a dissertation on the moral reprehension reclining your airline seat

I don't recline my seat on the airplane.

I don't do it because I believe it is common courtesy, and in hopes that
somehow others will feel the same.

When I recline my chair, you behind me, have less space. My expansion
becomes your contraction. The only way for you to exert control over
your environment is to recline as well, which causes a domino effect.

You could ask me to sit up. Which I should be doing anyway. Especially
if there is food service going on.

But you probably won't. You'd probably sit there quietly grumbling and
finding passive aggressive ways to communicate your discomfort with me.

And so I choose to break the chain.

If you recline into me, I don't recline, because I refuse to pass on
what I perceive as your rudeness to others.

I absorb it.

Which is tough to do when I'm on a plane for 15 hours, I'm tired from 4
legged flight, reclining hurts my neck which hangs 6 inches over the top
of the chair anyway, and I can't see the movie screen I'm trying to
watch to keep my mind off the fact that my back hurts and my legs are numb.

I don't drink.

So... I really have no outlet for all of this frustration that your
reclining into me has created.

Except maybe to smile if the drink cart bangs your elbow like it has
mine. But alas, I can't get pleasure out of your pain.

So I ask you, please consider, NOT reclining.

I know not everyone holds this value. They should. Plane seats should
be un-reclinable. It is a comfort feature that only lends comfort to
the people up in the bulkhead seats.

When I travel in June, I'm going to attempt an experiment. I'm going to
bring some cookies and a note and hand it to all of the bulkhead people
and say 'I would really love it if you wouldn't recline at all during
this flight. I am willing to bet these cookies, that if you don't
recline, it'll drastically reduce the domino effect of reclining and
hopefully give everyone on this flight a slightly nicer trip. I would
like to thank you in advance for any discomfort you might feel, by
giving you these cookies."

and then jsut see... see if no one reclines. See if the plane becomes
utopia, people chatting with each other, smiling, enjoying 15 hours
locked up with total strangers who are breathing in your germs. Maybe a
rainbow will appear off the right wing, and maybe everyone will sing in
unison 'cumbaya'

and maybe, the lack of reclination will make us a better nation in general.
you never know... it could happen.

Maybe I should make a t-shirt and sell it online 'hello fellow
passenger, if I recline, it's because I hate you."



So my wife is checked in and waiting to fly out. Today our PNG friend
came in to work with her daughter. Every time I see her daughter I
realize there has been a problem at her nearby school. So I ask,

'Why is she here? What happened?'

IF ever there was a culture who could talk so matter-of-factly about
horrible things, it is this culture. It doesn't mean they don't feel
deep emotion, it just means truth is truth and they say it without shame.

If you're fat, they say 'you are fat.' There is no sense of 'maybe I
shouldn't say such things.' like we have in the U.S. It's candid and to
the new-arrival its rude. But it isn't rude, it's true, and obvious and
they say it.

So... very matter of factly as if telling me that the weather was nice
today, she said,

'An enraged man came into the classroom, took a knife and slit the
throat of the teacher, and she died. So there is no school today.'

I was horrified.

The students saw it, but that didn't seem to be an ordeal. There was no
'I'm worried about the psychy of my child.' There was just 'so that's
why there is no school today.'

This isn't the first time a death has been the cause of school being

You almost get the impression that it's like a 'snow day'. Except then
at the funeral there is horrible wailing and nashing of teeth and
pulling of hair. And you don't see that in the U.S.

So you tell me, which culture feels deeper emotion? The ones that get
choked up telling you the horror that happened but then are stoic and
somber at funerals? OR the ones who say exactly what happened without a
single tear, and then moan and wail and thrash at the funeral?

The Pngians have a time and a place for expressing emotion and grief.
It is their way. And honestly, it makes a lot of sense to me. They set
aside a time to grieve, and do it VERY thoroughly. And then go back to
work. Whereas we tend to let it permeate us for a very long time in all
that we do.

There is so much death and loss here that if we had to live in PNG the
png way and yet grieve in our American way, we'd be constantly useless
to anyone.

So, it kind of puts the chaos of rushing home into perspective.

