Thursday, October 16, 2014

Open Grave

If you have heard us speak in the last several months, then you have seen this picture of our daughter in the waterfall not too far behind our house in Hewa. We use this to illustrate the animistic beliefs of the Hewa people. The people believe that evil spirits live in waterfalls and are afraid of them. They leave an area with a waterfall undisturbed as they try to evade those spirits when planting gardens and clearing hiking trails.

It is such a huge contradiction to our culture. We are in awe of waterfalls and will pay big money to travel to see them. Even hike through thick rain forest jungles just to get a picture taken while we are standing in one.

Many people are in shock when we tell them that our people are afraid of waterfalls. They can't believe that something that we cherish and love is considered evil to them. And we pity them, that they can't appreciate and enjoy this beautiful creation of God. We shake our heads and criticize the believers that know the truth, but still just don't like to be around this or any waterfall because it makes them uncomfortable.

This picture, however, brings up different feelings for us. In fact this picture probably makes us feel exactly how the Hewa feel about that waterfall. What is it?

It's an open grave.

The Hewa bury their dead in a hole and instead of filling that hole with dirt they put thin planks of scrap wood from the jungle (usually some type of tree bark) over the hole then put dirt over it and build a roof over the grave.

It doesn't take long before the wood planks underneath rot and the whole thing caves in. We would be completely disturbed by this and immediately fix it.

They don't.

It doesn't bother them. They don't get images of zombies crawling out of the grave or ghosts coming to haunt them. They know that the spirit left that body a long time ago and now it is just lying there, harmless, unable to hurt or bother anyone.

I bet they would shake their heads at us for still getting weirded out by an open grave. I bet they would criticize us who know the truth, but still avoid going near this place if at all possible.

As missionaries, we spend a lot of time evaluating our tribal believers. We wondered where they are in their walk and spiritual maturity because that tells us how well we are doing our job and of course, when we will be able to leave. Sometimes we get discouraged when some of our strongest believers won't join us in playing in the waterfall, but think nothing of the fact that we won't sit beside them against the open grave.

But we're all just weak, fallen flesh that is easily influenced by the world and culture around us. Sure we know that nothing is coming out of that grave, but we can't help that feeling it gives us. Just like they know that there is no evil spirit in that waterfall, but they just can't shake that feeling it gives them.

We are all in this world, but not of it together. We both have to decide daily to study God's word to know the truth and choose to believe it no matter what our culture is saying to us or how it is making us feel.

Maybe the open grave is not the best example though. I mean we all know that it is creepy, but I don't think any American over the age of 12 is truly afraid of it. It probably doesn't take much conscious thought and prayer to overcome.

But what about when you hear that someone is cured of cancer? We all give God all the praise and thank Him for that healing process, but in the backs of our minds we wonder if God had anything to do with it. We wonder if the outcome would have been the same without the surgery and the chemo and the radiation. We know that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't and we give God the credit when it does and "trust His will" when it doesn't but we all know the medical science behind it and know that many who don't put God in either scenario have the same results.

Or we hear of some "miraculous" healing in a baby who was previously believed to have some sort of medical issue and want to give God the credit, but in the backs of our minds we wonder if the initial tests were just wrong?

Much more so than zombies, even with the popularity of the Walking Dead, Secular Humanism has hugely influenced our Western thought and culture. Everyday we have to choose to read and study God's Word. Everyday we have to choose to believe His truth and know that in He is in all things even when our culture tells us that He has nothing to do with anything because He doesn't exist.

But He is there. He is there in the tests. He is there in the diagnosis. He is there in all the treatment. He is there when it works. He is there when it doesn't. He is there when no one even acknowledges He is there. 

Everyday we have to renew our minds. To transform our thinking. To choose not to conform to the pattern of thinking of our world and culture. Everyday the Hewa believers have to do the same.  We're in this together. We struggle together and it is our job to mutually encourage each other.

So I was very encouraged by the testimony of one of our Hewa men, Kifeson when he told us how he felt after the two suicides in our village and the choice he made afterward. Jonathan recorded his story...

“I wanted to flee,” Kifeson said to me when I returned from the States. “When Nosem hung himself and then Atipz did the same thing I wanted to run as fast as I could to get away from the evil spirits. I seriously considered going to Yano. But then God’s Spirit said to me, ‘You can go to Yano to teach My words; that would be good. But don’t run to Yano in fear.’ When I heard that I decided I need to stay here in Yifki and not run away in fear like other people were doing.”

