Friday, October 30, 2015


The last five days have felt like Hewa again. Our typical day starts with the surrounding mountains tucked into their fleecy white blankets of cloud and fog. They stay that way until the sun lazily makes its way to the top of our eastern mountain and cooks off those clouds and fog. You can't even think about using any power or having a plane land before 9:30 am. The sun then takes over for the rest of the day, giving us power and everyone enough light and warmth to work. Then late afternoon, the clouds roll back in and bring rain for the evening. This is daily life here. All year long. Sure there are "rainy seasons" and "dry seasons" but that usually means a little more rain than normal or a little less rain than normal. Over the last five days, that pattern has returned giving us the rain that was so desperately needed. We are hoping and praying this pattern lasts.

The typical dry season is nothing like what we have been experiencing. This isn't a dry season, it's a drought. And during this drought the sun comes up bright and strong early in the morning, lasting all day with no clouds in sight. There has been an eery haze covering everything from all the fires burning gardens and jungle all over the country. It's like we are constantly looking through our screened windows even when we are standing out on the wide open airstrip…like there are screens on our eyes.

It took four days, but now on day five, the haze is gone and we can see the crisp clear lines of the jungle again.

So, if you are praying for rain - keep it up! We truly appreciate everyone's emails of prayer and encouragement. We also really appreciate everyone who has asked about donating money to bring in relief in the form of food supplies. Right now, we are trying to figure out a good way for you to do that. So please, hold off on sending funds specifically for drought relief until we figure out the best way for you to do so.

We recently received the unfortunate news that we can no longer get tax deductions for our children if we have foreign earned income (Which according to the IRS, we do. I guess they figure that since most other countries' child labor laws are more lax than those of the U.S. our kids must be working and supporting themselves now). Our income tax for the year has significantly increased because of this. So we are trying to figure out how you all can donate for the drought in a way that does not have to come through our personal income, as we would like to have 100% of your donations go straight to providing food for the Hewa.

The greatest thing you can do for now is pray that the rains continue. We read several news articles that said the drought is supposed to last through December because of "El Niño" but we know that God is bigger than any weather patterns. He created those weather patterns and can do with them as He wishes. If the rains continue as normal, the Hewa will need outside help for just a short time until the gardens start producing again. This is the best case scenario for all of us.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Out of Control

We still haven't had any rain. We could hear thunder coming from other mountains. Taunting us. There isn't even any dew on the ground. I walk our grass airstrip most mornings for exercise and my feet usually get soaked. By the time I come to the house my shoes are squishing out water with every step and I can ring lots of water out of my socks.

This has not happened in weeks.

There are other factors attributed to this drought that are making life hard for the people here (including us). The ground is so dry and cracked that bugs are going into the ground to eat the few sweet potatoes everyone has left. I walked through the dry anemic vines of sweet potato in my own garden yesterday thinking that it is now time for what I planted six moths ago to be harvested. Normally, harvest time for me is very frustrating. The vines are so full, thick, and tangled that it takes longer to find the original mound than it does to actually dig the potato out of the ground. This time it was very easy to see the source of the vine, although harvesting did bring some disappointment. I was able to pull out a couple of decent sized potatoes, but then noticed that I only had small nubs in other places with the obvious nibble marks of an insect's pinchers. It was hard to realize that the same thing is happening to my friends, who don't have frozen veggies to fall back on stored in freezers.

Another unexpected hardship with this drought is fire. I know that sounds dumb, because drought always brings fire problems in the U.S. but I just never considered it here. I tried to burn my trash a few days ago and the flames quickly spread into my garden. Fortunately, we were able to put the fire out pretty quickly. However, a huge part of gardening here for the Hewans includes clearing land and burning it to get ready to plant. People are still doing this in order to be ready to plant as soon as rain comes. Yesterday as one of our friends was burning a garden a good safe distance away from his house, the fire soon got out of control. The flames actually travelled underground through the dried root system, up into the stumps and logs surrounding his house. My husband had to run up there with his chainsaw and cut logs that were literally in flames, so everyone could roll them down into the river and away from his house.

Everyone is getting desperate, and is constantly coming to tell my husband that their gardens are done and in one or two weeks time they will no longer have any food to feed their children. Meanwhile he is doing all he can to plan for and get help. He's writing anyone he thinks will listen and help and we are paying for flights so that our village can buy rice. It's a lot of pressure and frustration for him. Kinda like a doctor trying to save a dying man while his entire family knocks on the door of the operating room to tell that doctor, "Did you know this man is dying? Can you help him please?" And when he tells them the days the plane is coming so they can start gathering money to buy food they ask, "What about our brothers in ________ village? Their gardens are dry too." All we can do is say we're sorry. The plane is small and can only carry so much and we can't afford to pay for a flight for every single Hewa village (there are a lot of them) nor is there an airstrip in most of these villages.

