Why I Love Papua New Guinea

December 20th started early, with Jeff, Maggie and I piling into the Land Cruiser.  We were going to Kaipale for their special Christmas service.  Pastor Ki had invited Jeff to come and preach.

The sun was shining, the air was barely warm, and the road was rough — as always.  As we drove, we looked out20141220_150347 over the trees and watched the warmth create clouds from the hillsides.  We rose over 3000 feet as we drove from Birip to Sirunki.  We were no longer in a valley, but were on the saddle of the mountain range.  We drove by Lake Sirunki where many LCMS missionary families used to go to relax and play with their families. The warm air turned cool.  Everything just felt good.

Jeff parked the Land Cruiser at the gate and about a hundred people lined up along the path from the car to the door of the church.  We shook hands with men, women, children, and lapuns (elderly).  Greetings of “Merry Christmas” were exchanged, even by those who only speak Engan, because “Merry Christmas” is “Merry Christmas” in Engan (it is always interesting to see what words have made it into Engan from English). I can never get over the welcomes we receive, especially from the lapuns.  Most of them don’t speak a word of English or Tok Pisin, but their joy is substantial.  They shake my hand with energy, speaking rapidly in Enga.  They consider the time when the missionaries were in Enga before as a golden age, a time when things were good.  Since they left, times have been hard.  They see our faces, and they have hope that things will come better again.  It is humbling.

The guitars started playing as we sat down on the bench to the side of the chancel.  The guitars play harder and the people sing louder when the missionaries come.  A woman was sitting there already with a young baby in her bilum.  She let Maggie and me peek inside “Her name is Michelle,” the mom said. “She is getting baptized today.  Another mom sat down with a very handsome baby boy.

The service started, and Pastor Ki’s warmth reflected from his eyes and his smile as he conducted the liturgy both in Engan and Tok Pisin.  Jeff got up and preached the sermon.

Kaipale is one congregation in Sirunki.   Sirunki is the center of The Spirit Movement, a false teaching that proclaims that the Father created the world and then went away.  The Son redeemed the world and then went away.  Now is the time of the Spirit — and dreams, prophecy, and intuition are better than Holy Scripture.  Kaipale is faithful to Scripture and orthodox Christianity and it is important to keep them strong.  The God who was born a baby and died on the cross to save them has not left and forgotten them.  In Heaven, He continues to love them, to prepare a place for them, to sit at the right hand of God the Father, who is also caring for them and providing them with their daily bread.20141220_124306

After the sermon came the baptisms — seven people stood in the first row in front of the chancel.  Six mothers holding six babies, and one old man.  Behind each of the women, forming a second row, was a man — the father of each baby.  In baptisms here, the mother holds each baby upright, and the pastor goes by and baptizes each one, taking water from a bowl held by someone next to him.  Today, Jeff baptized each person as Pastor Ki held the bowl.  I could see the water pouring from Jeff’s hand over each head.  When everyone took their seats again, seven small puddles sat on th20141220_125647e floor.

Two young female confirmands came forward.  The head man and head meri, the layleaders of the congregation, came forward and stood beside them to show that they had been examined and accepted.  The faith these young women professed was the faith of the Bible and that congregation.  Pastor Ki stood behind, with his hand on each woman’s head as Jeff blessed them, one at a time.

Then Holy Communion.  Everyone lined up for Christmas Communion.  All of the congregations in the area have not been able to have communion for a while.  Pastor Danny, who usually brings communion 20141220_130506wine from Lae, had his last shipment confiscated by the police, despite having a letter from the police chief.  So today, Communion was especially joyful.

More songs and then more handshakes and joy. A three hour service full of good teaching and the joy of bringing people dead in their sins into Christ through baptism.  If it had been five hours, it would still be too short.

