working here

Do we really like solutions?

Working in I.T. my job is to find solutions to problems. Some days you feel great, solving one problem after the other, other days you feel darn near stupid for not being able to solve the simplest of issues.

When you are well matched with another I.T. employee, the days when you feel stupid you can turn to them and say "help!" and they understand and try to lend a bit of their brain to you and work out the solution together.

Often times here we're too busy to put two brains on the same problem, and some days, like today, you both have enough problems of your own and are both unable to solve them.

Those aren't the best days.

The days when you feel challenged by a problem and can't solve it, and realize no one else around you can solve it and it's up to you to solve alone... and you feel as if you can't.

Those are the frustrating days.

This morning, I walked into the door with a plan, which 2 minutes after arriving from group devotions, was shattered.

Email issues happening left and right. Radio issues. All our major forms of communication were under assault. People were getting upset at other people for not responding to emails they never got, etc.

And in the middle of it, sat two I.T. guys feeling by noon as if they had no clear path to solve the issues.

We took a break, walked home for lunch.
At lunch I calmed down and realized "solutions can only come AFTER problems."

So I decided to let the problem have it's time, because inevitably a solution would come, and I shouldn't let my attitude get defeated as well as email.

Armed with a fresh new perspective and a quick prayer for creativity, I walked in through the same door after lunch and low and behold a few minutes ago, not 1 but 3 problems were solved and things seem back on track.

At times wrestling with an email issue here can feel like going 15 rounds in a boxing ring. There is polite pressure and sometimes not always polite to restore this integral service. How did it get broken in the first place? People over your shoulders, and the realization that confusion is enhanced by panic.

So you can imagine my elation when I was finally able to resolve the issue, and I was ecstatic, and I jumped up out of my chair...
YES! IT WORKS!! FINALLY! This issue ate up some of my weekend and most all of my monday but it works now!!!

which is when my co-worker walked in from the radio site and said
"well at least one of us is fixing things."

He will solve it. I know he will. But still, one of the many wonderful differences in being a member of the Kingdom of God is that I can quietly say a pray for him to solve it.

And, one of the great things about working with other believers here is that I can pray with him, and not have to find a secluded office somewhere where people won't be offended by our prayers and write an angry email to a manager.

I'm finding there is a great many cultural differences between working in Silicon Valley and working here. Not the least of which is being able to blast praise music in an "office" without offending people.


A Painting, Providence

Should I write blog in haiku? Would we call that "blogku" ? Or perhaps "haikog"?

That isn't my area of expertise... I'm more of a run on sentence kind of guy.

3 years ago in October 2004 I came to PNG for 3 weeks.
for 3 of those days I spent time in a language area (apparently I shouldn't say village? This is news to me but it was a village.)

We visited 3 villages, Goglmo was one of the ones where we showed the Jesus Film and I played with the kids.

3 years later exactly... the same month... my wife says "I'd like to check out this National Art show." So she went, and I stayed and did work around the house.

She says "I liked one let's go back."

So we went back, and we liked the same one so I was able to talk to the artist. Found out he was a national translator with the same guy who's village I visited and is FROM the village I visited 3 years ago.

I don't know the odds of that, but we bought the painting because it's a little piece of our history (and here they are very cheap).

Now we have more of a story than "we liked it so we bought it". It is in fact, 3 years to the month after my original trip here, meeting a man from the village that was instrumental in teaching me about the true PNG, and who had painted this beautiful scene of a lake in Goroka (the town I flew into 3 years ago and haven't been to since).

I do not believe in coincidence, I can't afford to.
I am not normally an "art" purchaser but this one happened to be the right price (about $40.00 US) and had a good story to it, and has a lot of personal memories tied to it as well.

Cultural Moment

Before coming here we either gave away stuff, sold stuff at a yard sale, scrapped it, put it in storage or brought it with.

So the other day I was looking for something I owned, and I stopped and thought...

"wait, do I still have this? and if I do... where is it?"

