Fire and Water

I serve on our volunteer fire team. Friday morning there was a fire a few miles down the road and although our policy is that we fight fires only ON center, the owner of the house was a community friend and we decided to respond.

I however did not respond because I was locked up in an isolated room (doing work) and didn't get the call. No one was hurt even though it was the biggest fire event our little team has ever seen. I was proud of the guys because we were the most prepared for an event than we've ever been. We've been training and trying to get donated equipment.

The fire was started in the kitchen and burned the entire house down. The man who lived there, an Australian man who was raised here his whole life, is receiving a lot of love and care from this community. He's recovering and taking the whole event quite well. He was very thankful to our fire team for being able to rescue what we did. By the time we arrived the house had burned down, so our work was mostly salvage and to put out the embers.

Hours later....
it began to rain.
And the primary school flooded. The drainage ditch across the road overflowed and all the rain water from the top half of the hill headed towards the school's playground. My son said it was hip deep, but I'm guessing he over exaggerated as it looks ankle deep.

So Friday had some excitement.

even more water:
Sunday we woke up to hear the news that there was an Earthquake in Chile which put all the South Pacific islands on Tsunami alert. The Tsunami alert passed us by and we remain safe. We live at over 5000 feet but have many co-workers and friends on the coast. Thanks for your prayers.



Continuing in my line of 'things you learn to adjust to' comes hair.

You learn to live with either bad haircuts, OR similar haircuts. If you do find someone good at cutting hair, the odds are they aren't stylists who know hundreds of different styles.

I was raised going to a barber shop, and look forward to visiting that same shop on furlough. Getting a nice hair cut is a special treat, however paying for it is also a rare occasion. Who knew that the hair market was a get-what-you-pay-for industry?

Here, you have three options:

-buzz it
-cut it yourself
-have a friend cut it

The guys have it easy, if they can live with a buzz cut. You see MANY school age kids with buzz cuts, which makes a lot of the boys look the same from the back.

The girls, not as easy.

Gladly there are a few people here who volunteer their time to free or paid haircuts.

I remember one particular time a friend volunteered to cut my hair when I was first here, and I assumed she had done it before because of her confidence.

Ten minutes into the extremely painful haircut she says 'this is my first time'.

I should have been clued in by the fact that she wanted to borrow my clippers.

GUYS, you might find this place is a paradise. I'm serious! A place where your hair doesn't have to look nice, your clothes don't have to be in style, and there is no place to go shopping.

GALS, sounds like a nightmare doesn't it? Well, the things that really matter you get a LOT of here. Good family time, close relationships with friends, and good time to spend together. In many ways it's like college life, getting to make lifelong friends.


the Scowl

One of the parts of culture that is continually difficult to adjust to, is the Highlands penchant for scowling.

You see many more smiles along the coastal areas, and it seems many of our PNG friends who have come to know the Lord also smile. But culturally a smile is not something you come across often in the Highlands.

In the U.S. if you're walking towards someone, even if a total stranger... say at work, you will tend to greet them, if only with your eyes and slight smile.

If it is someone you know, the lack of a smile might impress upon them you are unhappy with them.

Staring is considered rude in the U.S. as well.

But here, staring with the lack of a smile... and in fact a scowl, is completely apropos.

It strikes a Westerner like me as odd at first. You understand why they're staring. I'm white, and I'm 6'5" tall. To them I'm a giant, and my actions are interesting. As a person with white skin, what I do, say, eat, purchase, wear, is all of interest to them.

The staring isn't the issue after a while, you get used to it. But after 3 years here, I continually have to remind myself 'that person is NOT mad at you, that is there default look'.

At some age children stop laughing and smiling, and begin scowling. It strikes me as a sad thing, but it is a hard life living how they do, and I can see why they might BE unhappy. But they aren't. The scowl is simply... their look.

So, if you happen to be visiting, and you're walking down the road, a big strong PNG man scowls at you... don't think he is angry at you or wants to cause you harm... it is simply his default look.