The faith, the joy, and the perseverence of the Engans always brings us so much joy.  “I can’t believe they pay me to do this.” Jeff whispered to me in the middle of the service.  In a period of leaving the country, re-entering the country, and possibly re-leaving the country over and over again — it can be hard to remember this. It had been ten months since I’d been able to go out with Jeff when he preached. Being in the congregations always grounds me and reminds me why God has brought us here.  It truly is an honor and a privilege to work among these people who need the assurance of God’s love, and in return, give the same reassurance.

Merry Christmas.

A Day Like Any Other Day

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.

A Bathtub? Inconceivable!

I had a bathtub in Enga…at my foot was the washcloth and bubbles….

While we were in Australia, Harry installed a bathtub in our bathroom.  Our shower needed replaced, so we decided this was a good time to go for a bathtub.  They were for sale in Mt. Hagen.

I view my house in a different light now.  It’s amazing.

I am not a shower person.  I will endure them, but they are a sensory assault.  The water is generally the wrong temperature, at least at first.  Part of my body is cold even if I find a satisfying temperature overall.  Depending on the shower, the spray can be a dribble or a full, pelting assault.  I don’t feel like certain parts of me get truly clean or rinsed.  And besides that, it is almost impossible to read in the shower.  A shower is a terrible way to greet the morning (which I don’t greet enthusiastically anyway) and a totally unrelaxing way to finish a day.

I’m sure many of you don’t agree with me.  But that’s okay.  You’re just wrong.

A bathtub on the other hand, awaits with its clear pool of warmth.  It soothes the skin and envelopes the body.  It invites one to recline.  It allows for contemplation and processing.  As a mom, there have been some times in my life where a bath has been the ONLY place I could think, or read.

Those of you who truly know me know what a big deal this is.  For me, it is the difference between a hostel and a home.  I may stay somewhere many years, but without a bathtub, there is no way it qualifies as home.  It’s simply a place to sleep, a stopping point on the way to a destination…that has a bathtub.

It very possibly is the only bathtub in the whole province.  A year ago, I’d feel very self-conscious about that, but now I know it probably is one of the key things that keeps me happy and helps me do my job (okay, I don’t know what that is, but it helps me do it).   I’m all for things that keep me from going finish or going crazy.  Okay, so some people are happy with a chocolate bar – I am a bit high maintenance.

 

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

I’m not a farmer, I’m a city girl, so it is an interesting experience to me to eat something that I just saw walking around.

On Saturday, the women of our Bible Study brought us food.  They brought things from their gardens – potatoes, kau kau (sweet potato), pumpkin, onion, and cabbage.  Nancy also mentioned, when she told me this would be happening, that they would bring a chicken.  When someone comes back from the hospital, especially after they have surgery, it is traditional to kill a pig, to help the person get their blood back.  They didn’t have a pig, so she said they were bringing chicken.  She said it would happen in the afternoon.

Five o’clock passed, so I had the feeling that they were cooking whatever they were bringing.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The ladies came at 6:15 or so – just after the six o’clock screechy bugs sang, with a bag of vegetables – and a chicken.  A very active chicken.  She was quite handsome, and as the ladies sat down around our porch, the chicken moseyed around.

I offered everyone coffee, and they nodded.  But Jeff mentioned that we had Pepsi – and they all exclaimed “Yes, Pepsi!”

There is a story behind that:

When I was away in The States, Jeff continued to host Bible Study, and he would make coffee.  Jeff has no clue how to make coffee.  Nancy told him later that it was bad, but nothing goes to waste here.  One of the meris whispered to another meri “If you drink my coffee, I will give you buai.”  The other meri agreed.  But as soon as she finished “That was terrible.  I am going to need that buai.”

We all sat around a bit, chatting a little, but Papua New Guinea is not a huge culture for small talk, and it is not one of my gifts either.  After a bit, Nancy said “Lora, we will go home now,” and with that, I thanked them again and thanked them for coming to my home, and they smiled, nodded, and most of them were gone.

Before she left, Nancy coerced the chicken into a vegetable sack and then hung it on my pantry door.  “It will be all right there until tomorrow.”  I was shocked.  Really, it wouldn’t try to get out at all?  So I mentioned that we could put it in the shed.  We went into the shed and Nancy put the chicken into the wheel barrow.  “It will stay in there.”