No matter what our trials, someone else is bearing more. That doesn't
mean our trials are unimportant. They mean the world to us. We each
have our burdens to bear. What I have learned is that sharing the
burden makes it lighter, and that God is good through the small and the
big trials.



June is the crying month over here.  The gate at Aviation is the last place you see your friends before they get on a plane.  Living the lifestyle we do here, friendships grow very deep, very quickly.

Statistically 1/2 of your friends are replaced every 7 years.  But those statistics don't take into account living overseas in a tight-knit community.  The stats feel much closer to every 4 years.

For us, it's not even June yet and we've had our share of tears.

-The graduating seniors from high school, often leave for good (aka 'finish').  Sometimes their parents go with them, sometimes their parents return.  Often you're not only saying goodbye to your best friend, but also a beloved teacher, or family friend, or confidant, and always co-worker.

-People who live together here, in the same place, often return to very different places.  You can visit from time to time, but life moves on, and a visit isn't the same as living next door.

The crying month is a month of goodbyes, and 'I don't know if I'll see you again on this earth, but I will in heaven' sentiments.

And it happens every year, every June, and sometimes it impacts the Owens family more personally than others.  This particular June is a hard one.

-We are leaving for 1 year.  We're excited to see family and friends in the U.S. but it means we will be saying goodbye to friends here.
-my son's 3 best friends will not be here when he returns.  This is tough as they've been very close.
-my father-in-law is gravely ill and we've been informed he's in the hospital, so our hearts are being torn... 'do we stay, do we drop everything and go now?'  It is very hard to know what to do.

If we leave now, my son loses 28 days with his 3 best friends he'll never see again, my wife's job at the school drops into sudden chaos, the house needs to be quickly packed up, we need to pack furiously, and my daughter won't finish her exams.  Notice we didn't mention the cost of changing non-refundable tickets?  You don't count money at times like this.

But if we don't leave, and something happens, my wife will never forgive herself.

My wife is very sad, my daughter is trying to hold it together for exams, but she's very emotional (about grandpa), my son flits between 'I'm okay' and 'I'm angry I don't get to see my friends any more'.  And the entire family is in transition back to the U.S. with expected culture shock, and not knowing exactly where we will call 'home' just yet.

So we have tears in all directions right now.

Pray for us please.  When the tears come, I firmly believe (and maybe I'm too traditional) that the dad, the husband, (me) is the rock of the family.  When everything in life seems totally uncertain, and it's all falling apart around you, the man in the house, has to be the reliable, steady, strong one.  He's the one to lend some reliability, some strength.  He's the well rooted oak you cling to when everything is being blown away by the hurricane.  The only way I am able to do that is because God is the true foundation.  He's our oak, and I'm asking him to lend me strength during this time.

I ask you to pray that I can be that for family.  I ask you to pray that my wife and I will make wise decisions right now.  I ask that you pray for my kids that they transition well.  I ask that these next few days would go well, but primarily I would ask that my father-in-law would pull through, get better, and be able to go home, so that we can spend some time with him!

thank you for praying for us.
-on a side note, we almost never pray that God will make everything better for us, nor to take away suffering for us.  Instead we pray that God would enable us to endure well whatever comes our way and be able to be praising God before, during, and after it.  However we do pray for the relief of suffering for those we love.


Mini Dedication

God’s Word is HERE!

In a meaningful and moving ceremony this last weekend,

we dedicated a printed volume of eleven Kaluli Scripture books

along with audio devices mirroring what is in the printed book.

We had fabulous participation by church leaders,

and in addition, over 500 people attended from 20 Kaluli villages

(some of whom walked more than twelve hours each way

over steep slippery mountain trails to get there.) 

They were rewarded at the conclusion of the ceremony

with a huge pig roast with six pigs donated

by the translation team and the local church members.

The Kaluli audio-bible is one of 2 final projects that I was involved in recording and producing.  (Final being the last 2 projects before furlough).
Celebrate with me that it is now in the hands of people.  Pray with me that their lives will be changed because of it.


Gender differences and Building Materials

When we moved into this house, there was a half chain link, half sheet metal shed for firewood and tools.  But because I didn't like the fact that anyone could see inside, I put up plywood around the sides for privacy.

