, PNG Independence, the Queen's birthday, and yes even Canadian Thanksgiving. 

We not only celebrate other nation's holidays we often adjust the ways or even the days we spend our American holidays. 

I remember having to teach classes on Christmas day when we lived in China and it was really weird and sad to me then. Now most of our holidays are not really that big of a deal and I probably would put no effort at all into celebrating them if we did not have children. When you live in a different country with a different culture it is very hard to maintain the traditions of your own culture even if just for a few special days a year. You just can't mold everyone into your thinking about how you want to spend certain days. And there are times that really important circumstances make it impossible to celebrate in the way you normally would. Just like the fourth of July this year when I was in the middle of making stars and stripes cookies and I heard the death wail coming from the trees behind my house. We ended up attending a funeral and not celebrating America's independence that day.

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that always has to be adjusted here because the star of Thanksgiving itself…the turkey, is absent. In fact, most of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes are absent, but we celebrate anyway because our kids need to know where they come from and the stories and traditions of their home culture. 

This year, we will be celebrating with our coworkers on Saturday. John Michael was invited to go with most of the Hewa village into the jungle to hunt for wild fowl eggs (yes, I see the irony of egg hunting on Thanksgiving).  He left on Wednesday and spent two nights in a lean-to shelter he and a friend made when they reached the top of the mountain. He ate grub worms for Thanksgiving while the girls and I stayed home and ate popcorn. 

We were not sad or disappointed. It is just the way it is. 

I frequently like to give advice for people planning to go into missions, and I think this is a big one. Learn to go with the flow on all holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. These are often hard days on any missionary anyway since you are not with your family on days that you normally would be, and if you set your expectations too high trying to create the same atmosphere and feelings you would at home, then you are probably going to be disappointed and depressed. 

This is actually huge for husbands and wives especially. When you live in the middle of the jungle it is really just too ridiculous to expect your spouse to go all out for you on these occasions. Because a romantic candle lit dinner is only going to draw the bugs closer to your food and your face. Talk about it beforehand and agree to celebrate on breaks when you are out or plan small special things for that day in the tribe. And whatever you do, recognize that any small gift or event from your significant other took at least 5 times the effort and energy to accomplish in the middle of the jungle than it would if you were in civilization. 

Find ways to celebrate and spend these special days within the boundaries and capabilities of your new home. Create new fun traditions with what you have and use furloughs to let kids truly experience their own national holidays and the ways they are typically celebrated. 

Above all, be thankful for the life that you have and the privilege to get to know so many other cultures and celebrate so many holidays that you normally wouldn't. Focus on the uniqueness of your life and teach your children to appreciate that God has allowed them to experience things that most people won't ever get the chance to experience.

And whenever possible, wear party hats. 

That is all. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Episiotomy Eggs

I mentioned in a previous post (More Random News) that there is a season in our area where the people go out into the jungle and find huge mounds made by some wild fowl that are only slightly bigger than a chicken. The birds lay enormous eggs in them, and the people take those eggs and have a huge feast. I just wanted to post some pictures in case you thought I was exaggerating.

Here is a wild fowl egg next to what is considered a large chicken egg from the store.

See what I mean? How this bird accomplishes laying an egg this size is mind blowing.

After everyone came back we all had a big mumu where we cook a whole bunch of food in the ground, and the eggs were the main dish. After knocking a little hole in the top of the egg they poured it over some greens wrapped them in leaves and put them in the ground to be cooked.

When it was all over some kids put all the egg shells on a string and brought them to our house. It was an interesting conversation.

"John Michael, look at this" said little Ifonu. 

"Wow, that is really nice. What is it for?" John Michael asked. 

"Just decoration" answered our little friend. 

"Oh, ok, well thanks for showing me."

"Wait, I want to give it to you." 

"Oh, no, you keep it. It is special. You should really have it." 
At this point John Michael is really not wanting a long rope of cracked eggs with bits of slimy remains still inside. We know that in about an hour the sun will have them smelling like Satan laid the eggs instead of a wild bird.

"Ok" says Ifonu as he leaves.

We think we have escaped becoming the owners of the large rope of smelly egg shells when there is another knock at the door.

This time it is Ifonu with an adult and the eggs. He brought the adult because he thought John Michael wasn't really understanding him.

"The village really wants you to have this" says Mas.

"Ok, but what is it for?" asks John Michael again.

"Just for decoration. But we want to give it to you."

"Ok, well thank you very much." answers John Michael as he takes the long sting of eggs. 

We look around and see that many smaller ropes of eggs are hanging from tree branches and outside of houses, so we are relieved to know that we don't actually have to take this thing inside our house. We just hung it on a nail outside our porch and let kids come smash the eggs with their hands like a really weird piƱata for the next few days. When we noticed that other shell string decorations were taken down, we removed ours as well and threw it away. We didn't want to be "that house" that still has Christmas decorations up in March! That would be too embarrassing!

John Michael with the long rope of egg shells.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Crazy Stories from Mas

This is Mas. And these are his stories. They are crazy.

He is a friend from another village who comes to help us with language sometimes. He is a great storyteller and he has some pretty amazing stories to tell.

He was recently being courted (sued for pigs and money) by our neighbor, Jo, for shooting Jo in the leg with an arrow many years ago. It goes something like this:

JM- "Why was Jo courting (suing) you?"

Mas- "My wife was married before to Jo's uncle. But Jo's uncle never paid his bride price, so my wife's brother's hung him from a tree and he died. Then she was a widow so I married her.

One day Jo's uncle's mother secretly fed my wife some of her dead son's flesh*, so my wife became a witch. Once she got a taste of flesh she has to eat more so she eats people's insides and they die. Then some people came and killed her with bows and arrows.

Later, I shot Jo in the leg for the revenge of my wife, and now he is courting (suing) me."

*At this point from what we have understood from our coworkers is that in reality no one actually secretly feeds these women with human flesh, but that is the belief of how they become witches, and people sometimes just take a guess as to who supposedly fed human flesh to them. In this case what probably actually happened is that Mas's wife was marked as a witch because someone got sick and died. Then they just said, "I bet it was her old mother-in-law who fed her human flesh because she was angry that the family killed her son." We don't know for sure exactly, but this is our best guess.

The End.

Story number two:

We were all hanging outside Fato's house (Fato is one of our village and church leaders. You can watch a video of his story here. You can also see it in the background of the picture of Mas, and a lot of other pictures we have. We hang out there a lot). Fato comes walking up from administering medicine to a little boy with a very infected tooth. We were telling him how sorry we felt for the little boy because mouth pain is really bad. Fato said, "Yeah, when your tooth is in pain it shoots straight up to your head and makes you feel like your head is breaking open."