It's an odd place to be in mentally... knowing that you formerly owned something.
AND THEN, if you can convince yourself that you still have it, and get up the energy to begin... you can search through the many boxes you haven't opened yet that it might possibly be in.

And ironically, we inventoried everything we brought so that this wouldn't happen.
It's more a funny moment than anything.

Like that moment when you're walking and suddenly you forget where you were going and what you were about to do? Some folks call those "senior moments" but even at the tender young age of 33 I have them regularly when busy.

So here is an interesting moment in our culture that unless you've spent time here you really wouldn't appreciate or fully understand. You really never throw anything away here. So when you're done with something you can give it (or sell as some do) away. But, because we all live so closely, you also put your name on the equipment that often gets brought together and lost. Umbrellas, basketballs, stuff like that, often you'll see a name on it in sharpie pen, or several names with prior names scribbled out.

You know an item has been around a long time by how many names it has on it. Each name a previous owner.

Well we live in the house formerly occupied by [Last Name Hidden for security reasons].

So last night, as my wife and I were talking in the living room, we heard three kids dart for a snack in the kitchen and my daughter yells out

"Okay, but I get the cup that has Joy [Last Name] written on it!"

We laughed. It was such an odd thing to hear and something you might not here anywhere else.

It was a "I'm a missionary on a missionary-center" cultural moment.
Those happen almost daily.

For example, the other day I was looking at a video of my nephew whom I haven't seen for 6 months taking his first steps and something felt very ODD about it.

Finally I realized it was because the floor had carpet on it. Something you don't see a lot of here because of the climate.

Another moment is when you're watching a movie and feel like the driver is on the wrong side of the car... and road, then you realize... oh yeah this movie was made in America.


Fun Fact

A friend sent me a picture of this letter above from one of her 6 year old supporters.

It's a cute question, and very valid so I thought I'd spend a minute on it.
The reason it is so valid is that it is two names combined. Papua comes from the Melanesian term meaning "frizzy hair".

Papua New Guinea the "Last Unknown" to the rest of the world was "discovered" in 1526 by Portuguese sea captain Jorge de Meneses. Or did he really ‘Discover’ Papua New Guinea?


The country's dual name results from its complex administrative history prior to Independence. The word papua is derived from a Malay word describing the frizzy Melanesian hair, and "New Guinea" (Nueva Guinea) was the name coined by the Spanish explorer YƱigo Ortiz de Retez



Interesting Day

Today is Sunday

Today I woke up to hearing the sounds of my children playing a game in our back yard. The best I can tell it was a sort of a "hide the treat" and guess who has it type of game. The part that was interesting is no english was spoken and I understood everything that was going on and it took me a second to realize it wasn't English ( I was still sleepy). I keep a tape in my video camera for these moments and started taping. Unfortunately most of it involved being quiet and closing eyes. But I was able to give you a small glimpse of what my children's days are like outside of school and chores.

I had been thinking for a while that the kids needed a swing, and so today as a family we went outside, after church, and the kids picked the tree. We smacked some weatherproofing on a scrap piece of wood, and tied some rope in place. I weight tested it and viola... tree swing. It really is nice that they have plenty of room to run around outside and play and that they have made and continue to make many national friends as well as ex-patriot friends.

God has blessed us continually through watching our children here. Never once do they stop to think about how incredible it is they are playing games with children from a different birth place, speaking a different language, eating foreign "biscuits" in a backyard once owned by Bible Translators. But we do.

Yesterday I spent the day (saturday) helping a friend dig some really big holes to put up his antenna. T.V. antenna you ask? No, his amateur radio antenna. With it he can very rarely communicate with portions of the midwest United States. He is hoping to converse with his dad more frequently with the improved antenna. Radio is a big form of communication around here, and I am trying to learn more about it since I seem to be in the perfect place to learn.