I find it interesting the things that still surprise you. With all the adjusting that goes on, we still think VERY western. For example, the other day I'm heading home and a kid scowls at me, like in the picture above, and my reaction in my head was...

"What did I ever do to you?"

but then I realize, he's probably thinking "that's a big man... I like candy."


a Bit O' the Life

I was thinking about this, and thought perhaps it might be worth sharing.

Two of my friends are becoming grandparents for the first time.
Their daughter is in labor right now, has been for 16-17 hours.

Moms and grandmas out there can possibly imagine this scenario.

Those of who you live a long distance from your kids probably know this too.

Understand that cell phones have only been present for maybe a year now. Long distance telephony is unreliable and expensive. Plane fare is VERY pricey, and internet connection is slower and more unreliable than in the U.S.

Imagine this situation.

Wanting to be there with your daughter giving birth... knowing you can't be because it costs thousands of dollars... and if you're going to spend the money you try to be practical and decide the BEST time to go visit... would it be a few months later?

Then she goes into labor and you're living for an email... will the email get through?
Is email broken? Why is our internet down.. or is it down?

Or now.. a cell phone text message.. will that go through internationally? You only have one cell phone between the two of you so you arrange if you get a call or a text to immediately call your wife or your husband and clue them in.

Waiting... wondering.

Many couples go through this here... and each one handles it differently.

This particular instance I got to talking with others... and it's amazing how many folks have family members they haven't met yet.

For OLDER missionaries this is the lifestyle and they're used to it. For us NEWER missionaries (you thought I was going to say 'younger' didn't you?) it's still rather new.

I myself have a nephew I have yet to see face to face.

A friend of mine has 5 nieces and nephews he hasn't seen yet.

And so the story goes.

Yes it can be a tad sad... but it is one of the things you learn to deal with on this chosen path and you have many friends around who understand and are comforting.

I don't mean it this to sound like a complaint or a sob story... it simply is a part of life we've come to accept, and if it makes folks sad, well then it becomes a sacrifice of worship.

The reason it's worth mentioning, is that these are the moments when having someone like me here, responsible for keeping the network online, are really appreciated. Yes it has no direct impact on translation work, but has a huge impact on people's lives.

If you can imagine this like one of those sappy long-distance telephone commercials from the 1980's....

Picture the scene, a young woman giving birth in a hospital on the left side of the frame. On the right, her mother sitting in front of a computer terminal... in the middle several network cables connecting them... my face in the center with your faces around me. Or even a telephone, as I'm doing a lot of that now too.

Maybe a ditty or a slogan... 'working together to bring you together' or something sappy like that.

All joking aside, you enable me to enable them to communicate.

So for them and for me... thank you... for all the things you do to enable us to be here.


p.s. I always think of that collect call long distance commercial 'wehaddababyistaboy' at times like this.

RANDOM MEMORY: popcorn is a popular snack around these parts, easy to get, low cost... every time I hear the kernels hitting the pot, I think of my Grandma Jonnie.


Event Update

Life anywhere seems like it is the daily normal schedule (whatever that is for you) punctuated by big events.


The Future Big Thing:

Translation work here has typically been done by a formula. A couple goes into a village, learns the language, assembles a team to help them, and begins a translation. But that formula, while still employed, has many obstacles.

One language program here is a pilot program for a new way of doing translation. Aitape West. Using technology to find similiarities in local language groups this project uses a few ex-pats to help with 15 languages not 1 alone. This helps overcome the lack of ex-patriot trained people to assist. We simply can't do all the work there is to do without help.

Enter technology.
Many times ex-pats have to go home to help with elderly family. What if we could use ALL those trained people in their home country to help with language here!