You don’t want to feed a chicken before you kill it, if you can avoid it.  According to Nancy, per our last chicken gift, it makes it a cleaner job.   Nancy was going to come back the next day, but family in Irelya was sick, so chicken got a reprieve until Monday.  I was working, and didn’t know she had even gone out and killed it, but then she was sitting on my kitchen floor, picking the final feathers off.  The chicken now looked how chickens look when get them from the freezer section at Krogers.

It is different eating something that had been alive that day.  It isn’t “this chicken tastes good,” but the brain goes right to “she tastes good.”  It isn’t some meat in a package, but a real, actual animal, an animal that pooped on my porch and for a short time, her well-being had been my responsibility.

This isn’t anything that would turn me into a vegetarian, but it definitely makes me more determined to get as much out of her as I can.  Generally, I am good at that when it comes to chickens.  She made a good meal.  She will also make good sandwiches for my kids.  And she will also make a very good bone broth that will help us continue to be healthy.  That’s why they gave her to us in the first place.

The Haus Sik (Hospital)

Something takes us to Wabag once or twice a week –buying diesel, produce, and/or top up cards for our phones.  If we need one of these things (today was several things), we usually take care of the others, too.  if we are going to Wabag, you can also bet that a person or people want to come along.

Today, it was Bishop Nik who needed to go.  Bishop Joshua was in the hospital at Wabag.  He’d recently been diagnosed with liver cancer.  I have no idea how old he is, but he doesn’t look like he’s reached 30 yet.  Papua New Guineans when they are young look younger than they are.  When they are older, they look older than they are.

Joshua is bishop of the Mari Mari district — the remote regions.  He is a nice guy, handsome, well-dressed, very kind.  He always seemed to ooze energy.  A few months ago, we’d heard that he had typhoid. Liver cancer frequently follows hepatitis here.

Hospital wards are like you see in British movies — large, narrow rooms with bed after bed after bed of patients, only instead of evoking an air of cleanliness and organization, here they project misery and confusion.  The hospital provides the bare minimum — the bed.  The person often has to bring their own blankets, pillows, etc., if they want to have them.

People who come to the hospital also need to bring someone to come and take care of them.  This person buys and prepares food for the patient and stays with the patient.  They often sleep on the floor next to the patient (anyone who knows anything about how dirty the floors are in hospitals is probably cringing right now), and they also do not have blankets or pillows.   Plenty of times they don’t own them.  Houses are warm.  Hospitals are not.

As we went into the center room, the wards branch off from here, we met Pastor Maniosa and those caring for Bishop Joshua.  They were waiting for the doctor to be done with him.  In the next corridor, the one marked “Kitchen/Morgue,” a group of people were wailing.  Pastor Maniosa told us that one of the men who was a translator with him on the Enga Bible Translation Project had just died.  He was a Big Man, so there were plenty of people there grieving him and wailing.

Bishop Joshua walked by me and I didn’t even recognize him.  He was walking to the bathroom, just outside.  When he was done, he came back and sat down on a bench outside.  He shook hands with everyone, but held out just one finger.  He was so emaciated, except for his bulging belly.  The whole time we were there, he never even lifted up his head.

The doctor had prescribed medicine for him — but the hospital doesn’t have it.  It will have to be bought in Hagen, if it can be found there.  He also needs a wheelchair.  The hospital doesn’t have one of those for him, either.  Another thing to buy in Hagen (this is the hospital that didn’t have aspirin for Samuel two days ago).  Papua New Guinea has nationalized medicine.  This is what it looks like.

Bishop Nik and Jeff prayed with Bishop Joshua, and assured him that he was in God’s hands, that God had redeemed him, and was caring for him even now.  This is an important message in Papua New Guinea.  Sickness can be viewed as a sign that a person has been abandoned by God or cursed by a demon or a sanguma (witch – I pray that no poor, innocent woman is being blamed for this).  Suffering is part of a sinful world, but God is still holding us and caring for us.  God may heal, because we have more to do here, or He may bring us home to Heaven.  But even this, God will use for good.  It’s hard hearing this, looking at Joshua, and comforting at the same time, because it is true.