Today he held a pray meeting for all the believers to remind them that they need to put their trust in God, not him, and not the government or other aid relief. He planned to have everyone read and study Matthew 6:25-27, but then realized those verses have not been translated into Hewa yet. So here we are in the middle of the jungle, desperate to help desperate people. Doing what is supposed to be our "real job" in discipling believers in times of trouble rather than just solving all their problems for them, and we can't even share meaningful, life-giving verses to the people.

It was a great reminder, though, that this IS our real job. To get the Word in their hands because we won't be here forever. We may not be here for the next drought, but if we do our jobs correctly then God's Word will be. They won't have us to turn to - only Him, and He is a much better source of help. The ONLY source of true help and comfort.

But…that doesn't mean we sit here and do nothing. We're still doing whatever we can: writing reports, petitioning - begging everyone we can, paying for flights so they can buy rice. They may be missing a lot of God's Word right now, so we must become that Word. The living verses. Showing them that God WILL provide for them, and maybe this time he is providing through some inadequate Americans pleading their case to whoever will listen.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Random Thoughts

Since I have no internet and cannot post my every random thought that I feel like sharing with the world, I thought I would do it here. I have tried to "post by email" through facebook and twitter, but it has never worked. Our email out here is set up in a weird way (too confusing and boring to explain), so I can't set up those things while we are in town and have real internet. So, I'll just do it here.

Here are my random thoughts and the dates I had them:

9/30- We're back in the tribe! Listening to my friends tell me how all our guinea pigs, some of our chickens, and one of our cats died while we were gone. This is a typical "coming back" conversation.

9/30- It's been 30 minutes of listening to village news. I have seven more minutes before my freezer goods become a melted pile of bacteria and wasted money.

10/4- Listening to a Sunday sermon on not eating food sacrificed to idols or spirits. In the literal sense. That's a first.

10/5- My husband just ran off to try to stop a fight over a bride price. Freaked out a little. Will he come home with an arrow in his leg? #missionaryproblems

10/5- No bows and arrows, just rocks and sticks. Fight is over for now. Husband is exhausted but safe. Thank you Jesus!

10/5- The fight in the village today over pigs given in a bride price makes me question how many pigs I would be worth?

10/5- Probably not very many. I am not that great at gardening/cooking/raising pigs.

10/6- I made homemade mayonnaise today and now I feel like I can accomplish anything. Also, this should make me worth at least two more pigs.

10/9- The drought here is getting really bad. I keep hearing this phrase over and over, "My garden is dry. What will I eat?" #worried

10/16- Mia is throwing up. Vomit laundry in the jungle is THE WORST.

10/17- Up all night with a sick kid. The church horn blows at 6 am. #notgoing #badmissionary

10/17- Mia hasn't thrown up since early this morning. Going to bed. Might actually sleep tonight! PTL

10/17- My husband just woke me up to tell me there is a snake in the house, and he needs to me watch the other side of the wall to make sure it doesn't slither in here. Instead, I'm trying to figure out how to purchase international plane tickets at 11:00 at night over a satellite phone.

10/17- The snake is dead. He said it was small and not poisonous. I guess I will stop looking for the gasoline and matches.

10/17- My husband says that even if it were big and/or poisonous, he wouldn't let me burn the house down. #wordsthatleadtodivorce

10/17- Snake is gone. Kids are settled back in bed. Seriously, I WILL sleep tonight.

10/18 (a little after midnight)- Mia threw up in her bed. Another sleepless night and more vomit laundry.

10/18 (a little after midnight)- My husband said he would stay up with Mia tonight, so I could sleep. #wordsthatleadtophysicalaffection #butnottonight

10/18- There is a big village discussion going on about who Lona will marry. It is between two guys...the one with the most pigs will win. Her opinion counts the least.

10/18- Keti cut off a finger in order to marry the man she wanted. I wonder if Lona prefers either of these guys enough to go that far?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Drought

It hasn't rained a drop in 13 days. And before that, there were only a few light and random showers. If I had internet out here I would google how much rainfall the rainforest is supposed to get annually… but spoiler alert…it's a lot. I mean the whole ecosystem is named because of the absurd amount of rain that falls on it. So, as you can imagine, when you take the "rain" out of "rainforest" everything sort of collapses. 

We are on the verge of collapse now. Here are some things we've heard in conversations just in the last three days…

"Everything I just planted is ruined. Nothing is growing."

"My new garden is completely dry."

"My garden isn't making food, so I am wondering, 'What will I eat?'"

A couple of days ago we walked around several gardens to see the damage, and honestly, it was frightening. We felt the impending burden of hundreds of hungry bellies placed on our shoulders. 

But the latest statement/question really got to me...

"Can you give me milk for my piglets? Two have already died because they root in the ground for food but there is nothing there."

 If/when the pigs start dying, people are gonna lose it. 

Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions for us. There are no provincial government funds to feed these people. I have no doubt, that we could raise enough money to feed our village (and maybe even a couple of others) to get them through these next few months, but that will bring a lot of trouble into our backyard. 

