When I was a youth I felt the word 'contentment' was a bad word. One of the nonsensical things I would spout to anyone who might listen was 'contentment breeds apathy, satisfaction breeds complacency.' I listened to my pastor give a sermon on being 'content' when I was 15 and thought the man was way off base.

I have never felt God calls us to be content. Sure I read I Tim 6 ..godliness with contentment is great gain, Philippians, being content in all your circumstances. Sure I read that, but for the most part I assumed those were comfort verses for people who had fallen on bad times in life and were unable to 'strive for more.'

I never wanted my life to be...boring.

Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy rest and relaxation. I just don't enjoy undue laziness. I don't enjoy looking at a job I've done and saying 'there, that's good enough, no one will notice.'

But I'm not a perfectionist either. I look at a job and say 'that is my best right now, and I'm done. But next time, I will do better here, and here and here.' So I try to always be improving.

So here I sit. I am overseas, overlooking a green pasture, sitting next to a fire. I am comfortable in a place that most people would not be comfortable in. A loud crack rings out as I sit here and I think it may or may not be a sign of violence, but it doesn't startle me.

I have learned how to find peace in the middle of chaos.

And I am truly for the first time in my 44 years, content.

It makes me nervous.

I mean that little stupid kid inside me is still saying things like 'if you're comfortable, you won't be relying on God. You won't be able to see Him zig, and you'll fail to zag. You should stay on your toes man!'

But I'm happy! I mean, I love this new teaching gig, I like my friends and neighbors. I like my work, my home. I'm very happy and content.

Which is the moment I realize how wrong I was as a kid. I'm not complacent, I'm not apathetic, and I'm not lazy. In fact, I'm finding this deep seated contentment, of being where the Lord wants me to be is permeating everything I do and creating this calm inside me that allows me to continue the work we have.

Instead of stress being able to attack me and rule me, instead confidence and quiet sit inside my soul.

I rather like it.

But I suspect it. I suspect God won't let me sit here too long like this. I suspect, as always, that He may throw me a curve ball soon. So, I choose to enjoy this time, knowing it may not last. Knowing I may one day long for these quiet and calm moments, I will enjoy it to its maximum.

For the first time in my life I do not feel the urge to be 'going going going.' I'm happy with just 'going going.'

I'm not unbusy. There's a ton to do, and I end each day completely tired out, as does my wife and son.

And yet, my spirit is full and calm, there is not a piece of me that is missing nor a part of me searching for something else.

Therein lies the drive for me to tell people about Christ. So many people are seeking to fill a void, with all the wrong things. If only they knew what it felt like to be full in Christ.

It's the spiritual equivalent of eating a guilt-free meal that is tasty, healthy, and you didn't overeat and so aren't stuffed. You're not so full that you can't move, you can move, you can go be active. You have fuel, and it isn't junk, it's the good stuff.

I want to serve that kind of meal to the world, but I'm not enough to do it. So I pray to God and then I watch and try to zig when He zigs and zag when He zags.


Landscaping 4

"honey, see that tree in the yard that the rain bent over?"
"what do you think would happen if I chopped off the top and buried it in our yard?"
"do what now?"
"if I weight it down I could make it like  rainbow tree! I predict the branches will grow up and make it like a lot of shade!."
"I have no idea."
"I'm gonna try it."
"you realized the neighbors are talking about you now, right?"
"they're just jealous."

Landscaping 4

"Babe you see that old rotten papaya tree out there?"
"I'm gonna chop it down, and turn the trunk into a planter."
"you're going to what?"
"I'm going to hollow it out, put dirt inside and make it a planter."
"mmkay. You're on your own for that one."

Landscaping 2

"Honey, why did you put a tree between two tree stumps?"
"Trust me, it'll be cool."

Landscaping oddities 1

'My husband is sometimes weird."
"Dad, that's just what?"
"Dad you have the most unique landscaping ideas I've heard of."

I decide to catalog some of my landscaping adventures just because.

#1 - In 2008 I made this for my wife out of Kwila for our Anniversary.
It is still going! and look at that patina!


Adventures in Communication

I haven't blogged much as of late. Why? Well because my job mostly involves helping others who are blogging, etc. By the end of the day I don't have the energy.  But every now and then a story comes along that I have to share.

A friend of ours was on walkabout in their language area when they contracted a puncture wound to their foot (I will spare you the photo).  Because infections happen quickly here, it wasn't long before she was in a state to be brought out of the area and to our clinic.

A message was sent back to their main team (paraphrase) "Am hurt, may need to medevac"

(I had written a longer version of this story with more details but for the purposes of flow I'm going to cut corners here).

Soon after that text was sent, they lost cell signal as the cell provider tower must have gone done (this happens frequently here).

The people who received the message had no cell signal, but they had a satellite internet connection. Using Facebook messenger they contacted a friend, who did not have a working cell phone so they called us.

(us being our Bible study group).

Our Bible study activated, and my role was to be the point man to liaise between people with no internet and people with no cell phone.  Using a combination of tools we were able to get hold of someone who could come and get the ladies and take them to safety.

I will spare you the exciting details but what ensued was a series of technical acrobatics leaping from texts to messages to land line, coordinating people who were all over the country in various stages of incommunicado.

At the climax of it all, we had a truck with a driver we didn't know, heading to pick up a patient who wasn't expecting a ride to take her to a location we weren't sure of. Dealing with this level of uncertainty forces one to pray. We did. We all prayed. A lot.