Mas said, "One time, my head was broken open and it hurt a lot."

JM, "What happened?"

Mas answered, "In nineteen ninety....(Mas is thinking long and hard)...EIGHT, there was this big fight in Pasife over a bride price" (can you tell that bride price is really important?) Someone hit me in the head with their ax. My eyes were going around and around and my brains were coming out and then I died (fainted). Then I woke up and got to the house and some men tried to get the ax out but they couldn't. Finally, one man put both his feet on my shoulders and pulled with both hands and got it out. After that, I grabbed my bow and arrows. I came out to shoot but my head was really hurting so instead I got shot in the chest with an arrow (points to huge circular scar in the middle of his chest). I have a big scar in my head too. Here, feel (takes my husband's hand to feel the long thick scar on his head). So...yeah it really hurts when your head is breaking open.

The End.

This has been crazy stories from Mas.

So do you remember what you were doing in 1998?

Good News Bad News

The good news is that my foot is healing nicely and I get to go home to my precious family on Thursday. The bad news is that we have a big email glitch all over the country, so I probably won't be able post on this blog for a while. I will try, but it may not go through.

So I am going to try and crank out several blog posts in the next two days. I apologize for bombarding you with them. Feel free to read at your own pace and leisure.

Today's post is about a little lesson I learned in language and culture about widows.

When we moved into the village we met this lady, Kale (pronounced KAH-lay). She lives in the house right next door to my coworkers with her brother and his family because she is a widow.

Kale or Kesi

 One day another lady came into our village all dressed in black with her head covered and the exposed parts of her skin smeared with mud. I asked another Hewa friend, "Who is that?"

She answered, "Kale." I just thought maybe these two women shared the same name because many people do in and around our villlage. It was only later when my coworker Susan told me that "Kale" just meant "widow" and when you become a widow then that is just what people call you. I later found out that my friend's actual name is Kesi. Go figure.

It is weird and a little morbid for me to say, "Hey, Widow", but that is the culture and they don't think anything about it. It is also a little helpful when other ladies come that are easily recognizable as widows because of their clothing and accessories (dark clothes, head covered, very specific shell necklace, and mud on the face- you can see on the pictures below) I can just call them "Kale" and don't have to be ask around to find out their names.

visiting widow getting medicine for her sick daughter

Another visiting widow and her kids

It is awkward to call someone "widow" but it gets much worse...

 One day John Michael was working with some guys and they were calling out for a man named Luk. Except they didn't say, "Luk" they called him "Yuno Nz Wa".

"Who are you calling?" my husband asked. "Luk", they answered. Many people in our village have several names because people need options for what to call you. Like if your name is "Mary" and they have murdered a lady named "Mary" then they can't say that name anymore, so they need another option.

So, my husband wasn't surprised that he had another name, but the name they were saying was weird. It meant "tree" and "your wife".

"Why are you calling him that?" he asked.

"Because a tree fell on his wife and killed her." they replied.

"Um, what?"

"It is short way to say a tree fell on your wife and she died and now you are a widow."

"Oh, ok." answered my husband while his brain exploded.

He then asked several questions about other widows, and why they are just called widow. They told him that those people's spouses just died of sickness or something, so they are just called widow. But Luk is called "A Tree Fell On Your Wife" because a tree fell on his wife and she died and now he is a widow.

I think I'll just call him, "Luk", he answered.

Luk or "A Tree Fell on Your Wife"

"Ok", they said, and everyone just went on with their work like they hadn't just revealed something mind blowing to the rookie white guy.

It is just so different from our culture where we try to avoid past hurts, and do our best not to remind people of the bad things that happened to them. It is hard for me to know that just by saying someone's name I might be calling them by some sort of tragedy in their past. But it really shows me the benefit of the two name system. Since I have never murdered anyone, and wouldn't be uncomfortable using a name like that I couldn't truly appreciate the practice. Now though, since I am totally uncomfortable calling someone by they way their spouse died, I am thankful that I will always have another option.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Since I have been in town with internet and have mostly had to stay in bed with my foot elevated above my heart, I have had a lot of time to look at pinterest. I don't even have a pinterest account, but my husband does- you can make fun of him later. Anyway, I like to go on there and find recipes for things that are hard or impossible to get in this country. Finding home made leave in conditioner and home made Febreeze have been life savers, but I have to confess that the stuff on Pinterest is getting a little ridiculous. Like this recipe for home made snickers.

Um? Do you know that you can go to any gas station, grocery store, or Super Wal-Mart and BUY snickers for less than a dollar? *Are Snickers still less than a dollar in America? I don't know- I haven't lived there in 2 1/2 years. 

I also like to get recipes and ideas for kids games and crafts. My kids would have totally forgotten what Play dough was if it were not for the simple and amazing play dough recipe I found.

But even the kid stuff is getting ridiculous. There are now things like make your own glow-in-the-dark rainbow sculpting spackle. All you need is a little flour, baking soda, and ammonium hydrothygleroceramide. Don't worry, if you can't find ammonium hydrothygleroceramide you can order it online. Sure it will get you put on the no fly list, but once you instagram this craft that you did all by yourself with your kids then it will be all worth it!

And then I found this.

These are funny tags that you can put on all the home made gifts that you found on pinterest and you are making for people. So, instead of spending the money on real things they actually want, you can make something that will look really cute, but be totally useless and spend the money on these tags to make the gift even cuter and more useless.

I know this seems completely off the subject and completely random, but I am getting there I promise. I mentioned in a few posts back (Life Choices) a little foul Hewa delicacy called "kuka".

It is gross and smelly and takes a lot of preparation, and it just reminds me of the all this craziness on pinterest. After all the steps were complete, I really wanted to just tell my Hewa friends, "You know you have like 23 roosters running around this village right? Seriously, a little snap of the neck, pluck of the feathers, and throwing in the pot and you have a delicious meal full of protein...And much quieter mornings." To me it seems just as ridiculous as making your own snickers. Just saying.

Anyway, kuka starts with a tree nut. You gather lots of them, break them open and dig out the inside like this...

 Then you have to soak it in water for four weeks or it will KILL YOU. Seriously, it is toxic without the soaking process. 

After you pull it all out of the water you get this disgusting smelly goo...

Dividing kuka goo up to take home.

Big community goo mixed with greens to enjoy together

Then you can take it home and eat it and smell like a dead animal for the next two months. If you can't tell already kuka season is not our favorite time of year. And luckily it is only once a year.

But the kuka season did teach us many new language and cultural lessons. My favorite one is how to tell someone that you do not like something and do not want to eat it.

