So I just read a scary statistic.  The Bay Area is considered 97% unchurched.  That means that people are not affiliated with, nor consider themselves to be a part of, a church.  Some are saying it is the largest unchurched area in the U.S.

So I decided to look up why a place becomes 'unchurched'.  In missions the terms 'unreached vs unchurched' come up a lot.  But I've always considered the Bay Area either 'churched' or 'post churched' in that, they've been given the opportunities, and have just passed them up.

Then I read this, and it really has me thinking, because so many of the points seem to be very true to me.  And if true, that makes the Silicon Valley, a mission field, and our next stop.

I am often amused when I hear myself identified as an expert in any area. If I am a perceived expert, it is because I have had the wonderful opportunity to listen to thousands of people over the past few decades. They are the experts; I am little more than an interested reporter.

Though much of this information could be regarded as dismal, my ultimate assessment is not that pessimistic. I believe in the God of miracles. If my conclusions focused on human ability and goodness, I would have little hope. But my conclusions presume the God of creation is on His throne.

For now, let us focus on what is wrong. Let us look with stark honesty and candor at the ineffectiveness of most American believers when it comes to sharing their faith. And let us look at reversing the trend through God's power.

1. Spiritual Lethargy - One of the main reasons many Christians do not share their faith is simply explained by the word disobedience. Spiritual lethargy takes place when we fail to obey Him. The problem for many Christians is that they are not growing spiritually, and lack of spiritual growth inevitably leads to a diminished desire to share Christ with others.

2. Growing Inclusivism - One of the faster-growing belief systems today is pluralism (all religions lead to God). A variation of pluralism called inclusivism is a dangerous doctrine that is gaining momentum in many American seminaries, Christian colleges, and churches. This view affirms that Jesus is the only way of salvation, but he can be found in other "good" religions. There is a subtle but growing belief among many Christians that somehow "good" followers will make it to heaven outside of a true Christian conversion. Our message will fall on deaf ears if this belief persists and grows.

3. Growing Disbelief in Hell - At one time, this was a view held almost entirely by unbelievers. However recent books by those claiming to be evangelicals have brought this discussion front and center. Those who truly have a desire to reach the unchurched have a burden to see people in the eternity of heaven, but they also desire to see them escape the wrath of an eternal hell. Denying the existence of hell undermines the urgency of placing one's faith in Christ.

4. Busyness - Perhaps one of Satan's most effective strategies is to get us so busy that we fail to do that which is such a high biblical priority. We can be deluded into complacency about the lostness of humanity around us. The unchurched are waiting for you to tell them about Jesus. They need to be on your to-do list. What priority do you give to reaching the lost?

5. Fear of Rejection - In research on this subject, I found that only one in four unchurched persons we be resistant to faith discussions. But nearly four out of ten of the unchurched will be receptive to your concern for their eternity, and more than one out three will simply be neutral to your attempts. Simply stated, fear of rejection is unfounded. The few with an antagonistic attitude are not rejecting your personally; their anger is merely a reflection of something in their past. Fear of rejection is an often-used excuse by Christians for their failure to witness. And it is just that: an excuse.

6. A Desire to Be Tolerant - The message of the gospel, in some senses, is intolerant. The one true God insists there can be no other gods. He is a jealous God and leaves no room for other gods. In the post-modern culture of 21st century America, Christians should know the criticisms of intolerance will come. The great concern is that many Christians are unwilling to take a narrow view because they do not want to be labeled as intolerant. But Jesus never waivered in His insistence that He is the only way to the one and only true God.

7. Losing the Habit of Witnessing - Some Christians have been very active in sharing their faith with the lost and the unchurched. But, for a myriad of reasons, they get out of the habit, and it no longer becomes a priority. Witnessing, like prayer and Bible study, is a discipine. It is a habit to learn, to retain, and, if lost, to regain.