What eventually worked out was their team hiking to the river and getting signal and finding their own ride.  So, as much as the technical communication acrobatics and software were involved, in the end, good old ingenuity and survival skills out in the bush is what got the job done. 

Less than 24 hours later she was being seen by a doctor.

It took a team of people to get our friend to safety and she's on rest now as she recovers from a rather nasty foot wound.

When we say we're 'support' this is exactly the type of thing we mean. "Hey Chad, I can't get hold of so and so, can you reach them and get them to send a plane?"  "Hi Gavin this is Chad, can you send a plane to help them?" "Hi Dr. Carl this is Gavin, we're sending a plane to get so and so can you be ready to receive them at the clinic."  and it goes on and on and on.

Sometimes knowing there's a team of people behind you striving for the same goal is what it takes to help you soldier on.

Here's what patient X says about it:

My injury is only one casualty from this battle.  On this walkabout we had many physical trials!  But I consider every single difficulty that happened so worth it!  I got to teach Bible studies about prayer, forgiveness, the trinity and the saving redemption of Jesus.  We got to fit people for reading glasses so they could read the new Scriptures printed in their languages.  We got to help people play games to increase their reading fluency in their language.  We got to show a Christian film written and produced by Papua New Guineans that encouraged them to think about some of their cultural traditions in light of the truths in God's Word.  We sold many copies of newly printed Scriptures, Bible studies and children's Bible stories.  These momentary, light afflictions are nothing in relation to the priceless nature of God's truth.  Praise to God and my thanks to you for joining with us on this walkabout journey.

We support some pretty cool people.



This morning as I headed to work I saw the morning clouds topping the
hills. Rolling green hills, scarred by the remnants of fire lending a
sort of beautiful texture.  I saw the trees animated by the breeze, and
the blue of the sky and I thought 'this is a remarkable painting God
made.'  But then I thought 'He's made these paintings all over the
world, stretching out His wonderful hand and moving His creation to make
daily, ever changing portraits of beauty.

And then I thought 'If I had to make thousands of such portraits a day,
as a unix administrator, I would have written a script to do it for me
automatically.  It would take up my entire day otherwise.'

Which is when the thought hit me.  God has already automated such
beauty. That's one of the magnificent things about His creation,
designed in such a way as to move and shift and maintain itself.
Automatically creating this portraits all over the world.  I dunno how
anyone can see it and not want to praise God outloud.  PRAISE GOD.


Being Support Staff

We're support staff.  We are on about Bible Translation in Papua New Guinea.  So what does it mean to be 'support staff'.
Well it means a great many things, but one of the most recent was to cover our friends Ben and John and Beth in prayer.
Ben and John and Beth were heading into their village to do Bible Translation work and training.
I've been to their village.

We were praying over obstacle #1 and #2.  I'll let Ben share:
Tadji airstrip is one of two operational airstrips in Papua New Guinea that still has the steel perforated Marston Matting that was used during WWII for quick and portable temporary airstrips. Nearly 80 years later, we're still landing on it. However, tall grass frequently grows up through the holes in the steel matting and makes it unsafe to land. We asked you to pray that we could land here and avoid an additional 8+ hour road trip from Wewak. After praying for the day's activities, praise the Lord that our veteran pilot got us to Tadji, circled once at low altitude to check the airstrip, and then safely navigated his landing against a strong headwind.

I've taken this flight and landed, the alternative road trip is very taxing on the body. It is polite to call it a 'road trip'.  A road trip implies music, snacks, comfort. This is much more like a sojourn. Unless you've lived it, you won't really get what I mean from that so I'll move on, suffice it to say, when you arrive at your destination you're exhausted.

So my family and I, our Bible study, everyone prayed that they would be able to land, and the Lord provided!

Obstacle 2: (from Ben)
Can the truck make it through the rivers and the mud?
Once we landed, our friends from Pou, where the language of the same name is spoken, were ready for us with their pickup truck. We loaded up and headed out to Arop. Our teammate Beth reports that the river now normally flows down the path of this road.

Maybe you saw the video I posted last year about the 'river road'.  This is one crazy journey.

One of the things you hear Christians say is 'pray for travelling mercies'.  Before I came here, that meant having a nice comfortable air-flight, a safe flight, not losing your luggage.

Now it means, arriving in good health without your cargo capsizing, without your truck being washed down river, without major injury or worse.
It's funny to me because I never could relate before, when watching movies of people driving jeeps through the jungle. I used to think 'that looks like so much fun!.'
But when you've done it a few times, it stops being 'fun'.  In this case, the journey is NOT the point, arriving to the destination and being able to do Bible Translation is the point.

So we are supporting them in our prayers, and in any other practical way we can (technical support, moral support,  caring for family staying behind, sending supplies, whatever they need).

That's just a glimpse at one of the things support staff does.


The Little Firefort that Could.

It was Christmas break and I wanted to get Calvin and myself outside.  Recently a neighbor had cut down a tree, and many branches were lying around.  Having learned how to make a 'haus win' (temporary outside fort) using nothing but branches and twine, Calvin and I embarked on a fun project.

We would make a little outside firepit area, and put a tarp over it.  Every time we build an outside fire for an event, it rains.  So, we began the work.

It wasn't impressive but it was near free, and it worked.

Problem: - we accidentally and unknowingly built it mere feet from our neighbors bedroom so when we had a bonfire and chatted, it was like we were in the same room.   When we were told this, we had to figure out a way to move it.