You see waterfalls aren't the only places where the Hewa believe that evil spirits live. They also live on flat places...places where you would say... build an airstrip. And if you clear trees and build in those places then the spirits will punish you for it. So of course all of the Hewans in surrounding villages gave our village a big, "I told you so" when we had so many deaths of young people so close together as we were working on the airstrip. And there were people who left the village out of fear.

But as you read above. Kifeson stayed. Not only did he stay, but he decided to build a house right next to the airstrip instead of on one of the higher places in the village. He chose to believe God's truth.

Kifeson's house on the airstrip

Sitting under the house with his daughter.

Lord Jesus, thank you for Kifeson, my brother in Christ. Thank you for the encouragement he is in my life. Thank you that he made the courageous choice to believe your truth when the people and events around him told him not to. Thank you that everyday his worldview is shifting from that of an animistic worldview to a Biblical worldview.  Please God, help me do the same. Help me to view the world through the lens of your truth rather than the one my culture is trying to force me to see through. Thank you God, that your truth is universal. Thank you that You transcend geography, culture, economics, and all the things of this world that could separate and divide your children, and instead unite us in our relationships with Your Son and through Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


He's right you know. There are aliens. I am one of them. And so are you. So let's just....nope not gonna do it.

I got a several comments from my fellow missionary friends about the "Third Culture Adults" reference in the last post. It was nice and validating knowing that I wasn't the only one who couldn't just jump back into my culture of origin like nothing in my brain had changed.

I have thought about this... a lot. But never more than when my oldest daughter came home and told me that another child told her she didn't belong here in America, but only belonged in the jungle. After much internal reflection, I realized that physically harming children is wrong and sat down to have a long conversation with my daughter about where she really "belongs".

I explained to her that she actually doesn't truly belong here in America or in the jungle. She truly belongs in heaven with God. That is His design and desire and He sent Jesus to make sure that could be possible for her future.

I told her that no one really belongs here on this earth, our hearts long for something Bigger. Something More. Our hearts long for God, although not everyone recognizes it as that. I mentioned that people try to fit in here, some try really hard by looking a certain way, or having certain material things, but in this ever-changing world you too must constantly change how you look and what you have in order to "belong". That makes me tired.

But Praise God!! He never changes!! And He does the changing in us that makes us belong to Him.

And so when I know that I will never truly fit into my host culture, and I feel like I no longer fit into my culture of origin, I am relieved and filled with joy knowing that I am not really supposed to fit in anyway. I "fit" with Jesus and belong to God. I am a citizen of  Heaven and my true culture is the Kingdom of God.

Until God decides that it is time for me to go home, I am here as an alien, a stranger, a pilgrim, a missionary on this earth.

"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." -John 17:16

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." -Philippians 3:20

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." -Hebrews 11:13-16

 "I beg you, as those whom I love, to live in this world as strangers and “temporary residents”, to keep clear of the desires of your lower natures, for they are always at war with your souls." -1 Peter 2:11 (Phillips)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; - See more at:,-Christians-In-The-World#sthash.9HEKVCoO.dpuf
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. - See more at:,-Christians-In-The-World#sthash.9HEKVCoO.dpuf
 Or as the NASB puts it...

" Beloved, I urge you as ALIENS and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul." 1 Peter 2:11
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. - See more at:,-Christians-In-The-World#sthash.9HEKVCoO.dpuf

All of that is so amazing and so comforting when you feel as though you don't really belong anywhere...

So let's just Praise the Lord!!

(Sorry, even though I resisted writing it above, that song wormed its way into my head like a cranial parasite and I can't get it out. I apologize for the fact that you will be singing "Father Abraham" in your head for the next three days. Does it help to know that I will be singing it with you? No? Again, sorry about that.)
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. - See more at:,-Christians-In-The-World#sthash.9HEKVCoO.dpuf

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Spa Weekend

Sorry my blog posting has been sporadic at best since we have been home! I have of course been busy adjusting to first world life again, but also have just felt like I don't really have that much to write about here.

I also worry that my commentary on American life right now might come across more critical than I intend, so I just don't write about it. I don't feel critical, but I do feel a little lost and overwhelmed at times and I am not sure that I could explain those feelings well on this blog without it sounding like I am bashing everything around me. People constantly address the issue of Third Culture Kids  (children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years and who don't feel like they are truly a part of their culture of origin or fully part of their host culture. They are a mixture of both and therefore represent a "third" culture) but nobody really talks about Third Culture Adults. And I think what I am feeling and experiencing should be labeled as that. Because even though I spent almost 30 years in North American culture, there are some parts I never experience that I am experiencing now- such as being a mom of school children. This is  definitely a huge adjusting and learning process for our whole family and for the school too I am afraid!