I am from the South where you eat it even if you don't like it because to embarrass someone else is WAY more embarrassing for you than it is for them. Even if you have an allergy, you politely eat the food and then sneak off to the bathroom to shoot yourself with your epi-pen so you won't have to embarrass your host or inconvenience them with a trip to the emergency room. But in most of the rest of the United States, you can say something like, "I don't care for any, thank you, though." And everyone is ok and moves on with their lives.

In Hewa it is culturally appropriate to say, "If I eat that I will throw up." And everyone is ok and moves on with their lives. In fact, most are silently singing your praises because it means "more for me!"

We actually found a couple of people who agreed with us on kuka and taught us this phrase. It made me really happy to know I was not alone and I laughed at the thought of getting to use that phrase next year!

So, maybe kuka season will be fun after all!  Way more fun than home made snickers!

Friday, November 15, 2013


I know I have been writing a lot about death, grief, pain, and all the difficulties we have been facing lately. Right now I am sitting at one of our mission bases because I had to come out for ANOTHER medical issue. And it is not even the leg I burned in the fire. That injury is a large open wound, but is healing nicely with no infection.
Burned leg. If anything would get infected you would think it would be this huge open wound.

A tiny little graze of a cut is what got infected and turned my right foot into the stand in for Barney-the-dinosaur's right foot. I am sitting here typing this with my huge purple sausage foot propped up on the desk next to me. I have cellulitis. It is a severe skin infection that actually happens a lot in the jungle. I have had it before on the same foot, but the previous time it was resolved very quickly with some antibiotics I had on hand. This time, those antibiotics did not work, so I had to fly out once again to be treated.

Seriously, this sore started out like a paper cut and it turned into this. The marker is to show how much and how rapidly the redness is spreading. There is now a third line above these first two.

The worst part of all of this is that our church leaders are finishing up the teaching of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and I am totally going to miss it. I am completely bummed out.

I would be terribly tempted to once again say, "Why God?" But I just read this really great book about spiritual warfare called, Spiritual Warfare. (great title, huh?) Anyway, I was a little hestitant to read on this topic because I did not want to waste any of my precious Kindle gift card money on some book that was going to talk about exorcism, or garlic, or salt rings or anything like that. But, this one was written by a Southern Baptist, so I thought it couldn't get too crazy right?

In fact, it was written by Jerry Rankin the president of the IMB. It was so good to read and hear all his missionary stories, but then to also hear the practical everyday advise that had nothing to do with being on the mission field. I am going to put one of my favorite parts in here, and since I don't know the rules about quoting other people's book on the internet and stuff, I just want to say again that I did not write this. Jerry Rankin did. So you should all go out and buy the book and become Southern Baptists and give a million dollars to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. (Is that good enough? Please don't sue me Jerry Rankin.)

He talks about 1 Peter 4:12-13 which says:

"Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange
were happening to you.  Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world."

Rankin comments, "Don't be surprised when you suffer, as if God has let you down. It is a common experience for us in this world just as it was with Christ." 

I know this should not have been such a huge revelation to me...that suffering is normal, but with all that has come at us in such a short amount of time I have been questioning everything.

"What is going on here?"

"What is wrong with this place?"

"What am I doing wrong?"

"God, don't you want these people to believe?"

"Don't you want us here to love and disciple?"

And the Hewans are in the same boat. They are blaming all sorts of reasons and explanations and some have even moved away from our village because they fill like it is full of evil spirits. And honestly, right now I think my foot is possessed with an evil spirit so I am starting to see their logic. 

But what I never really realized this verse was saying is that suffering is NORMAL. Like breathing or eating. And yes, we may suffer even more as believers when we face a spiritual battle, but the truth is because of the fallen world we live in everyone suffers. It is way more in my face in my small village community, but my friends and loved ones in America have gone through tremendous suffering of their own. Loss of parents at early ages. Children born with debilitating diseases, children born straight into the arms of Jesus, children never born at all. Difficult marriages that end in difficult divorces. Death of spouses. Cancer. Suicide. Suffering is everywhere. It is common. Some synonyms for "common" are- usual, ordinary, habitual, average. Suffering is ordinary. Don't be surprised by it. Don't try to come up with a reason for it. The reason is already there. We live in a fallen sinful world. Jesus himself suffered because He came to this fallen sinful world to deliver us from it. "It" being the world and our sin- not the suffering. We will only be delivered from the suffering when we are with Him. Just like the verse says, it makes us partners with Christ and gives us the amazing joy of seeing His glory. 

So, even though suffering is hard. I know that it is normal, and inescapable. But we don't have to suffer forever. We can have joy in knowing that we are redeemed and can look forward to the day when suffering will not even be unusual- it will be nonexistent.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Trying to kill me

Can you guess what is trying to kill me? I don't think you can. 

You would probably say something normal and predictable for someone living in the middle of the jungle. Like malaria. Or dysentery. Or angry ax wielding tribesmen. 

All of those guesses are incorrect. I told you you couldn't do this. I don't know why you even tried. 

My skirts. That is the answer. My skirts are trying to kill me. 

I have mentioned many times in this blog how living a very physically demanding life in the jungle is made ten times more difficult in a skirt. I can't tell you how many times a day I get caught on some sort of tree or stick, or rock. And trying to climb up and over huge logs on trails in a culturally ladylike way is just absurd. I have always felt like the skirts were taunting me with every endeavor I undertook, and I  heard their mocking laughter in my head as they made me look like an idiot over and over again. But now, I am convinced that they are trying to kill me. 

The first time I became suspicious, I was climbing the ladder to my loft to hang up my laundry (yes, my clothesline is in my house and I always have laundry hanging from my ceiling. I call it my "tribal chandelier"). On this trip I was wearing a longer skirt and stepped on the end of it causing me to start to fall backwards because of the heavy bag of wet laundry I had slung over my shoulder. I quickly dropped the bag and threw my body weight forward, so I just sort of slid down the ladder landing in a heap on the floor rather than falling backwards and hitting my head on the various metal boxes containing our electrical system hanging on the wall behind me.
I was a little bruised up, but otherwise ok. I quickly gave that skirt away, but it must have shared its plans with the other skirts while they lay folded on my shelf, because two days ago, another skirt made an attempt on my life. 