8. Lack of Accountability - Programmatic evangelism in local churches is sometimes denigrated because it is seen as a "canned" approach to witnessing. But one of the strengths of many of these programs is that some inherent system of accountability is built into the program itself. Accountability is likely to engender more witnessing attempts to the unchurched. Attempting more evangelistic encounters creates a habit of witnessing that then increases our zeal for evangelism.

9. Failure to Invite - When is the last time you invited an unchurched person to church? When is the last time you offered to take a person to church, or, at the very least, meet him or her at church? It's a simple gesture, yet so few Christians do it.

10. We Go to Churches That Do Not Reach the Unchurched - We only reach one person for Christ each year for every 85 church members in the United States. That is a frightening and terrible ratio. One of the key reasons we do not reach the unchurched is that most Christians in America are members of churches that do not reach the unchurched.

I've now covered ten of the most common reasons Christians fail to obey the Great Commission. This list is not exhaustive though. In God's power, however, we can reverse this trend and reach the unchurched in America.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

the ones that really stand out to me, (Chad) for the Silicon Valley is #4,  #5, and #6.
So if I were a resolution making man, I'd resolve to make sure #4 #5 and #6 were not true of me next year.
I can tell you this, being a support staff for missions means I work with believers a lot of the time. I have really missed the opportunity to talk to people who do not know my Savior about Him.  I'm excited about the fact that I'll have that chance a lot.  I know 'freedom of speech' is limited these days, and that I can't proselytize in the work place, etc.



Discouraging Smile

This is Iri. She's been our friend since we arrived in PNG. Her family and our family have been closely intertwined for 12 years. She became a grandmother not quite two years ago, but she still plays soccer.  Look at her smile!

Iri and her family are Papua New Guineans with a strong faith in 'Papa God'. When they suffer hardships, we share in those with them, and to hear them declare their prayer lives, and how God will care for them, encourages us.

So why did I title this blog entry 'discouraging smile?'.

At times in our lives we all suffer discouragement. Don't read anything into that, we're not suffering any 'more than usual' discouragement right now, so maybe it's a good time to post this?

My personal life credo about discouragement has always been this:

-When in your head you're feeling discouraged, and down. The best cure, is to do something for someone else. This gives you a chance to step outside of your own head and apply God's Word by showing love and caring for someone else.

That's my cure, it's as simple as that.  I've found that 100% of the time, doing an action to serve someone else, to help them, always brings me out of a funk. Why?  I theorize its because I stop thinking about my own woes for a time.  But maybe it's more, maybe it's because we're behaving as God intended? Maybe we get blessed more than we bless? 

So I woke up this morning thinking 'hrm, coming up on 12 years in PNG. Some things have changed, some things haven't. Some cultural traditions haven't broken, others have.  My heart wants so badly for certain things for the people of this country, and yet, 12 years isn't long enough to see those things happen yet.'

This morning I stopped, and I thought  'did coming here accomplish anything?  And if so, was it enough?'.  Yeah I know, a totally Western thought. That question kept resonating in my head as we celebrated Bible Sunday and saw all the work our community has done in the past year.  'Was it enough?'  Like the end of Schindler's list.

As we're coming up on our 12th anniversary that question resonates in my head.

But then, I think about Iri. About her family. About where they'd be if we weren't here. About their kids and the impact we've had on their lives. Would that one family be enough? Would 1 person be enough?  Would seeing God sustain, transform, support and otherwise simply... you know without doubt that God put you in a place in a life, to be His outreaching hand of love to them... even for an instant, be worth everything?  Yeah it would.

And so I think of Iri's smile when I'm discouraged, and the encouragement it brings me. It doesn't remove the things about life here that discourage me, but it does help me see things with a little bit of how God must see this world.  Shining bits among the dark.  New shiny bits arriving daily.  Shiny bits shining brightly in the dark, is sort of what it's all about.  So today, I plan to be a shiny bit.  Filling my heart with the love of Christ so that others may know His love.