With the help of some friends, we dug it up, and carried it about 50 meters away to it's new home.  It was a little bit weaker and not where I wanted it to reside, but it was done.

Problem: - The wind picked up. Cyclones over Australia nearly ripped the tarp off the top of it. I had to run out there in the wind and secure the tarp with ropes, before the whole thing flew away.  Mysterious winds have been present since.  I've had to repair it a few times.

After a long week of work, it's nice to have a fire, maybe roast a dog, have a place to chat, even have teens over.  It was still alive.

Problem: - As if the winds weren't enough, one evening a tree fell over and hit the firepit area (which Calvin and I dubbed 'FIREFORT!'.  But! Since the limbs we used were still green and flexible, they bent instead of broke, and though the tarp is torn more, the FIREFORT lives.

So, we started chopping up the tree and now firefort is eating the tree that tried to eat it! (we're burning the  tree wood, yes, that quickly because the tree was dead standing)

Having survived a move, defeated the monstrous winds, and survived the falling tree, FIREFORT was beginning to win over my heart. This stupid ugly little fort was living a lifetimes worth in only 1 month's time!

Problem: - The rain picked up, and the firefort, after taking the hit from the tree, was not strong enough to let the rain roll off of it (also because the move moved it from a slight hill to a flat area).  So the rain water began to pool into the now, tired fort's roof.  This resulted in the green bows, bending (not breaking) under the weight.

The Firefort was dying.  I went out to drain the tarp, and put it all back together again with new branches from the tree that fell on it.

Today, we sat under the firefort, held together with zip ties, bunjis, nails and screws and of course, a refusal to die!

As we sat there, my friend and son laughingly mocked me and said 'The reason this wind is here, is because you refuse to let this fort die. Let it die and the wind will go away!

It was funny but the fort still stands.

All I wanted was to keep my our bonfires from being 'rained out'.  But now what I have, is a story of the Little Firefort that Could.

This is truly a beautiful country but you have to be outside to appreciate it. Our Little Firefort gives us that underdog appreciation.

People have said 'it'll burn down, that's a tarp!'
'it won't last 6 months'
'let it die!'
'it's ugly!'
'it's a lost cause give up!'

Don't  they know, that kind of talk makes me love it all the more?


Let's Build a Library

So I'm walking through the office when I hear a very familiar voice. It
was the same voice of a lady who I spent hours editing sound samples
about 3 years ago for literacy recordings.  I turned to look at the
source and a friend was holding a tablet, showing off BLOOM.

Bloom is a library system for educators (useful in PNG) because it's
very very simple to make a book, and have it be read to you via audio.

I'm over simplifying it, because the tool itself is SUPER simple, and
serves a great purpose, because it leverages materials and educators
without having to train them to be super geeky.


Last 12 months

Scriptures from the last 12 months

Using it All

When I first arrived here someone told me 'This place can use all of your gifts, and interests, all of you.'  I took that to heart.  So when I get into hobbies, I always try to make people know what they are, in case they are useful.  One person approached me last week about helping with a 3d printing project

A friend of mine started this project which turned out to be wildly popular and now he needs help printing out the plastic boxes for this project. 
Typically a solar setup consists of a lot of equipment; a panel, an inverter, a regulator, etc..  But this box with these electronics in it, allow for a direct connection to a solar panel, to charge anything that will charge over usb port.

He is building these, and asked for my help printing the boxes.  Since I am running low on Filament, I had to print my first one in yellow:

It came out nice enough.  I am just chuckling at how a fun little hobby can always turn into a ministry opportunity if you let it.  This device should be helpful to many people in the village who need to charge cell phones, tablets, kindles, etc etc etc.



Bubbles and Glee

Each year the high school puts on a 'carnival'.  They make home-made things to do, games, events. Etc. For example 'sumo wrestling' where you take inner tubes and put people inside of them and have them bump into one another. 

This year, a friend of ours had inspiration to create the first ever 'Cow Train' which my son was asked to drive. 

At the same time, for our annual CRAFT fair, I have been making "blOWENSsome bubbles' brand home made bubbles while printing 3d bubble wands.  (yeah I'm into bubbles okay!)

So I decided to 3d print up a wind driven bubble machine. 


My wife suggested I attach it to my son's Cow Train. 

The end result was, pure glee!

Sometimes, being support staff, is all about just making people happy to be living here.


The World as I see it #234

To the men out there, learn the art of the compliment and pay one to
your wife, frequently.


-because you love her, and she loves words. Spend words on her. For some
guys they cost you more than flowers and they'll be appreciated.

If that doesn't convince you then I offer this secondary reason:

-you're at war man! Shore up your defenses! If your wife isn't used to
receiving compliments and praise from you, then one day some other man
may come along and offer her those words. She won't be used to it,
they'll have more power than they should, and you'll find yourself
either trying to keep her, or answering her accusations (why don't you
say nice things like Jimmy at the office! At least HE liked my dress
today).  But if when some person pays her a compliment, she thinks 'that
was a nice thing of them to say, but I prefer my husband compliments.' 
then you're doing it right.

It's an offensive and defensive game men.  Get in it!


The Trombone

When I was in elementary school there were a few things I remember to be
true. The first being that I must've been small and adorable, because a
few people took me 'under their wing'. One such person was our school

On a number of occasions I got into play yard fights. I never started
them, and I rarely won them.