But the real transition has been that I have tried my best to immerse myself in a completely different culture for the last three years, and jumping back into my own has been more complicated because of the new sights, sounds, and thoughts that I have been processing for three years. I can't un-see the things that I have seen that now make me view the entire world- not just these two separate and unique cultures- through different lenses. I have a whole new perspective, and as most of you know, perspective can make all the difference.

So anyway, that is my excuse for not writing. I think it is mostly the truth. (I should probably also mention Netflix as a huge contributor to my not writing if I am going to be completely honest)

But back to my "spa weekend" which was not actually a spa weekend at all, but a hysterectomy.

For this stay-at-home-mom/missionary it kinda felt like it, though. I know the Demerol had a lot to do with that feeling, but I spent several days kid free lounging on a bed or couch with people bringing things to me. I also lost eight pounds immediately and no longer look like I am four months pregnant, so yeah, I challenge any spa to beat those results!

I have been suffering from two very painful conditions for about two years now with nothing that I could do about it. And life in the jungle does not really allow me to take "sick days" every month for me to "sleep in the period hut" as my Hewa lady friends would say.

So I am now rejoicing the fact that those painful days are over and as an added bonus I will never have to deal with these annoying and embarrassing events in order to get tampons...

1. Buying an inhuman amount of tampons at Wal-mart in preparation to ship them over for the next year.

2. Running out after year one (or finding mold on half of them and having to throw them away)  and asking people to ship tampons for me. Especially going through the "what type/brand do you prefer" converstation.

3. Having to order them over the radio for a supply flight because email is down.

And you all should be happy too that you will never again after this post have to hear (read) me rant about tampons! (I know all the men who read this blog will be especially happy)

Now let's all sing the Hallelujah Chorus together!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


A friend asked me to write an article for a digital discipleship magazine. I went to the site and realized two things...

1) It was pretty hard-core must read kinda stuff that makes you think.

2) I was the only female contributor.

So, I quickly realized that its readers probably didn't want to hear my theories on first graders carrying shivs or how I only recently stopped hoarding tampons out of habit.

I had been working on a little (ok long) piece about racism in my home culture (the deep south) and the Christian church, so I tossed it out there and they edited a bit to make me sound like a much better writer than I actually am and published it.

Yeah, I'm kind of a big deal...not really...I just wanted to say that. 

 I really was just thinking about all these things as we came home and I realized that my kids no longer have a lot of interaction with people of a different race. I was concerned that the multitude of benefits that they have gained from traveling the world and spending time with people from many different cultures and races would be lost in these nine short months. I then realized this wasn't the case just in our extracurricular activities but that EVERYTHING they watch on TV mostly has white people in it (except of course for Doc McStuffins). I tried to incorporated media from other races and realized...there wasn't a lot to choose from! WHITE PEOPLE ARE EVERYWHERE!!!!

And the most disturbing thing of all was that in all the different churches we have been in there has been minimal representation from any race other than caucasian.

So I wrote this...

Just some thoughts. From a white girl. That is all.

Monday, September 1, 2014

First American Birthday

My baby turned four today. It was her fist time to celebrate the day she entered this world in America.

Birthdays one, two, and three were all celebrated in Papua New Guinea.

first birthday

second birthday

third birthday
They were all fun for her, but sort of simple. You have to get really creative in PNG and it wears me out.  So I actually enjoyed Chuck E. Cheese this year even though I think I had a tiny seizure and I am pretty sure it is some sort of secret Casino training/brainwashing center for children.

I enjoyed just going, having my kids be completely entertained, fed, filled with cake (not made by me) then leaving while someone else cleaned up the mess.

Here is Mia's first American birthday!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

More Good News!

I am just completely overwhelmed at the beautiful thing that God is doing with this horrible situation in Hewa.

We all keep praying for the seriously ill by name and the next morning they are better.

I know that God could have and could still allow some to die, and He would still be God. And He would still be good.

But...right now he is blessing us...all of us...You, Me, the Hewa People...with this gift of love and mercy. He is allowing us to all be connected to each other, through Him in a unique and powerful way. Through prayer. Through simple communication with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

Here is the latest from Susan. The names in red are the ones you have prayed for...