The work of a support missionary here is very diverse. Almost everyone has multiple jobs, all of which are key. Beside that though, my wife and I have a commitment to helping others as often as we can and having the needs of others take priority over some things that may seem important to us, and yet in the long run are not. Part of our heart towards support is lending help wherever we can. Yesterday for me that meant digging 33 inch square holes all day instead of repairing things around our house. Why? Because I heard someone who was going to do it and thought, it be better for their daily job if they weren't sore and exhausted on Monday by doing it alone.

I tell you, I heard a sermon from a man in Alotau, a pastor there, born in Papua New Guinea, and he preached on being a cheerful giver. I can honestly say that having a cheerful heart of giving has come from God through many of you. Being supported by you has touched us in a profound way and has taught me the meaning of cheerful giving. Through your example, I was able to dig holes without once complaining inside my own head about how hard the work was, or how I'd rather be doing other things.

For me, that is a lot of personal growth (-; I'm seeing that I'm not the man I used to be in many ways. I've really stopped grumbling to myself about things. WOW, did I have life easy before, why was I complaining? And now, I see all around me that I could have it a LOT tougher... so why complain now?

God has blessed us too often in so many ways for us to not be thankful no matter what comes our way.

Right now, we are settling back in. I've been back from Alotau for 3 work days, and a weekend, and now it's time to really get some major projects at work begun. We have a lot of improvements that we are able to do, and judging from the new missionaries coming in through POC the computer services department is going to have more work to do.

Five years ago, email wasn't used as often here, one of ten missionaries brought a laptop to POC with them. Last month at the orientation training, not one single member was without a laptop. Everyone knew what high speed internet was. The next generation of computer users have arrived with their MacOSX and their Vista and their high speed expectations, and so we at CTS will have our work cut out for us.

Meanwhile Kendal has begun teaching English as a second language, and this next week will begin sessions with the kids one on one! She's pretty excited.

So things are moving along and we're beginning to feel a lot less like students still learning the ropes and more like helpers starting to pull our weight.


Alotau Too

I am back from Alotau which is in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. I finally understand all the jokes about air travel in a third-world country! Flights cancelled after 4 hours waiting in a terminal, getting stuck in an area for days because of a cancelled flight. Missing connections etc.

For a moment picture the oldest plane in the States that you've ever flown in commercially. Now imagine that would be the shining jewel in the Air Nuigini fleet. For the most part you're grateful there IS an airline, but the rest of the time you're frustrated that you can't seem to get on a plane the first time you try. Pushing and shoving has been known to happen, flights sitting on the tarmack for hours because the stewards forgot to come to work.

Anything can happen.

And it did. But that's not the point of the story.

My department sent me to the southern bay area of the country to help solve computer and network issues.

The setting:
In order to get translation work done, translators spend time in their assigned village. For many reasons from time to time they need to exit the village (supplies, laundry, sanity, deliver mail, send their current translation work to headquarters, a simple break, refridgeration) and when they do they can not make the trip back up to the Ukarumpa headquarters as it is a costly trip. So we have strategically placed regional centers.

Each of these regional centers need a few bodies to manage them. Usually these centers provide jobs for local Papua New Guineans. When translators are not at the centers, the flats/apartments are available for other travelers both private and commercial.

The Alotau center has two new acting managers who have come to PNG to help kickoff the new maritime (boat) ministry. If you know how useful planes are out in the jungle, then you can imagine how nice it will be to have reliable boats in a location that is very coastal and has many nearby islands.

The new manager also happens to be a personal friend as we attended Training Camp together.

VITAL a translation course in which there is training as well as actual translation that goes on, is kicking off the day I arrive.

The mission:
In order to help relieve some of the pressure on the new manager who has been in country under 2 months, has 4 kids and is really here to do the boat ministry, I was chosen to fly to Alotau. My mission was to remove any computer obstacles to their work getting done as well as assisting VITAL with their network setup for the class.