I was also very vocal about Jesus Christ. I remember being the only
student in class who objected when I heard the teacher telling us about
certain things I knew the Bible to say were untrue.

Whatever the reason, I found myself from time to time, sent to the
principal's office.
As I sat there waiting to be scolded, the secretary would often talk to
me, offer me lollipops, even show me her forbidden secret wiener dog she
hid in her desk drawer. As time went on, the gifts she gave me got more
and more odd. Trinkets really, until the final gift I recall her giving
me was a trombone. She handed me a full size, in the hard case,
trombone. It was dented and tarnished and I accepted it with
curiosity. I wondered the whole way home, why this woman whom I hardly
know, gave me this very odd gift.

It was one of my life's mysteries. Why would someone give me such a
random thing? She obviously meant well, but I had no idea what I had
done to make an impression on her, and that impression would culminate
in a gifted beat up old trombone. I don't know what she was thinking,
nor what I said, nor could I find any logic to it. It was just plain ODD.

That trombone sat in our closet for years. I don't know why we kept it.
We never touched it. In fact my parents just told stories to visitors
about the time their son came home with a free trombone. We moved, and
instead of throwing it out, I guess my mom kept it.

Now I'm 43. As we went to drop my daughter off at college we stayed
with family, whom we had never stayed with and got the chance to get to
know them much better. In the course of telling stories we discover
that my mom had given that trombone to them for their grandson (my third
cousin). They had repaired it, and he was playing it in school.

I had forgotten all about that trombone. I am told if you live long
enough you see life come full circle. My cousin received that trombone
close to the age that I originally received it, only 35 years later.

Life is funny.

But why tell this story?

My life has been an adventure of following God's leading and going and
doing what He says to do. Very rarely do we ever get to see the
fruition of our work. We rarely get stories that show how it all links
together. We rarely get moments where we can see God's hand crafting the
events that lead to something happening. When we do get that glimpse,
boy oh boy our hearts get excited, we get pumped up!

God's masterful crafting of seemingly random events, to pull together
people to His glory. is a wonderful thing to witness. There's no real
great meaning to seeing the lifespan of a trombone switch hands from one
life to another, no one would make a movie out of it.

But there is significance in following the lifespan of a Bible. This
week, we see some Bible portions printed for the first time. They are
yet to be in anyone's hands. But they soon will be. Can you imagine
following that Bible for it's lifespan and seeing the lives it enters
and changes? Maybe it'll stay in one person's hands until it's read and
re-read and tattered and torn. Maybe it'll be passed down to their
children. Maybe it'll be handed to someone who needs comfort and guidance.

Whatever the case, God's ability to affect lives through His Word is
such a wonderful thing to be a part of.


Washing Machine

I can not count on two hands, how many times my wife and I have repaired
a washing machine at 10pm at night.
And always on the cusp of something, such that we couldn't let it wait
until morning the next day.

Tonight the washing machine made some horrible beeps, and smelled like
burned plastic.

We knew our roles, I siphon, she towels, I tip it, she holds. I take it
apart, she waits. I put it back together, it works, she tests it.

We've done it so many times over the last 10 years, that it may very
well be the thing we do best as a team.

There's probably a lesson in there somewhere.


Whirlwind Tour of Sydney, Aus

Years ago we were here (2010), and took a cheap tour of Sydney by getting a day pass for the public transit, then taking the Circular Quay harbour cruise to see as much of the place as we could. Only I had extreme allergies, we were all jet lagged, it was a miserable day.

Today, we had 1 day to see everything, and so, my wife and I once again got the 'day pass' for public transit, only this time, it was the OPAL card, and GOOGLE MAPS which helped guide the way. Very enjoyable that way. We even snagged a geocache.

So... 4am - wake up because of jet lag, eat yogurt and granola and a muffin.
9am - step outside and go to the train station 800 meters away.

First stop, Circular Quay take the ferry...
(this is us on the ferry with the lighthouse area behind us) 

 take the ferry to... MANLY because it's a cool place with a cool name
Head on over on foot to MANLY Beach, and somehow my being there made it just a tad more manly (-;

(us at manly beach, beautiful clean sand and water!)

Then hop onto a bus and head up to North Head, take a mile walk to the lookout point, grab a coffee at the cafe, and sit and look at the wonderful view.

(North Head)
Walk back to the bus stop, chat with people waiting there, meet two neat aussie ladies and an Alaskan pilot working for Fedex.  Get back to the harbor, take the ferry BACK and go check out the 

Sydney Opera House

Ironically, if you're trying to get it out of your head that you've left your daughter Sydney back in the states, maybe touring Sydney isn't the best place to choose.... but it was still a great day

And the whole day we were taking my son's advice to beat jet lag.  Plenty of water and physical exercise.  Walked several miles (meandering more like it).

Enjoyable day, now we're tired.
But not too tired to stop, and find a geocache.  Then...

6pm stop by the grocery store, grab bread, cheese and soup, and heat it up back in the room.
Dinner, and back in bed by 8pm (heheh)

Total cost (not counting food) $2.60 AUD each. (for the bus/ferry/train pass because on Sunday everything costs less!)


On Saying Goodbye

In our line of work we say 'Goodbye' often. Goodbye to friends, family, co-workers, etc. We're used to it and I've written before our motto is 'Every sad 'goodbye' is followed by a warm 'hello'.'

Minutes ago, we said goodbye to our college student daughter. We are getting on a plane to travel over 6600 miles away from her.
That goodbye was a little new to us.
The warm hello is getting to see our son whom we haven't seen for a few weeks as he's already been overseas in school.