Bomgar - an appliance that lets a technician control your computer desktop from anywhere in the world.
Vsat - satellite internet connection
hf-email - radio based email system (slow)
Skype - internet communication
Paratext - translation software
Netbook - think of it as a low power consuming laptop for our purposes

The leader couple of this project needs to return home to care for elderly family. But not before they equip their project with the means to continue in their absence. We will be installing a Vsat in Aitape so that this couple can help them via bomgar and skype to support their netbooks running paratext! Not only that... but we can leverage all the people in the U.S. who are caring for their family, as being a virtual presence here! This requires a STRONG infrastructure of support people here as well as nationals and ex-pats who can get the work done. But the technology can be used to get the experienced consulting for checking their work!

It is an exciting way to see technology being used because while it doesn't solve our lack of personnel, it does at least fully utilize what we do have. It wasn't long ago that when the ex-pat left a village work would cease, now it can continue.

This is what we're working on now, and it's the next BIG thing we're hoping for an April installation of the VSAT dish.

I can not tell you how exciting it is for a guy like me, to see a place where network is a completely foreign idea, begin to get connected and online, not for the sake of being online, but for the purpose of getting Bible Translation done more efficiently.

Kendal is helping with food for the women's retreat here. It is a time once a year where the women can bond, get good Bible teaching, and spend time with each other. Last year's was essential in Kendal's personal emotional health as it was a time for her to be able to cope with some tough issues that come with living here. We're hopeful that it will be a good 3 days of hearing what God has to say to their hearts

The LAST Big Event

2010 Scripture Use Conference

An unprecedented event took place recently at Ukarumpa that focused on the use of Scripture resources in the local languages of Papua New Guinea.
70 national-level leaders from 14 denominations and 20 parachurch organizations met for three days of discussions on the importance of Scripture - especially the use of vernacular scriptures in ministry. God blessed the gathering with unity and encouragement. One participant remarked, "You are in God's timing to be a catalyst for a great move of God."



Not much to update folks on these days.
Work is going along as normal. Kendal is busy doing her teaching/organizing job as well as volunteering in women's ministries.

Valentine's weekend we had a decent dinner and enjoyed the company of friends.

Things are somewhat busy for us, and there isn't a whole lot that comes to mind to blog about when we're that busy.

We are still preparing for furlough. We still need a vehicle and if you would like us to come speak to groups we would appreciate knowing that as well.

The last few weeks have been a little stressful with all the things going on around us and with us, but we remain in prayer to God and ask Him for strength and encouragement.

Kendal's grandmother is doing better.


Constructing 14

Feb 2, 2010 is our 14th Wedding Anniversary.

Each year I try to do two things:
-have a part of the gift I made myself
-integrate the 'material' for that year.

14 is Ivory.

To make a long story short, my wife really enjoys these PNG stamp maps. So I attempted to make one, only to find out how entirely difficult it is to get classic stamps here. SO, I had a friend who made these, and I purchased one.

Then I went about including the hand-made portion and the Ivory.

Step 1:
-buy a pig's tooth necklace at Market OR get someone else to do it for you since Market starts at 6am.

Step 2:
-remove the necklace portion

Step 3:
-sneakily obtain a PNG stamp map from a friend who accidentally emails your wife about it and let's the cat out of the bag weeks early.

Step 4:
-pencil in your desired message
-carve the tooth carefully with a dremel tool unless you're experienced with bone carving or scrimshaw. I investigated these techniques and realized I would be unable to master even the easiest of carvings, so I went with the dremel.

Step 5:
-split open an ink pen of color choice (black)
-take a toothpick (or carved stick)
-fill in the lettering with the ink
-wipe excess away with a rag soaked in Methylated Spirits

Step 6:
-allow time to dry
-affix pigs tooth to frame
-mount in house on anniversary
-wait to see how long it takes your wife to notice.
(to her credit, she noticed in moments, although from a distance she thought the inked carving was 'sharpie'. It causes one to wonder if using permanent pen might not have been more attractive AND easier to do.)

And that's the 14th wedding anniversary gift.
For mine, Kendal made chocolate eclairs! Very yummy. Her first time trying them, and she did a GREAT job.