We could feed the Hewans, but if no one is feeding their more aggressive neighbors who are used to bullying whoever it takes to get what they want when they want it, then guess where they will come to get their food?

Right now there are some people with a large local company who are trying to raise funds/supplies to help. We're praying that it is enough help for the surrounding area so our people don't become targets/victims for their hungry, angry neighbors. And we aren't certain how much or how often this food will come. These people have no way to store food long term. Rats will eat anything not in sturdy containers (which the people don't have). There are no refrigerators, freezers, or even can openers. We're praying for answers to all of these obstacles, but most of all we're praying for rain. 

My poor husband is shouldering most of this burden. Thankfully, one of the first Hewa missionaries who is now in a leadership position here in PNG, made the contact for the company who is trying to help. So, John Michael has been emailing reports, collecting data, taking and sending pictures (not easy over a short-wave radio). All the while having to stop to listen to someone else in the village telling him how bad it is and begging for help. Between breaking up fights, listening to complaints, and writing reports, he has accomplished a lot in the last two weeks. My greatest accomplishments were making homemade mayonnaise (in the blender, not even by hand) and getting my kindergartener to successfully write the letter "e" (it's a tough one, y'all). Basically, the only support I offer him is... "I'm sorry for all that is going on, here is a sandwich (with mayonnaise) and at least you can celebrate that your child won't be illiterate for much longer."

It seems like the really difficult things always happen here while one set of co-workers is in America. While we were gone, the huge measles outbreak happened and I'm pretty sure Susan didn't sleep at all for six weeks straight. And now we're here trying to figure out how to feed people who live day to day off of the food they grow in the ground when the ground won't grow any food. 

Jesus take the wheel. And you guys take a knee…or two. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Fight

We arrived back into the village about a week and a half ago. It already feels like months. When we were on furlough, a couple of people asked me, "Don't you get bored out there?" Ha! I would love a chance to get bored! I would marry bored if it ever came to visit me out here! 

When we got back there was the normal checking of the house/unpacking/catching up with the people. I have learned exactly how many minutes* I can leave boxes full of frozen goods on my floor while I visit with Hewa ladies. It always feels kinda jerkish to come back after a break, give a quick, "What's Up?" and go straight into the house to unpack. 

The house was good. Nothing broken or stolen and no rats (Please sing the Hallelujah chorus with me). And even though the spiders wrapped every single solitary thing they could in cobwebs, I outsmarted them by putting every single solitary thing I could in a plastic tub or drum, so HA Spiders! I win. Although, it didn't feel like a win as I was unpacking every single solitary thing we own. 

As I was visiting with my friend, Ofa, I found out that there had been a bride price payment right before we arrived and there would be another one in the next week. My anxiety rose slightly as I knew that this was an event where a lot of people from surrounding villages would be here and a lot of those people would be looking for a fight. It gets real around here when people start passing out pigs and money. 

A few days later I hear a one of the many yells/chants that Hewans use to communicate to the whole village. It didn't sound good, but I didn't hear the tale-tell high pitched "oooooh-WOO" at the end which usually means death, so I didn't worry too much. Then I started hearing screaming. Then there was all the running. Hewans running is never a good sign. They can out walk/hike Bear Gryllis, but they rarely ever run. My kids were in my co-workers Mulberry tree, so I yelled at them to get down and get in the house. My husband was 600 meters away at the bottom of the airstrip cutting grass on the tractor. I ran to where I knew he could see me and jumped up and down while waving my arms. Those still running toward the fight, stopped to give me a questioning look, then started running again…(an even worse sign when you don't care that the white lady is doing something weird.) John Michael drove as fast as he could on the tractor (not very fast) up to me to see what was going on. When I told him it was a fight, he jumped off the tractor and headed in the direction of the yelling. 

I went back to house with the kids, and tried to get in touch with someone on our mission base just in case things got out of hand and we needed to fly out…the next day…it was 5 pm. There would be no flying out until the next day no matter how bad it got. 

Fortunately, people were only armed with sticks and rocks, and John Michael was able to take them away from most and in one case, spike a huge rock to ground as the person holding it started flinging it towards his target. I told you, these people don't play about pigs, y'all. 

It turns out, some guys from another village got mad because no one paid them a pig in the bride price, so they circled two people's houses with guns while calling out fighting words (chants). Then they just stole the pigs they wanted. And they stole them from the two most hot headed guys in our village, so naturally a fight ensued. John Michael was able to get everyone calmed down, and some of our Bible teachers acted as middle men to get everything under control until they could all formally discuss and appropriately punish the instigators. 

Then the next day, there was another bride price. 

We attended this one as a family and listened to an impassioned speech by the groom's family telling the bride's family that a fair price is being paid, and if anyone on their side is mad about not getting a pig then you have to deal with it within your family. It seemed to work pretty well because the only fight with this bride price was between two brothers. There isn't really a way for a bunch of people to take sides in their own family so they just calmed them down and worked it out. 

And that was our week. How was yours? 

*37- this is the tropics