So how was it?
Well I expected it to be really hard, expected to break down into tears. I was told by students 'I saw my dad cry for the first time the day he left me at school.'

But it wasn't as hard as I was expecting. Not that it wasn't hard. It just wasn't as hard as I anticipated. Why?

Because both my wife and I are convinced that she's doing well. She's been in the school for ten days now, she seems adjusted, seems to enjoy it there, is making friends, is making good judgement calls, seems like she's going to thrive there.

Because we're convinced God has her in the exact right school, down to almost every little detail in ways we could not even have anticipated, He's got her covered and cared for.

Months ago when we were praying for the right school and God led us to WJU we had no idea that the lady in charge of student care (Kelly) was going to have her office in our daughter's dorm, nor that she'd be a missionary herself having spent a year in Uganda. Nor did we know that the school had several measures in place to keep the students involved and active. Nor that many of the staff have served overseas in some missions capacity.

Every time we stood on that campus, we got the feeling like 'there's no better place for her right now.' and that gave me so much reassurance.

Yes it'll be hard and sad without her, but I'm very happy with where she's at.

So parents about to do this with your kid for the first time... what's my advice on how to make the transition easier? Prayer... pray for the right school or the right next step, the right setup, and then trust God and listen. I tell you, I would NOT be able to be getting on a plane today if I didn't feel my daughter was well cared for. But she is, and I am.

And I'm not worried. The safest place to be is right where God wants you to be.


Hate to Love Stuff

Missionaries are sometimes renown and respected for not having a lot of stuff.  But nothing makes you so aware of how much 'stuff' you have as when you pack to move.... and we move often.

Have you ever packed to move and just thought 'How on earth did we come to own so much 'stuff'?'   When you're faced with the possibility of having to pay for storing your stuff, it starts to make you question why you ever bought it in the first place.

You find yourself asking "Do I really want to pay $20 a month to store this?"

On the other hand, when you live in a country where you can't get many items, coming back to the U.S. suddenly you have to resist the urge to go on shopping sprees.

"Dad, look at all this stuff! They have phone chargers here, and a million different kinds!"
"Yes kids, welcome to America, phone chargers for all!  Pink, blue, polka dotted, let's get one of each kind just in case!"
only to find out our phones are 4 years out of date, and when we buy new phones we have to get a different kind of charger!

If you put me in an electronics store after having not been in one for several years, you best stand aside for your own personal safety.

But every purchase is tinged with the reality of 'we're going to have to pay to get this back to PNG' and so you find yourself denying yourself that purchase.

And then, the day comes, like today, when you have to pack up all the little purchases that you did make.

The airlines only allow you 2 bags at 50 lbs each.  And our bags were selected to perfectly fit the maximum size allowance, and hold as much weight as allowable.

We've become masters at packing, fitting items in, elimination unnecessary weight from packaging, using socks and clothing instead of bubble wrap.  Saving every inch and every pound.

And as I'm packing all this wonderful stuff that I just have to bring to PNG I think, I wonder when I'll have to pack up all the stuff in PNG to send back to the U.S.?

I like the theory of living a minimal lifestyle when it comes to what I own.  And yet, even with what I would consider a minimalistic intent  (a desire to own very little) I'm still constantly struck with how very much we own.

For Silicon Valley, USA standards, most people would look at us and say 'they own so very little.'

By our fellow missionary standards people may say 'my they're doing nicely.'

Compared to a Papua New Guinean's standards we're rich.

But there's only one standard I really care about, and that is God's standard.

Does our stuff own us? Are we overly emotional or possessive about our belongings? How much of it would we be sad about if a fire took it all?

We have a lifestyle that causes us to pack our stuff often, which tends to make me take stock of my life.  Each time I buckle that duffle bag, I think 'am I overly attached to the things in this bag?' and 'is my focus on God where it needs to be?'

Moving and packing tends to make you take stock in your life.  At least it does me.  

We do it often.

We've been in the U.S. 3 months and we're taking back our full allowance of 'stuff'.  We always seem to.  I'm surprised at our ability to accumulate 'stuff' so quickly.  Awed by the blessings of those who support us that we can afford to.  Given hope by God that when we don't have the 'stuff' we always seem to get by without.

And this time, blessed in knowing that at least half of the stuff we're bringing back, we are doing so because we can bless our community with it.  Craft materials to make people cards, or gifts to bring people smiles and encouragement.  Items meant to bring people together and give them something new to do, or educational materials.  

This is how we've always viewed our role as support staff.  We're always thinking of little ways we can encourage others.  We've already begun hatching new Christmas encouragement schemes.  

JUST wait until Christmas!!! Hopefully we'll be able to share some stories!  There's stuff in my duffle for Christmas, birthday and (ssshh) anniversary gifts already!  

My wife said to me 'any weight or room we have left I want to bring chocolate chips and walnuts so I can bake for people at Christmas.'

It is much harder to deny yourself a purchase when you're thinking 'This would be so fun to do with so-and-so.'  In a way, having your focus in the right place, actually makes it harder to keep your pile of 'stuff' small.

The bags all feel a bit lighter when they're filled with things for others.  Instead of hefting around that 49.95lb duffle bag thinking 'why did I pack all of this stuff for myself?" You're thinking "I can't wait to get back and share XXXX with my friends!"