"Konef took a turn for the better last evening around 6 pm.  I was quite surprised to see him walking around.  From afar I saw he was dressed in new clothes and my first thoughts were, 1) I felt so bad for not reminding him that I would come to him with the medicines since he was so sick and 2) he must be dressing nice so that he has his good clothes on in the grave (this is a regular custom).  When I got up closer he said, ' I am just walking around so that I can get some exercise'.  I was shocked!  Then when I was talking to a new lady about her child's measles, he came up and began to interpret for me. (there are several different dialects in Hewa. Konef was interpreting for someone who speaks a different dialect than Susan who is fluent in another dialect of the Hewa language)  This was shocking!  He was so sick earlier that morning that he couldn't even hear us talk, and also he was so sick earlier that there was no way he could think of anything else but surviving but here he was interpreting for me!  I was over joyed! 

Anyway, all the others that were so sick are now doing much better.  Maria's little girl
(Jeni) took some steps yesterday but is not strong enough so she stumbled.  Upe is walking very little but he is NOT sleeping all day now and he is eating and drinking well.  Anyway, what I am saying is our tribe is fine now!!!
Emu brought his 6 sick nieces and nephews.  Two are sick enough that they could die.  Pray for those two now.  One is 2 years old and skin and bones.  He has been sick for a while but they didn't bring him until last night.  He looks scary like Maria and Emon's little girl
(Jeni) did.  Their 4 year old is also very sick.  That age often recovers though. 
It is nice having all the super sick there in the church but at the same time, noisy!!!  They love having a light on all night and it seems everyone wants to gather and 'shoot the breeze' late into the morning!  I really don't mind too much as I enjoy seeing life come back to our village again.  Thankfully, the sick are able to sleep right through it…such is their culture. 

Three have died in Fiyawana
(another Hewa village- you may recognize the name if you've read Jonathan's book Canopy of Darkness) so far.
Nobody has died in our neck of the woods yet though. "
Thank you everyone who is praying. I hope that you are as blessed by by this as I am. I hate that I don't know the names of the little ones who are so sick now or have their pictures. They are not from our village, so I may not have even met them. But God knows their names and He sees their faces. Please continue to pray for them. And pray that they see the love of God through the believers in our village. Emu lives close to our village and visits from time to time, but is not a believer. Please pray that God will soften his heart through this situation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Update on the Measles Outbreak

This is the latest email from Susan in Hewa:

"Wow, we are almost done with our village!!!! Wahoo!!!!!  For the first day, we have had no new cases from our village!!!!! (this means the people that we regularly live with. Our closest friends and most are believers)  I have treated over 70 now!!  The last two days I have had about 10 more cases but it is mild like maybe their vaccination worked for them somewhat.  It is so weird!  Those 10 are getting the bumps and fevers at night but they are running around during the day.  That doesn't happen with the measles so it must have to do with the fact that they got their immunizations two weeks ago today. 

Emu is on his way with 5 kids that have been sick with the measles for a week.  He came the day before yesterday to say he couldn't bring them across the river because it was swollen (water levels were too high) but our village explained the seriousness of the sickness so he went back to get them.  Some of our village men left this morning to help him get across the river with the children.  Pray for these 5 kids.  They will be very sick.

Konef is still fighting. He still could die.  He has liver damage from the illness which is a complication that adults can get.  He keeps fighting though.  We have Upe, Konef, Malawam and Biyaifa in the church now.  It has been turned into a sick ward (Emu's family will be there tonight as well).  There is a fire pit in the center too.  I am more able to monitor their health having them so close.  Emiyas' family is in the house sick and Ofa is in that little room near the house sick.  Everyone is afraid of sleeping in a house with a fire since their kids got so sick.  They finally get it that putting a feverish kid next to the fire is not healthy.  Emiyas realizes that the smoke filled house was making it harder for her Abraham to breathe. 

Right now, before the Emu group comes, Konef is the only one that could die.  The rest will pull through.  Upe is pretty bad but I still think he will pull through. 

This is a different village right now.  People are all working together to keep everyone alive.  For the first time ever, the people realize the importance of making sure people eat and drink while they are sick.  It is so wonderful to see them pushing fluids and food.  It used to be only me doing that!  Praise the Lord!  

Yesterday was the first time we saw people no longer so shell shocked.  They actually got out the ball and played.  It was the most amazing feeling, I can't explain… 

Thank you again for everyone who has been praying. Please keep the ones who are still sick in your prayers. I will list their names and pictures here...

Konef is the father in this picture. Susan is still worried for his life. Please pray for him.

These are the three teens who are currently ill, staying in the church that has been converted into a "hospital" right now...