I was outside burning my trash in a long flowy skirt. As I poked and stirred the pile to try to make sure everything thoroughly burned so dogs wouldn't drag my rubbish all over the village, I felt an intense heat on my leg and realized that the left side of my skirt had gone up in flames! The first thought that came to mind was, "stop, drop, and roll" but I was in a weird spot surrounded by tall weeds, cassava trees, and a large pile of scrap wood. So, I immediately stripped off my skirt and stayed squatted down so my neighbor who was chopping wood at his house just a few feet from me couldn't see. I was wearing shorts under the skirt, but seeing a lady in a pair of shorts here is like seeing a woman topless at the mall (Ironically, it is ok for women to be topless here.) Anyway, I yelled for John Michael to bring me a new skirt, and I immediately threw the one I was wearing into the fire. This skirt wanted to burn me alive? Well, look who got the last laugh... Me. I did. 

After I got inside and had a mini meltdown about almost burning alive, I looked down to see that I just had a small burn on my leg. It is now all bubbly and gross, but it is definitely better than it could have been. Since the skirt was flowy, most of the fire was contained to the outside layers and just a small portion that folded in actually touched my skin. 

I know I sound like I am exaggerating and being dramatic, but here is the proof that my skirts are totally out to get me (crossing my fingers that this picture actually works).

There, now you know. I am not making this up. I couldn't if I wanted to. Who would have ever guessed that the most dangerous thing in my life would be my skirts

Sunday, October 27, 2013

More Random News

Here is some more random news from Hewa-

1. I did not kill anyone (yet). Emos, the man who was bleeding from every orifice of his body received the medicine we sent him, did not have an allergic reaction, and is doing much better. He is reportedly on his way here, but is hiking very slowly as he is still really weak. We are very thankful that he survived whatever illness he had, and are praying he gets here in time to hear the Gospel message that our teachers will be presenting in a few weeks.

2. There is a pig in a trash bag in my fridge. The pig is dead, just in case you needed clarification on that. His little hoof is sticking out from the bag and it feels like he is waving at me every time I open my fridge. So, I have named him Claud. Although I find him very polite and terribly quiet, I will be very happy when he leaves my house and goes into the ground tomorrow to be cooked. He is taking up all my space and does not smell great. Some of our friends brought him by last night because they wanted to wait for the other half of a huge hunting party to return (it would be rude to eat this pig without everyone present). We were glad to house Claud for the night because we have seen and smelled the several day old pigs that they sometimes bring back to the village to cook. Unfortunately, they usually offer us some of those pigs as well and we have to find a way to discreetly get rid of it. I have on more than one occasion, stuffed the rotten meat into a ziploc bag and snuck out after dark to give it to some family who I new wouldn't rat me out. It is mutually beneficial as they get more meat (it does not seem to bother their iron stomachs) and I don't have to feel guilty about feeding it to my cats and chickens. Anyway, it was fun for us to be able to help by putting this one in our fridge and know that we can eat him without risking botulism. 

3. In an ironic turn of events, our new tree kangaroo, Lewis is a racist. As you may have read in the previous "Random News" post we were concerned that having given the first tree kangaroo the name Wallis George he would turn out to be racist or people would think that we were and that was disconcerting. This time we chose a less offensive name, but inspire of that this little baby tree kangaroo freaks out every time one of our Melanesian friends gets near him. Maybe he remembers that they killed his mom? Who knows, but we plan on enrolling him in several diversity seminars ASAP. 

4. It is wild fowl egg season right now. What this means is that everyone in the village disappears into the jungle to collect extremely large eggs from nests built on the ground. The eggs are huge but just taste like a regular chicken egg…except when you crack the egg open and there is a small fetus inside. It probably tastes similar to chicken fetus too, although I cannot confirm that since I have eaten neither. Maybe my Chinese friends and my Hewa friends can get together and compare notes and get back to me on that one. The amazing thing about these extremely large eggs is that they come from a bird that is not much bigger than a chicken. I cannot wrap my mind around how this bird lays this huge egg. The only thing that comes to mind when I try to think about it is the word, "episiotomy" and that can't be right, so I just move on. (I am sorry, once again to any men who read this blog…I am of course talking about you again, Aaron Jex. How is America by the way?) 

OK, you are now all up-to-date on all that is going on in one of the most remote places in the world. Everyone will be jealous that you got the news before them. You can thank me later with emails of praise and adoration. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Life Choices

Sometimes in this job we stop and have to evaluate our life choices. 

Like last week, a little two year old girl was coming to sit on my lap. I noticed that she was covered in some sort of black goo, and it smelled REALLY bad. Poop. It smelled like poop.

My husband was sitting right beside me and asked, "Do you think that's Kuka or poop?" (Kuka is a nut that has to be soaked in water for a long time before it is eaten or it will kill you. It is put in the water for four weeks, then pulled out for the village to enjoy together. But it smells like poop. I have not had to taste it yet, thank goodness).

"I don't know."

"Which one do you want it to be?, " he said with a chuckle.

This question started a deep debate about which would be better- to have a tiny child in your lap covered in poop, or a tiny child in your lap covered in kuka. 

Guess which smelly substance won?


Yes. We both decided that we would rather the tiny child in my lap be covered in poop. Because once you wash poop, the smell comes out and you can forget it ever happened. When kuka touches you or anything on you the smell stays forever. You have to burn your clothes exfoliate your skin until it bleeds, and then maybe two months later you will no longer smell the rotting stench of kuka. 

We then realized that we had to evaluate the life choices that we have made to bring us to the point of preferring a tiny child covered in poop to a tiny child covered in something stinky but edible.*

And today I was making pizza crust and I had to choose between two different bags of flour. One was really old. I've had it since February and it was filled with bugs and worms. It still smelled normal though, and I knew I could sift all the visible creatures out (although I knew their larva, too tiny to be caught by even my tightest woven sifter, still lived in the flour but out of sight out of mind, right?). 

The other bag of flour was new. I received it on the last flight, but it smelled and tasted very strongly of soap. Sometimes items are shipped to this country in containers with cleaning products and those products permeate everything that is locked in with them. Right now I have 5 bags of soap tasting brown sugar, four bags of soap tasting Cheerios, 5 bags of soap tasting M&Ms, and about 30 kgs of soap tasting flour. 

Welcome to my life. 

Anyway, after very little thought, I chose the buggy wormy flour over the soap flour because after all, you can't taste the bugs! 

Again, my husband made a comment about my choice of worms over soap, and laughed. 

Worms over soap. Poop over food? What got me to this point in my life. Did I take some sort of wrong turn somewhere? Why am I having to choose between poop and stink-clinging foods. Between wormy flour and soapy flour when other 30-somethings are trying to decided which smart phone to buy? 

After very little thought, I decided that this was just par for the course of life as a missionary, and while some of my peers might have an iPhone 5, I have an endangered species for a pet, and some really cool friends who like to put pig tusks through their septum piercings just to make me laugh. 

