The rain is falling for the third or fourth time today. Some days, I can’t keep track. The dog is hiding under the house and the cats are cuddled up on the porch. It’s a night like any other here in the Papua New Guinea Highlands.
We don’t know how many we’ll have left.
I lead devotions on Tuesday night, because it is the night for our regional conference call. Tonight we prayed the Litany —
“To rule and govern Your holy Christian Church; to preserve all pastors and ministers of Your Church in the true knowledge and understanding of Your wholesome Word and to sustain them in holy living;
To put an end to all schisms and causes of offense; to bring into the way of truth all who have erred and are deceived;
To beat down Satan under our feet, to send faithful laborers into Your harvest, and to accompany Your Word with Your grace and Spirit. —
We implore you to hear us, Good Lord.” (Lutheran Service Book, p. 288)
And we sang “The Church’s One Foundation” –
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, Her Lord;
She is His new creation, by water and The Word.
From heav’n He came and sought her, to be His holy Bride;
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died. (Lutheran Service Book, p. 644)
That got me to thinking about Donna. Donna is an incredibly special woman who has been a missionary for several years. She retired from being a teacher and then went and served in Guinea. After her term in Guinea, she signed up again and went to Indonesia. At the school in Indonesia, someone accused them of evangelizing, and they were deported, and then she was sent to New Guinea, where I met her. She hugged me with great energy the first time we met. Donna equals warmth and comfort.
Our first weeks, we were neighbors with Donna. She would sit on the porch swing every morning, singing hymns. Often, Jeff and I were still lying in bed, trying to process this amazing place before we were inundated with it again. Donna told us that before she was deported from Indonesia, she sat and sang hymns while she waited alone to find out what was going to happen to her.
I’ve been singing a lot more hymns lately — either out loud or in my head.
This morning, Anton sent me a picture of the latest article in the paper, accusing us of not even being missionaries and being criminals (who, us? really???) and I’ve been thinking that it might be time to start getting a suitcase ready. We have not been served any papers, and if we get deported, I am not sure that the laws will be followed – they certainly haven’t been thus far.
Tonight, the thought popped into my head: “If I were to need to put my whole life into a suitcase, what would I pick?” Thus far, I have my favorite mauve vest. I don’t wear it here. It’s usually too warm or too cold. I’m not sure it even fits anymore. Without hesitation, I grabbed our Advent wreath, then our wedding picture and the kids’ baptismal portraits. I probably will try to cram in our Christmas ornaments — all of them were picked each year and commemorate something that happened in the year. I will miss my Mexican blankets. I haven’t used them here, but I’ve had them since before I was married, and they are still warm and soft. I will also miss the spice houses my mother bought me as a wedding present. Maybe if there is room somewhere. It seems like a weird list of things.
The Christmas things have a particular value. Our stuff hadn’t arrived yet last Christmas. We had been traveling in early December and very eager to get home to Timothy so that we could be at church again. Culture shock slammed into us as we sat in church on that 3rd Sunday of Advent, and they sang the exact same songs they’d sung since we arrived, and the exact same songs they’ve sung ever since. The bush is the same, the weather is the same, the roads are the same. Nothing was different. I don’t want to feel that way again at Christmas.
There is a pervading sense of calm. The newspapers may attack or defend, but here, the rain falls, the cats cry on the porch as if I hadn’t just given them a pile of bacon rinds ten minutes ago, and the day just kind of meanders to night, like every other day.
Whatever happens, God is good.