Please also be in prayer for the group that is coming. It is always very dangerous for our people when outsiders come in and die.

Again, thank you so much for showing your love to these people through prayer!

Saturday, August 23, 2014


This is just a quick update to let you all know that all of the most critical children made it through the night!!! PRAISE JESUS!!!

I cannot express enough how much it meant to us to have so many people praying and asking others to pray on behalf of these babies who are so precious to their precious to us!

Please continue to lift them up as they will be weak for sometime. Pray that they don't get malaria or other infections as I cannot imagine that their little bodies can take much more.

Please also specifically pray for little Ablaham. He is only four months old, and will take time to recover fully.

Here is the email from Susan. I wanted you all to read it and know what you were a part of!!!!

"Well little Abraham is still alive!  His mom is such a great mom so that has been a huge relief.  If it was any other mom, little Abraham would not have gotten as much care.  She is so tuned into what is going on with him. That has been such a huge help.  Today we are noticing slight progress.  For him to recover from what his body went through would be a miracle… but today we have seen slight recovery so we are pleased. 

Great news about Maria's little one. (
Jeni- pictured in the previous post)  No more fever finally!!!!  Also she is eating.  Now that was a miracle! 

Other great news is that I only had one new case yesterday and none today.  That means we are at the tale of it for our tribe.  Praise the Lord.  On Wednesday it will have been 2 weeks since their inoculations so I don't expect any new sicknesses from our village after that…. unless the injections were not viable for whatever reason.

This morning I had many little ones turn that crucial corner.  That gives me great joy.  I just love the precious look on the parents face when I say 'he or she is now on the road to recovery, I don't need to see you anymore unless they suddenly get worse."

Anyway, I am happy and can't thank you enough for getting so many to pray.  I saw a lot of miracles today!!!   



The measles situation has gotten really bad. Several very young children and babies are close to death. My co-worker, Susan, wrote to say she doesn't think they will make it through the night.

It is currently night time in Hewa right now. Please pray all day for the lives of the precious children and for their parents. I am putting pictures and names here. Please call their names out loud before our Lord and Savior!!! Please come along side us and them- your brothers and sisters and beg for God's mercy to spare their children!!!

 Fita and Layam... (the two smallest)
Both are very sick and fighting for their lives.
Susan wrote,
"Please pray for Amon and Maria's little girl, their only child.  It looks like she will be leaving this world soon.  She has deteriorated daily.  Amon has been sick with the measles as well so he has not been able to help Maria much".

Susan wrote, "It is with a really heavy heart that I say that Emiyas' little Abraham is fighting for his life.  It doesn't look good for him.  Please pray pray pray.  He has no strength left to fight.  Please pray all day for him.  It appears he may be leaving us soon."

Please pray and share with anyone else who will pray....


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Vaccines Were Too Late

This is the email I just got from my co-worker, Susan Kopf...

"Things are crazy here.  I mean super crazy.  I never imagined this would happen.  Nearly all the child population of our village and surrounding villages have measles.  In that last 2 days, it has exploded!  We have some adults too, but it is mostly the kids.  The thing that kills the kids when they get measles is the dehydration.  Keeping the parents motivated to constantly push water and food is a challenge, but they are doing it! Praise the Lord.  There is no medicine for the measles virus so the parents have to be diligent.  I give tylenol for the high fevers (often 105) and maybe occasionally I give something to open up the bronchioles but that is all I can do, the rest is up to the parents. Thankfully, we have not had any deaths yet in our village.  We nearly did but Mikayla gave the lady (Fapiya)  an IV so she got enough fluids and is now walking around her house some.  Her husband, Konef, was at her side when she was at her worst and unfortunately, he is super sick now too.  Now two of their little ones are sick.  Fapiya lost her milk during her long sickness so that doesn't help the little boy any.  I force feed liquids to him daily.  For that age, force feed is the correct word- poor little guy.

 It is hard to name all the sick kids but for sure every single household is battling the measles right now, but families are working together to make sure everyone has good food to eat.
All the vaccinations have come and have been administered this last week, but it didn't help any for our village kids because they were infected before their shots, so each day I have another 5-8 kids that are sick.  It is such a  joy when they actually begin to pull through and I see them walk again and I no longer have to worry. 

So far there are 2 deaths in our old village and many deaths in the Paiyela villages. Those villages are blaming the sickness on Hewa ladies accusing them of being witches.  So sad."

Please pray for the Hewa children. They are our little buddies, our children's playmates, our friends' precious babies...