My First Hauskrai

When I woke up today, I figured that I would get a few things done, unpack, move some furniture around, and relax.  Things didn’t go as planned.  Life in Papua New Guinea doesn’t revolve around plans and dates.  They revolve around happenings.

Nancy showed up today as she generally does and started sweeping the floor.  I gave her the things I picked up for her while we were gone – sandals that she had asked for but that didn’t fit (because neither of us know her size) so they were going to her daughter, Katherine, a couple of scarves for her and Katherine as an extra thank you for watching the house while we were gone, and a wok.  I’d promised her the wok that had broken down in the lower house, and I would replace it since I technically broke it – even though really it was the dragon stove that engulfs pots in fire  – melted the handle clean off.  But Roy got to it before me and repaired it, then when I was leaving, I told Jeff to buy her one, but he forgot.   These things tend to be more important in the course of a relationship than one can imagine.

At about noon, Nancy’s phone rang, and when she got off the phone, she told me that Alice, who gave me a pig –her father died last week.  They’d had the krai and the funeral and he’d been planted in the ground (That’s the phrase – em i bin planim). But the hauskrai was still going on and she was wondering if I would go for just a little while.  Even without the pig, of course, I’d go.

Alice is awesome.  She is one of the only people that I remember from the first visit we had here.  I remembered Alice and Nancy.  Alice, because she was friendly, Nancy because she was sharp.  Alice also is the style maven – she is a teacher at the local school and she dresses nicely, sometimes with hair extensions or a wig with highlights (I think she made the trend toward those here), and she was the first woman I saw here wearing shorts, above the knee.  And she made them look classy. Alice is always asking questions about America – like “Is it true that if your daughter moves back in with you, you make them pay rent?” or “Is it true you lock your old people up in buildings?”

The only other hauskrai that I had experienced, and that was more by word of mouth, was one at Mambis when we arrived.  We didn’t go, but Julie and Donna did.  They had to go buy a chicken (I can’t remember if they cooked it or not). The hauskrai is a period of mourning after a person dies.  The family, mostly the women, sit in the house, and other women come and sit with them, usually bringing things they will need during that time – instant coffee, sugar, kaukau (sweet potatoes), other vegetables, and other foods.  In any situation, the more standing you have in a community, the more that you are expected to provide.  Julie would not be able to get away with bringing vegetables or coffee, because she had an income, and she was Mama Julie (she didn’t say that, but she is, indeed Mama Julie).  Nancy suggested I bring coffee, sugar, and cream (All instant.  This country grows amazing coffee, and everyone drinks instant).  I will have to talk with Nancy about this later, but I follow her lead.  I also bring a scarf I bought for Alice. Once we bought these things at the seminary store, we go out the gate, down the road, and up the hill that goes into the northern part of Mambis.  We’ve already walked quite a ways to find the trail that goes not ten feet from my bedroom window.  Fences can be a blessing, but they can be a pain.  I am praying that I don’t slip.  Not only is it embarrassing but my ankle is not healed and I really don’t want to mangle it further.  But PNG equals mud.  There is no escaping it, and it is quite slippery to my Western feet.

A woman followed behind us.  She asked Nancy where we were going.  Nancy told her that we were going to Alice’s as the woman shook my hand.  “We walk together then.”  The woman said, and then went on mumbling. Nancy clearly didn’t like her.  It’s always clear when Nancy doesn’t like someone.  She tenses up like a cat.  “Long long” she whispered to me.  Crazy.  Then she whispered that the woman’s house was just up ahead.   Sure enough, the woman turned aside at her house.