I was pleased because the plywood (normally $80 a sheet) was free from another job I had done where I had to remove a wall. 
My wife was not pleased because she felt it looked ugly.

We're preparing to leave, so I thought I might finish up the tin shed project.

I wanted to go with more sheet metal, make it all look nice, it's easy to work with, but 11 sheets would cost about $154.
My wife has always hated the look of this building.

A friend offered med what you see in the picture above "blain" (blinds).  It's woven mini bamboo.  They cut open hundreds of tiny mini-bamboo, flatten it, and then weave the strands back and forth.

20 meters of it is HEAVY.  It's sharp, it's brittle, and it's HARD to tack into place.  BUT, it's cheap!  $35 for 20 meters as compared to the sheet metal $154. 
It will last a very long time, but not as long as sheet metal.

My wife will not say 'it looks good' when it doesn't.  I could slave away all day on making something look good for her, but in the end, if she doesn't like it, she'll tell me so.

What a project this was, I got cut up, scratched up, broke out in  rash, tore my pants, etc.   As you can see above I got rid of the 'bush knife' cutting method and went with my circular saw.

In the end, the entire shed was encased in this stuff by the end of the day.

I stepped back, and took a look. 

My opinion was that metal would have looked better.  In my opinion, this stuff looks, 'junky'. 
Out walks my friend Iri (a woman) and said 'em luk nais!'

Soon my wife came home and said 'WOW! That looks really nice!'

Here I was thinking she'd hate it.  And she loves it.

Gender differences.

Another related gender difference.  I'm bloodied, bruised, and covered in dirt.  And I'm in a GREAT mood.  I accomplished something today, not only did I do the project but my wife actually LIKES how it looks.

I'm guessing if my wife were bruised and covered in dirt, she probably wouldn't be in a great mood.

It just goes to show ya, when you're doing things for other people, you feel better.
I have devoted the last 2 weeks of my life to just doing things for other people.  Helping them in a myriad of different ways, and I feel so uplifted, encouraged, and otherwise emcompassed in assorted feel-gooderies.


Praying for a Miracle

Got one!

I few weeks ago (maybe months now) some friends of ours were in a very unfortunate shipwreck at sea.  I am not permitted to divulge all of the details publicly.  Suffice it to say, they survived by God's provision. Almost all of their equipment was scattered into the ocean.

Among that equipment was a laptop which had translation data on it from the workshop they had just finished and were returning home from.

You know me, and my tech background, and my strong desire that no important data should EVER be lost!  And here there is a laptop in the ocean somewhere with days and weeks of translation data, lost.

So my wife and I began to pray.  Specifically for the survival of the translation data, on that laptop.

A few weeks ago we got news, that a laptop washed ashore in a nearby village, but we didn't know whose it was, or which one it was.

Today I got this news (in fact moments ago)

[a friend] writes: “When they arrived at Emira airstrip on the way to Mussau, the Brownies received the items that were recovered from the sea, and this included a computer. When John opened the computer case, he said, 'Yah, it's mine!' They said that other items were found wet but the computer case was kept dry the whole time. PTL! "

It appears that the translation data survived!!!  I have to wait until my friend John returns to ask him, but it is looking good!
God is amazing.


Some local flora in PNG.  Just taking a moment to recognize the beauty that is this country.



The Kunimaipa New Testament —500th Scripture publication posted to

We celebrate a milestone, having posted the 500th Scripture publication
to the ScriptureEarth website today.
The 8,200 speakers of Kunimaipa can read, or download and print their
Scriptures. Or if they have an android smart phone they can download the
module for the phone app, MySword, or the module for the free computer
Bible study program, theWord.

Perhaps 500 seems like just a number and maybe tomorrow we will post the
next one. But each Scripture translation project represents hundreds or
thousands of people who need to hear the Gospel of Great News—God loves
us and wants to share an eternal relationship with us.

Pray with us that each Bible translation will be found by those who read
these languages, and that hundreds more Scripture translations will be
added to those available for easy distribution on the Web.


What I got to do

Today, I got to send a message to the Bible translator I've been working
with for the past year.