Please also pray for the adults...even entire families who are sick...

This young mother, Kisam and her baby Korban are both very ill.

Konef, Fapiya, Layam, and Pita (the two youngest) are also very sick.

All of these children are sick- Djus, Sipela, and Fongol

And baby Ablaham

Our hearts are heavy right now for all of our loved ones who are sick and suffering, and for the innocent women and children who may be blamed for this sickness and killed as witches.

Please pray for them all! Please also pray for Susan, who has malaria right now as and she is currently treating all those her are ill by herself. Her daughter, Mikayla, was helping her but recently had to return to the US.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

First Day

So the first day of school turned out ok. Everyone survived. It was touch and go there for me at first, but in the end I pulled through.

Here they are getting ready to leave...

I took them into their classrooms and they were not scared at all. Both were just happy to be there. I am praising the Lord for this, because if they asked even once to go back home I would have taken them right back out the door.

Then I got a this pic and a good update from this amazing angelic being named Amy, who is now my favorite person in the world!!

But I need you to be honest. Look closely at the kids in the background of this picture. Have you seen any of their faces in a mug shot before? Look closely now...does it look like any of them are hiding a shiv??? Don't sugar coat anything. I'd rather know now, honestly.

At the end of the day they all ended up back in my van just inches away from me where they belong. They were very happy with the whole "first day of school" experience and Lucy's teacher even called me just to tell me that she had a good day, so she obviously will be teacher of the year and if not, then we all know it's because of politics and nepotism...probably both.

*On a very serious and completely unrelated note, please pray for the Hewa people as we have just found out that the measles are going around and one child has already died. Susan is currently waiting on vaccines that will supposedly cover five villages of people. Please pray that the vaccines come in quickly and that there are no more deaths!*

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Control Freak

I have never considered myself a control freak, but I sit here tonight trying to hold tightly to the reins of a horse that someone else is riding...or two someones I guess.

My two oldest girls go to school tomorrow. Like real, get there early, sack lunch carrying, raise your hand if you have to go to the bathroom, not in your pajamas school. And most definitely mom is not there all the time school.

The girls are excited. The mom is not.

There are so many things with jungle life that I can't control. The weather doesn't cooperate for the plane to come in. The lady I asked to show up for a language session doesn't. My kids get malaria no matter how many precautions I take against it.  The food I ordered to feed overnight guests arrives on the flight that they leave.

But I can deal with all of those things because what really matters, my family, is always right beside me. I know where they are and what they are doing at all times. I control who they are with and what they see, eat, touch, smell, and hear. It's like there are strings attached to all five of their senses and I am the puppet master on the other end of those strings. And I like that. I like it A LOT.

Tomorrow I will lose that control for several hours and it is killing me! I know at some point they need this experience and they need me to cut those strings, but I just don't want it to be tomorrow. (Thursday is a terrible day to start school anyway, right).

The blessing that comes from all that control is the preservation of their innocence. I like that they are six and eight and they act like they are six and eight, and they only know what a six and eight year old should know.

However, I consistently hear that Still Small Voice in my ear asking me how I can trust Him with them in the jungle, but not at school. So I let go a little. My knuckles turn light pink instead of burn-your-retinas-white as I loosen the tight grip I have on these two very large pieces of my heart.

Then He reminds me that I could grip Him so tight that my knuckles go back to burn-your-retinas-white if I let go of them.

So I'm letting go of what I never really had control over anyway...I'm letting go of the imaginary to cling to what is real and true. And I know that He is holding them tighter than I ever could anyway.

Happy first day of school, Lucy and Mattie! I love you!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Healing For Hewa

In October of 2012 we moved into the Hewa tribe. Just a few months before that- June of 2012- a team of medical missionaries led by Dr. Allen Sawyer and aided by Samaritan's purse came into the village to treat medical and dental needs but more importantly to teach on pregnancy and childbirth.

What happened was unprecedented with many cultural taboos being broken. But people listened and as a result we've seen many healthy changes in childbirth practices (like not cutting the umbilical cord with any dirty thing that is relatively sharp and lying around). This was truly a blessing to the Hewa people and to us as missionaries to these people who we love so much.

Please watch and enjoy...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Faimpat Stood

These two stories are the accounts of what happened at the "witch court" according to two of our Hewa Church leaders. Thank you all so much for your interest and prayers for these women and children. Many of them are our neighbors and precious friends. Please continue to pray for all Hewa women marked as witches and for God's Word to change the hearts and beliefs of the Hewa people!