Yeah we're looking forward to getting back, we leave on Thursday!


Note to Friends

If you're just coming off the 'field' and want to update your mobile phones,

IF you wipe your phones and take them to a phone repair store, they may offer you some money for them... if you have nothing else to do with them,
this can defray the cost of purchasing a new phone.

ALSO if you're able to buy used phones on craigslist, or even take an older phone off someone's hands, you can reduce your costs.

MOST phones out of contract can be carrier-unlocked online in 24 hours for around $9.

So don't feel like you have to buy a new phone, you can buy a one year old phone and save a lot of money.



Me and my gals.  My how fast they grow!  Almost taller than dad!


The Flighter Side

Every time I think of something sad, I try to also think of the 'lighter side' of it.

Con:  Just plunked down $1800 for air fare tickets to go back to PNG. (Kendal and me)
Pro: Got a great deal on a flight to Sydney at only $525 

Con: It's ironically also a flight FROM Sydney, as we'll be leaving our daughter behind.
Pro: We'll be rejoining our son, and ministry in PNG

Con: We'll be saying goodbye to family and friends in the U.S. 
Pro: We'll be saying hello to our PNG friends

Con: Booking the flight, sets us in an absolute date for the day we say 'bye bye' to our daughter.
Pro: ???  

Help me out there? UM....    oh. 'knowing exactly what day you'll be super emotional and feel like your heart is being ripped out....'  Is that a pro?

I dunno somehow, I feel like I just paid a lot of money to be kicked in the gut.

We are so excited for our daughter to embark on the next phase of her life!
But it's going to be one heck of an adjustment for us....
We're determined to make our time as a family of 3 awesome and fun as well, but it's sad for sure and there's no way around it.

This trip to the U.S. has been pricey, with college tuition, all the flights, etc. But the money isn't the foremost thing on our mind because God always provides.

The emotions of the thing is what is the hardest part.  Kendal and I know we'll be emotional wrecks on the way back to PNG.

I honestly thought I would not be. I mean, I'm so excited and optimistic about this next phase. I get excited whenever there is a new part of life to explore and discover.

But in the past few days, I've been randomly ambushed by extremely strong emotions about the separation... primarily because Sydney is a huge joy to be around.

My wife gets a chuckle out of it. I have these random moments of ... freak out... which I can't fully explain, but I get hyper and wander around the house trying to find something constructive to do, and saying random things like 'without Sydney there then _____ etc. My wife looks at me and chuckles and replies 'I've been processing this for months, it seems like it's just hitting you.' Well yeah. I think it's all becoming real, what with absolute dates set and all. I'll say this even the most manly of men, Chuck Norris, agree, it's okay to shed a single tear over something like your only daughter. But Chuck's tears theoretically cure cancer (we don't know for sure, as he's never shed one) mine, don't cure much at all, except for dry eye syndrome.)

Pray for us please.
This is gonna be hard.


Last pic

On our way to drop Calvin off at the airport to go to PNG. No more family of four pics for a while. 


Fighting to be lighting

I was out with my son looking for a car wash, found a place. It advertised on the road gas was 3.19 p/gallon 3.09 with a carwash
okay that's 10 cents more than the 76 down the street but it had a car wash.

I paid cash, to get a discount which didn't exist at this station, and buy a car wash, go pump, 3.19 at the pump. WHAT? should be 3.09

So I go inside, to the cashier and I explain the issue, she owes me $1.30 she overcharged me a dime per gallon.

Here went the conversation:

me: "the pump charged me 3.19 your sign says 3.09 per gallon with car wash, and I bought a car wash.'
her: "oh I don't know." blinks at me.
me: (still calm) "I know, you owe me $1.30 because you over charged me."
her: I'm sorry sir, I don't know how to make the machine charge you that.
me: (accepting the apology) "that's fine, just refund me the $1.30 and it'll be okay."
her: "I can't do that sir, I'd get in trouble."
me: (starting to get incredulous, but still maintaining calm) "Okay... well, then perhaps upgrade me to a better car wash?"
her: "Sir I can't do that, I'd get in trouble if I gave you a free car wash."
me: (temper is growing) "And you won't get in trouble for stealing $1.30 from me?"
her: "I'd get in trouble for that too, would you like to talk to my supervisor? They can fix this, I don't know how to use the computer."
me: (maintaining my calm but torn between wanting to be angry and wanting to give grace) "Yes then, please, can I talk to them."
her: "They come in on mondays" (three days away and I'm clear across town)
me: (surprised) "Well you know I won't be coming back in 3 days, clear across town to argue over $1.30. Can I have their business card?"
her: "No sir, he doesn't have one."
me: "Can you give me an email address or a phone number?"
her: "No sir I don't know it."
me: (feeling lied to, hot, upset, I decide it's not worth ruining either of our days over, so I accept it and reply calmly) "Well ma'am, I think you should take the time to learn how to work the computer, or take that sign down. And you should know, I won't be returning here."

I realize that if they do this a few times a day, that's a nice little side hustle. But in the off chance she was a single mom, who never said 'when I grow up I want to be a gas station attendant' and who was just trying to get by in life, I decided it wouldn't be prudent or even helpful to read her any 'riot act' or lose my temper on her... not over $1.30 and yet, the desire was there to do so anyway. I fought it down.