The work:
I showed up, assessed the situation, and began to work on the computers, volunteering also to when available work on anyone's personal computers. There were several personal computing issues that stood in the way and jsut gnaw at people and frustrate their work, slowing their progress. I began alleviating as many as I could find or was told about.

The blessing:
Really I consider myself being blessed what mainly happened on the trip. Yes people were VERY excited to be able to get a long standing issue solved in a place where little support is offered. Very grateful indeed! Some of the most appreciated work was stuff I did on the side that I saw as a simple favor. We reached out to the community to meet a few people and happened upon a guy with a few computer issues and I was able to repair them in under ten minutes... that ten minutes went a LONG way to help further good relations in the community with the current managers.

But for the most part, I got to work side by side with people doing translation! I got to see it happening! I also gained a new appreciation for the diversity of this country as this coastal area was unlike anything I'd seen before. Honestly each day was like a scenic frame from a tropical paradise movie! One night I was worshiping God thanking Him for putting me in this fantastic adventure. I've seen many adventure films but I never thought I'd be in one!

I gained an appreciation for what life at a regional centre is like and how my friends' lives down here are different than my own. I met people who I'd later be supporting with computer work, and gained faces to the voices. Overall, a productive week!

There is burden, and there is sacrifice when serving God, but in so many ways God reaches out and blesses, and His yolk is light! I have found joy in serving Him even though the things I've done are so far outside my comfort zone, I've been amazed by God repeatedly in the way He choses to work.

One example, I was scheduled to fly down and the flight was late, forcing me to miss my connection and scramble to rebook a flight and a place to stay the night in one town. The flight was cancelled without me knowing it, and had I not been late, I would have never booked the place I did (most affordable), sat in the airport forever, and had a miserable time. Instead, I went straight to my place to stay and had a deep conversation with a Papua New Guinean woman about law and morality and God and all kinds of subjects. A conversation which helped me gain a greater appreciation for Papua New Guinea's struggles.

Play time:
One day the boat manager needed to take the boat out and do some safety equipment training. So while he did that, I was able to go look at the new boat. The Kwadima II. It has replaced the old boat which was less effective at moving people around. This boat was designed as a fiber-glass hull but in the old wooden hull appearance so that culturally it wouldn't stand out like a soar thumb in the docks of PNG. A wise move I think. The boat didn't have a lot of luxuries, but it was very functional and got the job done effeciently. While we went out, I was able to drop a fishing line in... caught something big too but it snapped the line. Then we anchored for a bit, and jumped into the water for a quick swim. I saw a squid, a lobster, a kingfish, a jellyfish, a few huge oysters, and told there was a moray eel nearby. That was all in the span of about 1 hour. We got back on the boat and headed in. It was a nice break in the hectic pace. It's odd that in such a laid back society as this coastal area was, that life could be so busy for us at the center, but it was. Very busy.

Overall, the trip held a lot of benefits. Although I did find that being away from Kendal and the kids for ten days in PNG was a LOT harder than being away for 10 days in the States. I think it was being on the ocean, without a main highway between us, and an unreliable airport, made me feel a bit isolated from them, add to that super slow dial up internet speeds, and unreliable phone lines and I was feeling rather homesick by the fourth night.

Still, it was a very good trip and I know God was filling me up with experiences He'll tap into at a later date.

Picture time:

A WWII anti-aircraft gun pointed right at me as I got off the airplane in Alotau. War relics litter the beaches.

the plane

the village we visited of an employee

a glimpse of town - this place has EVERYTHING (-;

VITAL in action (admittedly not the most active picture, but the course is longer than I was there for and I didn't get many action pics)

Alotau from the ocean.

Boat training

using safety location equipment

the old boat



I went to bed last night around 2am because I was working in the office to repair failed hard drives. I'm trying to work in the office AFTER hours so I have from 4-6(dinner) then from 10(dinner chat) till I go to bed. Gladly though, battling the slow internet connection, I finally downloaded somewhat timely virus definitions.