"Jeff, your 400 audibibles are ready for pickup. They've been tested,
programmed, assembled, and packed. They are ready for pickup and
shipment to the village.!"

!!!! That's an entire New Testament, done.! I would not be surprised to
get an order for another 200 within three months from now.

celebration time, long job, well done.


How to support a missionary till the end of time

This is a solar inverter called a 'sunny boy'.

Electricity in PNG costs 99toea per kilowatt hour.  Current exchange rate puts that at about 35 U.S. cents. per kilowatt hour.  My family uses on average 14 kwhrs per day (excluding December as we like to put up decorative lights).

That's about $279 p/month US.

Now, if I stood up and said to perfect strangers 'who wants to send us $279 p/month?'  A lot of people might say 'no way Jose.'

But if I said 'for a one time cost of $12,000, you could supply all our power needs for the duration of our stay in PNG, plus all the power needs of whatever family moves into our house when we leave, PLUS some of the power needs of other missionaries on the same center.'  ....

You might say 'hey, what a bargain!'

The most renewable resource we have here (besides rain) is the sun.  Up on my roof there is a ton of prime real-estate for solar panels.  I have been investigating this for a number of years now, and my neighbor just installed his system last week.

Okay, get ready to geek out, because this is fun stuff!

-There is a new model of solar panel out there, gauranteed for 25 years, and built to withstand 1" hail stones. !!!! that's more than double any other solar panel gaurantee (most gauranteed for 10 years).

-this same solar panel is highly efficient which means, even on partially cloudy days it produces well (all tested as per my two friends here who have already installed it)

-the panels produce 327 watts per sun hour.
-My house is located such that typically we get 4 hours of good sun per day (conservative estimate, sun in morning, rain in afternoon.)
-with 12 panels, that's 3.94kws p/hour for a total of 15.76 kwhrs p/day.  Remember I said we use 14.
-any power we DO NOT consume becomes credit, and sells back to the grid for whatever the current price is.

So wait, am I saying that we can actually MAKE MONEY?  Yes.  Although the goal would be to break even, yes any excess power will go to our neighbors.

IT IS SOOOOO COOL!! TO SEE our power meter run backwards instead of forwards!

It teaches our kids about conservation.... it is responsible, it's affordable, it's forward thinking..

But wait... (can you tell I'm excited) there's more....

-PNG power rises at an estimated cost of 11% per year.

So here's how it works out:

The initial cost of equipment is going to be about $12,000.  That includes shipping it all over here.  Installation will be free as myself and a friend can do it.

IF we were pay normal electricity in this country, it would take 3.2 years to pay that back (adjusting for the rise in cost of power).  HOWEVER if we make excess power, and sell power BACK to the grid, that time will drop even more.

So, I estimate, it'll take 3 to 3.2 years to get the system paid off to the 'break even' point.

Which means, any power used after that point, is all gravy. 

THIS system could drastically reduce how expensive it is to live here now... and how expensive it is to live here in the future!

A lot of the projects that I've looked at have considered the fact that there is still a ton of work to do in PNG, and we'll most likely be here a long time.  Even if it isn't my family, directly, whatever family comes behind, will find it easier not having to pay over $300 p/month in electricity.

NOT To mention that the power here goes off ALL the time.  I mean, multiple times a day.  The electronics in the house go off a lot, our pc's crash, hard drives crash, etc. 

Solar inverter means more reliable power.  (a battery backup would mean that as well), because if the PNG power goes out, but it's sunny out, I'll never notice that blip.

Lighting strikes will still be a concern however.

IT makes the power more reliable, and consumes LESS.  Already PNG power is over taxed.  The nearby dam is past due maintenance, and well over-extended. 

This project makes so much sense, that I would be going ahead with it right now if it weren't for 2 things:

1 - I don't have $12,00
2 - I'm going on furlough in a few weeks.

Why bother blogging this then?

I'm looking to interest someone, maybe a Christian run business?  Someone who wants to contribute or even NEEDS to (by law) to contribute to conservation projects. 

I'm asking for anyone out there to keep this in mind, because not only could we use this, but many other families on center could as well.