In the San Jose, CA area I'm finding that people are rude, incompetent, selfish, inconsiderate. It's always been this way, but I've been around the opposite for so long that it's a bit of a harsh awakening. I fully believe in being the CHANGE I want to see, so I go around being polite and talkative, and I don't dismiss people when they say 'hi'. And I don't act all creeped out by strangers greeting me, instead I return it.

Yesterday at a theatre, the cleaning guy as we left said 'you all have a good day!' and I replied 'Hey! Thank you! You too!' and it looked like I caught him off guard in that I noticed him and acknowledged him, and so he replied "You're welcome!", in a surprised tone like "hey, I'm not invisible!"

I walked into a Walgreens and the very young cashier had no idea what to do with me.

After waiting a long time for a very old lady to pay in pennies and gather her items, I was finally at the cashier. It was one of those movie moments where the lady was counting out pennies and it took forever. My patience was thin already, because out in the 100 degree weather was my wife and daughter with our lunch, in the car, waiting for me.

her: "How can I help you sir?"
me: "I'd like to get these batteries"
her: "Will that be all"
me: (curtly-with that tone of -I'm in a hurry-) "yes"
her: "That'll be 10.91 sir."

I hand her a 20, she realizes she has no ones to return to me, calls her manager over, while she does that I say:

me: "here's 11 dollars."
she blinks at me and pauses
her: "What's this for sir?"
me: "hand me back the 20 I gave you and take this."
she blinks at me again and then looks at her supervisor and says
her: "I don't know what you want me to do."
the supervisor begins to say 'give him his 20 back. and 9 cents., but I didn't hear him saying it and spoke over him.

me: (as if speaking to a young confused child, with a gentle calm voice trying not to sound patronizing) "Hand me back that 20, take this 10, and this 1."
her: "No sir it's all okay, I'm just going to have Russ get me more ones if you don't mind waiting."
me: (very direct without anger) "That's the point, I do mind waiting. I'm sorry but I need to be going."

At which point I took the 20 laying in her confused palm, dropped the $11 and said 'keep the change, have a nice day.' and left.

I felt instantly guilty. I wasn't rude, I wasn't angry, but in this day and age, being curt is taken as confrontational and angry. It's not like I left her saying 'gee what a lovely person that was! Christ must be flowing through them! I think I want to know more about this Christ! I think I'll go to church on Sunday!"

It is so hard to be polite and share love and grace in the face of all of this.... what do I even call it, "unapologetic ineptitude"? "total self-centeredness?". I mean just trying to teach my daughter to drive on these streets I have to tell her 'people don't care about you or the law, they do insane things all the time, so watch out, constant vigilance!"

I keep thinking about transition and culture shock and how Christ must have had a huge "culture shock"... when He became human.

We must have seemed so crass and unloving to Him.

I try to be a little bit of light everywhere I go. It isn't easy. But you can see when others are trying as well. Now that we're in the U.S. for a short bit, the words to an old gospel song ring true in my ears:

"This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through, my treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue, the angels beckon me with heaven's open door and I can't feel at home in this world anymore."


Not the best

For our friends not currently visiting their home countries, a few reflections:

1. fidget spinners are a thing. I used a pencil when I was a kid.
2. chromebooks are very popular now
3. there's a million shows to watch but for some reason within 10 minutes of turning them on I fall asleep.
4. people seem to be chasing after the 'best' of something. The Best Ice cream, the best burger, etc. We seem totally fine with the 'worst'. I mean, we've been without real ice-cream for so long that even bad ice cream seems good to us. People want to direct us to the 'best' of stuff, often. Like 'oh you're hungry for pickles? the best pickle joint is D.J. Jazzy Pickle! You can get three toppings for your pickle there for free!' And I'm like 'yeah, just a kosher dill in a jar will do, I've been away from Vlassic for years, let's start me out slow.'

I so appreciate all the people loving on us right now, and trying to help us re-acclimate. The incredible amount of variety here is almost paralyzing. I know as Americans we value variety, it's the spice of life. But my reaction to it is, I won't go buy a jar of pickles until I've googled it, or I'll go on full impulse and buy the first one I see. It's a coping mechanism. We're simply not used to incredible variety. I mean, even our neighbors have the same furniture, dishes, housing materials and food as we do, so we're not really surrounded by variety in many ways, except culturally, but even that happens here in California.

So when you ask me "So what pickles do you want on your sandwhich? Dill, sweet, bread and butter? spears, slices, whole, quarter?' All I hear is "...dill?...blah blah blah blah
' so I respond 'Dill would be great! Thanks.'

That doesn't mean I don't love it here, I do. I love all the choices, just having a hard time choosing.


In the U.S. observations

Cell phones are completely invasive. Always beeping and alarming.  People testing you from morning till night, interrupting thoughts and in person conversations all day long.  And yet you can get a ton done.  Blessing and a curse. Takes discipline to put the phone down and ignore its beeping.  


Odd Moments in the U.S.A. 2

Today my son asked 'what is the wifi password grandma' and Grandma replied 'it's on the rolodex' and he replied 'what's a rolodex?' which was funny to me, because it was old tech meets new tech. Has nothing to do with us living overseas.

A cousin said 'you HAVE to try voodoo donuts while here and salt and straw ice-cream it's the best.'

I replied "We don't need 'the best' we can have 'the worst' and it'll be better than what we're used to. Do you have a place that's the worst? It'll probably be more affordable."
No one in my family seemed enthused about going to Voodoo donuts. In fact, the idea of a plain maple bar was so novel, we might just stop there.