Faimpat Stood  by Jonathan Kopf

Court case #1
            The Paiela men who are threatening many Hewa women and children have set their sights on the two sisters Kentam and Sopam. Their mother had been murdered as a “witch” and then later their brothers were also killed for the same reason. Since their last brother’s death in 2010, their uncle Iso has helped them move from one place to another in the mountains, hoping to spare their lives. During that time a man named Nelison took both sisters as his wives and since then a few children have been born while they were on the run. 
            Most of the men that are hungry to kill the two sisters and their children did not consent to come to the court session held in Fiyawena, but the judges decided to allow Iso to present the cause of his nieces who are currently in hiding. Iso has never shown interest in things of the Bible so he began his argument in the traditional way, with a history lesson to shift blame from the two sisters back to the Paiela people. He said, “The Paiela men keep saying sicknesses and deaths in their villages are caused by my clan, but the fact is it all started when a Paiela woman named Akak gave human flesh disguised as sweet potato to a Hewa woman named Patiyopoya. The Hewa woman unwittingly ate the flesh and immediately became possessed by an evil spirit who caused much sickness and death. Patiyopoya in turn later did the same thing, giving human flesh to another unsuspecting Hewa woman, who in turn did the same thing, which happened again until eventually Kentam and Sopam’s mother became spirit possessed. Subsequently she and her other children were murdered as witches. So you see the reason the two young ladies are now being accused by Paiela men is because much earlier one of their own woman started this whole mess. The Paiela men cannot blame my two nieces when the problem originated with them.”
            The two government appointed court officials from Porgera listened to the case and heard the rebuttals of the few Paiela men who were present and after several hours of discussion made this offer to Iso. “We don’t really know what to say about this case but if you pay an additional 200 Kina to us we will write an official document that will make it a crime for anyone to murder the two ladies. If the men choose to ignore the document they will face time in jail.”
            The Paiela men who were present were not happy and contested the idea saying they had a right to avenge the deaths of the people of their village and to stop future deaths by killing the women. They said that the court had no business interfering by making it illegal to kill the women.
            The court officials stood their ground and said that if the Paiela wished to contest their decision they could later bring the case to a higher level court in Porgera. Iso was pleased with the outcome and purchased the court document in hopes that it will save the lives of his nieces and their children.

            So, was this a victory for righteousness and justice? Iso may have bought a little extra time for the sisters and their children but I have lived with the Hewa long enough to know that when a few more people get sick and die, in the Paiela villages, of sicknesses such as malaria or pneumonia, the Paiela men will become enraged and kill the women in an effort to stop future sicknesses and deaths. The court document will not change their belief system and threat of jail will not curb their desire to kill women, and it certainly won’t stop them from using death threats as a way to steal Hewa land.

Court case #2
            Waina and Yanis’ account of the next court session provided me with a little more hope for the future safety of Hewa women. Not long ago the Paiela men chose to blame a girl named Loreme for a few recent deaths. When she learned of these accusations she was so afraid of being murdered she deflected their accusations by pointing to a different young lady named Yamene saying, “Everyone knows she is a witch, so quit looking at me.” As pressure increased for Loreme her accusations of Yamene increased until she was leading a, “Get rid of Yamene,” crusade. Many Paiela men decided to join Loreme’s line of logic and even a few Hewa men jumped on board, calling for Yamene’s execution.
            When this case was brought before the two judges who had arrived from the town of Porgera, they questioned Loreme as to why she was accusing Yamene. “Did you see an evil spirit?” they asked. “Do you have some sort of proof she is actually possessed?”
            Loreme was unable to speak in the presence of the judges. She was so scared by having been pulled into court that after a little stammering and stuttering she got up to leave among ripples of laughter.
            The older of the two judges named Evan, spoke up. “Everyone is so eager to murder women and children.”
            The group who had gathered to listen became quiet.
            “You are acting like ignorant heathens.”
            He had everyone’s attention.
            “I realize that us Paiela people and you Hewa people share the common practice of killing spirit possessed people, but that was before we started attending church. Earlier you villagers hadn’t heard about God but now that your missionary arrived you need to quit killing your witches. Instead, bring them to church. Jesus didn’t kill people who were possessed by spirits and He didn’t tell His disciples to kill them. Instead he sent the evil spirits into pigs so the possessed people would recover. You need to bring the possessed people to church to let God help them rather than to kill them.”
            That’s when the young man Faimpat, who normally resides in our village, jumped to his feet unable to contain himself any longer. “You all act as if you have no understanding,” he said, pointing around to the crowd. “God gave us missionaries to teach us that if we turn to God we don’t have to be afraid of the spirit realm but you have continued to hold stubbornly to your ancestral ways,” he said, his face a deep crimson. “You are bent on killing women like your fathers and grandfathers did, and not one of you speaks up for the truth of God’s Word, only this judge is bold enough to remind you of stories from the Bible. You should be ashamed!”
            No one objected and it was clear Faimpat was just getting started. He was still unmarried and because of his youth did not carry much weight among the clans but his zeal for the Lord had not gone unnoticed since he left the witch doctors school in 2008 and surrendered his life to Jesus. “The missionary showed us from Mark five and nine that our ancestors were deeply mistaken when they told us our mothers and sisters were possessed by spirits, and that even if they were possessed we were not to kill them, but instead ask for the power of Jesus to set them free. He started teaching us those things years ago, and yet here we are still killing and planning to kill our own family members. Each one of you men should be deeply ashamed that you listen to these accusations instead of crushing them with the truth that we have now heard from God’s book.”
            According to Waina and Yanis, Faimpat continued for quite a while, calling for people to turn from the beliefs of the ancestors in order to save the lives of their own family members. A few of the other believers also joined in, supporting the Biblical concepts that are so foreign to the tribal way of thinking.
In the end, the court officials ruled on behalf of Yamene and demanded that Loreme and her Paiela relatives pay 500 Kina as an apology to Yamene. The judges also said that the Hewa who had joined Loreme in her accusations were to pay four pigs to settle the dispute.
            “When you have paid the money and pigs, you are never to blame Yamene for sickness and death, do you hear?” the judge said. “These accusations have to stop here and now.”