Currently we get our drinking water from the sky.  We're not on any centralized water system.
It'd be nice to get our power from the sky too, get off the grid, let the people of PNG who need it, use the power.

If you know of some company who has funds set aside for such a thing, please contact me!
I would really like to raise the money to get this going!




The local gas pump also sells kerosene and used diesel oil. The people
from the village often do not have electricity or if they do, elect not
to use it often. So for light, they use kerosene lanterns, as they
often eat outdoors.

The PNG village house is often little more than a bedroom. Traditionally
the men and women sleep in different houses (called Haus Man).. but that
value has gone away and often times now, inside the house, the men/boys
sleep in one area, the women/girls in another area.

The bathroom is an outhouse, the kitchen is an outdoor area called a
Haus Kuk (house cook), and you often eat near the haus kuk on mats.

Today I went to get petrol. I saw an older lady walking with a cast on
her arm. I let my mind imagine how she wound up with that broken arm,
and then how she wound up with that cast. I've seen people borrow the
cast of other people, to save a trip to town or money. IT was a full arm
cast, but that doesn't mean she broke her full arm. In fact the cast
looked rather large and bulky and so, I (perhaps mistakenly) assumed it
was formerly a man's cast that she borrowed. (I didn't get a chance to
look for a cut, nor did I see it taped shut).

She removed from her bag, a 1.5 liter Pepsi bottle, and the fuel
attendant filled it up with the blue Kerosene. She paid her coins, and

She made the trek only for the kero.

I began to think about the light that fuel would bring. How long it may
last, and how soon she might have to return for more.

I thought about the parallels of Christ being the light... and also
being the water of life, such that we would never thirst again.

I knew there were some parallels there that my mind was too lazy in the
afternoon sun, to put together. It was a nearly poignant moment, but
then, I see it often enough, so perhaps we weren't all that close to
deep thought.

Then I had this thought.... kerosene is a common fuel here. People know
what it smells like, looks like (and even maybe tastes like), and feels

And I wondered how many of my friends back home knew these things about
Kero. Often we talk about the things people living here never see or
know about. Like... what a bluetooth headset is, but it works both ways.

The fuel vendor told me 'we buy the kero in 55 gallon drums, to dole it
out one liter at a time means leakage. But we do it, and we allow it in
any containter they bring, because it's such a huge need.'

There's something there about context, and making your work 'relevant' I
think I could probably dig up too, but like I said, lazy brain, sunny


Dr. Who at 13

Today is my son's 13th birthday.  To celebrate he has invited 3 close friends over to have a DR. Who themed party.  Kendal made this awesome T.A.R.D.I.S. cake before she got sick and had to go to bed.  ME and the boys watched some Matt Smith DR. Who episodes, played Dr. Who trivia, and had prizes (I had fashioned some party favors out of some old broken clocks I had saved)   
The part that astounds me is that I was watching Tom Baker as DR. Who when I was my son's age... and here they are, the next Gen of Dr. Who fans, watching it with me, with Matt Smith as the Dr.

We talk about Daleks and Cybermen and it's pretty cool to be able to geek out with your son and his friends and actually know what they're talking about.


Unknowingly, I attended a wedding

PNG is not a country where marriages are often registered.  44,000 marriages are registered over 50 years of history.  More deaths are registered than births or marriages.  Informal/de facto marriages are much more common, and fewer still are blessed in the church.

Which makes this story all the more interesting to me.

I was sitting in a village church in the area of Kokopo.  When a couple stood up and in their heart language that I didn't understand, they came forward, spoke for a while, then turned, the church leader/pastor said a few short words, and then it was over.

It was quiet, it was simple.

The first thing that surprised me was that the man and woman were sitting together.  Traditionally in church the men sit on one side of the room, the women on the other. 

After it was all over I asked someone who knew the language 'what was that about?'

They said:
This couple stood up to tell us that they were living a sexual relationship life outside of marriage and keeping it secret. They considered themselves married, but the village did not. (possibly because there was no bride price/tradition?)  But lately they have been coming to church together and have been convicted by the Bible, and their beliefs, and so they decided to ask the church for the blessing on their marriage.  And so the church did, and wed them right then and there.