We turned the other direction and followed the trails through the sweet potato gardens.  Nancy pointed out that the green leaves were white kaukau, and the red leaves would be red kaukau.  In my mind, I envisioned the white fleshed sweet potato most liked in PNG and the orange fleshed sweet potato of Thanksgiving fame.  But she could’ve been talking about white skinned and red skinned – both white inside.  I will have to ask.

We made it to Alice’s without slipping around much, but this was uphill.  It’s downhill that I’m really afraid of.  Apparently all the walking in Brisbane has helped because I wasn’t even short of breath, despite being now being at over 6000 feet.  I could still feel it, but I wasn’t panting or yawning.

Alice greeted us and invited us into her house.  Papua New Guineans don’t like it when we say “hut,” but hut is the word that you would understand.  The walls are made of grass woven into a beautiful pattern, the roof is piles of kunai grass.  Some houses are round.  This one is square. Inside, it was warm, really warm.  There is a square fire pit right in the center.  It provides heat and a place to cook.  The smoke rises through the roof and dries the grass so that it lasts against the rain for about a year. It probably deters the mosquitoes from coming in as well, but not the flies or the fleas, which are a part of PNG life.  Today, there was no fire, but smoldering coals, and a long, narrow board that Alice used to poke the coals with the entire time we were there.

The only light was what was coming through the door.  Other than that, it was dark.   Alice invited me to sit next to her, on a slightly raised platform where there was bedding.  Families would sleep there.  The house was so warm, I could’ve fallen asleep.  The professors at the seminary live are given Western houses, but several have built hauskuks (cooking houses like this) alongside.  Western houses are cold.  Each bit of modernization brings its own challenges.  Floors and rooms mean larger spaces and no place to put fires.  Roofs mean no fire in the house without a stove and stovepipe.  There is not really a point to fireplaces or cookstoves until insulation is added, because the heat just goes right out the roof.

Alice’s mom, sister, and a toddler came in too, and we talked for a while.  Alice told me that hauskrais often go on for a month.  She would only be participating for a week.  She would need to go to Moresby.  Nancy had told me before that the hauskrai would only be a week.  It was almost done.

We talked for a while, a lot of it was in Enga, which I don’t understand, but Enga is a living, changing language, and since the conversation was about siblings and jobs, there were plenty of words like “promotion,” “pay,” and “registration” that I did understand.  It is taking words from English to explain situations that they didn’t need to explain before the modern world intruded.  Nancy or Alice would often translate into Tok Pisin for me.

Nancy decided that it was time to leave, and for the third time, Alice’s mother thanked me for coming.  It is mindboggling to me how I feel like I am bumbling through everything, yet to them, my mere presence is an incredible honor. As we left, we saw a little grave just outside of the house next door.  “Did you remember Joyce?” Nancy asks, as if I’d been gone for years, not just two months.  “The young woman,” she added.  My heart broke.  Joyce?  She was so full of life.  So friendly.  She had the most earnest, contagious smile, and the most gracious eyes.  I really liked Joyce.  Alice said “shot win na coff.”  Short wind and cough. Pneumonia.  Possibly TB.  I hope not TB.  Nancy said she wasn’t the only one in the house who had died from it recently.  Whatever took Joyce is probably what took Alice’s father.

Getting back home was definitely more slippery on muddy trails and makeshift stairs carved out of the dirt, but there were fence posts so I was able to avoid slipping or twisting my ankle.  The last hill is the biggest deal.  It descends to the highway, is the most packed down, and people are just hanging out alongside the road to witness my lack of coordination.  I could land on my butt, or I could fall off the side and break every bone in my body.  Luckily, neither happened.

Just before we went down the hill, Nancy had stopped at the gathering place for buai (betelnut), and Alice showed me where her father was buried, right there next to where the community holds court.  Right now, it was surrounded by six foot poles wrapped in tarp, to keep the area dry until the cement could be laid.  He must have been a big man to not be simply buried outside his house.  The governor was going to pay for the cement, and I am sure it would be vibrantly painted.  Knowing Alice, I am sure her father was a good man, but what a contrast to the grave of young, sweet Joyce.   I’m going to miss her.