            Thank you for joining us in prayer for the sake of the Hewa women and children who are being accused of causing sicknesses and deaths. We realize this culture has been held in the grip of Satan’s lies since the beginning of their time and it will take years for the truth of God’s Word to spread to all the Hewa hamlets and villages to help change their way of thinking, but we believe that as you, God’s children, call out to Him to transform hearts, the old strongholds will fall. Please continue to pray that believers like Faimpat, Waina, and Yanis will be bold to speak for righteousness and that God’s Spirit will revolutionize this culture so that instead of the men killing women and children they will become preachers of righteousness who will bring these next generations safely into God’s family."

Faimpat teaching in church


Monday, June 30, 2014

Dear Mississippi

Dear Mississippi,

We love you and we promise we are coming back. We have a vast number of people and churches that we can't wait to visit! We are putting our kids in school in the Magnolia State in August, so we will be living in the Jackson area for the majority of our nine month furlough.

We planned on visiting with most of our friends and supporting churches in Mississippi when we got back from our summer tour of churches in the Southeast since we will have way more time there than any other place in America.

Our little family has just spent the last two weeks traveling through North Mississippi and Central Alabama and have had an incredible time laughing, crying, and above all eating with the friends and family that are so precious to us. We will spend the next four weeks with my mom, sister, and nephew in North Carolina.

There will certainly be more short jaunts here and there, but we will pretty much be in Mississippi until January when we plan to do a "goodbye tour" before heading back to Hewa in February.

Here are just a few hightlights from our travels so far...

This is our sending church. There are no words for how much we love the people in this place!!!

Some dear friends/supporters who have been a huge encouragement to us since we were just a young engaged couple in ministry.

Slip-n-slide fun at the Hamby House. We would most certainly not be in missions today without this incredible family.

George girls with the Hamby clan.

A sweet friend and supporter who I haven't seen in over 10 years!! (ps- Jennifer you haven't aged at all!)

A BFF from our days in youth ministry in Eclectic. Don't know what I would do without this one! 

And the rest of the crew from our Eclectic, AL days (minus Jacie above) I think I have laughed more with these people than I have with all other people collectively over the course of my life.

Grandpa (my dad) seeing his granddaughters for the first time in 3 years.

All the traveling has Lucy missing her Hewa home. She drew this picture a few days ago.

Meeting the donkey "Sanchez" at Aunt Kathy's house.

All three girls got to ride this horse appropriately named "Hope". Mattie enjoyed it the most by far!

Showing off our Hewa gear.

Crazy kid fun! 

More of my sweet family (minus a few)!

As you can see we have been really busy and had more fun than should be allowed for one family in such a short amount of time. We had so much fun that I realize I missed getting a lot of pictures that I really need. So if you have some pictures of any of our time together please email them to me! I would love to have them all! (