Galatians 6

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.


p.s. Here's the reality of ministry work. You may never know the impact you had on someone's life. You could drive yourself nutty trying to answer 'what is the best thing I've done?'  God works in ways we don't see or understand. We have no real way of knowing the impact we've had on people's lives. I think that's why God tells us not to tire of doing good. Because if you expect results, you may not get to see them.  But those rare times when you do see something, they are precious, and they keep you going.


life seems crazy

A turbulent life, can be a matter of perspective.

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.

Nehemiah 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Control is an illusion.  I learned this the day my daughter was born.  See, I used to be a tad of a control freak.  I mean, okay maybe not freak, but if I didn't have control of something, a project, whatever, I could relinquish control, but it always caused me stress.

Letting someone else drive for a while, is hard.  Most of us strive for comfort, for stability.

Lately a few things seem so much 'in the air' that we're wondering 'okay God, what are you doing?'  We're in our mid 40's, shouldn't life be pretty much settled?

But as my wife and I were discussing how turbulent life seems these days, I stopped to think 'um, it's been turbulent for over 12 years.'  We just had a nice calm 2 year stretch there, so we forgot.

If life were settled and safe and all planned out, I think I'd one day be sitting on my recliner thinking 'so, no more surprises in life? hrm.... seems dull.'   Right now I could do with a little more 'dull'.

But I get it.  I understand that the most interesting, safe, exciting, turbulent place to be, is right where God wants me.

Anyone who thinks they know what the next 2 years will bring them, may be in for a surprise.  We can never truly know, but we can draw near to Him who does know.

I often say 'I just want to know what's going to happen!' but then I think that the cost of knowing may be too steep, and choose to be okay not knowing.  Still, it's a daily discipline to remember to let God drive.


One of those days

It was one of those days where so many little things went wrong, that I
can't even remember them all to make note of it.

Every single thing that could go wrong today did. But none of it was
huge, just annoying. I want to rant about it but I can't because I just
spent an hour trying to unblock my Credit Card via skype at 1am, and
kept calling the wrong number because my eyes are weary.

If you got an illegible text from me today, it's because my cell phone
is stupid.


Running Silent

My daughter texted me the other day and said "Dad your blog has been
silent lately. I like reading your thoughts."  Well there's two reasons
for that.

1 - I am responsible for maintaining a blog called the PNG Experience
which catalogs stories of ministry in PNG.  And until recently I thought
IFTTT was linking it to my blog.


2 - For nearly 4 years now I've been in a leadership position of some
type and most of the things I spend my time on, are not for public
consumption.  Usually they are sensitive issues that require a modicum
of confidentiality and respect.

My major role is being responsible for communication and as such, my own
communication should be responsible and well thought out. Which is sort
of the antithesis of my blog.  My blog was always me just sharing what
was on my heart at the time, and not always well thought out.

Each time I've come to write something I have these thoughts:

-Should I be sharing this?

-Does anyone read my blog anymore?  Maybe I should just put it on Facebook?

-But I don't really like Facebook.

-Meh, it's probably better to just say nothing at this juncture and see
how it pans out.

So while my blog may be more boring than it once was, maybe mark it as a
sign of maturity?  Some people used to say 'you have too much time on
your hands.'  I mean, I wrote a book, only people who have a ton of time
can afford to write a book!

The truth is, yeah I've been busy doing things I can't really publicize
until it's time to publicize them, but even then, I choose not to
because it's not about me, it's about God through me.

I'm afraid, I have in fact, become, dull.  I mean my life isn't dull,
but what I can share about each of my days is limited and thus, dull.

I'm okay with that.

So for those of you who wondered why my blog got quiet, this is the main
reason.  I take my job very seriously, I take confidentiality seriously,
and I haven't really found the time to parse through the parts of my day
I can share.  I think, maybe, my blog is dying if it isn't already dead.

I would highly recommend reading the PNG Experience, though I'm rarely
an author there.



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!