Kuka, worms, tree kangaroos, pig tusk accessories- ALL WORTH IT! 

I am very thankful for the life God has given me even when I have to make these very weird and sometimes gross choices! 

*I am using the term edible very loosely here

Friday, October 18, 2013

Canopy of Darkness

I am very tired of writing about death. That is a sentence I never thought I would write. Not because I thought I would never tire of writing about death, but because I never thought I would be doing so much writing about death in such a short period of time.

Is that confusing. Probably.

Soon after we heard about our sweet friend, Etike's (pronounced EH-di-kay) death, we also learned that another man we knew was deathly ill, but far away in a different village. People offered to carry him to our place for treatment or possible evacuation to a hospital but he refused. We listened as people described to us his symptoms…blood coming out of his nose and mouth, and "he is pooping blood." 

Um, what? 

As, I have mentioned before I have zero medical training and am violently worthless in emergency situations. I have no idea how to handle blood coming out of every orifice of someone's body. Later, one of our medical workers, said, "No, he is just pooping blood", so I looked up dysentery and how to treat it then sent him on his way to take medicine to this ailing man. 

Not long after the medical worker left, my coworker, Susan wrote me from the US where she is with her family on furlough. She told me that the man probably doesn't have blood coming out of anywhere in his body, but that is just something the Hewa say when someone is really really sick. Her guess was that he had scrub typhus, and that he needed a different kind of medicine and he would be fine…if he didn't get that medicine then he would die. Also, the medicine I gave him caused a serious allergic reaction when she treated his baby earlier in the year, so there is a chance that he could be allergic to it as well. 

Great. Not only did I not help this man at all, but I may have just killed him faster. I have now moved from "worthless" in an emergency situation to "hazardous". Seriously, people. Keep me away from your diseased or injured. I will only make things worse, and hyperventilate while doing it. 

Anyway, I say all that to say this. My coworkers who have been with the Hewa people for 12 years are amazing. They know exactly what to say and do in every situation. When we wrote them to share the sad news of the teen boy's death they told us what the Hewa believers would probably say, and what the Hewa unbelievers would probably say. And that is EXACTLY what each group said. I mean WORD FOR WORD. Sometimes I think they know the Hewans better than the Hewans know themselves. 

They have lived with and suffered through some of the worst tragedies imaginable during their years of ministry and yet they keep coming back. Jonathan Kopf has eloquently penned those first few years with the Hewa work and the horrific incident that almost shut the whole thing down in his book Canopy of Darkness

I really wish I had internet right now, so that you could just click a link and go to this site to buy this book right away. But, I don't, so please take the time to copy and paste it in your web browser to make this purchase. Go to and buy Jonathan's book to learn more about the beginning of the work that we are a part of. I would love for everyone* to read this book and get a great glimpse into the Hewa life and culture and what it is like to minister in this place. No one tells a story as accurately and vividly as Jonathan. I have a few of his stories posted on this blog and they have been some of the most read and loved posts to date. Please. Please. Please. PLEASE read this book. Please. 

Can I do anything else to convince you to read it? Seriously, what do you want? Email me what you want me to do and I'll do it…or I'll tell you I'll do it, but you won't ever know because I live in the middle of the jungle and my husband is really good at photoshop. 

*I want everyone to read this book except our parents. Not because I think you will be terrified and want us to come home right away. That is not it at all. I just think you will probably be completely bored and fall asleep before you get to the end. Seriously, mom and dad and the Georges don't read this book. Totally not worth your time. But only you four. Everyone else will really love it. 

The End. 

Did you buy the book yet? No? What are you waiting for? I am going to totally quiz you on the first four chapters tomorrow! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I have been sitting here staring at my computer screen for 20 minutes just trying to figure out what I should title this post. I don't even know where to start.

Tragedy strikes like lightening out here. Lightening that comes from a clear blue sky with no ominous dark clouds or warning signs.

Yesterday someone came running and wailing into the village, and my heart sank as I saw all my friends take off down the airstrip.

We soon found out that we lost another one of our bright young boys. This 16 year old was with his brother and another guy a day's hike away from our village. He started to cross a rotting vine bridge when one of the other's told him not to. He continued on and the bridge broke as he was half way across. They saw him go down into the river, but never saw him surface. They were only able to glimpse his hands as the raging river quickly carried him away. The two others searched the rest of the day for his body, but never found it. They arrived at our village early the next morning to tell us the news and to gather a search party. Most of the village left soon after to go find him. It is eerily quiet here as only a few women and small children are left here.

I am devastated and confused. This was another young boy that we loved. He was very kind and helpful and loved the Lord. We live in a very small village right in the center of everything, so we see these people day in and day out, and sorely miss them when they are gone.

I have unbelievers on the left saying that this was the work of evil spirits, and believers on the right, saying this is what happens when you leave the village instead of staying to listen to God's Word and I am pulled desperately in both directions trying to speak truth to each side when neither of us really understands the language the other is speaking. Inadequate does not even begin to describe it how I am feeling.

All the while I am begging God for a miracle- asking and hoping that this boy some how survived and that they find him alive. And as selfish as it is, I am hoping that if they don't find him alive, then I hope they just don't find him at all.

Death here is so gruesome and in your face. No one comes to preserve the body and make it look nice and at peace. There are no closed caskets until right before the body goes into the ground. One of my biggest struggles with all this death has been seeing (and smelling) the bodies of these once vibrant boys rot and decay before my very eyes.

I can't even think about what I will have to see if and when they arrive back in the village with a body that has been lifeless for four or five days.

I keep wondering what God is doing in all this. There are so many scoffers in and around this village that criticize and scorn the believers for abandoning the old ways and living new lives in Christ. Each time something bad happens it gives them reason to point fingers and place blame on the Christians for not appeasing the spirits as they should. I am thankful that many of the believers are standing strong and not giving in to the doubts surrounding them. I keep wondering about the future of the Hewa church if Satan continues to succeed in robbing us of those young men we saw as future leaders and missionaries.

But the Lord reminds me that each of His disciples were killed for His Name (except for one who was exiled) yet His Word spread and His church grew. I know that the victory belongs to Jesus no matter what the battle looks like at this point, so I cling to this promise and hope. I am trusting that from these seeds of death, God will bring forth new life into His Hewa church- that what we are now sowing in sorrow, we will one day reap in joy.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Random News

I have three topics that I would like share with you today. None are connected in any sort of way, so here is just a list of the random happenings around Hewa (and in my head).

1. Most importantly, I checked on the baby and he is doing very well this morning. He is eating well, breathing easier and had a most of his color back. I jumped up and down, shouted, and clapped while a lot of people just stared at me. It was awkward, but I totally worth it.