Today Tim needed to go on the boat and train many people on the emergency location device and test the new antenna. So we all went with him. We sent the "old" boat the MARK out with a beacon and tried to locate it. It took us about an hour. On the way I thought "why not drop a line in?" So I did, send the tension on the line, and let it sit, about an hour later the line started unspooling like mad, so I ran to the back of the boat, grabbed the pole and before I could get a good yank in to set the hook, I felt slack. The line snapped... I hadn't yelled "fish on" and the tension was too much for it. Oh well, some excitement, but it would have been nice to have some fresh fish for the first time in 6 months.

This is really a different world down here. For going such a short distance, it's completely different. Ukarumpa is a highlands (mountain) culture, this is a coastal culture. The houses are different, people are more used to being on the water or shore than in the hills, there are no gardens visible from the ocean up in the hills, which tells me most of the people are down on the coast. They don't speak Tok Pisin, they speak mostly MOTU, and if you speak Tok Pisin and they don't, they might be insulted. Things seem more safe here, but in many aspects it is such a different way of life. Tim and the family are like fish, we swam today in the ocean, taking about an hour break for fun after training was done.
He dives down, stays down... it's amazing.

So I had a lot of firsts.
At tim's challenge, I dove off the top of the boat (about 13+my height) up from the water, jumped into the water. Then in the water saw an old WWII wreckage that had 2 huge oysters on it (about the size of basketballs). Getting back onto the boat was a trick. It's a new boat and they haven't worked out the ladder yet, so I climbed up the side, and in the process cut my foot and dropped my mask into the water . I hesitated but jumped in after it, and it was too late. So I had to climb my way up onto the boat again. On the way back I saw some dolphins off the bow and ran to get my camera, and came back they were drifting in front of the bow of the boat right under me! It was pretty neat. I'm not sure if the pictures came out.
A lot of firsts.

It sounds like a nice day, and it was. The boat is a fibreglass hull crafted to look like an old wooden boat. The style of the boat doesn't reflect all of the latest technologies but it tries to incorporate as many as it can (satellite,gps, radio, etc) in a culturally sensitive way so the boat doesn't stand out too much at the dock. And it doesn't. It actually blends in nicely, except that's it is very clean and white still.

I came over here because the current "acting" manager of this location is supposed to also be the maritime manager. The maritime ministry is a new ministry trying to get off the ground, with the intention of getting translators to and from their allocation safely. Until this boat came along, travel was at best, risky. So this family came and in the process have also taken on the site management job. I've spent 5 days with them now, and they are very simply put.... overworked. They do not complain, but he is doing the job of 4 men right now.

Add to that cultural learning, as they've been here not even 2 months yet, and then finally throw in a slew of computer problems, and life is pretty tough down here. So my department sent me down to help ease the load as much as I could. Almost like a missions trip inside of being a full time missionary.

Today we took a break from working 8am-2am every day, and worked out on the ocean. It is a completely different life from my own but I really enjoyed seeing Tim and his family in their element, seeing where they excel. It made me realize God really chose the right family to come here.

I've had some interesting cultural situations that I've been involved in since being here. It's been a very rich experience. Sparing you the details, the overall point of the encounters seems to be that you need to reach out with care to the surrounding cultures and show them you are here to love them and integrate. Failure to do that would be a huge mistake but an easy one to make since we don't know all the cultural rules yet. Being active in the community, being seen, kids playing together, adults talking together, this is relationship building and no work will be effective until that is established. It takes time and wisdom.

I've gotten to taste a little of what life is like for translators AWAY from Ukarumpa which is our "headquarters", I've seen the village, and now I've seen a regional center which is like a mini-headquarters. I've been able to see the boat they spend nights on travelling, and I've been able to solve computer problems for translators who come through and need to get work done.

I've felt very directly involved here and realize that this experience is very unique to those who live in Ukarumpa and it can only profit everyone that I've had it. I should be able to better support them knowing what it's like down here, but mostly understanding what life is like will help me best support them both spiritually, physically and technologically.