It is extremely rare to see a PNG wedding because of the many traditions around it, and how all of those traditions are in flux.

For me though, the real story was that they were convicted by the Lord to make their relationship a true marriage in the eyes of God.

Schindler's List

There is school around the corner called Schindler school.  It isn't named after Oskar, but after Professor Charles Schindler.  Still every time I pass it I think of that final scene in Schindler's list where he breaks down in tears:

Oskar Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I'd just... I could have got more.
Itzhak Stern: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.
Oskar Schindler: If I'd made more money... I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I'd just...
Itzhak Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.
Oskar Schindler: I didn't do enough!
Itzhak Stern: You did so much.


If you haven't seen the movie or know the story, it's about a business man who saved the lives of many Jews during the holocaust. 

We're looking at furlough here in a few weeks.  And thus it'll be time to tell people back home, about what we did, what we're doing, and share the stories and excitement we have.  What we have done personally, is a long list.  3.5 years is a long time.  What we have been a part of, is a much longer list.  And what remains to be done, is yet an even longer list.

So which list do we focus on?  If we focus on the list of 'this is what we have done' we might be able to feel good about our time here, our labor, our work.  But if we look at the longest list, we find ourselves saying "I didn't do enough!"

I look around this country, and all it's many spiritual and physical needs.  The need for people of character to rise up and lead, the HIV epidemic, the rise of Islam, the lack of good role models, the absence of Scripture in hundreds of languages, the need for .... just the need.

And I think to myself "there is soooo much to be done, I haven't done enough."

I had intended to develop more relationships than I did, invite more people into my home than I did, preach the Gospel to more people than I did, make more audio recordings than I did.  And yet, it's been a long hard term.
Part of the paradox of furlough is that we feel a great responsibility to the place we're leaving, and a great responsibility to the place we're returning to.  As we tell you of what we've done we're thinking of more we want to do.
As we tell stories of what has been achieved, we're thinking of how to achieve more.

The truth is, we can't really allow ourselves to revel in what we've done because we know it is God doing it.  All our work is pointless if God doesn't move in the hearts of people.  Without His hand stirring hearts, our work is meaningless buzzing about.

And so it it with extreme humility that we enter into our furlough.  We are humans, we're tired, we need rest, but we also need to ramp up so we can return and do more work.

It is funny, because someone comes to me and says 'I respect what you are doing over there.'  And I have two immediate thoughts.  The first is:
1) I respect and am grateful for all that people do to send us over there! 
2) there is always someone else, doing much more.  Some super-missionary out there achieving more, living harder, getting more done.

People here, that we work with, have asked us "how do you do so much? How do you get so much done?" and that question strokes our ego a bit.  We like to think it is good planning, time management and a strong work ethic.
But the truth is, God paves the way.  There have been weeks when it seems we can't make any forward progress, too many obstacles.  We ask for prayer, we pray, and then often they are followed up by weeks of extreme productivity!

So, I remind myself when I'm feeling like Oskar Schindler "I could have done more"... that in reality, all I have do is keep on putting one foot in front of the other and trust God to be making the progress He has paced out to His purposes.  And then I discipline myself in the face of all that remains to be done, that I am only 1 person (with an awesome other person in my wife), and that God is in control.  I take a deep breath, remember that the first thing they teach all first-aid students is 'you can't help the patient until you've secured yourself', and then, once secured, continue on in prayer.

We have learned to wait on God. To give God the credit, and avoid assuming blame that is not our right to accept.  Part of trusting God, is not allowing yourself to despair.  What we've done is a small dent, a drop in the bucket.  But God has a way of turning seeds into huge trees.

The end of our time here, won't have a tearful scene.  We won't break down and say 'we could have done more.'  We will say 'God, whatever we have achieved, let it be for Your glory, and thanks for having us along for the ride.'

Tonight during our small group I was reminded of how enjoyable giving is.  While this post is focusing a bit on how I cope with facing a vast need, I also have to comment that giving in this way, living this life, has made me the happiest I've ever been.

Truly giving moves us closer towards what God intended us to become.