2. A ten year old kid brought us another baby tree kangaroo. He shot the mom with his bow and arrow and ate it, then gave us the baby. The girls are thrilled to be getting a second chance at having such a cool pet, and so are their parents. I am mostly glad for the second chance at naming the creature. The first one was given to us by some people from another language group who said the name of the thing was "wattis" which to us sounded like, "Wallis" so that is what we named him. It wasn't until the next day that considering our last name, having a pet named Wallis might make people think we are racist, so I was completely paranoid about sharing his name with anyone from the deep south. I planned on explaining the whole thing and telling everyone it was spelled differently than the former governor of Alabama and avid proponent of segregation, but that seemed entirely too exhausting. I'd hoped that moving into a country and culture of an entirely different race and making myself a minority would squelch any racist rumors that would go around, but you never know. It turns out that it was just best for everyone that Wallis George ran away so we could get a new tree kangaroo named, Lewis. Hopefully, there are no offensive or derogatory people associated with that name. Anyway, I now feel like I am running a zoo. We have two cats, 11 new baby chicks, a baby tree kangaroo, and an agoraphobic guinea pig.

3. On Saturday we had three flights into this village. That's right! Three flights. And four people that do not normally live here came and went in one day. FOUR. I mean, it is like I am not even living in the middle of the jungle anymore. On one of those flights I received a microwave that we bought off another missionary family. A MICROWAVE!! Sure I can only use it on sunny days between the minutes of 11:30 and 12:00, but a MICROWAVE PEOPLE! It means no more cold leftovers for lunch just to save money on gas for our stove! Anyway, four visitors and a microwave! I bet this is what it feels like to live in New York City... if New York City had a lot of men wearing pants made entirely of leaves and women wearing shirts made of nothing.

Ok, now you are fully updated. You're welcome.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Year in the Tribe

So today marks one year since we moved into the tribe. Weird.

I think it was the fastest, hardest, most intense year of our lives. I can' t even wrap my mind around everything that has happened this past year.

I have to admit that even though we have gone through some really difficult times in here, we have grown to love this place and these people more and more each day. It most certainly feels like home.

This last week has been pretty crazy, as always. Our coworkers went out to town on a break and to prepare to finish their house, so we are in here by ourselves with another friend/missionary who is helping JM build a tractor shed and office. (Remember the guy who spent the night in the ocean? Yeah, that guy).

The night my coworkers left, our neighbors came over to tell us that a five month old baby was really sick and close to death. After I visited and watched him struggle for every breath and cried with a terrified mom, I figured that he probably had pneumonia.

"Are you freaking kidding me?" was my first response. We had three flights in here today! I am sure we could have gotten this baby to a hospital somewhere- why didn't you tell us then? But they said that the baby just got really bad and stopped eating a few hours before, so I cut them a little slack and tried to figure out what to do next. My second response was to think that this may not have been the best week to stop taking the Valium that the doctor prescribed to me for symptoms of PTSD.

I am sure if you have read this blog for any length of time then you know that I am a complete spaz and have a tendency to overreact. I am NOT the person you want involved in any sort of medical situation. My coworker, Susan, is a trained nurse and is exceptional at treating tropical diseases and helping our villagers survive in very precarious situations. My other coworker, Abby, is not professionally trained, but just has that natural knack for medical care and helping people. I am the LAST person on the team that should be helping in any sort of emergency situation. The more critical a situation, the more paralyzed my thought process becomes.

But here I am. I got on the radio and talked to some more experienced missionary ladies and sent a letter to our mission doctor to try to get the best advice I could, and then relayed that to our village medical workers.

The biggest challenge I have had to face with this, though, is that the mother and baby sleep very close to a hot smokey fire in the house. It is not culturally appropriate for the woman to be in the middle of the house- the furthest away from the fire- so there is really no where she can go to get this baby with a 104 degree fever away from the heat. And no way to prevent him from breathing in smoke in his already compromised lungs. I just tried to convince her to keep him outside of the house as much as possible during the day.

At this point, he is still strong and very alert. He has started eating again, but still really struggles to breath. I am not sure at what point we need to consider flying him out of here, but I think I am at my limit for medical care, and definitely do not want to have another death in the village right now- especially this precious baby boy. I think if he is not better by tomorrow I will try to figure out what we need to do to get him flown out for some help- if his parents are even willing to do that. If that happens, it will be our first medevac out of our village, just six weeks after the airstrip opening. I am so thankful that it is at least an option for us. I feel so helpless and inadequate in this situation, and the ability to get this baby some real medical professional help is such a blessing.

And I never would have guessed at this time last year we would already have this strip open. But…there are a lot of things that have happened over the last year that I never would have guessed. I am thankful that I serve a God who knows. Who doesn't have to guess. Who is the anchor in the storm that rages all around me. I am thankful that even though I don't know, He does. He knows and He cares. And He will sustain us for what I hope is many more years to come.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Bright Side

In my last post I shared with you all how my husband had malaria and a big staph infection in his leg, and also how two of my kids had ringworm.

Since then my oldest child contracted a stomach virus, and as it turns out the other two kids (and myself now) actually have scabies! 

Yesterday I noticed that my middle child's rash now covered most of her body, so I immediately wrote the doctor and sent him some pictures. His best guess was scabies and advised us all to be treated and to wash all our bedding in hot water. 

There were two problems with that. I didn't have the proper medicine to treat it, and we don't have hot water hooked up to my washing machine. Plus without a dryer it will take us weeks to wash and dry everyone's bedding. I very quickly went into meltdown mode. And because misery loves company I informed my coworker of what the doctor told me since her kids have had the same types of rashes as well. She quickly melted down with me as her laundry situation is way more difficult than mine since she is working with a small twin tub that has a broken spinner. (She comes to my house to spin her laundry).

So, I got on the radio to see if this medicine could be airdropped to us tomorrow on a flight that was headed sort of close to where we are located. My sweet missionary friend made the calls to find out if it would be possible, but she did something even greater for me. She told me about when her kids had scabies, and how they just treated it with lice shampoo and didn't wash in hot water (because they had none) and it all went away pretty easily. She told me that scabies was way easier to treat than lice. I sighed in relief and sang the Hallelujah Corus in my head, and decided that we would just wait for our next flight to get the medicine since I do have lice treatment in here. 

It then hit me that the bright side of all this…the words that brought me comfort were, "Scabies is way easier to treat than lice." Ha ha! 

It also made me think about all the other problems we've experienced since coming back and the bright sides that have come along  with those. 

Here they are:

My husband gets malaria- I know I don't have to shave for three days.

My husband gets a bad leg infection- He has to sit and listen to me talk about everything I did that day and every thought and emotion I had while I am bandaging him up. 

My child gets a stomach virus in the middle of the night- We had a slumber party in the living room together and I finally got to spend one-on-one time with her that is really hard to find in the tribe. Sure she had vomit in her hair, but she got to hear me tell her that I love her and she is beautiful without having to hear me immediately repeat it to two other girls. 

My other children get ringworm/scabies- It gives me great conversation material with my Hewa mom friends. I mean it's not like I can sit down with them and talk about the Ferber Method, soccer practice, school, minivans vs. SUVs or whether or not we eat organic. I can't just plop down and say, "So did you hear about Miley Cyrus at the VMAs?" But they can totally relate to their kids having fungus and parasites.

So, see? Life in the tribe is not so bad after all. And I think my new motivational motto when things get tough will be, "At least it isn't lice!"

**now taking suggestions for what my life motto should be if it actually IS lice**

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Back In

Well, we are officially back in the tribe. It has been sad and hard, but we are thankful that we missed all the armed and angry family members from other villages, the wailing, and having to sit around our friend's body for days until it started to smell and we couldn't be around it anymore. 

We are trying to get back into a "normal" routine.  Yesterday my husband came down with malaria and has a huge infected scrape on his leg. Two of my daughters also have what I think is ringworm, and nothing seems to be helping it. So I am playing nurse as well as mom, teacher, cook, maid, and language learner. As crazy as it sounds, this is pretty normal for us and in all honesty it is usually better for me mentally to be busy when we are in the tribe. 

On top of all that we found out that the airstrip closest to ours was recently closed because of violence in the area. That place is full of violent aggressive people, so where do you think they will come when they need an airstrip? Here of course! We are now scurrying to try to figure out if we can somehow get that strip back open and what we can do to keep unwanted visitors out of our village. 

Right now I am just praying that the Lord will surround this place with angels and not let anyone in who intends to do harm to our people or who will try to take over and control this airstrip and village! 

If that airstrip doesn't get re-opened then our time here will be cut short for sure. And with all my heart I want to see this work completed! I want my Hewa friends who love God and treasure His Word to have as much of it as they possibly can, and for that we need time. 

My co-worker, Abby, told me how she was trying to encourage some of the women who are believers after the death of Atipz. She said, "I wanted so desperately to share some verses from Isaiah that the Lord was using to comfort my heart when I realized that they don't even have those verses in their Bible yet!"

It is heartbreaking and motivating. We are here. Ready. Willing.

  Lord help us! Give us time! Fight for us and for your Hewa children! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Going Home

Well, we are going home to Hewa tomorrow, and while I can't say that this is the break we had hoped/planned for, the Lord has used this time to connect us with some sweet  precious friends and fellow missionaries who spent countless hours just listening and ministering to us.

Tomorrow will be difficult for sure, so we covet your prayers as we face such a bittersweet homecoming.

Answers to some FAQs:

1.As most of you know I can post on this blog from the bush via short wave radio. I will try to update as much as I can, though sometimes it doesn't always come out like it is supposed to. When I email it through the radio I have no way to see your comments, but I promise when I come out to town I love reading every single one. If you would like to comment to me directly you can email me at, but because the radio can only transmit a limited amount of data the emails have to be less than 100k. This just means that you can send mostly text. Small file sized pictures are ok too.

2. I am asked a lot for permission to share or link blog posts, and the answer to that is always YES! If I put it on the internet then you can spread it around. If you want to use anything from this blog (pics, stories, etc.) for your youth groups, Sunday School classes or just your friends then go right ahead. We want as many people as possible to know about the Hewa people, their church, and their desire to spread the Gospel all over the Central Mountain Range of Papua New Guinea.

3. I do not have internet. I have set up a link that automatically posts this blog to facebook anytime I update it, but sadly, I cannot view facebook until we come into a town with internet.

4. Finally, we are planning on coming back to America in May of 2014 for a nine month furlough. We will be spending the month of July with my family in North Carolina, and the rest of the time in Mississippi, Alabama, or wherever else in the US we are asked to speak. If you would like us to come visit your church, youth group, small group, Sunday School class, bowling team, fight club, your mom's house-wherever- you can also contact us at the email above. 

Koyo clc,
(That's it)

Monday, September 9, 2013

You should read this

I am linking this post to my blog because truer words were never spoken in the missionary world. Even though tribal missions can be considered "sexy" because we have some pretty cool pics with people who have leaves on their butts and bones through their noses, our day in and day out can get pretty boring.

Do you really want to know all the details of learning a language on morpheme level? No. Do you want me to write about the countless hours that my coworker spends at a desk translating the Bible. No. And I don't really want to write about that either, so I understand. But it is the truth. It is the day to day.

Sure it sounds exciting and heroic to read about rescuing "witches" (aka innocent women and children accused of "eating someone's spirit" because they decided to hang themselves or died because they got bit by a flea that a rat brought into their home), but that halts most of the work we came here to do, and it TOTALLY stresses us out!

And I write about it because it is true and real, but I also know that so many times people wonder why this work we do takes so long and what are we doing when we aren't saving witches and doing "evangelism". The answers for that are not very interesting. Discipleship just takes a really long time when the people you are discipling have 1. Never heard of God AND 2. Don't have a Bible to read and study and grow from. And things you never dreamed you would have to guide and teach through pop up out of nowhere like, "Let's just kill ourselves and go to heaven now." But we have to stop and regroup and try to correct teaching with what little scripture the people have, because we are not running some sort of suicide cult here!

But this post also makes me think of all the support missionaries here in PNG. The pilots, the guys who buy my groceries, the doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, dorm parents, and the family that runs the guest house who have been Jesus to me and my kids over the last very difficult year who may not have the most interesting newsletters, but whose feet I would kiss and wash (or maybe wash and then kiss) because of the blessing they are to me, all the other missionaries in the tribes, and the tribal people themselves.

Anyway read this post from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary. She says it way better than I ever could.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


There is a lot of talk in Christian/Mission circles about "compassion" ministries and whether or not they are effective. Some argue that missionaries should just get in there teach the Bible and get out. There are a lot of instances in ministries where helping people with their physical needs really hurt the people in the long run because when the missionaries or ministries left, the people when back to the way things were before and completely resented the fact that they were no longer living at the same standard.

Others argue that when you meet physical needs the people just say what you want to hear to get those needs met and are not really believing or understanding the truths of the Bible. These are typically called "Rice Christians".

Complicated. There is really no other word for it. I see both arguments as valid, but I also live with a people group who need help that I can provide. So how do I ignore a physical need from my friend and neighbor? I can't.

NTM missionaries struggle with this as well. The focus of our ministry is to do literacy, Bible teaching, and translation all in the heart language of the people. That takes time. A LOT of time. Medical and other works take a lot of time too, and could slow down the work of the translation.  Here in PNG missionaries work with a program called the "Village Health Volunteer" where villagers can get medical training and supplies to take care of the basic medical needs in their tribe. It is a win/win for us because it frees up missionaries and is something that the people can continue when we finish our works and phase out.

Our tribe's medical situation is a little more complicated than most, though because we are so remote. Many people from all over Hewa territory refer to our village as the "Hospital". That is completely scary for us, but the cold hard truth is that we are the best medical care that they have access to. So, my sweet co-worker, Susan, ends up doing A LOT of medical work. She is trained as a nurse and does all the training of our village medical workers. Those workers are very competent and caring, but they are not always in the tribe, or there may be "epidemics" at times where our village is full of very sick visitors each needing lots of attention from a medical worker. This spreads all the workers thin and keeps Susan very involved simply because of the high demand.

Susan teaching some medical workers

I am always in awe of what she accomplishes in the middle of the jungle with very limited supplies. I have had the privilege to watch her save lives, and I could tell you countless stories that would put you in awe of her work.

But this is my favorite...

A little family with a very sick newborn baby showed up in our village several months ago. Susan looked at this tiny baby boy who was almost lifeless and felt his rock hard belly full of infection from an umbilical cord being cut with a dirty razor blade (or some other sharp object). She fully prepared herself (and me) for the likelihood that his baby would not make it. But that didn't stop her from trekking her way over logs and up muddy paths to the house where the family was staying to give the baby medicine four times a day. The baby even got a huge umbilical hernia because his tiny stomach could not hold all the infection it contained.

The baby was so weak he didn't eat for days, and the mother was starting to loose her milk supply, so Susan took a very ancient and difficult breast pump into the house to extract milk from the mother and feed the baby through a syringe.

This was above and beyond what any medical worker would or even could do. And it was a special testimony to this family who lived in a neighboring village and had not heard the Gospel yet. Traditionally, no one would ever work this hard to save an infant younger than three months old because babies are believed to not have "spirits" or souls at until that time. In their own village, it really just wasn't worth it to anyone else to help this baby. But it was worth it to these new parents and it was worth it to Susan. Her tireless care made such an impact on this family that they decided to move to our village to "hear God's talk" and they even went back to their village to get more family members who needed to hear as well.

The baby is free of infection and the hernia has even gone down some

It was a huge testimony to how meeting a physical need can truly have a great impact for the Gospel, and how even though there needs to be a balance, compassion works cannot be completely ignored in ministry.

Our God is a God of compassion. Just do a keyword such on it and see how many pages you get to scroll through. How can we not show compassion to people when we are supposed to teach them who He is and how to be like Him?

Matthew 14:14 says, "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick."
Jesus had compassion on them and healed their sick. He didn't just preach and teach. He didn't just challenge Pharisees and tell parables. He had compassion on their physical needs as well as their spiritual. And I have heard people argue that all that healing was just to prove His authority, so people could believe in what He was teaching, but if that were the case, then I think that is exactly what this verse would say. But it doesn't. It says He had compassion. The Greek word here means "to be moved in one's inward parts". It wasn't just the job He was sent to do. He really felt for these people and their physical needs. Did He know how short and brief this life on earth is? Did He know that the best thing for all of us is to focus on heaven and not our daily struggles and earthly suffering. YES! Of course! He is God after all. But he still cared for their life here on this earth and the suffering they endured no matter how brief. Yes, His end goal was the care and restoration of their souls, but He truly loved people as they were right then. Flesh and blood. Physical beings.

So, if Jesus himself cared about the physical. Then I have to also. And I know there has to be a balance, but I have a great example to follow in His life and ministry to figure out how to minister to the physical as well as the spiritual. 

And I am blessed with a coworker who figured this out years ago, and has been filled with compassion for the Hewa people ever since. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Posts I Planned

I said in a previous post that I have been saving some to write when I could load pictures. The pictures tell stories in a way that I just can't. So I am ready now to post these so you can get a glimpse of what has gone on the last six months.

Probably the biggest thing as you all know has been our airstrip project. It was a massive undertaking by the Hewa people and accomplished with mostly hard work and hand tools. The tractor work came in the last 4 months to level the ground, but everything else was done without heavy machinery.

Here's a closer look:

JM getting our house site ready last August. The airstrip was still full of trees (although many have already been taken down)

All the trees are down and need to be cleared and burned

A big HUGE mess

Burning and clearing

A lot of hard work

Again, no heavy machines only what the jungle provides

The finished product. Notice the helicopter bringing the pilot in to check and approve the strip

The shot from the air as we flew off the strip for the first time.
We are so thankful to the Lord for this huge blessing. And we are so thankful again to Friends In Action, Samaritan's Purse, and all the individuals who contributed financially to this project. This strip with provide all of us, Hewans and missionaries, with supplies and access to better medical care.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Little Blessings

With all the tragic and stressful events coming out of Hewa right now, it was a huge blessing to talk to my coworker and find out some good news. There was a wedding yesterday between two young believers that we dearly love.

Marriage is complicated in the tribe. Most of the time a girl is sold to a man for some money and pigs. Plenty of times the girl is not happy about the situation, but there is really nothing she can do about it. And in our village we have a lot of young believers who want to marry other believers but that is virtually impossible since most of them are related somehow. Most of the men who are really committed to the Lord just choose to remain single.

It is the girls we worry about most, though, because they usually have little choice in the matter. They can be given to men in other villages and then quickly marked as witches because they are outsiders and easy targets. Needless to say, we want our girls to stay in our village where they can hear and grow in the Word of God and be protected.

One very precious girl named Joli is one of the lucky ones. She was just married to our friend Fawa who is a believer and who will remain living in our village.

Joli is a sweet, quiet girl who has been through a lot of tragedy over the last few years. She lost her mother, her brother, her step-father and was left to care for her severely handicapped sister who then died earlier this year. But through it all Joli continues to listen and grow in the Word. She is a precious girl who loves to help all of us missionary ladies and we are thrilled that she will get to stay in our village and raise her family in the Lord.

This is a sweet and precious blessing to me, especially right now in very difficult days, and I am so thankful to Jesus for allowing us something so praise worthy to think on right now.

Joli helping me dig out "paikz" or cassava root

She is laughing because I am carrying so little :)