Once we were down the hill and walking back to the seminary gate, we saw Samuel, who gave us our first tour of Birip and always gives us lemons.  He was limping badly.  He’d hurt his foot.  I couldn’t see whether it was a sprain, a cut, or a burn, but he’d been to the hospital at Wabag to get something for the pain and swelling, and they were out — of aspirin. “Mi gat aspirin long haus bilong me,” I offered, and we arranged for a boy to bring it to him.  I sent a day’s worth.  Beyond that, I will send more, but want to look at the foot to see if I can help in my bumbling way.  There is no point in giving him pain meds, even aspirin, without doing something about the cause of the pain.

Three hours had turned my day in a completely different direction.  I am thankful.  Even when grief is the motivator, I love days like these that take me out from behind the fences and into people’s lives.

First Day Back in Papua New Guinea

We are back in Papua New Guinea.

The flight went well, immigration was smooth, and we had the honor of dinner with our friends and coworkers.  We were able to catch Donna the night before she returned to the United States for good.  We will miss her.

The next morning we put our things into our red Land Cruiser (aka “The Cranberry”- Maggie is thoroughly embarrassed by our blatantly obvious “Psych” tribute).  We picked up meat and groceries.  With a completely loaded down car, we ate a quick lunch at the Hagen Club and hit the road.

The CD in the stereo was the same as when we’d left – The Best of Annie Lennox.  I wonder if Anton liked it, or just kept the stereo off.  With “Sweet Dreams are Made of This,” we climbed into the mountains, down and up the long-windy-sometimes-paved-sometimes-not PNG Highlands Highway.  The drive was our chief concern because of Jeff’s back, but everything seemed to be going okay.  We stopped at the mountaintop market to get cabbage, potatoes, broccoli, and carrots.  “Here Comes the Rain Again” literally did usher in the afternoon rainstorm.

We arrived at the gate feeling better than we anticipated.  Our dog, Uffda, was chained to the house and her tail was wagging happily as she yipped her greeting.  We also saw Cinder, in all her blackness, slink into the yard toward the back door.  She’d get her greetings soon.

In the house, everything was in its place, and beautifully clean.  God bless Nancy.  She helped us unload the car and gave us the news – some good, some bad.

Everyone had been praying for us and are very happy we are back.

The power went out not long before we got home (it stayed out for the next 24 hours).

The water tanks were overflowing because of all the rain.

Uffda killed three of the kittens.  There is one left.  Nancy buried them in the back yard, because that’s what Maggie would’ve wanted.

During a sports competition, some guys from a neighboring village stole our puppy, Callie.  Nancy, absolutely livid, went to the community court and got us compensation – 40 kina (less than 20 US dollars, but twice the value of a dog in PNG).  This made us sad.  We liked Callie, and since she was born here, she knew this was home, unlike her mother, Uffda, who keeps trying to go back to Nancy’s and who has a propensity toward killing small animals – not a good trait around here.  We are going to have to figure out what to do about her, quickly.

Birip was sad, too, though.  This was more than a theft.  It was an insult.  The guests stole from the honored guests of their host.  But we are blessed to be in a peace-loving village, so they sought compensation because they would not get the dog back, and there will be other dogs.  There are plenty.  But the seminary is always sad when bad things happen, which have happened in a continual, stream, because they fear we will leave and who knows when the LCMS will send another pastor/teacher?  They have seen so many missionaries come and go.  Every time we have had to leave and came back we could see the relief.

Nancy left and we made a pot of tea and caught our breath on the porch.  Then, we petted animals, assessed the propane situation, and set about preparing dinner – Pork chops, broccoli, and rice (I burned the rice.  Jeff said “Now we know we are home.”  The one downside of a truly powerful stove and an ADHD cook).

With the power out, it was dinner by candlelight, devotions and hymns, and an early bedtime. The air was cold, the bed was warm, and the night was just as dark with our eyes open as when they were shut.