Odd Moments in the U.S.A. 1

- Today I was sitting there reading and I saw a movement on the rim of my glasses. I instinctively figured it was an ant and took the frames off in search of it. Instinctively I took off the frames, blew off the ant, and put them back on. A few minutes later, another ant. So I did the same thing. Then I thought 'oh, mom's gonna be upset she has an ant problem in her office.' So I started looking for the source of the ants, but couldn't find a single one. Then a few moments later the same ant in that same spot on my frames, so I sat there, and looked and realized.... it was the flickering reflecting of the ceiling fan behind me.


Cry Week

This time of year, everyone around me is crying or on emotional edge.

My motto for the next several weeks is to keep my head down, be as quiet as I can, and be as helpful as I can.  Guys, if you're in the midst of cry week, take it from me, no one wants to hear your opinions, and it isn't encouraging to say 'I don't see why you're so sad! You'll have facebook!'  Yes it's true that 50% of the communication is via text or facebook even though they live mere feet from one another.  But saying that, doesn't help! Trust me.

My daughter and son are saying 'goodbye forever' to many people. They seem convinced that they'll never see some of their best friends again.  From my perspective, I see them keeping in touch, and seeing one another throughout the rest of their lives.

The bonds the kids make here are stronger than the ones I made in high school, and also likely in college.  It is an intense bond of classmate, best friend, neighbor, playmate, all of it. I've never witnessed any bond as strong as this save a family bond, and I have nothing to compare it to to make you understand. It's like each of these kids are immediate family.

As I grew up, I slowly became used to finding new friends every few years.  And in a sense, these kids do too.  But some of these kids they've been close to for 10 years and in 13 days they're going to scatter all over the world.

And they're about to leave their home too.  Their families, their safe place (bedroom), their pets, their school, their entire world.

It's a lot to have to cope with all at once.  When I was a kid all of that happened gradually and I looked forward to each step of it.

And I look forward to every step of it for them too.  They'll look back with fondness, but right now, it's all tears and sadness.

My wife is also going through it because she's poured her blood sweat and tears into this graduating class for a long time.  She's not losing 1 kid, she's losing 24 (approx.) kids.

Sure I get a sudden attack of sadness when I think I won't be hearing my daughter singing around the house again, or getting random hugs from her. But I think it's a good trade for getting to see her grow up.

I'm so excited for her life.  She's transitioning into adulthood.  This is the defining moment for her.  

This is when she leaves the nest, and we get to see her fly.  This is when we are parents move from authoritative to advisory.

There are so many adventures that await her, and I'm excited that I get to watch her experience them.

However to embark on that adventure, there is this rite of passage called 'cry week' and it should be called 'cry month' because last weekend, was the beginning and it will go on for a while yet.

Until we get on a plane on June 15th, there will be tears (and I'm sure some after that too).
Tons of tears.
Emotions fraying.

So dad is here for hugs and help and I'll keep my advice, and ideas to myself.  I'll make sure bags are loaded and we get on that plane.

And I will say to myself, repeatedly, I'm so thankful I'm not a teenage girl! Because this must be torture on her.

If I could invent a time machine, I would bring my daughter back in time to tell her current self  'your life is going to be awesome! So hang in there.'

I will tell you though, that in all of this there is only 1 thought that haunts me and that I have to give up to God.
See I grew up with a very close family, and though we all scattered for a bit, we rejoined in adulthood to live within a few miles of one another.

But we raised our kids in missions, they realize the world is not that huge a place, they know how to travel it and borders are not obstacles for them.  There is no guarantee that when I reach old age that my kids choose to live near me, or even live in one place.  I realize that by following God's instructions I may have resigned myself to not having the dream of living near my kids, or future grand kids.  I see my friends here in PNG going through this all the time.  The struggle between wanting to serve God in PNG and wanting to be near their family.  But none of us have any guarantee of the future, and God knows all of it.  So I just going to keep on following His lead, trust Him to do what He will with our family, and leave it at that. 

My sites on are the next 2 years with my son. It'll be a fun time just him and us.
Then the next 4 years with our daughter in college, and what that brings.
And from then on, we're all just holding hands and stepping off the cliff together to see what God brings into our lives next!



What I did today

A neighbor nearby, a large property and business owner, recently had an
altercation with some people and there was some damage done to his property.
Word got out that I had a drone and they asked me to come get footage of
everything for insurance purposes.
So that's what I did, helped a neighbor with my drone.

I'd go into more detail or share a photo except it doesn't seem proper
to show someone else's photos nor talk in detail about their issues.
Suffice it to say, I was glad to be able to help.



I offered Calvin a ride to school today, in return for a favor, so he
waited to walk.

He was having trouble starting the ATV so I stepped in and said 'Let dad
show you how its done.'

One pull on the start cord, two pulls, a three pulls.. SNAP

The pull start cord snapped. It was new! We just replaced it like 3
months ago.

Calvin had to start walking, and thankfully wasn't late.

Conundrum: I can wait for a month to buy a new pull starter cord, but
we'll be in the U.S. by then (Can buy one there) OR, I can buy a new
battery now to get the electric start working, and hope it doesn't die
after 2.5 months of unuse. (batteries cost $200) I think maybe we'll
just live with the inconvenience of not having a working ATV until we
get back.


Vote for her

My daughter is competing in a scholarship essay contest for up to $10,000 which would really help us send her to William Jessup University.
However the winner is chosen by votes.
If you could help us out, and click to vote for her essay, it is here: