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.